Sketchup! ...your input/opinion please? :)

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Forum topic by Ryan Shervill posted 02-27-2008 03:09 PM 1898 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Ryan Shervill

278 posts in 4323 days

02-27-2008 03:09 PM

Hello LJ’s! I’m doing a short article for one of the mags I write for, and it’s about using Sketchup in WW’ing. Rather than a review, I would like to focus it on getting those who have tried it and given up to maybe give it another shot.

On this note, I’d like to go beyond my own experiences when I started, and get some input from others that have “been there”. From the program usage standpoint, can you give me your top 5 things that you wish you had of known when you started the first time? Things that woould have made your first attempts less frustrating?

A good example would be: “Before starting, choose the woodworking template in the preferences setting”
(This was my personal downfall way-back-when…trying to draw a jewellry box in the default “Architectural” template was a lesson in futility :) )

I appreciate the input!


-- Want to see me completely transform a house? Look here:

28 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16284 posts in 4729 days

#1 posted 02-27-2008 03:41 PM

Hmmm…. I’m in the “tried and found it too frustrating” category. Your example above is something I didn’t know. Sounds like I could benefit greatly from this article you’re writing!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View jcees's profile


1077 posts in 4310 days

#2 posted 02-27-2008 03:45 PM

I wouldn’t say that I’ve given up on Sketchup. It’s just that I’ve been using an illustration program to do orthographic [old school] views and haven’t given Sketchup its due. It’s not that the learning curve is too steep but something else I have to sit with a spell and darn-it I do get tired of sitting in front of this puppy.

You use what you know and while I yearn for the way cool 3D stuff, I keep going back to Adobe Illustrator because of the facility I have with that program. I’m thinking I need to take an online course because Sketchup files have become just way too ubiquitous to ignore.


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 4445 days

#3 posted 02-27-2008 03:50 PM

I didn’t give up, but I was kind of frustrated when I started using it. The application of some of the tools are not intuitive. There is help available, but you sort of need to have a clue before you go searching, like many programs’ help files. I’m still only scratching the surface of what it can do, but know enough now to draw some basics.

-- Robb

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4393 days

#4 posted 02-27-2008 03:54 PM

Hey Ryan, good subject.

I found the Push Pull tool easy to use. Then came the Tape Ruler and then the Rotate tool. I was soon easily able to create Components for building a project. The hardest thing that I found was the Move tool of all things. That is, moving these components around (in 3D space) and connecting them where I wanted to connect them to create a table or a chair. I was familiar with other CAD programs and the way that they connected (welded) components, and SU is a bit different here. In fact, this is still where I fall down. I have not found any helpful videos on doing this sort of thing. Most training seems to concentrate on carving an object out of a block, not putting an object together.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4385 days

#5 posted 02-27-2008 03:58 PM

Steve just nailed my downfall. I can draw the components, but for the life of me I cannot get the hang of moving things into place. I think once I can do that I can learn some of the cooler aspects, but I can’t seem to get past that point.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4333 days

#6 posted 02-27-2008 04:07 PM


I have had it about a year now and really have made no significant progress but don’t know how to respond to your question. One of the problems I had initially with the software was in understanding the change that alt and shift have on the tools. I didn’t really get an understanding of this until I viewed Adian Chopra’s videos and started reading his book.

I guess that at this stage I am just not knowledgeable enough about Sketchup to really know what my problems are in order to give you a top 5 list.

Wish I could be of more help.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View gizmodyne's profile


1780 posts in 4601 days

#7 posted 02-27-2008 04:11 PM

1.Use components and groups.

2.Don’t worry about drawing all of the hidden joinery. Who cares. Just use it for fleshing out your shapes, proportions and designs. You can get hung up on drawing an 1/8 round-over or a dovetail.

3. Learn the key commands.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4499 days

#8 posted 02-27-2008 05:30 PM

I have used it, but I find doing things in AutoCAD a lot faster. I have been using it for at least 10

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Ryan Shervill's profile

Ryan Shervill

278 posts in 4323 days

#9 posted 02-27-2008 06:12 PM

OK….but I don’t think the magazine would accept that answer in a sketchup article :)

Anybody else have any suggestions for the newbie just sitting down to SU for the first time?

-- Want to see me completely transform a house? Look here:

View pineknot's profile


17 posts in 4270 days

#10 posted 02-27-2008 06:33 PM

I am a project manager for an architectural firm and use AutoCAD and Revit daily. I found that the learning curve was fairly simple. Every program has its own way of doing certain things and you just have to learn those steps for the software that you are using.

I agree with Gizmo, don’t worry about how your joinery will look just worry about overall proportions and designs.

I highly reccomend watching the online video tutorials. After watching just one video, I was able to complete this model in about 1 1/2 hours.

Entertainment Center

-- Phillip -- Molino,Florida "I didn't cut it too short, I'm just making changes!"

View Lakey's profile


97 posts in 4283 days

#11 posted 02-28-2008 01:03 AM

Yeah, I’m going to chime in on the “move” issue. I still have no idea how to precisely place objects and I’ve been going full tilt with Sketchup since December. I’ve also had some trouble with the “intersect” function – seems as though sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. “Rotate” also takes some getting used to, but I can’t precisely say what the difficulty is. In terms of documentation – I printed the User’s manual, and bought the Dummies book, but a text that focused on just woodworking applications would be most welcome. So here’s my list:

1. How the &*^% do you move things?
2. What is the trick to using the “intersect” function to trace your joinery (e.g. a mortise from a tenon)
3. How to use “follow me” to create a profile on an edge
4. More ideas about how to draw curves that aren’t an arc

Good luck with the article and I’m looking forward to reading it. Let me know if you need a proofreader!

-- "No Board Left Behind"

View DaveBaker's profile


67 posts in 4262 days

#12 posted 02-28-2008 01:52 AM

I have tried it and found that it isn’t intuitive at all.

I have worked with and for other software in the manufacturing world and can say in the right hands I’m sure it is a very powerful piece of software, however the learning curve is more than most want to put into it. I have not given up on it, however it is near the bottom of the heap at this point. Like I said, I have experience with such software both in use of, and eventually working for the software company, and our software was similar in many aspects. Once you knew it, you could do anything, but it took a seasoned user to be really good at it and get the most use out of it. I think it needs to be more user friendly and intuitive and the help files better. The core program is probably very good, people just get too frustrated trying to use it and getting nowhere.

I think that the worst case scenario exists here, a very powerful tool that isn’t explained well enough and/or intuitive enough for new users to get started using easily, and it gets a bad rap due to that, the true power of the tool is never recognized.

I haven’t totally given up though and refuse to be beaten by a software program. I wil eventually get back to it and overcome my obstacles and learn it well. I have seen what it can do and want to become a power user.

Thanks for bringing up such a good topic.



-- Upstate New York -- Do what you love and never work a day in your life.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10737 posts in 4563 days

#13 posted 02-28-2008 04:07 AM

I’m still trying it… have been ON/OFF for a few weeks.

I’ve been working with computers since 1962…
I find that Sketchup is a very difficult program to learn… perhaps, it’s because it’s SO powerful and there are MANY parts to it… and tricks to learn… as well as the basics.

I’ve gone through the tutorials a few times…

When I think I’m ready to fly with the real thing on a very simple project, I FALL FLAT ON MY FACE not being able to do things that I did during the tutorials! I find FRUSTRATING AS ALL GET OUT (HELL)!

In the past, I’ve always done mechanical drawings using MS Paint… having Ruler markings across top & sides, all I have to do is draw lines, copy/paste, etc. which is really very simple. It has a small number of easy to learn TOOLS… and they are easy to get to and use!

The last time I tried Sketchup, I couldn’t get off the ground… went over to Paint and had it done in a few minutes. I can’t rotate, etc, etc, etc,... BUT I have a workable set of plans!

Someday, maybe the lights will turn on with me & Sketchup and it will work for me… Right now, it’s NOT working for me and I’m getting very tired of wasting my time on it!

I haven’t given up on it completely… just for the time being… until the frustration wears off!

Selecting the Woodworking Template was a pain to find out… and then came the resolution of the Values… and how to use that lil Value BOX!

Good LUCK!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View grumpycarp's profile


257 posts in 4256 days

#14 posted 02-28-2008 04:45 AM

The biggest help for me when drawing a mortise & tenon joint was to turn on the x ray mode so that would be the thing I wish I’d have learned earlier. By turning on the the x-ray mode inferencing will allow you to almost automagically assemble your joints by snapping to with relation to m & t construction.

View CedarFreakCarl's profile


594 posts in 4564 days

#15 posted 02-28-2008 04:51 AM

I think the shareware version of Sketchup is a wonderful little program. I’ve tinkered around with it some, but I’d like to see what 500 bucks gets you in the Sketchup Pro version.

In the mean time, I was raised on AutoCad. I started on version 2.6 back in the late 80’s and have run every version since. Before AutoCad, I worked on manual drafting board for 10 years or so. Most of my stuff is site related work generating topo’s, utility plan and profiles, road design etc.,AutoCad Land Development Desktop mostly, But, I’ve done plenty of plant design using AutoCad Architectural Desktop. It’s just easier for me to use AutoCad since that’s what I’m used to.

Usually I sketch up a concept by hand and then fine tune it with AutoCad to figure out all the critical dimensions.

I don’t know if many share this opinion, but I firmly believe taking a course in manual drafting before starting any kind of CAD software will really give one a leg up on the learning curve. The only problem with that is there aren’t many if any places that offer manual drafting.

-- Carl Rast, Pelion, SC

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