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19.11.2013 admin
The ideal way to create SketchUp models of furniture from pictures is to take front-on and end-on views with a digital camera. One of my students sent me the image above and asked how I might model it in SketchUp with dimensions of 23” high, 30” long and 20” deep. Learn more about SketchUp in Joe Zeh’s Popular Woodworking University course, SketchUp Comprehensive. Joe Zeh has over 35 years experience in the high-tech computer and graphics industry, ranging from computer design to executive management. As my old drafting teacher taught me over 50 years ago, a clean, readable drawing will go a long way to assuring less errors and waste during construction (and a longer period of employment as a bonus).
Or you could use the Match Photo tool in Sketchup, which is designed to help you make 3D models from pictures like the one above.
Christopher Schwarz has helped many of us solve some pretty frustrating problems over the years. American Woodworker magazine was acquired by F+W Media (parent company of Popular Woodworking) in 2014.
But there is, of course, no reason you couldn’t use dovetails (tails on the sides), or even dowel joints.
The Festool Domino, however, plus a trick for the divided-light glass door I picked up from David T.
I don’t know whether the image in the picture has these dimensions or he just wanted his to be this size.
In particular I wanted the size of the legs at the bottom and top so that the taper came out right.


The wedge joinery I intentionally exaggerated (made large) for visual purposes; in the shop this would be a hand cut with no measurements, only by eye. You’ll get nine weeks of expert instruction and lifetime access to the course materials. You could draw this is about 1minute with pencil and paper, or spend an hour fussing with it in SketchUp. The time required with any approach is dependent on one’s proficiency with said approach. I do prefer to scratch up initial design ideas with pencil and paper, I find it a more fluid and dynamic process that sitting down at my computer. I have a friend whose architectural firm builds entire jewel-like cities in Shenzhen, Hainan, and elsewhere in China. I have plenty of eye-hand coordination and prefer the precision (and repeatability) of working in a digital format. Scribes did beautiful work but the printing press made it possible for the masses to become literate. Eight years on, I decided it was time for a matching medicine cabinet – in large part because the house I recently bought has solid masonry walls, so I needed a nice-looking mirrored cabinet that can hang on the wall rather than be recessed.
But this is just one more example of how you can easily construct precise shop drawings from a set of pictures and measurements; in this case one picture with a less than ideal photo angle and desired measurements. While at ATI Technologies Inc., the 3-D graphics company now owned by AMD, Joe was vice president and general manager of 3-D Graphics. I can easily see spending more than an hour in Sketchup with this task if you are trying to learn the tool at the same time.


The resulting clean lines on the sides (no end grain) seem more in tune with an updated look, and loose tenons are plenty strong enough for this application. From there it is a simple matter of drawing over top of the images and reconstructing the furniture piece. I assumed that if the top had the same length and width but was a perfect rectangle (instead of rounded at the ends) that the corner of the top would align in the Blue axis with the outside corner of the leg. Likewise, a minute with pen and paper and my artistic skills may yield a far approximation of chicken scratch. I could never determine compound joinery angles from one of my pencil sketches, nor could I calculate materials, measurements, accurate proportions, cut lists… Too, if my dexterity with any of my tools, be it table saw, dovetail saw or chisel only matched that of mine with a pencil and paper then I believe I would be limited to a, albeit lovely, collection of fine cutting boards (nothing against cutting boards, fine, lovely or otherwise). Then I simply measured from the end edge and front edge of the top to where the leg ended on the top surface. Don’t mistakenly attribute time to complete a task only to the tool when skill is also a determining factor. Ultimately, when I’m using Sketchup the goal is for me to get the information necessary for me to begin building the project, not create a vibrant picture (though I have been guilty of getting distracted, easily, by this in the past). He has combined his love of woodworking with his knowledge of 3-D; he teaches SketchUp, both video and live courses, and writes SketchUp Ruby script plugins for woodworking.



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