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Horses for courses

Huge numbers of woodworkers have discovered the benefits of using SketchUp to draw projects before actually making them. The fact that you can see the finished item in 3D, from any angle, means that small or even major changes can be made in a few minutes; proportions and colour can be worked on; section sizes can be thickened or slimmed down, legs lenghhtened or shortened. if you are working up a commission for a client, or making something for a family member, you can pre4sent your ideas easily. Best of all, maybe, is the fact that SketchUp is free, and for 3D software its relatively easy to pick up and use.


For relatively simple projects, things like a table or a cupboard, this is all you will ever need. Its pretty easy to run the Tape Measure tool over the main components and dimension them, and joint details and construction can be worked on as you build. However, when it gets to anything a bit more complex, problems start. Anything with a number of hidden components, like a chest of drawers, with runners, kickers, guides and variation in the drawer sizes, poses real problems when it comes to properly dimensioning the parts. The fact that the drawing is in 3D becomes an obstacle, as views have to rotated to see dimensions. Of course, you can find workarounds for this; just pull out each section of the thing you are making, and dimension that, so you end up with lots and lots of 3D views of different bits of you project. This is the solution lots of woodworkers come up with, when it comes to making plans from the free version of SketchUp. The other solution is to pay for the Pro version, which has a facility for making 2D views from the 3D model. If you use SketchUp for business, this is probably a good solution, but for occasional users, its a lot of expense for something you can get free by using a CAD program.