Shop Layout Using SketchUp and the 3D Warehouse

By Sean Headrick
San Jose, California

When I first started working with SketchUp, I wanted to create an inventory of shop tools with which I (and anyone else) could create the ideal work space. Then by drawing the shop and downloading the tools from the 3D warehouse, you can work on customizing the layout until you find the perfect solution for your space and work flow. In this article we will go through the process of building your shop environment, downloading the tools & accessories you will need, and then organizing them to maximize the efficiency of your work flow.

Building your Shop

Start by opening a new SketchUp document. You will need the interior dimensions of your space including any doors and windows that you want to represent in your model.

When I am laying out a space, I like to start by using the construction guides to lay out the positions of the interior walls. With the guides set up, use the pencil tool to draw the interior walls. Don't worry about the doors or windows at this point. The bottom edges of your walls should form a surface that will be the floor of your shop.

To give the walls the proper thickness, use the offset tool. Hovering over the floor near one of the walls, you will notice a red dot on the line that represents the interior wall surface. This dot indicates the line your offset tool will be working on. You can pre-select lines in your model to use the offset tool on. This tool seems to work best using the click and drag method. By this, I mean it works best to click and hold the mouse button, drag the cursor to establish the exterior surface of the wall, then release the button to complete the operation. As with most tools, you can enter a value to determine the amount of offset.

Next, use the push/pull tool to raise the walls to the proper height, again typing in a value for an exact height. For the doors and windows, use the rectangle tool to draw the openings on the surface of the walls. Then push/pull the face through the wall to reveal the opening. You should make the shop a group now. By doing this, you can draw tools, racks or benches into the space while keeping this new geometry separate from that of the shop.

Groups and Components

Understanding groups and components is critical to efficient modeling in SketchUp. Both are sets of geometry that you've designated so that they can be selected, moved, rotated and copied together easily. To make a group or component, you select the geometry you want, right click, then choose "make group" or "make component" from the drop down menu. You will notice a bounding box around the grouped geometry. With the move tool enabled, you will notice grips that appear as you hover over the sides of the bounding box. These grips allow you to rotate the group around an axis perpendicular to that face. To edit a group or component, you can choose "edit group" or "edit component" from the drop down menu or simply double click on the group to open it for editing.

There are a couple main differences between groups and components that should be noted. First, each instance of a group is independent from other groups, while components are more like "clones" of one another. When you edit a component, all the instances of that component will change accordingly. Also when you create a component, it will show up in the "in model" category in your components window. You can also create component libraries of parts, like cabinet hardware that you use frequently. There is also a difference worth noting between their relative file sizes. As large models can get difficult to work with, keeping the file size as small as possible is ideal. To illustrate what I am saying, we can look at a dining room chair. Eight instances of that chair as "groups" would equate to 8x the file size of one chair, whereas eight instances of that chair as a component would be substantially less. There is a lot more that could be said on this subject, but for now let's keep these differences in mind.

3D Warehouse

The 3D warehouse is a database of thousands of user-created models that you can search using keywords for specific models or collections of models. There are collections of woodworking tools, shop accessories and just about anything else you need to create your shop. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I have uploaded quite a few tools and accessories for the shop, as well as furniture models. Just type "sean headrick" into the search window and select the "search for models" option. I try to make a practice of uploading any models that I think others might find useful.

You can access the 3D warehouse by choosing FILE> 3D warehouse> get model from the toolbar at the top of your modeling window. A separate window will open allowing you to search the warehouse for a specific model or just browse. Once you have selected a model, you will have the option to download directly into your model or into a new modeling window. One important note about components you download from the warehouse is that they are made into a component when they are uploaded. For instance, if someone were to load several components into the 3D warehouse, you will notice they would be grouped into a single component when you download them. You can explode into the original components by selecting the downloaded model, and choosing "Explode" from the right-click drop down menu.

Setting Up Shop

Now that you have built your work space and gone on a virtual shopping spree in the 3D warehouse, here are a few things that you want to keep in mind when setting up your shop. When moving tools around in your shop, you will find that the "move" tool can sometimes seem erratic or hard to control, especially if you are not familiar with it. I have a way of moving things around in my model that I use almost all of the time. First, select the item you want to move. Now, use the "move" tool on a line in your model that is parallel to the direction you want to move the item you selected. You will notice the item you selected moves in relation to the direction and distance of the "move" tool. If you want to line up to another point in your model, hold the shift key while moving along either the red or green axis. This will confine the movement to that direction. You can then move your cursor to line up with a point in your model. This technique works well in the blue (vertical) axis, when placing things on the floor or on a shelf or table top.

Vacuum System Layout

Now that you have your shop all set up, the next step is to set up a dust collection system. There are a couple of approaches you could take here. I have supplied a model in the 3D warehouse which you can link to from here. As I mentioned earlier, you will want to "explode" the model once when you download it. In this model, you will find that all the fittings are built in the same way. The gates, Y fittings, and reducers are components with two groups nested within. One group is the fitting itself. The second group is the beginning of the hose. This technique may seem a bit complicated at first, but here is a brief description if you want to give it a try.

Start by double clicking the Y-fitting on the dust collector. Next double click on the ring inside the fitting. This is the profile you will use along with the follow-me tool to create a hose. You must be in edit mode of the hose profile when you create the route your hose will travel. You will probably find it easiest to start by roughing out your path with straight lines using your "pencil" tool.

Then, go back and use the curve tool to create a "flowing" path for your hose to travel. Once you have a path you are satisfied with, select the entire path, holding down the shift key to select multiple sections. Then, with the follow-me tool, click on the profile of the hose to extrude it along the path you selected. You can see the process here in these illustrations.

You can also build your vacuum system from the various hose sections that accompany the model. With your "move" tool you can use the grips to rotate a selected hose section. Select a hose section, and with the "move" tool hover over the faces of the bounding box around that component. You will notice grips appear midway along the sides . Clicking on one of these grips will allow you to rotate the component in that plane. When you begin to piece the hose sections together, you may find it helpful to enable the "hidden geometry" in your model. This will give you some references for lining up the sections.

I think you will find that doing a project like this will naturally promote an understanding of how these tools work. So, have a good time building your shop, and don't forget to upload any tools or shop machinery that you build. I can assure you there is someone out there looking for it.

Next month we will look at some techniques and methods of work for creating a furniture model that can be virtually disassembled to show every detail of joinery and construction.

Sean Headrick, a former Atlantan once seen frequently at Highland Woodworking, now lives in San Jose, California where he does woodworking and design. His website is Sean was interviewed by Wood News in 2007.

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