3-D Furniture Design
Using SketchUp
Part 2

By Sean Headrick
San Jose, California

In last month's article we constructed the #622 Stickley trestle table. In this article we will use that model to see how tools such as "scenes" and "layers" can help make the information in your model readily available when it is time to start building. You can download the model here .


Layers allow you to organize groups of geometry, or "furniture parts" for our purposes, into separate categories that can be made visible or not in order to make assemblies or hidden details more clear. It can also be used in conjunction with scenes to display specific views along with relevant information and measurements.

Begin by opening your furniture model. It does not matter what model you use as long as each of the parts are a separate group or component. Choose Window>Layers from the menu bar. This opens a dialog box for managing the layers in your model. You can add or delete layers, toggle the visibility of a layer, and select the active layer you want to work on.

For this model we we will create a separate layer for each part or group of parts (e.g. table top, legs, etc.) At the top of the layers dialog box, click the "+" symbol. You will see a new layer has been added with a default label "layer 2". Name this layer "legs" and press enter. Create a separate layer for each of the parts of your model. You may also want to make a separate layer for general measurements or notes.

Next select Windows>Entity Info . This dialog box contains information regarding the specific geometry, groups, or components currently selected. You can use the layers drop-down menu inside the Entity info box to move the selected geometry to a different layer. With your select tool, select all four legs, pressing the ctrl key to select multiple entities. Now select "legs" from the layers drop-down menu. This moves the selected groups or components to this layer. Continue until all the parts are in the appropriate layer. Try deselecting the visibility check box next to the legs. You can now see the mortises in the upper stretchers as well as the tenons on the lower stretchers.


As the name suggests, scenes allow you to save a particular view or camera position as well as shadow settings , section cuts, and visible layers. SketchUp then will create smooth transitions from scene to scene. There is also an option in your print dialog box that allows you to print the scenes you have saved in your model. To open the scenes dialog box, select Windows>Scenes from your toolbar. We will start by creating scenes of the standard views along with relevant measurements.

Choose Camera>Standard Views>Front from the toolbar. Also select the parallel projection view from the Camera menu. This option will give you an elevation view of the front of your model. With the "dimension" tool, add some general measurements to your model. Add another layer and call it "front view measurements." Using the same technique as before, select the dimensions and move them to the new layer you created. Now click the "+" symbol in the upper right corner of the scenes dialog box. You may encounter a "Warning-Scenes and Styles" dialog box. The safe choice most of the time will be the "Save as a new style" choice. The default name given to the new scene is "Scene 1." You can enter a new name such as "front view w/ measurements" and press enter. Now the scene tab at the top of the modeling window will show the name you chose.You can also enter a description just under the name that will appear as fly-over text when you hover over the scene tab. Naming the tabs and providing descriptions can be very helpful to refer to when relating your ideas to clients.

Go back to the standard views and select the left (or right) view. Add dimensions such as the length of the table top and the distance between the legs. Add a new layer and name it "side view measurements." With both of the dimensions selected, you will notice in the entity info box some options for how the measurements are displayed. Try changing some of the settings to see how it affects your dimensions. These changes can also be made by choosing Windows>Model Info , then selecting the Dimensions tab. Before you add the scene you will want to make the "front view measurements" layer not visible. To do this , uncheck the layer containing these measurements. You can now add the scene and name it.

Scenes can also be quite helpful for showing details such as the key that locks the middle stretcher in place. For views other than standard elevation and plan views, you will want to select the Perspective view from the Camera menu. Orient your view so that the detail you wish to present is framed in your modeling window. As before, create and name the new scene making sure only the layers you want to be visible are checked. Fill out the name and description of the new scene and press enter.

Another cool way of using scenes is to animate different section cuts of your model. While this may not be the best example for this technique, I would be remiss if I left it out. Select the "section cut" tool and hover over the different faces of your model. You will see that the section plane orients to the face that you are hovering over. Click to place the section plane. You can then move it to show a joinery detail or furniture component which might otherwise be hidden. Once you are satisfied with the placement, add a scene. For a dramatic effect, add another section cut perpendicular to the first. Add another scene and don't forget to name your scenes.

Now choose View>Animation>Play from your toolbar. SketchUp will animate all of your scenes into a little movie. If you want to, you can toggle on/off the button that displays the section planes. This does not affect the section cuts in your model. You can also adjust the amount of time it takes to transition from scene to scene, as well as the scene delay (amount of time spent at each scene). Dialing down the scene delay to zero creates more of a fly-through animation.

This should be enough to get you started making your SketchUp furniture models a bit more useful for creating detailed shop documents as well as communicating your designs to others. Next month we will see how to build a model of a toolbox similar to the one pictured that can be produced on a CNC router.

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 www.headrickdesigngroup.com . Sean was interviewed by Wood News in 2007.

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