Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cool Piano Hinge Tutorial for Sketchup

I've been working on expanding my Sketchup skills and the guys that write that blog deliver a lot of great woodworking-specific information on using SketchUp. There is another excellent SketchUp tutorial on using components to create a simple piano hinge over at the Design. Click. Build. (DCB) blog. I followed the steps fairly easily to build my own piano hinge (shown above). The use of components makes the process quick and the file size relatively small (88k) for the number of curves in it.

In addition to the DCB blog I'm working my way through Google SketchUp for Dummies. I'm learning a lot there too, but from reading DCPit seems to me that for detailed work like woodworking plans, the clever use of components is an important skill that isn't a big part of the book: I'm about a quarter of the way through and the only mention of  components has been using pre-made components for windows and doors.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Round Over Edges for the Tensioner


I learned the basics of using Follow Me in Sketchup, and it solves the problem of creating round overs on the tensioner plan I've been struggling with. Now that I know how to use this tool, it's fairly easy. This task that has occupied at least 5 hours of my time can now be completed from scratch in under 5 minutes (with several mistakes). Here's how I do it:
  1. Draw a rectangle 1.5 x 6 inches.
  2. Using the line tool draw a section 1/2 inch long at the tip.
  3. Using the line tool draw a section 1 inch long on the right side.
  4. Draw a line connecting the two sections.
  5. Delete the resulting triangle.
  6. Using the Push tool, extrude the shape to 1.5 inches.
  7. Orient the object so I'm looking right at the square end.
  8. Using the tape tool, drop a reference line 12.25 inches from each side.
  9. In the top left corner, use the arc tool to draw an arc that runs between two intersections and tangent to the sides.
  10. Do the same in the bottom left corner.
  11. Select Camera, Standard Views, Iso.
  12. Orbit slightly if necessary to get a good view of the arc and the area it defines.
  13. Select Tools, Follow Me.
  14. Click on the small section formed by the arc and the corner.
  15. Move the cursor to follow the four edges that want a round over and click when they are all defined.
  16. Select Camera, Standard Views, Bottom.
  17. Select Camera, Standard Views, Iso.
  18. Repeat steps 13 – 15 for the bottom.
  19. Select Tools, Dimensions.
  20. Add dimensions as needed.
Having learned to do it so quickly and easily, I'm almost embarrassed at the amount of time I spent trying to do this with Intersect Selected and other means. But I'm super excited about the Follow Me tool, which will allow the creation of custom moldings and other details that I couldn't do before.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Quick Victory Celebration: Using Follow Me

You may recall that a few weeks ago I wrote about trying to use Sketchup to draw the tensioner for my inkle loom and again about how I learned a method for visually faking a round over. Well, I think that tonight I figured it out how to make the edges actually rounded. I'll try it tomorrow and if it works, I'll post about how it was done.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sketchup Construction Plan for a Barn Loft

Yesterday I temporarily abandoned the Inkle Loom project plans and started in on a project that my friend Sean had sent me. We're both learning Sketchup at the same time, but he has been a bit further along. Having learned the Move and Rotate tools though, I felt ready to try the complex joints he was trying to portray in this drawing. After all: there were no roundovers any where in the plan.

Since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, here are several pictures:

This is Bryce (the Sketchup guy) standing next to the loft construction.

This shows all the loft parts in an exploded view.

Finally, this shows the complex interlocking joint that holds the structure together. It's hard to see, but the post has been slotted on both axes. One two-by-four has a notch in the top and sets in the slot first. The next two-by-four has a notch on the bottom and slides into the other slot. The notches inter link to hold the whole structure together.

I'm feeling fairly confident that this project could be built from these plans, and I'm pleased with the precise fit (which was a challenge on earlier attempts).

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Faking a Roundover in Sketchup

I continue to work on learning Sketchup as a tool for creating my woodworking plans. Last week I posted about the difficulty I'm having creating a roundover on the tensioner of my Inkle Loom plans. I've concluded that "Intersect with selected", while it works in theory, is not the easiest way to do this. Follow Me seems like should be easier, but I haven't learned to use the Follow Me well enough to achieve this.

While browsing Design. Click. Build., I discovered a trick that looks right, even though it isn't: edge softening. For many woodworking plans, this method is good enough for indicating a roundover, as seen in the picture above. Even though the edges on the white tensioner aren't rounded, they appear to be. The lack of rounding is only evident at the corners: notice the rounding of the back corners on the blue tensioner, and the squareness of the same corners on the white tensioner.

Here's how this fake roundover was accomplished:
  1. I drew a new tensioner without the round edges. This was easier than trying to remove the rounded edges on the first tensioner.
  2. On every face I wanted to look rounded I used the offset tool to add an offset 1/8" from the edge. This gave a stopping point for the softening effect I planned to use.
  3. Using the Erase tool, I softened the edges. To do this I positioned the eraser over an edge that needed softening, pressed [Ctrl], and clicked the Eraser on the line. This hides the line and softens the edge
  4. After all the edges were softened, I used the Select tool to select the offset lines, right click, and select Hide.
The results are good enough for my application, but I'm going to keep working on edge rounding until I can apply a real roundover if I ever need it. Many thanks to Dave Richards at Design. Click. Learn.!

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sketchup for Woodworking Plans

Until recently I drew all of my woodworking plans in Visio, a process that was often time-consuming and difficult to execute. On the LumberJocks site and in a Taunton community blog, called Design. Click. Build., there was a lot of chatter about using Sketchup instead. So I installed the free version of Sketchup about a month ago and started rendering plans with the new tool.

"Started rendering plans" sounds easy, and Sketchup does make many drawing and dimensioning tasks as easy as hammering a nail. But, as they say, the devil is in the details: the tool has a full and flexible feature set that suggests myriad woodworking design applications, and tempts you to include complex moldings and finicky details (like the brads that hold on a moulding or the threads of a screw). Adding these details becomes as challenging as cutting your first dovetails.

I'm attempting a plan for the inkle loom I built several years ago. With the body of the loom built in Sketchup, I'm working on the arm that adjusts warp tension on the loom. This has proved more challenging, and I've finally given up on rendering it exactly as I want it: the back edges should be curved in the same manner as the front edges, and the full end should be rounded over. Using a combination of the Follow Me tool and Intersect tool I know it should be possible to do this, but I can't seem to do it without losing skin on the curves.

In spite of the challenges, I won't be going back to Visio.
Here's a copy of Tensioner.skp. Feel free to play with it, and if you know how to round those other edges, please post a comment to let me know.

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