‘Are full-size plans available?’

This is the question I get any time I have a new article published. It’s not just since I left Popular Woodworking Magazine – I got the question with every project published while I was on staff, too. With each inquiry I would respond the same. “Each project published in the magazine is also available as a SketchUp model – you can get the model at the magazine site or in the Google 3D Warehouse. If you download the free version from Google SketchUp, you can pull apart the projects, get sizes and find out how the pieces go together.” In my mind, I could see the woodworker reading this response and wondering if I was crazy.

In this entry, I thought I would take my response a few steps further and show how you can benefit from a basic understanding of SketchUp. Here goes. I’m working on the interior of a secretary – it’s a rather large secretary so you may not want to copy things directly, but take a look at how I get the necessary information from which to build. I also get exact, full-size patterns from the drawings!

Let’s start simple. In my SketchUp model I clicked on the interior base (bottom horizontal piece on which the interior is built), then copied the part.  In a second SketchUp window I pasted the piece. Next, click on the “Top View” program button shown here – it’s the one that doesn’t look like a house in the photo above, right. With that simple step, you are looking down at a scaled drawing of the base. I repeated that same step – the copy and paste portion – with the second horizontal piece as well to get the sizes and locations of my grooves for the vertical partitions. My SketchUp page looked like this (click on the image to see a larger photo):

Using the tools provided in the free program, I added dimensions (dimension tool is found in the drop-down menu under tools), made notes (text tool is also found in the drop-down menu) as to groove sizes and anything else I thought was pertinent to the build. You have to admit that’s fairly simple work especially if you have the drawings already at hand. And I did all this using only three buttons found in the program.

How to get patterns

Now let’s take another step and get a full-size pattern from these drawings. While this is done in a second program (I use Adobe Photoshop), there are many programs that will do the same work. You may already have a program on your computer that does the job.

Before moving to another program, I set things up using SketchUp. A standard piece of printer paper is 8 1/2″ x 11″, so the printable image needs to be less. I set things at 10″. Also, because I don’t need to print any pattern except for the front edge, I can narrow the image to again fit onto the printer paper. Below is the image from SketchUp prior to pushing it to another program (again, click the photo for a better look).

From here you have to move to a second program, crop the sections to your layout lines (dashed lines in the photo),  set the image size to match the 10″ layout size established in SketchUp, rotate the photo to take advantage of the paper size (or you need to adjust your printing direction), then print a full-size pattern. This is what the two images looked like as I was ready to print.

All I have to do to get my pattern is to cut the pieces at the dashed lines then marry the two together. Boom! Full-size pattern. I take that, along with the layout images from above and I’m ready to get busy in the shop.

If you have questions or comments, or if you have a better way to get this information, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail at glen.d.huey@gmail.com.

Build Something Great!



Filed under Shop Tips

7 responses to “‘Are full-size plans available?’

  1. Dave

    Nice! You could also print full size patterns directly from SketchUp and save the trip to another program.

  2. Hey Dave,

    I thought you could do that as well, but I have never walked that path because the other program was right there for me. Could you take a minute and post how to use SketchUp to print full-size?


  3. creatingsawdustDave

    Yikes! That seems like alot of work….

  4. Dave

    The method I linked to isn’t that difficult and you can do it without buying any software. The easiest way would be to use LayOut and create a PDF. Dead simple that way but not free. Costs you time or money. You decide how to pay.

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