One of the features of SketchUp that isn’t immediately obvious is the value of storing and retrieving complex objects. A case in point is a project I worked on this morning, building and organizing a library of moldings for a client who builds a lot of kitchens. In his shop he keeps five or six crown molding profiles. The available profiles are increased with the addition of a couple of different cap moldings and a backing piece.
I used offcuts from sample moldings and traced them with a pencil on a piece of graph paper. Then I scanned the drawing into my computer and imported the image file into SketchUp. (A multitude of molding profiles are just a Google image search away if you don’t have real samples to work with.) The images are imported into an empty SketchUp model, scaled to actual size and the outlines are traced. When each profile is finished, make it into a Component.
I did all of this with the imported images and my SketchUp model flat on the ground plane. When I had the crown profiles, cap and back moldings complete I selected all those components and rotated them so they were oriented vertically, as they would be in real life. Because each profile exists as a component, it was quick and easy to make copies of the profiles and assembly all the variations. For the assemblies I exploded the constituent components and removed the lines in between the crown, cap and back pieces. That leaves a single face that can be extruded around a cabinet or an entire room with the Follow Me tool. Each assembly was also made into a component.
When you take a bunch of edges and faces and combine them into a component, the component is given its own set of red, green and blue axes. The axis alignment matches the orientation of the model axes when the component was created. When you drag a component into a model from the Components window, the cursor is attached to the origin of the component axes.
In the case of my molding profiles, the component axis orientation was inconvenient for two reasons. Because I modeled the profiles flat on the ground, new instances of the components were horizontal. The other issue is that it will save time in the future if the insertion point (axis origin) is located in a spot that will be convenient to snap to. With a crown molding the most convenient insertion point is a non-existent point where the vertical line at the back of the molding crosses the horizontal line at the top of the molding, if those lines were extended. I added vertical and horizontal guidelines to locate that point on each of the crown molding profiles.
When you right-click over a component in SketchUp, one of the options in the menu is “Change Axes”. This doesn’t work if the component is open for editing. Make the menu selection and click on the new origin point. It can be anywhere on the object, or anywhere in the model. This is a good time to remind you to keep an eye on the command line in the lower left corner of the screen when you do something for the first time. The command line walks you through the steps.
After picking a new origin (or clicking on the existing one if you only want to change the axis orientation) the prompt is to set the direction for the red axis. When you move the mouse around the new axes will snap to existing lines and a single click when an inference is visible sets the direction. After you set the red, you set the green and the blue axis takes what’s left. You can also toggle through the options by tapping the Alt key, something I learned by looking at the command line. When the colored lines point in the directions you want them to, click and move on. After the axes are changed they won’t be visible until you open the component for editing.
When all the molding profiles are complete, and the origins set to make them useful, I wanted to make them available in any future SketchUp model. You can right-click on any component in a model and select “Save As” from the menu to save it as a distinct SketchUp model. You can browse your computer’s files through the Components window, find the folder with the model and import it to a different model. Just click the icon to the right of the Search box in the Components window and select “Open or create a local collection” from the drop-down menu.
In this case I have a bunch of components in one model and want to save each as an individual model in a new folder. The second option in the drop-down menu lets me do exactly that in one step. When you select “Save as a local collection…” a file browser appears and you can save all the components within a model to any folder on your computer. Often the hardest part is remembering where you put the folder.
If you put your new collection in the same folder as the standard SketchUp components, it will be easier to retrieve through the Components window. On a Windows machine the file path is C/Program Files/SketchUp/SketchUp2016/Components. If you’re running a different version of SketchUp, look for a folder name that matches your version. (On a Mac, you may need to do a search to find the folder, hopefully a helpful Mac user will leave a comment with the current location).
Click “Select Folder” from the file browser and the magic happens. Each component now lives in that folder as an SKP file. The file name will be the same as the Component name. You can retrieve them for use in other models by browsing through the Components window. You can also open the secondary pane of the Components window and have your “In Model” components visible in one pane and other collections of components visible in the other.
My book “Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp” is the only interactive PDF book available. It combines video embedded within the text and makes learning easier than just a book or just a video. Click here to see the table of contents and Click Here to Buy your copy on disc or as a download.
Want to learn SketchUp from me in person? There are still a few spaces available in my upcoming class, January 30-31, 2016 at the Rockler Woodworking and Hardware store in Denver, Colorado.