SketchUp Points of View, Old & New

Side-SectionKnowing a traditional way of doing something is certainly valuable, but it’s easy to get trapped in thinking that the traditional way is the only way, or the best way to achieve a goal. Technical drawings and project plans are a form of language steeped in tradition. In in image to the left, there is an abundance of information if you know how to read the drawing. Several of my books are almost entirely standard orthographic drawings. In my book “Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture” I included a chapter on how to read technical drawings (you can download that chapter in PDF format here) because not everyone is fluent in the language of drawing.

Languages change and evolve. It isn’t just that certain words fall in or out of favor, different forms make sense in different eras. If we want to eschew obfuscation in our communication we should use the clearest method available.

Standard Orthographic Drawing ViewsOn thing I didn’t fully realize until I started using 3D modeling on a regular basis is why standard views became (and remained) “standard”. On the drafting board, one view is projected to create other views. Lines that are common are extended using a T-square or a triangle, and there is a clever trick to use a 45° triangle to make lines turn the corner from the plan (directly above the front elevation) to the side view.

This is an efficient practical method, but you need to make a mental leap from two dimensions to three whether you are solving a design problem or reading a drawing made by someone else. Details can also hide in between or outside views. A three-dimensional point of view helps tremendously in problem solving and in understanding, but that takes a significant amount of time with pencil and paper. Standard views are standard because they are the most efficient way to create an accurate drawing if you are limited to two dimensions.

POV_01One of my favorite things about SketchUp is that I don’t need to waste any time or brainpower worrying about what the finished drawings will look like until I have an accurate model completed. The information within the model can be extracted in any number of ways, from a standard elevation or section view to a three dimensional exploded view.

In SketchUp it takes the same amount of time, and often less time to create a view in three dimensions or in two. At this stage of the game I don’t need to think about anything except what is the best way to present the information, either to my self or to another builder. At left is an image I made to prepare for my upcoming presentation at the Alabama Woodworkers Guild.

After making a model of the project, I took it apart to mentally walk through the steps of building the thing. I included the dimensions I need to refer to at this stage of the build along with some notes about the sequence. I have several pages to print similar to this as well as detailed views at odd angles of the tricky parts. This is the kind of plan I use these days when I head to the shop to build, and the type of plans I hope to make available in the near future. If I had to draw all of this by hand, it would take so much time that it would look like an exercise in avoiding the shop. Modeling in SketchUp, and preparing a number of scenes like this makes things go smoother and faster during the build and is time well spent.

— Bob Lang

Here are a couple of posts that detail how to create views like the one above using SketchUp:

Organize a SketchUp Model With Scenes & Layers
Make an Exploded View in SketchUp

My digital books with embedded video,“Building Blocks of SketchUp” and the new “Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp” have been used by thousands of people to learn how to create 3D models efficiently. Click on the titles above to learn more about or purchase either one, or


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