A SketchUp-made woodworker

A woodworker by trade, Anderson Heagy taught himself SketchUp in order to keep his dream job and live on the other side of the country in his dream location. Working full-time for Vermont Farm Table and developing his own line, TRIM, while living in Longmont, Colorado, Anderson designs high-end furniture in SketchUp and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Being a self-taught SketchUpper is something we are always so proud to hear. How did you get started in SketchUp?

My first exposure to SketchUp was through a co-worker at Vermont Farm Table. He showed me the basics, then recommended that I watch a few woodworking-related tutorials. It has just kind of taken off from there. There is so much information available online, so learning has been quick and easy. I’ve never run into a problem someone else hasn’t already solved and posted. The SketchUp community has been super helpful.

What is Vermont Farm Table up to these days that sets it apart?

Vermont Farm Table has always been great at producing beautiful high-quality products and providing a fantastic customer experience. Dustin and Jess Glasscoe (the owners), and the rest of the VFT team, really have a great thing going. Lately, we’ve been able to focus on leveraging different technologies to make those products and the customer experience even better.

Click through these images to see some photos of the Bristol shop.

We recently acquired a five-axis CNC, which is creating a lot of opportunity for us. In addition to increasing efficiency in the manufacturing process, it’s opening up possibilities from a design standpoint. It’s so easy to draw a part in SketchUp, export to dxf, and send it to the shop. There they assign tool paths to the file, and can have that part cut in minutes. We’re really only limited by our creativity at this point. (Editor’s Note: Learn more about getting started with CNC!)

SketchUp also plays a big role in most of our customer interactions. We are currently moving toward a fully rendered product line on our website. In doing this we’ll soon be able to show all of our products in every available species, finish, and colorway. We’re confident this will really improve our online customer’s shopping experience. We also use SketchUp extensively for the custom piece of our business. We work with the customer to translate exactly what they are looking for into a drawing, and present it to them in a document created in LayOut. The process is quick, easy, and results in a professional looking sales tool.

The New Stool line is absolutely stunning. How did this product get developed?

Thanks! We’re pretty happy with how it turned out. The design/development process really shed light on how powerful these tools are.

We designed the product, put together metal fabrication drawings, created files for cutting the seat and back on the CNC, and generated the renderings for the website using SketchUp, LayOut, and our rendering software.

Click and spin to see a 360 view

Working in this way was quick and super efficient. We were able to go through multiple iterations of the design to identify potential problems, long before we actually built a prototype. Once we landed on a final product -- rather than wait to complete the first production run and photograph everything -- we quickly rendered all of the offerings and immediately launched the product. It was a seamless and relatively easy way of bringing our new stools to market.

Who has been one of your favorite clients at Vermont Farm Table?

Working with Verizon has been a great experience. Over the last year, we’ve been helping them fill office spaces across the country with conference tables, desks, and community tables. It’s been a fun project to work on because we’re constantly creating new solutions for the unique challenges each table presents. Whether it’s finding an elegant solution for cord management, ensuring that a huge conference table is structurally sound, or designing a new table altogether; there is always something interesting to work on.

(Photo: Garrett Rowland, Courtesy of Genzler©)

That sounds like a big/huge project. How did SketchUp help you win over that business?

To get the Verizon account we needed to show them that we could build tables that would easily knock down into sections and be assembled on site. While we were confident we could produce the tables Verizon was looking for, but we needed a way to communicate our concepts. SketchUp and LayOut made it a breeze.

We sent them exploded views of each table, detailing the knock down mechanisms and providing dimensions of each element. A year later, SketchUp and LayOut are still helping us get VFT tables into Verizon spaces.

I can see why you wanted to keep working with the VFT team even after moving to Colorado. How did you solidify that working relationship?

Yeah, working for VFT is pretty amazing. While I’d love to have a bit more face time with the team, I feel very fortunate to be able work for them from Colorado.

I think I’ll always be working toward further solidifying our working relationship. To me that’s just part of being a valuable member of a growing team. I think the best thing I can do to continue to bring value to VFT is to keep learning. By building my proficiency in SketchUp, LayOut, and our rendering software, I feel like I’ve been able to significantly improve the way VFT presents its products to customers. Going forward, I hope to continue that trend by working with our developer to bring augmented reality to our online shopping experience. Super excited about that.

Now that you’ve settled into your role at VFT, have you taken on any other new projects?

Vermont Farm Table keeps me pretty busy, but I have found a little time to start developing a furniture concept with a graphic designer buddy of mine. We're calling it TRIM — The products are Danish Modern inspired, with clean contemporary lines.

While TRIM is still in it’s infancy, we’re pretty excited about the direction the branding and designs are headed. SketchUp has helped immensely in this process, allowing us to produce all of the imagery for the site --including a custom product builder, interactive 360° views of each product, and even some fun supporting material. With all of this content we hope to start gauging people’s interest in the products, and determine our next steps based on the feedback we receive.

How has SketchUp gotten you to where you are now in your career?

SketchUp has essentially created a new career for me.

All of my jobs in the past have been very hands on doing fabrication of some sort. While design and development have always been interesting to me, I didn’t go to school for it and I’ve never been particularly computer savvy, so a career in the field felt out of reach. Fortunately, SketchUp has been extremely easy to learn, and it has set me up with the tools I needed to get started. It’s given me a lot of confidence to pursue a career that at one time didn’t feel like a real option.

Without any training in 3D modeling, how did you get hooked on SketchUp?

The ease with which a person can learn to use SketchUp is what got me hooked. The fact that I could download SketchUp Make for free, and get the ball rolling in minutes with a few online tutorials, made it a no-brainer. All of the capabilities of SketchUp Pro are what have kept me engaged. It really is perfect for what I do. I can’t imagine needing anything else.