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The woodworking wisdom of Dave Richards

Dave Richards is fine woodworker living in Rochester, Minnesota. By day, he maintains critical life support equipment in the Anesthesia Department at the Mayo Clinic. By night, he’s a an authorized SketchUp trainer/rockstar, contributing and teaching on the popular blog Design. Click. Build. on and the SketchUcation forums. His work has been published in Fine Woodworking magazine, and Dave is considered by many as a foremost expert on using SketchUp for woodworking. He sat down to chat with us recently. Here’s what he had to say:

How do you use SketchUp?

SketchUp is my “go to” application for woodworking. I draw all of my projects using SketchUp Pro. In fact, I really have no need for any other design application. I can work at higher precision than is needed in woodworking and I can draw everything I need with it.

Router Boss

Typically, I draw plans for projects so that other woodworkers can build them. Some of these projects also involve some design work and collaboration with clients while other projects involve creating plans for existing pieces of furniture. I’ve also found SketchUp useful for making detailed drawings of machines for exploded views and instructional manuals.

Have you worked on any projects that folks might have heard about?

Woodworkers who are familiar with Fine Woodworking Magazine might recognize a number of the projects I’ve worked on because they are almost always tied to articles that run in the magazine. Examples of these are an Arts and Crafts Display Case designed by Michael Pekovich and several Shaker style pieces by Christian Becksvoort.

Two Shaker Tables designed and built by Christian Becksvoort [Credit: Fine Woodworking Magazine]

Which of your projects are you most proud of?

I’m probably most proud of the Arts and Crafts Display Case drawings as well as drawings for a work bench designed by Garrett Hack. In both cases, my SketchUp drawings were used as renders accompanying the magazine articles as well as for complete plan documentation.

Display Case documentation&
Display Case designed and built by Michael Pekovich [Credit: Fine Woodworking Magazine]

What was your reaction the first time you used it?

I first heard about SketchUp on a woodworking forum back in the days of @Last Software. Before I downloaded the trial version of SketchUp Pro, I spent a long time looking at the videos that were available on the @Last website. I read the old forum looking at what others were doing. Finally I decided to give it a try. I was very pleased that I could quickly create a 3D perspective view of a real object with accurate dimensions. It was much easier than the CAD programs I tried and I was hooked. It didn’t take the full eight-hour trial period to decide I would buy it.

Shaker Wall Cabinet designed by Chirs Gochnour [Credit: Fine Woodworking Magazine]

The biggest hurdle was convincing my wife that the $495 would be well-spent! I spent about that much for my tablesaw. I realized that SketchUp Pro would qualify as another big tool for my shop. At that time I had no idea I would be using it the way I do now.

Do you use any other tools in cooperation with SketchUp?

I use LayOut to create the plan documentation from the SketchUp model. This is a key part of the process for me. I also use Microsoft Excel and Word to deal with CSV files that are created for cut lists generated by the Cut List plugin. Some of the images I create need a little post processing and for that work I use PhotoShop and a freeware application called Paint.NET.

I’ve also gotten a lot of use out of Style Builder to make my own sketchy line styles. It seems like Style Builder is an under-utilized tool but I find it is very simple to create and edit line styles with it.

Stand Up Desk designed by Dave Richards and George LaRue Downing, Built by George LaRue Downing

Any final words?

That old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words is definitely true and I frequently find times when it is easier to make a point or communicate an idea with a quick sketch done in SketchUp than to type out paragraphs of description.

We'd like to thank Dave for taking the time to talk with us. You can see even more of his SketchUp work here.

About the Author

Gopal Shah is a true visionary. He's able to see the world in 3 dimensions (without special glasses). His other superpower is being able to tie his shoes and whistle at the same time. He's pretty good at SketchUp too. He's even better at admiring people who are good at SketchUp.