By now, most woodworkers have at least heard of SketchUp, even if they haven’t tried navigating its learning curve. But the value of this 3-D modeling software is hard to overstate. I use it for almost every project, printing a SketchUp drawing to have on hand for making a cut list, jotting down planning notes, and for reference throughout a build.
I could get away with using the program only to design the basic form of a piece—nailing down balance and proportion—but why stop there? By drawing the joinery, I’m virtually
building it before setting foot in the shop. Then, once I do turn on the table saw, my cuts seem familiar. Plus, labeling and dimensioning parts make me that much more intimate with the project. This upfront practice saves time and lumber and can expose potential problems before it’s too late.
SketchUp Pro is a costly $700, so I recommend trying the free and full-featured (although no longer update-supported) SketchUp Make 2017. It can be downloaded from the link above.