Category Archives: Sketchup

Challenge: What Did I Build from ONE 2×4?

ForkedUpArtI’m always a bit fascinated by what some people can do with what others would consider “junk” or “run of the mill” or ordinary. When someone can take something considered a throw-away, and make it much more than it was, so called “up-cycling” like this guy does on Etsy, using…forks. You can get forks for just about free at a garage sale, or new ones at the dollar stores. He has take materials, probably less than $4 worth, and with a little imagination and welding, turned it into something he can sell for almost $30. That is pretty cool.

Well, forks aren’t my thing, but wood is.

Now, the rage these days are furniture, or furnishings, from wood pallets – again, overlooked utilitarian wood. Usually trashed or used again and again. You can see examples of what can be done with wood pallets on my Pinterest page. There is also reclaimed lumber being used for flooring and furniture as well. My take is it’s just a passing fade. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for recycling and using materials in different ways, but I just don’t see the staying power of pallet furniture.

So, as a little intellectual challenge to myself, I was wondering, what could I make out of ONE lumber yard 2″x4″x8′ – the common stud you’d find in any home’s wall?

So over I went to my local Home Depot, and found a 2×4, the straights, knot-less one I could, a premium fir stud, for about $3. It was actually quite pretty, with a cream color, and growth rings of a pale red.

Now, what to make with this? I had my eye on this plant stand by Limbert out of oak and ebony:


Limbert Ebon-Oak Fern Stand With Square Top So, I set about trying to re-create it in Sketchup. Problem was, there was just not enough material in a 2×4 to do it (incidentally, a 2×4 is not actually 2″ x 4″; it’s 1.5″ x 3.5″). I took into account waste from the kerf of the saw, and tried every which way to make it happen.

Wouldn’t work.

BUT, I was able to make it work when I did it at 3/4 size.

After flattening the board, taking off the rounded edges, and just making a plain piece of lumber, I lost about an 1/8″, and took those dimensions into account in my Sketchup drawing. The project would take precision cutting, and there was no room for error – not even a 1/16″.

I had a little bit of scrap left over, a few little blocks, and I guess if I did it over, I would have tried to work those in somehow, so I had virtually NO waste, save the sawdust…

But anyway, here’s how it came out….

I ended up painting it a brown color with a black top, because staining pine is a nightmare!


Bare 2x4 table








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Posted by on July 22, 2014 in BlogNotes, Sketchup, SkunkWorks


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Piper’s Folding Table

My friend, Travis Piper, showed me this table he has had since he was a kid; it’s thought to be from the 1930s. It’s very unique the way it folds up when picked up in the middle. I really like the design, shaker-esque in nature. I modeled it in Sketchup. My only change was to the skirt, adding and arch, instead of the mild scallopy profile that is on the original. My rendering’s metal support rails are a bit too slivery; I think I would make them a flat black, if I were to make a reproduction.

Piper's Folding Table Piper's Folding Table Piper's Folding Table Piper's Folding Table Piper's Folding Table Piper's Folding Table Piper's Folding Table

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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in BlogNotes, Sketchup


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Why You Need to Learn SketchUp

Tools aren’t just in the shop these days, but on the computer as well. I think I spend about 1 hour on the computer designing for every 10 hours in the shop, designing either future products I’ld like to offer, or ones that current clients are requesting. I use a free product called SketchUp. SketchUp is a free 3D modeling design program for woodworkers (and architects, interior designs, mechanical engineers, etc), and is available for Mac and Windows machines. I need to have accurate drawings so I make less mistakes in the shop, and can create a better product. I enjoy the advantage of being able to create a custom project for a client, and almost build it before I build it, on the computer. That’s a huge selling point to a potential client. As someone that wants to sell something (maybe that’s you!) you need to remove any barriers to that person saying “Yes” to a sale. Not being able to visualize the product is one of those things. “Yeah, I can build you a cherry desk with two drawers” isn’t good enough; it’s too…sketchy. I can build you this cherry desk (showing the potential client a rendering) is a much better, and makes the client feel more secure. Also, learning SU (SketchUp), fosters creativity; you can mix and match woods, change any part easily, go crazy. More accuracy, better chances at a sale, fostering creativity – this is why I state You Need to Learn SketchUp!

   Learning SketchUp

The hardest part of SketcUp is learning to use it. I gave up once trying to learn it, but thankfully came back to it, and am quite proficient now. I reached out to experts like Dave Richards who has a free blog you can use at Fine Woodworking, titled Design.Click.Build. Dave has also put out a DVD and book for beginners, which you can find here. There’s also a “for dummies” book found here. And there are many videos on YouTube. Is it difficult to learn? I’d have to say yes. Is it WORTH IT to learn? A definite yes.

While in SU, you see a pretty crude model, but certainly good enough to work with. This is the model you’d work with to get where you want to be on the project.  Let me give you a real world example…

Piper's Folding Table

Piper’s Folding Table (click to enlarge)

A friend of mine had this table – it’s probably made in the 30s. It’s an interesting table in that it folds up, when you pull up at the center joint. There was just something about it that struck me. Here’s a pic of the actual table.









Piper's table SU model

Piper’s table SU model (click to enlarge)

Any way, I asked him if I could borrow it to make drawings – and so I went to work recreating it in SU. I took all the measurements, including the hardware, and the working model drawing came out like this. As you can see at this point, there is already a strong resemblance to the actual table. The change I made was using walnut as a texture, rather than the maple (I believe) that the original was made of. At this point, if I wanted to go ahead and build it, I would “explode” the drawing – moving the separate pieces apart and putting in ruler measurements for each piece, printing out the screen shots of the pieces, and going down to the shop to build it.





Piper table rendering

Piper table rendering (click to enlarge)

But let’s say that I’ve come up with this table on my own for a client, and wanted to present the idea to the client in the best possible light. I probably wouldn’t send the working SU model, but rather would render the project. What is a rendering? A rendering engine (program) takes a file from a CAD (computer aided design) program – in our case, SU – and “renders” a photo that looks realistic. Some CAD programs can do this from within itself, but many rely on external, third-party programs to accomplish this. I use Kerkythea (care-ka-thea) for rendering from SU.

So why would you want to go through all this trouble to render? Other than looking cool, what’s the benefit to a woodworker? Well, for one thing, it’s really not all that much trouble, and secondly, you get a much better idea of what the end product will look like – far better then the rather cartoonish rendering that SU shows you. More importantly, if you do woodworking professionally, you can show a potential client a piece that is already “built” and change woods, dimensions and scales easily. Make the mistakes in the virtual world before making big mistakes in the shop.

If you are already pretty proficient at SU – no mean feat – then you are ready for Kerkythea – it’s much easier to use then SU. It’s also free, like SU; you can get it here. I won’t rehash how to install Kerkythea – they explain it.

   SketchUp & Kerkythea = Awesomeness

If you use SketchUp for woodworking, and you really enjoy the way it helps you in the shop, you might want to take it to the next level, and get into photorealistic renderings such as Kerkythea; it’s a great tool to put the finishing touches on design idea, and getting that client to commit!

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Posted by on May 4, 2013 in BlogNotes, Sketchup


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