SketchUp Cabinets a Design Software – Really ?

Designing SketchUp cabinets

I looked at SketchUp for cabinet design as a  tool before I started SketchList.  In fact, that was one reason I decided to start SketchList.

Honestly, I couldn’t figure out SketchUp at all.

And over the years I have received tons of emails from people who have that same experience.

Well I’ve been busy and never really looked back until the folks at Rockler asked for a comparison between the two cabinet drawing software tools.
So I started looking at YouTube videos of people using SketchUp.

What I won’t do…

And wow I was amazed.  How can the blogger community go on and on about how great SketchUp is for woodworkers. I didn’t believe it way back then and I don’t believe it now. One video I saw had an entertainment center 12 feet long created with a 12 foot by 6 foot by 3-foot block of white material with its middle parts hallowed out!


Can’t make that in the shop for many  reasons. Not at least in my shop! Can’t even carry it in!

Comparing cabinet design in SketchList 3D with SketchUp

The image shows the same bookcase design from both software packages.

SketchList 3D image is on the left and shows wood grain and transparent glass shelves.
Each part is a separate board and can be moved, re-sized, and changed easily.
Now maybe the author isn’t a woodworker but more of a CAD expert so we can’t fault him. SketchUp is really a CAD/engineering type program in cabinet design software clothing.

Here’s a link to the video.

Results of SketchUp cabinets?

How do you think the two designs compare in quality?  (Sure the author hadn’t finished ‘coloring’ them. But still. )

Process? The ‘parts’ go into the SketchUp design as flat rectangles waiting to be pulled into the third dimension. No relation to materials. No consideration that it’s pretty hard to buy a 12-foot sheet of plywood. The video went on to make doors in which the rails and stiles were no more than lines – again – pulled out into a third dimension of a block as if 2 rails and 2 stiles exist as one molded part.
Maybe in some CNC world. but again, not in my shop.

SketchUp is a general design tool – CAD – that was marketed at woodworkers.

I’d  say if you need CAD to design some real complex carving or three dimensional part – you probably should use some sort of a CAD product. But be prepared to invest the time to learn it. I might be more happy using some basic drawing program to make boxes on the screen. Or certainly using SkechtList 3D – given integrated reports and all it offers.

I am not a SketchUp expert – or user even.  I see on other videos people have written plug-ins to pull off parts lists and such (Who do you call when the plugin fails?) – so there’s more there than I know.

But at the very base level – woodworkers don’t extrude parts into the third dimension or pull objects into the ‘red’ or ‘blue’ directions to make them bigger. Woodworkers work with boards – cut them, place them in their design, and join them together.  So does SketchList 3D.

Which brings me to my last point about SketchUP.  MY GOSH there are a lot of workshops, seminars, teachers, consultants, and YouTube makers involved in showing people how to use it. It’s like an entire industry has developed around SketchUp. Maybe that’s at least in part why those consultants are all such fans.


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