Sketchup has become a favorite tool of mine. The free 3-D modeling is simple enough for an old carpenter like me to master after a few sessions. It’s a great way to visualize your design, and it has some really great plugins that make it very versatile. The latest free version of Sketchup is Sketchup Make, named to reflect it’s popularity with the “Maker” movement, and my favorite plugin is Cutlist.
According to the Sketchup website: “CutList takes the current Sketchup selection and produces a list of the parts, their sizes and quantity of each. The plugin also can produce a layout of the parts on your selected material size and can be useful for estimating materials for constructing your model.” That’s exactly what it does, and it does it very well, in most cases.
Of course, the old computer programmer acronym “GIGO” applies… “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” If your original Sketchup design has problems, Cutlist will spit out some pretty crazy results. You need to build your components properly (See Eric’s excellent story on Google SketchUp Tips and Resources) and they need to be labeled as to the material. Plywood or hardwood, variety, thickness, etc. all need to be designated, or you may end up with components listed in the wrong material. There is a little bit of setup necessary, but once you get your commonly used materials entered, it works like a breeze. 3/4” birch plywood cabinet sides? Click. 1 ½” X 3/4” cherry face frame? Click. All of that time I used to spend with graph paper and a pencil blocking out my sheet goods is reduced to a couple of mouse clicks. Some of the images shown in this article are taken from the work I did on the recently published feral cat house project.
Cutlist spits out its results either as a text file, or as a graphic .svg file, which can be opened in your browser or printed. After that, your cut list is ready to take out to the shop with you, either on paper, or on your tablet or smartphone. Although I don’t miss the process of cut-listing materials on paper, I do prefer to have my shop notes on paper. I like to physically check off the parts as I cut them, scribble notes, etc. I’m sure there are younger woodworkers who are more at home with digital notes, but hey, I’m an old geezer, and I have to draw the line somewhere with all of this new-fangled technology!
Cutlist is available for free at the Sketchup Extensions Warehouse. It is compatible with both PC and Mac versions of Sketchup, and offers both metric and imperial measurements. You will find a number of excellent written tutorials and videos around the web if you run into problems, but honestly, it just couldn’t be much easier to use.
While browsing the extension warehouse, check out some of the other fine bells and whistles you can add to Sketchup. GK Doormaker creates cabinet doors of any size in a variety of styles and a variety of textures, and GK Stairmaker creates a variety of curved and spiral stairs. There are also special plugins for metalworking, landscaping and just about anything else you can think of!
Have any Sketchup resources favorites of your own? Feel free to chime in with them in the comments area below!