SketchUp Pro: Make the Most of Solid Tools

One of my favorite features of SketchUp Pro is the solid tools. I do a lot of detailed models of furniture, and these tools make my life a lot easier and my work go much faster. I can take a component that has dovetails on the end, wave a magic wand and have pins and sockets appear in another component. But there’s a wrinkle that makes it seem that the solid tools aren’t the time saver they appear to be at first glance. When you use the “Trim” command for example, you use one component to cut another. But the second component ceases to be a component, it becomes a group. Here’s an example, and how to iron out that wrinkle.solid components in SketchUp ProThese two parts are each “solid” components. Solid in the sense that there aren’t any holes or bits and pieces of stuff sticking to them. Like everything else in SketchUp, they are hollow shells composed of faces and edges. The piece highlighted is my drawer side, and the other piece is my drawer front. I want to make sockets in the front for the tails in the side. In the free version of SketchUp, this can be done by copying geometry from one component to the other. That process is described in this post, with tenons becoming mortises.solid components ready to be joinedThe first step to use the Solid tools in SketchUp Pro, is to position the parts. The side will join the front with a half-blind dovetail, so I moved the side to positiont the back of the tails on the back of the drawer front, and the outsides are flush. When the parts are in position, I select the Trim tool from the Solids Toolbar, click on the side and then on the front. I like to say SHAZAM! on the second click, but it isn’t necessary.The good news is that SketchUp made the other half of the joint as soon as I clicked on the drawer front. The bad news is that it changed from being a solid component named “drawer front” to a solid group. If I right-click on it to make it a component, SketchUp calls it “difference”. I could live with that if it were the only drawer front in the model, but what if I had several of them? Usually when I model, I make things in place, turn them into components as soon as I can and when the model is done I go back in and add details like joints. I want my cake and I want to eat it to. I want to add the joinery with the solid tools, but I don’t want to lose my component definition, especially if there are several of them in the model. I don’t want to go through and delete several instances of one component and replace them all with a new version.Redifine the component to preserve the changesSo here’s my solution. When I’m done using the solid tools, I take that solid group and explode it. That removes the group definition, and it also selects all of the parts. While those entities are highlighted, I right-click again and select “Make Component” from the menu. Then I give this new component the exact same name it had before. When I do that, the pop-up warning you see in the picture above appears, asking me if I know what I’m doing. When I click yes, all of the components in the model, and the copy that lives in the components window all change. If I have a dozen instances of the “drawer front” component in the model, they all update to reflect the changes.

That isn’t much of a hoop to jump through to get the benefits of the solid tools.

–Bob Lang

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