SketchUp: Making A Cutting Layout For Plywood Parts

I often get asked how I make my layout or cutting diagrams in SketchUp. The simple answer is that I just manually make my own. There is a Cutlist plugin for SketchUp but I find it to be incredibly flawed. There are other programs out there that will generate cutlists or layout diagrams for you but I like to keep the work in SketchUp as once you complete the model all the data and part sizes you need for the layout are already there.

The video shows the process I always use. I find this to be much faster, more efficient, and with less errors than working with pencil and paper. The purpose of using SketchUp is to be quicker and more efficient in the design and planning stages. Because of that I like to present the videos in a faster pace than what is typically shown in SketchUp videos. Here are a few of the shortcuts I used in this video:

  • Ctrl = adds a copy command to the move and rotate commands
  • Q = rotate
  • R = rectangle
  • T = tape measure
  • D = dimension (this is a custom keyboard shortcut I set and is not included by default)
  • M = move
  • Space Bar = selection command
  • Triple Click = when triple clicking a piece of model space geometry it selects everything in model space that is connected to that item
  • Double Click On Component = enters component edit mode
  • G = Turns selected model space geometry into a component

25 COMMENTS

  1. Thats great. But how do you then get the actual cut list? Do you still have to track that manually? I want to start using sketchup but have really no idea how to do the things you do. I am sure once I learn it would be as easy as you make it seem. Thanks for the video.

  2. Great Tutorial! Although you did not directly refer to it… you allowed for the blade width on your cuts by having a bit of scrap built into your layout. Width of blade… times number of cuts = extra material needed. I really appreciate your Sketch Up videos Jay!

  3. Fantastic video! I love that you didn’t focus on the very easy SketchUp commands and actually showed how you use the program. I’ve tried to use it before to do my own cut plans, but I’ll be switching to this way. Thanks.

  4. I have finally found THE Sketchup video that simply explain how to do something!!! Thank you, thank you thank you Jay! As we say in Argentina, I “smoked” lot of hours watching videos on the Internet that explain simple things on a complicated way! Thank you again! Greetings!

  5. One more great video. Thank you very much for the step-by-step. Is there a reason that you haven’t laid the sides out “vertically” rather than horizontally? Seems to me that since all of the sides are the same height (width on the saw), it would be easier to rip however many strips and then go to the miter station for the various lengths.

    • I just laid it out like you mentioned and I believe that would result in more cuts. I like to establish the most commonly used dimension with the fewest cuts. So that means cutting all the side pieces to length first. Then ripping them into strips.

  6. I think the same as Sam Ske in the comments above. Rotate the small tray (blue) 90 degrees so the grain is in the same direction as the other trays, if that is a consideration for the job. Keep the bottom with the other tray bottoms and move the sides to be cut along with the other side pieces. Alternatively the whole small tray layout could be rotated 90 degrees and then moved to the “off-cut” the sides are cut from.

    An excellent video demonstrating how to layout your project on the available material and to quickly see alternative ways to cut the pieces to match grain direction and pattern if that is important for the job. Much easier than a lot of confusing pencil marks on the timber. Also remember to allow for the saw cut, usually 3 mm (1/8″) times the number of cuts.

  7. I use a program called Maxcut to perform the layout. I use the cutlist plugin to export the parts to csv file which can then be imported into Maxcut. The Macxcut program does an amazingly good job of minimizing waste.

  8. Always learn so much from your sketch up vids, keep them coming!!! Also, thanks for including the open broadcaster tip. I never knew how that was done. Great job.

  9. Hey Jay, great video. One question… were you a computer geek at any point in your life? Most people don’t use the keyboard shortcuts as much as us geeks do. I know sketchup pretty well and I definitely learned a few new shortcuts.

    Thanks!

  10. great step-by-step! You make it look so easy. I guess once you know and can use the 1-letter commands, the whole process goes so much faster. I’ve done some layouts this way, but instead of deleting the face and actually putting the pieces inside the constraint, I’ve actually transferred my dimensions to the “sheet” of plywood. I like your method much better! It’s easier and I really like the coloring of the pieces. Makes it easy to keep the “mating” pieces grouped. Thanks Jay!

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