SketchUp: The Basics

SketchUp is a software produced by Google. It is a very unique CAD (Computer Aided Design) software that allows you to easy create complex, multi component parts just using your mouse. You can visit Google’s SketchUp website to download SketchUp for free and get started designing.

I’ll be going over the basics of setting up the units to use (Metric or Imperial) and creating components. Components are a very important part of using SketchUp.

To begin I won’t be going over exactly how to use the software, just how to use it for CNC related designing. If you don’t know how to use the software at all, I suggest doing a Google search for SketchUp tutorials.

Setting The Units

Setting the units you want to use in SketchUp is easy. Up top in the menu go to ‘Window’ and then select ‘Model Info’. This will bring up a new window with the title ‘Model Info’. On the left hand side of that menu select ‘Units’. Now you should see the same screen as in the image to the right. (Click on the image to enlarge it)


In this window you will see two sections ‘Length Units’ and ‘Angle Units’. For now we only want to focus on ‘Length Units’. The next thing to look at are the four input boxes we will need to use:

  • The two drop down boxes to the right of ‘Format’
  • The one drop down box to the right of ‘Precision’
  • The text box to the right of the check box ‘Enable length snapping’


For the first ‘Format’ drop box it will allow to select four different kinds of measurement systems. If you want to work in decimals (Metric or Imperial) then select ‘Decimal’. If you want to work in fractions (Imperial) then select ‘Fractional’.

If you chose ‘Decimal’ then the second drop to box to the right should open up. From within this drop down box you can select Inches, Feet, Millimeters, Centimeters and Meters.

Down on the next line ‘Precision’ we can set the precision of the measurement system we have chosen to use. Pick a precision that is the smallest you think you will need for your design. I usually use 0.0 resolution for Millimeters, if I need to work on something smaller I can come back to this menu and select 0.00 precision.

The final box is the one to the right of ‘Enable length snapping’. Length snapping will snap the mouse at certain measurement intervals. This is extremely useful while designing and will allow you to quickly snap to the distance you are after. The box next to this option allows you to select the measurement interval that it will snap at. For example if I set 1mm it would snap at 1mm, then 2mm, then 3mm and so on. If I set it to 1/8″ it would snap at 1/8″, then 1/4″, then 3/8″ and so on.

With that complete you are done with setting the units and can begin designing!

Creating Components

Creating a single object in SketchUp is easy and requires no additional work or worry. However creating two objects that will be placed together is another thing. Usually if two objects are placed together in SketchUp, they will become fused together. This isn’t a great thing for making multiple component drawings where we can adjust and reposition objects at will.

This is where components come in. Components will group together all the vertices and faces of the object you drew into one separate component. Components can then be moved, rotated, scaled completely separate to the rest of the drawing inside the opened SketchUp file.

My router design has 79 different components. Some of those components also only exist within another component. So yes you can have components inside components. You could also have components inside components inside components, and I think you get the picture!


To create a component, select a drawing you have made. In this example I have drawn a 50x50x3mm profile that is 1 metre long. Once I completed the drawing I selected all of it.

This is important, you must be sure to drag your mouse right along the whole drawing and be sure to select all of it and be careful of accidentally selecting another part of a drawing. Now right-click on your selected drawing and click ‘Make Component’.



A new window should now pop up titled ‘Create Component’. Now you must enter a name, this name must be unique to any other existing components within the SketchUp file. If another component exists with the same name, SketchUp will inform you the name is already in use and to select another.

Then optionally you can enter a description of the object. May help you identify specifics about the component in the future when you come to edit it. Finally check the tick box that says ‘Replace selection with component’. This will delete your drawing and replace it with the new component version of your drawing. However if you want the old drawing to remain, don’t select this and the component will just be created on top of your drawing.


You can download the SketchUp file for this example below. You will need to open it in SketchUp version 8 or higher.

  Sketchup Tutorial Example File (52.3 KiB, 3,262 hits)