Eastie Farm is a community-funded effort to turn vacant East Boston lots into urban gardens, providing food education and donating produce to the community. The Eastie Farm Board hired me to design a shed for their Sumner St property. They want something big enough to keep a variety of tools dry and organized, but basic enough that volunteers can build it this spring.
I decided I would use this opportunity to learn how to use Sketchup, as it’s been on my to-do list for ages. Sketchup is a 3D modeling software that allows you to draw buildings, furniture, or really anything. It strikes a nice balance between user-friendliness (the program automatically snaps to appropriate points while you’re drawing) and precision (you can specify measurements down to 1/16 inch). Unlike some software, Sketchup allows you to work directly with the fully textured drawing, so you never have to render a static image to make sure the finished product looks OK – what you see is what you get. Best of all, the basic software is free.
This Sketchup tutorial got my feet off the ground. It’s a five-part video (each part runs 10 to 20 minutes) that walks through how to draw a shed not unlike the one I’m designing. In the beginning you’ll learn how to use the “push/pull” tool, a simple and powerful command that can turn a 2D rectangle into a 3D box, shrink or enlarge any dimension of that box, or cut it into a more complex shape. Later you’ll learn how to manipulate shapes using “move” and “rotate”, how to create components that edit several shapes simultaneously (like if you want to make all the studs in a wall 12 inches taller), and how to import ready-made elements like doors instead of drawing them from scratch.
Sketchup won’t replace AutoCAD for drafting technical drawings, but it’s an amazing tool for communicating a vision with other engineers, architects, or clients. (A picture is worth a thousand words.) I’ve also discovered that Sketchup helps me as a carpenter. If I intend to build a shed, which I do, first I can swiftly draw the structure and cladding. Then I can use my drawing to count up the materials I’ll need, and to puzzle out tricky details like roof soffits. Build it electronically before I build it in real life – that’s my goal for Eastie Farm.