Look, I know more than most how tempting it can be to get every little detail correct in a SketchUp model. I've spent time tweaking little bits and pieces to make sure they were just right, believe me. While designing projects I can have multiple generations of a design, exploring new options and branching out into infinite possibilities. So take it from somebody who has fallen down that rabbit hole - you have to know when to stop modeling and start building.
These days I am trying to remind myself that the goal is to make projects, not models. My ability to create precision in SketchUp are far beyond my abilities for precision in the shop. Wood moves with the seasons, small variations in tool setups introduce randomness during a build, and sometimes designs get changed on the fly.
Here are a few questions I try to ask myself as I am making a model to ensure I am not sinking deeper into OCD territory.
- Will the extra level of detail make it easier to build the real piece? By all means, if it makes things easier in the shop then add it to the model. I am a strong believer in modeling details on joinery, curves, edge profiles, etc. as long as they make the time in the shop easier. An exploded view of the project with a few key dimensions is invaluable to me as I build. But leave out things that make no difference in the shop.
- Will the final dimension of the wood match the SketchUp model? SketchUp is great at providing dimensions for raw stock. Suppose you have a door rail that will be mortise & tenoned into the stile. By all means, add the two tenons to the ends of the rail and use SketchUp to measure the total length of the rail. But by the time you need to know the dimensions of the door panel, measuring the actual meatspace door is the best way to go. A little variability could have crept in and suddenly the dimension of the panel in SketchUp doesn't match the door you built. Until you have a CNC machine just spitting out all you project parts, you have to know when to abandon the perfection of the SketchUp planned dimensions.
- Does the design of the piece require a more detailed model? If I am trying a new type of joint or I want to see how a curve would look, I add more detail until my question is answered. Otherwise, keep it simple. For example, when designing a piece with drawers I will often create a simple rectangle to fill the drawer opening instead of modeling a full dovetailed drawer. Even a drawer-sized box is easy to make and fill the hole. Until I need details about the drawer there is no need to model it beyond that point. It's a heck of a lot easier to explore the overall size and shape of the piece this way.