Contributing editor Gary M. Katz says that he first starts complicated projects with a drawing. When a flat-screen television complicated the building of an intricate mantel (Fine Homebuilding 186, pp. 86-91), he tried a new type of drawing tool.
Using SketchUp, a free software program from Google that simplifies 3D design, Katz said he was able to better visualize the dimensions and proportions of the mantelpiece. To illustrate this idea, we created a 3D animation from Katz's original SketchUp file that shows the mantel from multiple angles.
If you want to give it a try, download the same SketchUp file, plus view step-by-step photos of the project, at Katz's Web site: www.garymkatz.com/TrimTechniques/flatscreen_mantelpiece.htm.
To download SketchUp, visit www.sketchup.com.