Help constructing a reproduction of a freeform sculpture

Can anyone suggest a method or approach for constructing this freeform sculpture in SketchUp? Any help will be gratefully appreciated!
(please see image). Thank you!
peter stetler
composite2-convertS.pdf (1.3 MB)

That’s a tough call. If you had the object I would scan it.

Otherwise you could try a series of match photos (separate images) to get close but it won’t be perfect.
Then cutting through with boolean operations.

shape8.skp (219.2 KB)

here’s a VERY rough version just built with some simple shapes cut through by other simple shapes using solid tools (boolean). If you spent more time with this method I think you could get close but it’s not the most ideal way and not one suited for sketchup.

An extrusion and shaping method with SU’s native tools. Still a bit lumpy, but it depends on what you want to do. Tweaking Tool Tips.


Yes, the 3D scanning would be ideal… and a little boring.

Or, you could time travel back to some old school methods and spend hours instead of minutes achieving the same thing:

I’d focus on getting Cross Sections (x,y points) taken at consistent intervals along the vertical z-axis.

Then within SketchUp you can simple trace the outlines for each cross section… (re)position them along the z-axis… and draw connecting lines between the various contour elevations.

I’m guessing that you made this sculpture in the first place… and if so then maybe you’ll also be inclined to make a casting of it into a work friendly material… which can be cut up on a bandsaw to get all the cross section contours… and of course photographed/and traced from there.

In the past I’ve also made a rectangular cage to slide around a sculpture and from there used vernier calipers to measure the distance from my cage to various points on the object I was trying to scale. [for this approach use the calipers that also have a depth gauge on them].

Or even scribe and cutout sheets of paper to fit various contours at different elevations.

any means that you can come up with which give you a zero reference point which can be used to take measurements from will be very helpful.

If I were to photograph this sculpture for this sort of task… I’d do so on a turn table (@ 15º incremented rotations) . . . placed in front of a backdrop that has vertical and horizontal lines for reference (and for finding common scale) between the photos.

if available maybe experiment projecting laser level lines onto your sculpture… to help with issues of foreshortening, and distortion.

Lastly, before you start complaining about all the work this approach entails… just be glad that I didn’t suggest that you cast your sculpture in Bronze, and then use a hack saw to cut out all your cross sections. that would have made things considerably harder and slower… but it would also give you a close up view of why the old generation of folks are all so tough.

Anyhow, the main thing is to have some fun while you’re at it.

Good Luck, and Take Care,


Thank you- that is terrific!!! dare I ask how the heck did you do this?

I can get around in SU somewhat, but not great.Would it help me to learn if I had the file that you so
kindly created? I would like the contours to be smooth and flowing in the end result.

My thanks to you!!

My Regards,

peter stetler

Thank you- could you describe your method of construction of the file that you so
kindly created??

I would like the contours to be smooth and flowing in the end result. What would be the ideal way to construct this,
and what software would be best suited for the job? I have very little resources for software, but it would be great to
know what are the right tools!

With my thanks!

My Regards,

peter stetler

Thank you Jim!!

Thanks for the education on how to approach thinking about this construction, and possible methods!
Hours rather than minutes has been a way of life for me, as I restored antique picture frame and gilded objects
as my livelihood…talk about hacksawing bronze…and I’m 73! So toughened-up as I am, the digital stuff
requires a different set of skills…but I’m trying!

You are right, I did make this sculpture: I am an artist that has worked in various media.
I’m doing this project in the hopes of 3d printing some small version of this to give as a gift
for my fan… notice the singular noun!

So thanks for your help, and humor as well

Best Regards,

peter stetler

Attached a file showing the principles of this methodology. It’s more like subtractive sculpting. just taking shapes and subtracting them from the original block using the “solid tools”. AS Jim D says, it would be better to get photos of the object from more specific/known angles (not arbitrary ones) So you would have a true top, 4 sides and bottom view. These photos can be used (pasted) into a cube as part of the model so you can more acurately verify the building from those same views in sketchup. I think you could achieve the results you want this way with some patience, but a more organic modeler like “Form Z” , modo, or other 3D programs that can show more than one viewpoint at the same time might be better suited to this particular case?
(not sure what version you are running so i have saved the files in SU8 format)

shape8 extended.skp (391.1 KB)

I posted some techniques earlier, but thought I would show this as a more visual way of explanation.
You can see that by pasting the ortho views on the sides of a cube (or other shape) you can begin to build the shape within it using those known angles as a guide ( it is a kinda workaround to a 4 viewport system) I kept the scene transitions on, but if you were doing this it would be faster to turn that off so you can go from view to view in a click.
Another method you could utilize would be to have your original model block made as a “component” and you could then copy and paste that component adjacent to each other at 90 degree offsets. That way you could work on the model and see how the shaping looks from another perspective/angle simultaneously. See scene tab #6, as you edit the component in any of the angles, it updates in the component which yo can then see in real time from other angles.shape8 cube viewport.skp (440.5 KB)