Problems rotating a rod

I’m a noob to both SketchUp and CAD generally. I’m using a backyard play structure project as a way to learn while doing.

My latest conundrum involves how to manipulate a long cylinder efficiently. I created a climbing bar by drawing a circle, extruding it, and applying “bare wood” material to the surfaces. The trouble comes when I want to rotate it into the correct orientation; the cylinder is modeled as a prism with many narrow faces, so even if the protractor looks like it’s in the correct plane, it’s always off by a little. After much futzing, I now have the bar almost parallel to an axis, but not quite. I’d like to get it spot-on, as well as to avoid having to go through the same painful process for all the other climbing bars I want to place in the drawing.

My questions:

  1. Is there a quick way to make the cylindrical bar parallel to a given axis? Like typing in an eigenvector [1, 0, 0] and have it jut pop into alignment, or graphically snapping to parallel?

  2. When using the Rotation tool, how can I make sure the protractor is exactly parallel to a given plane rather than just approximately parallel?

  3. Is my workflow just wrong? Should I be going about this in some completely different way that better leverages SketchUp’s strengths?


If I were doing that I would start by drawing the initial circle for the end of the cylinder in the correct orientation. Get the Circle tool and tap the left cursor key before starting the circle.

Get the Rotate tool, tap the correct cursor key to set the axis of rotation. Right key for around the red axis, up arrow for around the blue, left arrow for around the green.

I don’t know if it’s wrong. I haven’t seen your model. For the most part I model the objects in place with the correct orientation so I don’t have to spend a lof of time moving the objects around after they are created. Even in a very complex model like the steam engine here, this works very well for me. It also means I don’t need to know every last dimension. Once I get a few components made where they are going to live, the rest of the model is mostly created using prior components as references. Also by modeling things in place there’s less chance for errors.


To help achieve your goals, some time spent at the SketchUp Campus and at the SketchUp - YouTube channel will be very worthwhile. Both sites are from the SketchUp team. On the YouTube channel, pay attention to the Square One Series and Level UP series. They cover the basics for each tool.

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What you can try is to put a central axis in each of the cylinders (rods).

Then using X-Ray mode, you can grab the rods by these axes to manipulate them.

Another possibility is shown in this SU file. Click in sequence on its scenes tabs.

Play structure made of tubes.skp (328.0 KB)


Cool! Thanks to you all, I now have several ways to do what I need to do, plus some good educational resources to delve into.