In this "How To" article, I will be describing the process I used to layout the maze I had for my 2007 yard haunt. At first, I thought it was going to be a pretty daunting task. Reason being, I wanted to use the "Triangular Grid" method, of which, I knew very little about. After a couple emails with a fellow haunter, Jerry Chavez, and a lot of rereading, I decided to draw up my maze in the 3D rendering application, Google Sketchup. Why? Because its FREE!

Here is how my maze ended up. It took me about a day of work and a total of 8 revisions to come up with the following layout.

If you can visualize objects in 3 dimensions, the process will come really easy to you. If this isn't a strong point for you, don't worry about it. Most of it just takes a little practice, and a willingness to try new things. OK, so let's get started.

Required Items

First things first, you will need to download a couple items. Namely...

If you are unfamiliar with Google Sketchup, it is a free utility provided by Google. It is actually fairly easy to learn, and has a user friendly interface. It can be a little tricky at first, but the more you use it, the easier it is.

I highly recommend that if you are a first time user, that you watch the excellent tutorials that are available on Google's site. I personally have used Computer Aided Drafting & Design programs for years, but this is not your average design tool. The tutorials really cleared up a bunch of questions I had regarding the general use of the app. You can get them from here, and are also available from SketchUp's Help menu. These are lebeled for version 5, but they are still applicable.

As for the other two files you downloaded, those are Google Sketchup Components. What is a Component? A component is nothing more than a bunch of objects that you want to act as a single group. For example, Maze Flat #1 was made by creating the two sheets of plywood and the 2x3 frames and then grouping them together to form one complete double-sided wall section.

That's sounds good, but why do I need to use the component when I already have the wall section drawn? Quite simply, to speed up the process. By using the component instead of the individual pieces, you can very quickly layout new sections, move them around, and even copy them for use elsewhere. On top of all that, you don't have to worry about selecting all the individual pieces when you copy or move a wall. With a component, selecting any part of the wall selects the entire panel. This will become real obvious when you start to use the application.

Getting Started

If you haven't done so already, go ahead and install Google Sketchup. Just accept all the defaults and reboot if required. You will now need a place to store the component files you downloaded earlier. You can put them anywhere you want as long as you know where they are. I have a "My Sketchups" folder in the My Documents folder where I keep everything related to Google Sketchup. Once you have the component files where you want them, go ahead and launch Google Sketchup.

The first time it opens, you will be prompted to select a view. It doesn't really matter which one you chose because it is real easy to change the view during the design phase. Go ahead and select Top View for now. Make sure the Units is set to Feet Inches (Architectural) and select Continue. If you want to watch the tutorial, go ahead. For now, I am going to close the tutorial and Instructor windows that open. You are now ready to start laying out your walls.

How to Use the Component

Starting from a blank new drawing, select the Window pull down menu and select Component. In the window that opens up, select the details button as shown below

sketchup_components_details.png

Now select the "Open or create a library..." menu item. Browse to the folder where you stored the components and select OK. You should see the maze wall section appear in the list. Simply select the component and then move your cursor over the blank drawing area. When you are ready, place the wall section by left clicking.

Where To Go From Here

Now that you know how to place a component, you can build your maze by either copying the wall section you just placed, or continue to place more components. It doesn't matter either way. Personally, what I end up doing is placing about 3 wall sections from the component menu, and then I rotate one section 60 degrees from zero, and another section -60 degrees from zero. This gives me the three different angles that make up the triangular grid method. I will explain this a little more later on.

Assuming you have a bunch of wall sections in the drawing area, you need to move them around so that they butt up against each other to form a continuous wall section. This is done by simply selecting the move toolbar button, selecting the section to be moved, specifing a point to move from and finally the ending point. It is actually easier than it sounds. The only real tricky part is getting used to the 3D view. Here are a couple tricks that I used to do my layout.