All the Small Things: CAD Tips and Tricks

Do you have a tip or a trick that saves you time when you using SOLIDWORKS? Are there tools that are second nature to you or ones that you use almost automatically?

After spending years designing with SOLIDWORKS, going to user group meetings and attending the annual SOLIDWORKS World Conference, I have picked up quite a few of these. The funny part is I started to assume that if I knew about a certain technique, then everyone knew about it…right?

As I gave a presentation at a user group meeting or helped a colleague with an issue, it was common for me to hear, “Wait a minute. Back up. What did you do there?” Could it be possible that not everyone knew about all of these little timesavers that I always took for granted? I decided to start compiling a list of my favorite tips and tricks after finding out that some of my favorite power users on the SOLIDWORKS forums didn’t know about several of them.

When it was decided that I would be the presenter for the second annual SOLIDWORKS Largest User Group Meeting Ever (SLUGME), I knew I had the makings of the perfect presentation. One day while jotting down notes for my presentation, I was listening to some tunes, and the presentation found a name – All the Small Things. This is how I often describe the timesaving benefits of shortcuts. “How did you get that done so fast?” “Easy, it was ‘All the Small Things’!”If you are not familiar with SLUGME, it was a crazy idea I had a few years ago to have user groups from all over the globe “connect” to view a single presentation at the same time.

I modeled this presentation around the Jeopardy! game show. Each category had a specific theme. This allowed me to cover a lot of ground and share many great tricks within SOLIDWORKS. My time limit was going to be a little less than an hour, which meant that I would need to move fast to get through all of the categories and topics.

My intent for the presentation was to spend most of the time working in SOLIDWORKS. The individual topics were starting points for small demonstrations. This allowed me to share multiple tips and tricks for each topic. For example, one topic was the “S” key shortcut—this displays a pop-up toolbar, but it also activates the command search. These are two tips from a single topic, but when I did the presentation, I added almost a dozen tips related to the topic. There is not enough room in this article to list every single tip or trick, so I am only listing the categories and highlighting a few of the topics for one of the categories.

Below is a brief description of what was shown for my All the Small Things presentation:


This category contained several of my favorite keyboard shortcuts.
This category covered tools for working with tubing.
This category showed great shortcuts for creating Weldments.
The random tips and tricks category had a little bit of everything.
Custom Properties is one of the most powerful tools within SOLIDWORKS. It is also one of my favorite timesavers, so these are some of my best tricks.
Modeling and filling a bath tub using a number of different tips and tricks. This was a really fun category, so I will go into a little more depth with the topics.
A few of the multitude of shortcuts, tips and tricks from this topic included:

  • Use the slot tool to sketch the outside shape of the tub.
  • Hold the shift key while selecting the outside of the slot for overall size dimension.
  • When creating the Extrude, use a combination of Offset Sketch, Up to Surface and Draft to keep the tub within the size boundary.
  • The fillet on the bottom of the tub can be made with very little mouse movement. Left-click on the side, use Select Other from the pop-up menu to select the bottom face, select the fillet tool from the pop-up menu, key in a value and select OK.
  • After a quick Shell, the tub is complete.
Quickly calculate the amount of liquid it will take to fill the tub with a couple tools.

Hold Control and drag top plane up to create a new plane representing the water level. Use the Intersect tool to create a new body to represent the volume of water. Uncheck “Merge Bodies” in the Intersect Property Manager to keep all three bodies. In Settings -> Document Properties -> Units -> Custom you can change the units for Volume to US Gallons. Select Mass Properties, and then select the solid body that represents the water to get the volume.

Now that we know how many gallons of water the tub can hold, we can easily determine the fill level. Right click on Sensors in the Feature Manager tree and select Add Sensor. Select Volume and the solid body representing the water. I set an alert to notify me when the volume was less than a specific value. This way, I can drag the plane up and down until I reach the volume required.
For this example, I opened a bartender’s drink jigger that I designed using some of the previously mentioned techniques. I calculated several different 1-ounce solids, used the Combine tool to bring them together and used Combine again to subtract them from a solid bar of aluminum.


This was a really fun way to wrap up my presentation. I showed how to create an animation with the Motion Manager to show the draining of the bath tub.

This was a small assembly— the tub, water and a rubber duck just for fun.

The water was created by modeling a solid block, using Cut with Surface in conjunction with the inside surface of the tub. The water was mated in the assembly to only allow movement in the Y direction. Open the Motion Manager, drag the time bar to about 5 seconds, drag the water to the bottom of the tub and Calculate the Motion Study. When you play the animation, the water “drains.”


If interested, you can view the entire presentation here or here. I also created a booklet that contains everything from the presentation. More information about the presentation can be found on the SOLIDWORKS forums.

About the Author

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Todd Blacksher is the President of the SOLIDWORKS User Group of Nebraska (SwugOne), and is the SOLIDWORKS User Group Network Representative for the Southern US. Todd was named the DriveWorks User Group Leader of the Year in 2016. At SOLIDWORKS World in 2018 Todd was presented the SOLIDWORKS User Group Leader of the Year and the Michelle Pillars Community Award. Since earning his CSWP in 2005, Todd has collected another dozen certifications, the most recent one being his CSWE in 2015. Todd worked for a SOLIDWORKS reseller for a number of years before returning to industry, and resuming his role as President of SwugOne. Jumping on a bicycle and pedaling around as often as possible is a priority for Todd.

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