The Greene and Greene cloud lift is a detail that really stands out on this cabinet and makes it different than many of the other Arts & Crafts cases that I’ve seen. They really add a nice dimension to the cabinet and make it a stand out piece of furniture. That said, they are not the easiest things in the world to create so here is how I went about making them.
You probably noticed in the picture that all the cloud lifts line up around the cabinet and misalignment will really detract from the appeal of the piece. To ensure that everything lined up I turned to something I’d read about and even seen in a local Stickley exhibit but had never made: The story stick. On the edges of the stick I set up my vertical alignments for the sides and the front/back of the cabinet and laid out where the cloud lifts would be..something especially important when you look and notice that the lifts on the side stretchers actually line up with the lifts on the door rails. The story stick allowed me to know ahead of time how wide to make each piece in order for that alignment to occur. Then when I knew where the outer edges of each piece would go I was able to mark for each mortise. Neat, huh? It might be hard to see in the picture but I marked the location of each piece, the mortise location and in the case of cloud lifted parts a dashed line indicates the ‘shoulder’ of the part which is about 3/8” below the lift (very important so that the mortise doesn’t extend too far).
Once I knew my sizes and my locations then I had to make a template for the lifts so that they would be all the same. I turned back to Sketchup and created models of a side lift, the bottom side stretcher and the front/back stretcher; this was critical to ensure that the parts were bilaterally symmetrical.
You clever readers will undoubtedly have noticed that the side stretcher model does not have a cloud lift. Laziness is my excuse. I decided not to spend the time modelling up the lift when I already had a lift pattern and could just use it to form the top of the stretcher. Sheer laziness and sloth on my part, I know!! If you think that’s bad..notice I didn’t model up a top side stretcher at all..I decided to just cut the blank and use the same lift pattern to form that detail.
A VERY handy program, that Sketchup. Now I had to get the image printed out 1:1 scale so that I would be able to paste to MDF and make templates. Just printing didn’t work well.. since each piece was over a page ‘wide’ it was nigh impossible to get the alignment correct. I searched around until I found a program called BigPrint by a Canadian woodworker, Woodgears. Talk about a genius with too much time on his hands! :D I’d been to his site before and it is awesome (www.woodgears.ca) but one of the slices of awesomeness is his BigPrint program. It allowed me to not only scale the pictures precisely but it also printed out a crosshatched pattern to make aligning the sheets a snap. And yes, you have to buy the program or else the trial version prints a big disclaimer across each page just about rendering the output useless. It’s about $22 bucks or so and I thought it worth every penny.
After gluing the papers to the MDF it was just a matter of cutting to the lines and smoothing my edges.
So, now armed with a story stick and templates we’ll slog ahead on our curio adventure in the next episode.
Thanks for reading!
-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....