Instructables

Concrete Leaves for Gardens or Fountains

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Picture of Concrete Leaves for Gardens or Fountains
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Kindly vote for this in the Concrete Casting Contest!  Thanks ever so much. ( :

This instructable is on behalf of Madeline Werner, the caster of these lovely leaves.  Being inbetween jobs, I have the time (and inclination) to do it!   This is an easy, cheap, and fun way to make a lasting addition to any landscape. We hope you enjoy our first instructable.  Feedback welcome. ( :

Materials needed:

-Large, fresh, veiny leaves such as rhubarb (don't worry if they have a few holes) or smaller like hosta
-50 lbs. Play Sand for forming
-Plastic wrap, food storage type
-50--80 lb. Bag of Concrete (sand aggregate only)
 -Nitrile gloves
-Spray and hand paints, brushes, etc.
-Water sealer for concrete

Optional: Portland Cement, concrete colorant, wire to coil and set for hanging, chicken wire or drywall mesh joint tape for more strength
 
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Step 1: Gather Leaves

Picture of Gather Leaves
Put the shout out to all you know, we offer a free finished leaf to anyone who donates to the cause.  I've even stopped by a commercial farm, and they were happy to oblige.

Keep in water until ready to use, but no more than a couple of days.

Step 2: Prep the casting area

Picture of Prep the casting area
Maddie started off doing them on the ground in the carport, then I built her a table in her shop.  (Much easier on the back!)  Extra large are still done on the ground.

Press the leaf on a pile of sand to desired shape, mounding or flatening. Remove the leaf, then cover the sand with plastic wrap.  Return the leaf to its original spot.  Prep all leaves to be cast before the next step.

Step 3: Mix the concrete

Picture of Mix the concrete
Maddie has found that adding Portland cement (Up to a coffee can per 40 lbs.) makes a stronger leaf, and is the easiest way to get the water/concrete to the nice pasty consistancy if you've added too much water. A 1/2 bag (about 40 lbs,) of concrete will do 5 medium sized leaves.  We call approx. 18" across the widest point "medium" sized.  12" and 24" would be small and large.
lryder19 days ago

I've found that WD 40 works well to remove cast when sprayed before you fill.

sharonnah59 (author)  lryder19 days ago
Have you had success painting the surface after using WD 40?
fretted3 months ago
But what you could uses on the back of the leaf is this you would only need one thin coat and quite possibly you could coat both sides and use the leaf twice

http://shop.hobbylobby.com/products/mold-builder-liquid-latex-30452/

I
 use this to make concrete molds it stinks like cat pee it has a lot of ammonia in it but it's natural latex  if you brush on a very thin coat you should have no problem peeling the leaf back off the back of the concrete ! 
sharonnah59 (author)  fretted3 months ago
Now that's an interesting product! I don't think we'd get the deep veins we like from the top side...but it is worth experimenting with. Thanks a bunch Fretted!
Sharonnah59, 2questions... Can it be made strong enough to walk on? And you stated you wanted a shout out to people to donate to the cause... Can you explain?
sharonnah59 (author)  sclayman1 month ago

Hi sclayman, I would not use these as pavers. But if you build a wood form (at least 1.5" thick) and use mostly sidewalk concrete for the base, you can make a good 2 dimensional impression in a top layer of the above patching concrete mix. The "donation" refers to finding people willing to give their large rhubarb or other leaves, if you do not grow your own.

well, if someone makes me two... I can use one of them as a mold for glass and I can send them one back out of glass..

thanks

sharonnah59 (author) 5 months ago
By the way, we did try using a cooking spray on the back of of the leaf to hopefully help its removal after the concrete set. Not only did it not help, but made the surface resistant to the paint! Fail.
cgurlz6 months ago
Those are awesome! You should sell those!
diy_bloke6 months ago
gorgeous
Quizicat7 months ago
What is the purpose of taking the leaf up and putting plastic wrap down? Why not just put the plastic down at first. (maybe I'm missing something)
sharonnah59 (author)  Quizicat7 months ago
Quizicat and the bigkeger, there is some shaping of the sand being done at this step. Maddie says she often removes/replaces the leaf a couple of times before being satisfied with the shape. Why wrestle with wrap if you don't have to, right? And yes, it is casting the back of the leaf.
Aaah, that had me puzzled, too. Might want to add it to the instructions to save dummies like me some headache in the future, teehee!
I'm still lost on the use of the plastic wrap though! Halp!
Toffy7 months ago
These are so terrific......job well done.
sharonnah59 (author) 7 months ago
Sure appreciate all the support, thank you, thank you!
poofrabbit7 months ago
Just wanted to say congratulations on being a finalists in the Concrete & Casting Contest! This was such a great idea, every time I see it I smile. Good luck!
TeemoSto7 months ago
Super cool; you got my vote!
tim_n7 months ago
I did the same a while back (http://www.instructables.com/id/Ornamental-paving-slabs/) however came to the conclusion it needed wire embedded otherwise it cracks.

Found peeling worked better than any other method too.
woodpuppy7 months ago
I love the porjeckt. Spray the leaf with cookingspray (pam) or hairspray befor casting, comes out like a charm then
MisrerRoberts7 months ago
Wow, going to have to try that!!

Wonder if a very fine sand and a sand blaster would remove the leaf without damaging the concrete.

Or maybe put it out in the sun until the leaf dries up and crumbles?
11Brenda7 months ago
Absolutely beautiful !!!
kjackman17 months ago
Very creative and interesting project! My question is what kind of paint did you use for the metallic finish?
sharonnah59 (author)  kjackman17 months ago
Rustoleum. (Gold, silver, copper, & brass)
velcro27 months ago
I give this project high marks for imagination and creativity. I wonder if you coated the leaf with a "parting wax" then wouldn't that make it easier to remove the leaf from the mold? I was also thinking of how you could make a large rubber mold out of your original and then duplicate the best leaves. I also was thinking of making them into stepping stones by adding some steel mesh and another 1" to 2" layer to the underside. Thanks for sharing. This is a great project.
zacker velcro27 months ago
for a stepping stone you could always dig a 2 or 3 inch hole in the shape you want, fill it with concrete and either drop one of these into the wet concrete or better yet, press the leaves in from the top to imprint or stamp the pattern into your step stone. the best part of pouring the concrete into a hole in the ground is you don't have to try and level it off later so it doesn't rock or wobble and they should pretty much be all the same height when done!!
sharonnah59 (author)  velcro27 months ago
We love all of your ideas velcro2, thank you too!
kbrandon7 months ago
i would love to try this ! jsut dont knwo where id find big leaves hmph
zacker kbrandon7 months ago
depending on where you live, try growing a couple "Elephant Ear" plants, you'll have HUGE leaves, more than you'll know what to do with. If growing isn't an option try asking down at you local plant store, or farm. search on line for plants with huge leafs and then make a list of the ones that can grow in your area and go out to the stores and farms and ask if the carry any of them, if they do, see if they have old, dying plants with at least one good leaf you could have or buy a dying plant for very cheep.
sharonnah59 (author)  kbrandon7 months ago
You just don't know where to find them YET kbrandon, I have faith in you!
agis687 months ago
lovely and very nice result....voted
zacker7 months ago
COOL....THANKS!
BScherer7 months ago
We've made these for years and I love them! This is absolutely beautiful. I love your coloring. We will often shape them very slightly into a bowl to hold water for the birds and put them in ground in the garden. The birds spend a lot of time in there!
Bard7 months ago
Will quickcrete work for this project?

I never crafted with concrete before.
sharonnah59 (author)  Bard7 months ago
Yes, Quikrete has a cement/sand mix like we use, it's QUIKRETE® Concrete Resurfacer.
rsims8647 months ago
A cooking spray oil on the leaf before applying the concrete should act as a release agent for easier clean-up. Real concrete casting forms are usually sprayed with motor oil which I don't recommend here because the oil will interfere with the final paint job. Really nice job! rsims864
sharonnah59 (author)  rsims8647 months ago
Tried the cooking spray this weekend, it didn't help. Darn. May try a torch next.
Joan.of.art7 months ago
These are beautiful. I have made the same kind of thing with clay, where you press a leaf into a slab of clay (about 1/4" thick). They come out really well.
I am not sure from your instructions, did you keep the leaf in when you poured the concrete, or just press the leaf into the sand and use the sand as your mould?
Thanks
sharonnah59 (author)  Joan.of.art7 months ago
The leaf stays Joan.or.art. (See it under there?) We are casting the back side of the leaf, getting all the detail of the ribs, veins, and edges.
beckyb77 months ago
These are so nice. I think I may have to give it a try. Hope you do well in the contest.
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