Decorative Leaves From Wood

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Posted in WorkshopWoodworking

Introduction: Decorative Leaves From Wood

These decorative leaves are easy to make with a bandsaw.

You will need:

A piece of wood for the leaves: 3" wide by about 10" long and 3/4" thick.

A piece of darker wood to cut the stems: about 2" wide by about 7" long and 3/4" thick.

Wood glue and epoxy (optional).

I will show a lot of pictures to illustrate the various steps.

Step 1: Prepare Your Leaf-Cube

Start by cutting four pieces of wood (e.g. oak, maple, cherry, pine, cedar, plywood), each piece 3” square by ¾” thick. Glue the four pieces together into a 3" tall cube. Make sure to align the grain direction of all four pieces.

Mark a diagonal line across one of the faces that shows the glue lines, then cut the cube along this line on your bandsaw.

Sand the cut faces on a stationary belt sander. The faces need to be flat and smooth to fit back against each other.

Step 2: Make the Leave Stems and Glue Together the Leaf-Cube

Cut five wedges from a darker piece of wood, e.g. walnut. These will serve as the stem of the leaf. The wedges should be about 6 inches long, ¾” tall, and about ¼” thick on the wider end. See drawing.

Align the two halves of the cube so that the glue lines point away from the stem as veins in a leaf would, i.e. the glue lines meet in a "V".

Glue the wedges and the two halves of the cube together as shown in the drawing and pictures.

Make sure to put glue on the skinny top faces of each wedge to hold them together as indicated in the drawing.

I use epoxy glue for this step, as the epoxy will bond stronger than wood glue when you have surfaces that don’t match perfectly. The epoxy will fill larger gaps and still maintain a strong bond.

Clamp the glue-up or use tape to hold the assembly (leaf-cube) together while the glue dries. Clamping can be a little tricky, as the wedges tend to slip out when you increase the clamping pressure; however, clamping will provide a better glue joint.

Step 3: Cut Leaves

First cut: Mark a slightly curved cut-line on the side of the leaf-cube. With the stem diagonally sticking up and pointing away from the bandsaw blade make a curved cut through the leaf-cube and carefully cut all the way through the stem. See drawing and pictures. Discard the waste piece.

Second cut: Set your bandsaw fence to the desired thickness of your leaves. I find 3/16” works well for the leaf thickness. Make the second and following cuts by pushing the leaf-cube against the fence and following the contour of the prior cut. See movie clip.

You can also slice-off the leaves flat instead of doing the curved cuts.

You should be able to get about 10 leaves from your leaf-cube. Sand both sides of your leaves smooth.

Step 4: Shape Leaves

Now you have to decide on the shape of your leaf. You can either make paper templates for your leaf shape or draw the outline directly on the leaf. For a paper template, cut a 3” by 3” square from printer paper, fold along the diagonal (stem), and draw one half of the desired shape. Cut out, unfold, and stick onto the leaf for tracing or cutting.

Use the bandsaw to cut out the final leaf shape.

Round the edges of the leaf and stem by hand or with a detail sander. Finish with mineral oil, stain, polyurethane, varnish, or whatever you like.

The introduction page of this Instructable shows some of the leaves I have made with different hardwoods. The 'stripy' leaves were made with 3/4" plywood.

2 People Made This Project!

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38 Comments

I absolutely love these! I am going to try to get some done by Christmas, as I really like Marc - FRs idea about leaves of the family tree! Alright, gotta end this & get gluing.

3 replies

mine are finished! hope you had enough time to do yours =)
Thanks rschoenm and Merry Christmas everybody!


(pine wood for the leaves and oak for the stems, finished with linseed oil because it smell so good =p)

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You did great! They are beautiful! Any suggestions for an easy way to make the wedges?

Marc, beautiful work and presentation. Happy New Year to all!

Those are beautiful. Now, I need a bandsaw. Thanks for the idea!

4 replies

I see others saying similar things here, about lacking tools they need to do try certain projects. I wonder if there is a way to maybe set up a "clearing house" for people with power tools who might be willing to do some of the work [in reasonable amounts] for people in their geographical vicinity, or helping them learn ways around tooks they lack by using other tools, and techniques, they do have? I remember when my son made Cub Scout Pinewood Derbys and my shop was used by several Cubs [and their dads] in the area who knew I had tools they lacked. I was glad to help as needed [especially with some aspects requiring some power tools that they had no familiarity with]. I love teaching others how to use tools effectively and safely and wouldn't mind, within reason, doing some rough cutting from blanks someone brought to me [or maybe mailed if cost were not prohibitive]. I wonder if there are others who would be willing resources and if there might be a way to compile a list. The solution to someone's lack of resources may be around the corner or at least not too far away.

Great idea! You are very sweet and generous for offering to help others. This is the world and people I love. Thank you.

The only problem I see is that you would have to have a tremendous amount of insurance in case someone cuts off their finger using your tools in your garage. Trust me, whether a friend, colleague or neighbor - if they get hurt they will sue you.

The problem with our litigious society.

You could also use a simple coping saw for under $10 (http://amzn.to/1e3cQbv). It'll take a little more elbow grease to make the curved cut, but totally possible.

For those that don't have a band saw. Is there a hacker space near you that does?

These are really neat and I plan to make some. I have a lot of scrap Maple and aok from flooring projects in the last house and this one. Thanks for the idea.

Thanks for the great idea! I used Douglas fir since it has very noticeable grain.

2 replies

I forgot to add my picture of the leaf!

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beautifull grain instead that fit perfectly this project! nicelly done jdinsmore!

nyce idea

nyce idea

nyce idea

nyce idea

beautiful! I would buy it

Beautiful! I can't wait to get out to the shop and start a glue-up! - Betty