Intro: 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.