Making Metal Leaves




Intro: Making Metal Leaves

On the 19 of January 2015 I challenged myself to make a metal leaf a day for a year. Currently, I am up to 146 leaves. These are but a few to show the evolution of my leaf project and how the use of "leaf" is my design format. All these leaves are hand made from various metals, such as copper, brass, nickel, silver plated brass, silver plated copper, galvanized steel, food can steel, brass wire mesh and pewter. All leaves with mixed metals are riveted together with hand made rivets in copper, brass or silver plated wire.

Some leaves are created using the fold form method, some chasing/repousse or fabricated method. Almost all metals are from repurposed items purchased in thrift stores.

Step 1: Using Repurposed Bracelet

Here you see an anodized aluminum bracelet that has been flattened and cut. This will make a leaf in the fold form method.

Step 2: Folding/creasing the Metal for Folding.

I have a piece of bedframe metal with a bevel ground along one edge. I use a dead-blow mallet to strike the metal down the center of the metal and then place the creased piece into the slot of a piece of wood with a groove in it. I hammer the metal bar into the piece to fold it more. I then place this on my anvil and close the fold more along most of the spine.

Step 3:

Here you can see the piece has been hammered flat along most of the length. The part that is not folded flat completely will be the rolled stem. Since the stem is round, I do not fold it tight as it needs to be opened and shaped later.

Step 4:

I use a jewelers saw to cut the shape of the leaf, leaving the spine folded, which will be opened and spread out for the shape of the leaf. The stem needs to be cut wide enough to allow it to be rolled into a round stem shape. I do this in a groove in my wooden stump, which you can see near the edge of the stump. This is done with a cross pien hammer.

Step 5:

With the folded metal on the anvil, I texture the side with marks that do two things. One is to give it texture. The second is to stretch the metal on the outer edge of the leaf shape, which curls the leaf. This adds life to the piece. The metal is then annealed with a butane torch to soften the metal before prying it open.

Step 6:

After prying the folded metal open, you can add texture to the other side or leave it as is. On this leaf, I added small dimples to the edge with a small round ball pien hammer. The stem is also rolled at this time with a cross pien in the groove on my wooden stump.

In the second photo you can see the stem has been rolled.

This metal is tricky to use as it has been anodized and it harder than aluminum that hasn't.



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    14 Discussions


    2 years ago

    In Step 4, what do you use to add texture? I assume maybe the end of your punch or a piece of round bar?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    I have a set of hammers that give different texture. I use mainly a cross pien hammer to texture my leaves. It depends on the type of texture you wish to create. I prefer using a hammer.

    Thanks for looking and interest.


    2 years ago

    Nice! You should enter this in the Metal Contest!


    2 years ago

    Gorgeous! Thank you for sharing and inspiring us all.


    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the link to Brian Press. I"m relatively new to fold forming since starting metal smithing last year but will certainly look closely through all his info.

    Copper repousse ornament with brass pins 1.jpg

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    All the rivets are made by hand with wire. I hold the wire in my vice and hammer a head on the end. I then drill a hole through the metal just big enough to fit the wire and the head keeps it from pulling through. I then snip it close and set the head with my beading punch, made from a bit nail.

    beaded rivets 2.jpgbeaded rivets 5.jpgbeaded rivets 6.jpg

    3 years ago

    look nice


    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for looking. I do love to texture the metals and just play with the different metals.