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Thursday, 13 December 2012

Leaf-bound Coasters

Just for a change, here is a craft project... or maybe a bit of materials research:

 In June 2010 I made some coasters by applying big leaves to the surface of old CDs. I was very pleased with the results - the thick, waxy leaves produced a lovely surface - somewhat remeniscent of leather binding, but without all the executions and flaying - and the leaf venation has a charm all its own.
Freshly made coaster - June 2010

...aaaanyway, I would have blogged about it at the time, but I wasn't sure that the materials I had used would stand the test of time. That was two and a half years ago, and I am still using the three coasters I made every day. My morning coffee is sitting on one of them right now!

Over time, the leaf texture has become more papery, and less waxy. The surface is now quite brittle, but still tough enough to be fit for purpose.

The same coasters today - notice the fungal stain just by my thumb which has not changed since coaster was made 30 months ago.
So here's how I made them, as near as I can remember:

- first find some big, waxy leaves - I chose a big-leaved rhododendron (Rhododendron suoilenhense, R. sinogrande or similar) In fact, I found the leaves first and then thought up something to do with them - they are lovely.

- Select some fallen leaves that are beginning to brown, but are still waxy and flexible, and take them home.

- Cut out sections of leaf large enough to cover your CD's with a generous margin for error. You might want to consider how the pattern of leaf veins will fit onto the CD.

- shave the main veins off of the underside of the leaf with a sharp knife or scalpel - you are aiming for an even thickness to your leaf.

- I left my leaves overnight sandwiched between heavy books to flatten and dry out a little. Leaving them for several days, perhaps a week, might be a good idea - there is a danger that if the leaf shrinks too much once stuck to the CD that it will crack or pull away from the surface.

- We will be using an adhesive to stick the leaves onto the CDs. I used black acrylic paint, but I would have used PVA glue instead if I'd had any - and will use that next time.

- Prepare the cds by sanding the side you intend to stick the leaves to. The leaves are going to shrink as they dry and will try to pull away from the CD, so the bond has to be as strong as possible.

- Apply a generous coating of adhesive to the underside of the leaves.

- Set the CDs firmly on top of the leaves and once more leave overnight with heavy books or similar on top to press them flat.

- Trim the edges - initially with scissors, but you can get a very neat finish by sanding down the leaf overhang to the CD's edge.

...and that's all I can remember! I did consider coating the leaf with beeswax - which might have kept the leaves waxy for longer, again that is something I will experiment with next time.

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