Tiny bubbles on newly cast leaves

auctionclerk(z5 ID)July 30, 2003

Maybe I am just being too picky but I have tiny air bubble holes on the surface of newly cast leaves. Is this normal? I used a mix of 3 parts sifted play sand, 1 part portland cement and added fortifier to the water. I don't know what kind of leaf I used. My daughter works at our local botanical garden and we picked up broken tree branches after a hard wind storm. One kind of leaf is very thick, feels like very smooth rubber sheeting, veining is sparce but prominent and the shape is more round. The other leaf used was shaped like a maple leaf but was HUGE, probably about 14 inches from side to side and a fuzzy texture on the back. If the bubbling is not normal do any of you experts, or beginners, have suggestions for avoiding them? If I had a digital camera I would post a picture of my dilema. I hope my description of problem and materials used is enough for someone to offer suggestions.

This forum and the hypertufa forum are awesome. You folks really have it together and are very encouraging and supportive of one another. Keep it up. All of us beginners are really bolstered by your enthusiasm and encouragement to others. Thanks for your suggestions.

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arcy_gw

I have yet to try the leaf casting but I have had bubbles in cement at times. Air gets trapped and if you vibrate the mold after it sets up for a few minutes the bubbles rise to the surface. How would you do this with the leaves? That is what I too have been wondering.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2003 at 3:54PM
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leigh_wi(Z5 WI)

I experience this as well and am not sure if due to the consistancy of the mix, being pressed on and therefore more subject to creating air pockets, or what may be more likely, air bubbles in the release agent (I've been using a pam type product). I have found they are fairly uniform and therefore not that objectionable (especially stained in varying hues) and that a light brushing while the cement is fairly green really minimizes them. I use an old plastic floor scrub brush for this rather than a wire brush. It smooths the edges of the veins nicely if they appear to sharp as well. I'm going to try to let the pam sit a little longer in the future to see if the air bubbles pop or maybe brush with an old paint brush to remove them. I'll try to post my results and observations. Anyone else have a sure fire method? I've also tried using vasoline and it seemed to be better but not as quick to apply.

Here is a link that might be useful: July 2003 tufa projects

    Bookmark   July 30, 2003 at 4:20PM
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Mimi_Carol(35121 - AL)

I think with the leaf instead of tapping the mold - like you would a cake - you can just gently pat the tufa/cement on the leaf. However, I don't find the air bubbles to be a big problem. They are hardly noticed once the leaf is painted or stained.

Mimi

    Bookmark   July 30, 2003 at 4:58PM
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auctionclerk(z5 ID)

Thanks for the replies. This was my first try at the leaf casting and just wanted to know others' experiences before doing more. This is GREAT fun! I can hardly wait to get home and try another batch now that I feel better about the bubbles. Too bad the fun things don't bring in the money for the necessities AND the fun. I also want to start painting them NOW. A month is a terribly long time for impatient crafters to wait. Happy crafting to everyone.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2003 at 6:09PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

I have heard that Pam does this because it forms tiny globules of oil. The advice was to use a thin coating of Vasoline instead. They said they had no problem painting or staining over it, but I have not tried it myself.

Sue

    Bookmark   July 30, 2003 at 10:33PM
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Dena6355(z8 WA)

Every leaf seems to have its very own characteristics. Some create the little pockets because of the sugars that are released. Some the concrete just has a difficult time flowing around (like the fuzzy leaf you describe.
I used to use Pam and now do not. Some leaves just come off better than others.
I have found that the bubbles can be greatly decreased if everything in concreteville is just right (it is really the luck of the draw for me), temperature, mixing, slack or gel time etc. Once your mix is done let it sit for several minutes then mix again. Pat the mix on to your leaf with some gentle but firm pats. Once the mix is over all the leaf, come back and firmly pat the mix again with your finger tips at the edges of the leaf or your palm at the top.
Painting or staining definitely changes the look and the pock or bubble marks hold the color a little more densly adding to the overall character. Dena

    Bookmark   July 31, 2003 at 9:10AM
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althea_gw

I have casted leaves from different plants with the same batch of mix and had some turn out perfect, but others, ivy for example, always come out air bubbled. The individual qualties of the leaves, as Dena said, must be the determining factor.

Leigh, I love way you colored your burdock to the same tones as your patio pavers.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2003 at 7:29AM
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leigh_wi(Z5 WI)

Thanks Althea,
LOL-I simply used what I have on hand for craft paints, never giving it a thought as to where I was going to place the leaf! Any attempt I would have made to match probably would have been more off base than my accident!
Leigh

    Bookmark   August 1, 2003 at 10:17AM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

I worked for a dentist for many years and had to pour many, many molds of teeth in different types of dental stone or plaster. I was taught to mix the plaster slowly and gently--don't whip it or stir vigorously or you'll incorporate air into the plaster. You want to use more of a 'folding' motion while mixing. It also might help to mix a small amount of plaster to a thin consistency--more watery than normal--and gently flow this first coat into your mold to get in all the nooks and crannies, then follow it with your regular mix. Also you can vibrate your mold right after the plaster is poured in--but not too much, as this can also cause bubbles. :)

    Bookmark   August 6, 2003 at 2:03AM
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bodiCA(9/N.CA)

are you discussing 'fresh' leaves? I am drying/preserving lots of leaves with decoupage to make one big mess for concrete leaf stones, so are you thinking the air bubbles are from the concrete or the fresh leaves? Have you tried decoupage on the leaves first?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2003 at 5:51PM
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leigh_wi(Z5 WI)

bodiCA, please go into detail on how you are decoupaging leaves, if I remember right, decoupage is a 50/50 mix of white glue and water? Are you doing it to still planted leaves or cut them then decoupage? Both sides? We're getting near the end of growing season and all idea's on preservation are needed!
Thanks,

Leigh

    Bookmark   August 7, 2003 at 10:53PM
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wannadanc(z8 WA)

End of season idea ..... freeze those leaves - they are wonderfully cooperative later - limp as all get out and lie so gently upon whatever type of sand mound you might make!!!! I deliberately froze and refroze a cauliflower leaf 3 times before casting - and discovered it could go right back in the freezer for another use later on - no damage to leaf after casting session was over.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2003 at 12:58AM
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auctionclerk(z5 ID)

Thanks to you all for keeping this discussion alive. I was using fresh leaves but my feeling is that the bubbles may have been caused more by the cement rather than by the leaf. I have cast more of the same kind of leaves (I have been told the smooth leaves are Cottonwood and the fuzzy ones are Sycamore) since my first post and have had the same bubbles. I am going to try, as Dena suggested, to let the mixture rest for a short time before applying to the leaves next time.

I couldn't wait a month as suggested in other posts before painting my leaves. I thought "They are my leaves and I can ruin them if I want" and plowed right in. The result was much better than I expected. Since it had been mentioned that the cement absorbes a lot of the paint I wetted the leaf and let it dry slightly (until not shiny with water but still looked damp) before painting. I was able to have the gratification of a finished leaf and it did not seem to take an inordinate amount of paint. I don't have any idea how this will stand the test of time but I just had to *finish* at least one leaf for my own satisfaction.

I will add my two cents worth about leaf freezing. I have tried it as well but have only used each leaf once. This really works. We can all become like squirrels (those little stinkers that keep digging up my yard!) and store away our winter's supply of fun while the leaves are in prime condition. I don't know where some of you will find freezers large enough for gunnera leaves but for my leaves this will work great.

If you are reading this thread and thinking about trying leaf casting, don't hesitate. It is really a kick.

Thanks again to all who have replied and *have fun playing in the mud*!!!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2003 at 9:21AM
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wannadanc(z8 WA)

Isn't it fun when you realize that YOU get to decide - the suggestions are just that - and it is because of all the individual experimentation that we have so many choices, adventures, and misadventures.

Gunnera leaves won't be "frozen" only because there aren't that many (besides they ARE too big - LOL). Each of my 5-6 big guys will be cast before the freeze comes ........but the other stuff - rhubarb, cabbage family, squash family - it freezes well and lengthens our season. Of course, the colder weather WILL impact the cast time and circumstances. This is all new to me, so I am only going by the information from those who have gone before.......until I have my own experience from which to draw.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2003 at 9:47AM
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bodiCA(9/N.CA)

I have been using Royal Coat Decoupage and simply 'painting' it on the leaf, both on or cut off the plant. Some I have sealed only one side and some I sealed both sides of the leaf. I especially like the protection it gives the delicate ruffled edges of the rhubarb leaves.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2003 at 11:18AM
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Mimi_Carol(35121 - AL)

Vicki, when you freeze the cabbage leaf and use it more than once, are you applying the tufa/cement mixture directly to the leaf or are you covering the leaf with thin plastic of some sort?
I have found that different leaves do react differently with the cement/tufa mixture. We have giant magnolias that make wonderful leaves with a relatively smooth surface whereas, the Empress tree leaves are quite sandy as are redbud leaves. And it doesn't seem to be the mixing or the setting time before application. To avoid the sandy surface, I have been placing dry cleaning bags over the leaf and then applying the mixture. I do get a few "wrinkles" from the plastic but that is much easier for me to live with than the sandy texture.
I will be an encourager too! Vicki (wannadanc) was my voice in the wilderness so I will try to do likewise for others giving leaf casting a try. It is absolutely fascinating!
Mimi

    Bookmark   August 8, 2003 at 1:24PM
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bloominweeds(z7ga)

If you still don't like the little airholes in the leaf castings try this. Mix a small amount of the mix (at the same time as you make the leaves if you use a colorant) otherwise just the cement mixture and water and rub over to fill in the little holes. Use a liguid sealant if you use them outside, the water will sort of beadup. This is what we do for stained glass step stones.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2003 at 1:42PM
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wannadanc(z8 WA)

Mimi - thank YOU for the kind words - and for the hint ...about plastic between leaf and concrete. I certainly note that the reactions are quite different - but don't know that I am particularly troubled - yet! LOL The smoothest leaf I ever accomplished was the Ligularia dentata - almost shiny, it was so smooth. I agree that the mix doesn't seem to be the issue - but it can be the sugars in the leaves themselves. By putting the plastic down, you avoid that sugar/cement contact. I will have to give this a try and see what gives!!!!!!

Thanks again

    Bookmark   August 9, 2003 at 2:37PM
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leigh_wi(Z5 WI)

Attn bodiCA!

Please check out Wannadanc post about bad luck with freezing rhubarb, how's the decoupage coming? Have you cast a leaf utilizing one yet? Did you still have to use some sort of release agent?? Yes, call me impatient and please, if you don't mind, post over on the hypertufa forum as well--I think others there may want to hear about this too!
Thanks,
Leigh

    Bookmark   August 18, 2003 at 4:07PM
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bodiCA(9/N.CA)

Nice to meet you, Leigh. I am still pleased with all the leaves I have decoupaged and will continue, til I run out of leaves. I haven't cast yet, waiting to have all the leaves I can get, ready, and then make one big mess. I'm fascinated how interesting they look now, and the different colors they are turning, picking at different times. Having lots of fun!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2003 at 9:33PM
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Lois111(z8b Oregon)

I would really like to freeze rhubarb leaves for future castings. From what I have read here they might not work to well. What do I do? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    Bookmark   April 21, 2004 at 5:03PM
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krystalmo(z6 MO)

I have made over 200 stained glass stepping stones and I basically use the method Velvet Sparrow described. The final step is what bloominweeds said. I always go over the little airholes in the stone by mixing a very small amount of concrete/water and just filling them in (as bloominweeds said). It takes very little time to do this and makes the difference between a professional looking product and a homemade one.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2004 at 8:01PM
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Lois111(z8b Oregon)

Thanks for the reply. Now I hope to find out how to freeze the leaves. Does anyone know? Should I lay them flat say with plastic wrap between them? I've never done it before.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2004 at 2:25PM
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designingoutloud

Anyone ever sell their leaves at a craft/art show? What kind of prices and what areas do you live in? I love these forums... :)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2004 at 9:59AM
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trixieloo(5 chicago)

I learned how to make the leaves last july, 2003 in the seattle area. My mom's neighbor taught me with a rhubarb leaf. I painted and shipped them home to Chicago, and spent the rest of the summer making leaves. I had @ 50 leaves on my patio to paint. I seal them with cement sealer before I paint them with Patio paint. I've left me leaves out all winter (and it's really cold here) and they look good as new. I saw a bunch of elephant ears while driving and knocked at the guy's door and he ended up giving me a few and of course I made and painted one for him. At the start of fall he called me and requested another for his son and gave me the rest of the leaves before he dug them up to store for winter. I must say I'm addicted.Last night I made my first batch of the season, 5 very large rhubarb leaves and I also took 5 large hollycock leaves and made them into a bowl shape. Can't wait to unveil them. I also planted 3 elephant ear plants for myself, giant hostas and one gunnera. I may have to bring the gunnera in and let it grow larger til next summer. It's a pokey grower. So far all of my leaves have been acquired from begging at strangers' doors. Everyone has been very generous and I always give them one in return. I've make some giant hosta leaves also and some giant crazy looking weeds. I've sold many at a holiday show last December and will try to sell them in an art fair I will be in next weekend. I've been experimenting with pricing because it''s so hard to decide what to charge. I spend alot of time painting them to get a multi-dimensional look. Wish me luck, people seem pretty intriged with them. Oh yeah Canna leaves make pretty castings and I put painted balls under them as feet and place on a table. and on and on and on. Sorry I'm so long winded, but I can't say enough about it. P.S. I wear a mask when mixing my cement. Last yaer I could feel that fine dust in my lungs. After smoking for many years, (I've since quit) that's all I don't need.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2004 at 5:53PM
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butterflybush

Hello! I accidentally fell into this thread while searching for something else, and got really interested. Can anyone post a picture of these cement leaves? I especially want to see the Gunnera leaves? Oh, and I have an idea about why there are tiny bubbles, but don't have a solution. The plant gives off oxygen, so when you put the concrete on it, it probably gives off just enough to make tiny bubbles? Just a thought. Have fun leafing, and I am gonna go out to the store and get the ingredients to do one for my pond. I would love to see a waterfall come off of a large leaf! Pleast post some pictures!!!! Thanks. BB

    Bookmark   July 31, 2004 at 9:20PM
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leigh_wi(Z5 WI)

BB,
Here's a link to my photobuck albums, there are several that I've done. For gunera, take a look at Dena's ablum:
http://community.webshots.com/user/dena6355-date
and Wannadanc
http://community.webshots.com/user/wannadanc-date
Check out the hypertufa forum and it's gallery as well for even more leaf casting tales!
Leigh

Here is a link that might be useful: Photo album

    Bookmark   August 1, 2004 at 9:52AM
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butterflybush

WELL......Leigh! I am speechless. I have to sit back a minute to get my eyes to focus from having been glued to this screen for the last half hour or more! WOW! You guys are serious! And what great pictures and information! I am truly inspired. Gotta go get some Portland cement and sand today, and on the way look for good leaves! I loved all the projects, and may do the hypertufa projects next after I try the leaves! I really just fell into your forum, and now I am gonna have a new hobby! Just love it! Thanks, all of you!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2004 at 11:05AM
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leigh_wi(Z5 WI)

And with this my fiends, another tufaneer is born LOL!
BB, you may call this a hobby now but you too will soon discover it's an addiction! But a good one!
Leigh

    Bookmark   August 2, 2004 at 1:17PM
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butterflybush

Y'all musta put a curse on this page!!! I swear. I have been going backwards looking at all the posts and the pictures and all the sucesses and all the boo boos. It is slow going, but what a way to spend a rainy day! I am really learning a lot! Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2004 at 3:24PM
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buckyforce(10 So. Fla.)

I have learned SO much in a very short time from reading all the posts here and at the hypertufa forum and want to not only thank everyone but share the wealth. I got into casting leaves purely by accident but am totally addicted and perfecting the techniques I have learned here. I have learned the following: First and foremost...use the finest..meaning fine as is in silky, sifted, soft, portland and sand you can find to replicate the subtle veins and nuances in leaves and by all means use some bonding agent in the water when you mix your cement/sand mix. 3 parts water/1 part bonding agent should do it. Secondly: When painting your leaves, use exterior latex paint and mix the same bonding agent into the paint, 3:1 or so. The paint bonds to the concrete like you wouldn't believe. I am in South Florida, My first leaf I used acrylic paint and the sealed it with a concrete sealer. When it got wet with rain, and I was using it as a fountain leaf, first the sealer turned white and lifted followed by the paint. Ugh!

I agree with everyone above...the important thing to do is "plunk" the bucket you have stirred your cement in a few times to force out any air and then pat, pat, pat the concrete on the leaf. You will see the air bubbles coming to the top. If you place a blob of cement about 2" from the edge of your leaf and pat it, you will see that it spreads and by patting some more you can coax it just to the edge and leave it, producing a wonderful round edge, the concrete will stop when it meets the edge of the leaf, somehow. Some bubbles are inevitable, but after you have unveiled the leaf, just make a runny, slurry in a yogurt cup and rub it with your finger or a sponge over the voids and they will fill. You'll see! Wait about 20 minutes and then rub over the leaf with a wet sponge to remove the excess....Oh MY! I have exceeded my gazillion word limit...Hope I didn't bore you!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2004 at 9:42PM
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leafaholic(8WA)

Just found this discussion. What good info. I wanted to bump it up sp I could find it again. What progress have you all made in the last year?

    Bookmark   September 25, 2005 at 12:00PM
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doc_dot(z9)

Almanac says this may be a cold winter. Thanks to this wonderful thread, I shall garden in cement! Can't wait!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 5:24PM
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Mike Larkin

old but good thread- bump

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 1:21PM
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