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Copper plated leaves

I am a new reader and find the postings fascinating and very
informative. Recently I saw a catalog offering leaves that were
copper plated. They must have dipped the leaves into a solution to
dissolve all the soft part leaving the veins intact, then dipped the
skeleton of the leaf into a copper plating solution. I tried a
couple of acid solutions on maple leaves but could not get the leaf
to dissolve. Any idea how that is done? Then, how to get the Cu to
stick? Deb

Deb, Here’s a method for manually skeletonizing leaves. Janet

  "You can "skeletonize" a fresh leaf, green to expose the lacy
  pattern of veins it uses to transport food. Make a beating
  board by tacking an old piece of carpet or a thick rag to a
  board. Use an old shoe brush or hairbrush. The type of brush
  chosen is very important. It should be fairly fine but not
  stiff. Most synthetic brushes are too harsh. Once an
  appropriate brush has been located, place the leaf, top side
  up, on the beating board. Hold the leaf firmly in place and tap
  lightly until all of the fleshy part is gone. Occasionally, you
  will need to turn the leaf to the back side to tap it with the
  brush. Once the leaf has been skeletonized, you can display it
  in a scrapbook by gluing it to a piece of paper with a few
  small dabs of glue. Cover with cellophane. A nicer display can
  be made by sandwiching the leaf "skeleton" between two
  same-size pieces of glass sealed at the edges with adhesive

I don’t know how to “dissolve” the soft part of the leaf, but I am
familiar with the copper plating part. The leaf is painted with a
metalic paint that makes it conductive. The coated leaf is then
electroformed (heavy deposition plating). Rio Grande (800-545-6566)
carries the necessary supplies and equipment and offers a guide.

Deb, The instructions I’ve seen (but never tried) for skeletonizing
leaves are

(a) soak the leaves in 50% bleach and 50% water for ten days

(b) simmer the leaves in an alkaline solution

© pressure-cook the leaves in an alkaline solution

Try this link for instructions

She refers to lye and washing soda. Lye is sodium hydroxide (NaOH),
which can be found in hardware stores (next to Drano and Liquid
Plumber). Red Devil is one brand.

Washing soda is sodium perborate and is a laundry additive. You
should be able to find it in the grocery store next to laundry


Hi Deb!

There is a woman in central Brazil who is making a lot of success
with this technique, although she uses it with gold. If you wish,
take a look at .

To get skeleton leaves, you must boil the leaves in a 10 percent
sulphuric acid solution, for about one hour. I have seen it done only
with fresh leaves, the best ones are the thin, crispy ones, like
maple, as you suggested; the fleshy, juicy leaves will not give a
good result. After that, rinse the leaves and take a soft brush, like
a toothbrush or so, as gently rub the leaves in water so they will
release the remaining organic material, and leave only the skeleton.
Let them dry out in the air or pressed down between sheets of
absorbing paper and under a heavy book.

The second part is made by dipping the leaves in liquid purpurine (i
do not know how it is called in the u.s., sorry) or any kind of
conductive paint, like conductive silver, for instance. Let dry, it
is sent for electroplating (hence the conductive paint). I have never
done this myself, but that is how i was instructed to do by a
technician. I believe if you call some company that makes plating (it
is the same method used for making those copper baby shoes, you
know), thay might assist you.

Sorry for all my mistakes, i am having a reeeeally bad time trying
to write in english tonight…


One way is to coat the leaf with a conductive metallic paint then
electroform it. and not bother with removing the organic material
inside – Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160

Member of the Better Business Bureau

For plating items that are nonconductors such as plastic, leaves,
wood, glass, and other things. Please try metal form copper
conductive paint.

Andy “The Tool Guy” Kroungold
Sales/ Tools and Technical
Stuller Inc.
337-262-7700 ext. 4194
337-262-7791 fax


There was an error in my posting. Jesse Brennan sent me the correct

Washing soda is sodium carbonate also called soda ash.
The non chlorine bleaches are perborates.

Sorry for the mistake. I’ve experimented with so many laundry
products, I got them confused.


Jim - If I understand this correctly what one is after in this case
is not the entire leaf, but only the skeletal structure or the
veining of the leaf. I know very little botany so I hope my
terminology is close enough. I saw one of these at an art fair and it
was quite unusual. I’ve also seen leaves where the entire leaf was
plated without removing the more fleshy part. K Kelly