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Taylor Technique for Leaves on Trees
by David Walker

A few years ago Frank Taylor from the St Albans Marquetry Group attended one of our meeting to demonstrate a technique that he had developed to put leaves on trees and bushes by using a hammer and punch. For years I have thought of trying the method but baulked at it. Who in their right mind, having spent months carefully cutting a picture would then attack it with a hammer and punch and risk wrecking it! Well I recently plucked up the courage and created a small piece to experiment with. So with thanks to Frank Taylor I have documented my efforts.

To carry out this technique you will need the following equipment:-

1/. A suitably cut picture
2/. A serrated punch
3/. A hammer, small hacksaw, file, triangular file.
4/. PVA glue or equivalent
5/. Quantities of different shades of veneer dust.

I have chosen and cut a miniature picture of a tree in winter and wished to transform the tree to display leaves in the autumn.

Picture of a tree in Winter
Cutting finished now awaiting leaves

This hammer work cannot be carried out on an unmounted picture which would split when struck with hammer and punch. So I have mounted the finished tree on a piece of MDF. It is now stable and is ready for the next stage.

A serrated punch has to be made. This is easily done. Take a 6” nail and cut the point off. Secure it in a vice with the flat face uppermost. Take a small hacksaw with sharp blade and cut three cuts across the face of the nail to about one millimetre depth. Turn the nail 90o and repeat the process. The face of the nail should have a crisscross pattern. I use a triangular file and a thin one to file along the cuts to make sharper points. The punch is now ready for use. Nails of differing thicknesses can be used and can be useful additions to your tool box.

At this stage, if you have not used this technique before it is advisable to practice on piece of ply wood as you don’t want to spoil months of work by inexperience punch work.

When using the punch you must hold it upright otherwise the indentations will be of unequal depth.

Strike the nail firmly. Aim to go through the picture into the base board. In my picture I started ‘punching’ in the bottom right hand branches but there is no correct place to start. Use your imagination.

Decide what colours you want in you picture. In my picture I wanted autumn colours – reds, yellows and brown. In different pictures other colours may be required. The sawdust should be quite fine to be forced into the holes left by the punch.

There are various ways to obtain the sawdust. I select the veneer that I wish to use and cut it into short strips and glue them together until they are the thickness of a pencil. I then put it into an electric pencil sharpener. The dust collected is fine enough to use. Another method I have used is to file the strips with a wood rasp or yet again sand with a course glass paper. If you require a coloured wood, dye the veneer before making the ‘pencil’ you will see that I have three basic colours which I have mixed together to obtain an ‘Autumn mix’

Wipe white PVA glue well into the punched holes and quickly before the glue goes off sprinkle the dust over them bit by bit. With the flat end of the hammer press the dust into the holes. Place a piece of polyfilm over the picture and press it in a press to ensure the holes are all filled.

Leave for 24 hours then take out of the press and remove the polyfilm. Now comes the hard work. Removing all the dust except that which has been pressed into the holes. Use a cork block and glass paper lightly. Do not tilt the block as you risk damaging the edges of the picture. Glass paper is my preferred method as scraping will tear the dust out of the holes.

Continue sanding until all the residue has been removed and you will see the holes now appear like leaves. If the finished product is not to your liking or the leaves are required to be more thickly spread repeat the process, perhaps with a different colour over the top of the existing ones.

Having achieved the desired effect, seal the leaves with a sanding sealer to stop ‘bleed out’ into the background wood and when dry finish in your usual way.

The following photo sequence demonstrates how to make the "punches" necessary
for doing this technique - and the procedure for applying the veneer dust.

Cutting finished un-mounted detail

Different sizes of the serrated punches
Picture mounted with various punches and hammer

Cut picture awaiting mounting
Hacksaw, files and nail ready to be transformed into a punch

 Making the initial cut across the nail
Now making the right angle cuts
Using the triangular file to shape the "teeth" profile
Hammering with the punch
A "close up" of the resulting indentations
Sawdust ready for use
Coloured sawdust ready for use
Applying the PVA glue
Spreading the glue
Sprinkling the sawdust on the "glued picture"
Hammering the sawdust into the indentations

Above: Pressed and dry

Left: Pressing the sawdust into the indentations
Sanding sawdust off first stage
Sanding sawdust off second stage
Sanding now completed
The finished picture
This is an unusual technique that may seem very daunting at first, but once you have gained confidence with it you will be more than pleased with the end results. Very convincing foliage can be achieved by using this method. Do try it, but watch your fingers when you are hammering the punch - we don't want any flattened fingers!! 
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