This year I have been very inspired by the beautiful leaves around my house turning into all shades of fabulous this fall. The idea of the leaves changing just screams fall to me, so what better way to decorate your Thanksgiving table then with these beautiful fall leaf chargers. I love the look of natural wood and thought it would be a beautiful accent to the reds and yellows of the leaves.
They took a little bit of time (mostly waiting for each layer to dry), but they are fantastic and make my formal Thanksgiving table look perfect! I am so excited to share this tutorial...
To start, you need a 9 foot long 1x12 (make sure you get flat wood), mine is pine. I got 9 chargers out of the 9 foot piece of wood. I only put leaves on 6 for a full set, and then I will finish the other 3 with another decoration or just leave them with the beautiful natural wood to use as serving plates. I had my dad plane down the 1x12 to just over 1/2 inch. If you don't have access to a planer, you can leave it 1" thick, I just wanted it a little thinner. Then cut the 1x12 into squares (a 1x12 is really only 11 1/4 inches wide so I have 11 1/4 inch squares) and round off the corners.
Then I used my sander to round off the edges all around the top and bottom of the chargers.
Then I purchased some pretty fall leaves from a craft store. I wasn't daring enough to use real ones because I was not sure if they would decay under the finishes. I carefully pulled the leaves off the plastic stems so they were very flat.
Put a generous coat of Modge Podge on the top and sides of the charger, then start adding leaves. I put the chargers on top of 3 plastic cups so that they did not accidentally stick to my work surface. Having pieces of newspaper stuck to the bottom of the chargers was not the look I was going for :)
To add the leaves, put a generous layer of Modge Podge on the back of the leaf and place it on the charger where you want it.
Then put a layer of Modge Podge over the top of the leaf. Continue until you have all the leaves on the charger where you want them and let dry. IMPORTANT: After it is dry, put a second coat of Modge Podge on the top and sides of the chargers and let dry. Then you need two coats on the bottom of all the chargers. This is sealing the wood so that when you add the top finish you will not get air bubbles coming out of the wood to mess up the glass like finish and it will keep the finish from discoloring the leaves or wood.
After everything is good and dry, get ready for the top layer that makes them shiny, waterproof, and beautiful. I used EnviroTex Lite Pour on High Gloss Finish that I bought using a trusty 40% off coupon at Michael's Crafts (it was $29.99 without a coupon). I bought the 32 oz kit. I only used 1/2 of it for this project and another small project (but I loved it so much I have lots of future projects to use the rest on).
I didn't want to use one of my limited supply of measuring cups to accurately measure the two solutions (and it is very clear that not having equal amounts of each solution can cause it to not dry completely and be sticky), so I decided to use my kitchen scale. I determined that the weights of both solutions were very close so it would be accurate if I weighed it out. I used 1 oz of each liquid per charger for the first application to cover the top and sides. I measured and mixed each charger's coating when ready so it didn't get sticky waiting for me to finish the other ones.
When mixing the two solutions, make sure to scrape the sides and bottom well so that it is well mixed. Also, having some bubbles is okay and is actually a sign of good mixing. Don't worry, they work themselves out really nicely.
Pour all the mixed finish on top one charger. Again, I used the plastic cup elevation method.
Then using a foam brush, spread it around the entire top. You have to work it around the leaves well so that there are no hidden areas that the finish does not spread to itself.
Then put a coating of the finish on the sides of the charger. The sides will be a thinner coat (this will help with the drips), but make sure that you get an even coat. I went over the sides a few times.
Then let them dry. For the first 2 hours they are drying, check on them every 10-15 minutes for drips. If there are any drips just brush them off with your foam brush. Also check for bubbles. If you have any bubbles appear (mine came from under the leaves that were not full stuck down on the edges) a quick exhale of breath on them will make them pop and the finish will smooth itself out beautifully over the area. Make sure you let them dry in a dust free room where they won't be easily disturbed. It will take about 12 hours to be firm but actually takes 72 hours to fully harden. I waited 2 days before moving on to the next step.
Flip over the chargers and sand down any drips or large ridges. I had couple, but they were easily sanded down with an electric sander. Don't try to sand down the entire ridge around the bottom because you will be using it as a "fence" when you add the finish to the bottoms.
I put a thinner coat on the bottoms of the chargers. I actually measured out 1 1/2 oz of each liquid into a cup and then put 1/6 of that on each chargers bottom. Next time I do it I will measure out enough for only 2 or 3 at a time because it started getting thick by the time I got to the last two and there were a couple pieces or hard finish that I had to remove as I was smoothing it out over the bottom. Do not put another coat on the sides. You shouldn't have to worry about drips since you have the ridge "fence" from the finish on the top and sides, but still check on it a few times to make sure it doesn't drip. Then let them dry for at least 48 hours.
Now you have these beautiful fall chargers to use on your Thanksgiving table, or to serve your yummy dish on, or just because they are fabulous.