Create a professional scale wooden press for drying flowers; the ultimate nature craft tool.
As a girl, I would collect wildflowers and weeds from our pasture field and bring them home with me. Filling old books with flowers, I would press them between the pages. Once dried, I creatively taped the crisp plants inside notebooks. I was intrigued by the delicate details and colors that could be preserved just by smashing them inside a book. It was also fun to research and label the plants, like I was my very own botanist. (Is that a normal childhood hobby? hmm)
I studied Agriculture in college and taught high school for a few years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. One of my favorite subjects was teaching Agronomy and weed identification. Finding beauty in undesirable plants was always “my thing.” And maybe my motto for life- “finding beauty in the unwanted or unloved.”
I would love to show you my childhood hobby and technique for preserving flowers. An authentic flower press is more efficient and effective than the book-method counterpart. And a press can be made in only a couple hours with few materials (most recycled!).
How to Make a Flower Press
Materials are subjective. They can be switched to accommodate your size needs and the materials you already have on hand. Use what you’ve got! I will list in detail the exact things I used to build my press.
- Wood: I used a 12″ oak shelving board, cut into two, 14″ lengths. Alternatively, you could also use a sheet of 1/2″-3/4″ plywood cut into equally sized pieces. (11.25 x 14″)
- Hardware: 4 carriage bolts, sized 1/4″ x 6″ long. Flat washers and Wing nuts of the same size (1/4″)- one per bolt. *Bolts can be longer or shorter depending the thickness of the press you plan to build. The longer the bolts, the more you can press.
- Paper: I used white printer paper. 8.5×11″ sheets.
- Cardboard: Clean, labels removed. Cut into 8.5×11″ sheets, same as your paper. *I asked the hardware store for free cardboard while I shopped for my bolts.
Cut Wood to Exterior Dimensions.
I wanted my press to accommodate full sheets of paper, so I sized it to 11.5 x 14″. A simple 12″ shelving board was cut to 14″ lengths. *Note a 12″ shelving board is not actually 12″ wide; it’s 11.25,” hence my dimensions listed. You can ask the hardware store to do this for you!
Drill Boards for Hardware
Clamp the two boards together, measure 3/4″ from the corners and drill. Use a drill bit one size larger than the bolts. We used a 5/16″ drill bit for 1/4″ carriage bolts. *You can countersink the heads of the bolts here to make a smooth bottom on your press, no bolt heads sticking out.
To create the countersink, we used a 1″ forstner bit to accommodate the bolt head, approximately 3/16″ depth.
Add the bolts to the bottom of the press, threads facing up.
Prepare the Press
Prepare the press by layering sheets of paper and cardboard per layer. I start with cardboard, add two sheets of paper, then top with cardboard again. Continue layering until the height of your desired press is reached. I did 13 layers of cardboard…for now.
Complete the Press.
Add the top wooden piece to your neatly stacked layers of paper and cardboard, threading it onto the bolts. Add the washers and wing nuts. Tighten to finger resistance.
Decorate your Press as Desired.
Now that the press is complete, feel free to sand, stain, paint, add stickers, engrave, etc. I may add a pretty design to mine later, but for now, I love it in the raw.
How to Preserve Flowers and Foliage with the Press
Now that your flower press is complete, get picking! Experiment with different blooms and leaves; noting that thicker, larger plants may not press as well.
Choose plants that are not wet, limiting moisture in your press. Things can mold if too wet.
Select only the prettiest blooms and leaves, free of bug damage and disease.
Place your plants in between the sheets of paper within your press. Start at the bottom layer and build your way up. Then if you add flowers over time, you will not disturb the bottom layers.
Consider how plants will lay as they are pressed. I like to lay flower heads straight down on their faces before smashing them. Others I may lay on their sides for a different profile.
Autumn leaves, summer wildflowers, rose petals, lavender, and Queen Anne’s lace are among my favorite things to dry.
Most plants will take approximately two weeks to fully dry in your press.
Why Can’t I just use a Book to Press my Flowers?
You absolutely CAN use a book; however, these are the reasons why I upgraded to a designated press.
- I wanted a larger page size for full plants or specimens.
- Plants can damage book pages and bindings. Only books with non-coated/glossy pages will work for drying. The pages absorb the moisture from the plants.
- A press applies equal pressure to the plants with the corner placed hardware. No more propping a book under a piece of furniture for two weeks.
What to do with Pressed Flowers and Foliage?
In the coming weeks, I plan to share several cottage inspired DIY projects for pressed flowers. Artwork, candle diys, gift tags, bookmarks, just to name a few! Be sure to check back to see them come to life.
Would you rather buy a press instead of make one?
I saved my favorite flower presses here- Shop Favorite Flower Presses on LTK.
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