Plant Press




Introduction: Plant Press

As part of a science project, my daughter needed to prepare herbarium vouchers to substantiate her research.  So, I made her a plant press.


Basically, I made two identical, incredibly simple frames.

Unfortunately, the first one I made wouldn't fit into a backpack for our collecting trip.  It was 16" by 22".

The instructable photos document the building of the extra large version.  The photo below is the finished project - It is 11" by 16 ".  Same wood, same weight as the larger version (because I overdid it on the number of boards I used!).  If I had to do it again, I would use ChrysN's Pocket Flower Press instructions, but make it larger and drill holes in the top and bottom pieces of wood to lighten the load and allow for air circulation..

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Step 1: Materials

I used 1/2" x 2" boards but herbarium presses that are being sold use 1/4" x 1" boards.  It would sure cut down on the weight, especially if you are planning on taking it on collecting expeditions.  The thicker boards are very sturdy though.

You will need about 18 feet for a 11" x 16" press.  (Width times 10 plus length times 8.  For a 11" x 16" press, you would need 110" + 96" = 206" or  or just over 17 feet.  Say 18 feet to allow for waste from cutting and different board lengths.

Saw  I'm lucky enough to have a radial arm saw, which makes cutting the boards quick and accurate.  A hand saw would work fine.

Wood glue This is what is going to hold your boards together.

Finishing Nails (or whatever you have on hand)  To hold the wood frame together while the glue is drying.  They should be long enough to go almost all the way through two boards, flat side to flat side.

Hammer  Self-explanatory?

Straps  I bought two band clamps from the hardware store.   These will be used to tighten your press as your plants dry. 

Carpenter's square  I skipped using this the first time and ended up with my two frames not matching up and had to start all over.

Newspaper   To separate your specimens and to absorb moisture.  Blotting paper works as well.

Corrugated Cardboard  To separate your specimens and to allow for air circulation.

Step 2: Prepare the Wood. Cut to Size.

Cut 10 pieces of wood based on your finished width measurement.
Cut 8 pieces of wood based on your finished length measurement.

Separate into two piles:  5 short pieces with 4 long pieces in each pile.

Step 3: Put Your Frame Together

Summary:  You will making two frames.  All the long boards will be on the top of the frame and all the short boards will be on the bottom (or the other way around, depending on how you are looking at it).

You can either do one frame and then make the other or double the steps described below and make two frames at the same time.

Step One:  Take one long piece and one short piece and lay one on top of the other so one end of each board is square to the other.

Step Two:  Generously apply glue to each board where they will be overlapping and making sure the corner is square, hammer one nail to connect the boards.  The boards may slip when you are hammering but with only one nail in, you should be able to adjust the corner to make it square.  Use your carpenters' square.

Step Three:  Hammer a second nail in to secure the square-ness.

Step Four:  Repeat Steps One through Three with another long piece and short piece. 

Step Five:  You should have two "L" shapes.  Arrange them into a Rectangle (long side parallel to long side, short side parallel to short side).  Apply glue to the unattached corners and hammer one nail to connect each corner.  Again, check to make sure your corners are square before hammering in the second nails.

Step Six:
  Wipe off excess glue.

(You would think that two L's that were square would automatically make you a nice rectangle, but it didn't work for me.)

Step Seven:
  Eyeball estimate the middle of each of the long boards of your Rectangle.  Generously apply glue at the middle of each side and nail one of the remaining short boards in place.  Again, start with one nail, make sure the board is positioned in the right place, then hammer in your second nail.

Step Eight
:  Eyeball estimate the center of the space between the end short board and the middle board you just nailed in place.  Generously apply glue and following the instructions above, nail in place.  Repeat for the other side.  Now you have a Ladder.

Step Nine:  Wipe off excess glue.

Step Ten:  Flip your Ladder over so the short boards are at the bottom.

Step Eleven:  Visually divide the space between the parallel long board into thirds.  Apply glue, and nail the last long boards into place.

All done...with one side (unless you were doing two at once.)

Step 4: Cut Corrugated Cardboard and Insert Newspaper

Cut a bunch of corrugated cardboard pieces to match the size of the frames.  Enough for the quantity of plants you want to press.  One for each plant, plus another to cap off.

Get newspaper and keeping it folded, place the sheets between the cardboard.  I used multiple sheets to absorb the moisture from the plants. 

The newspaper doesn't have to fit perfectly.  Just be careful when you put your plants between the pages that parts of them are not sticking out beyond the edge of the frame.  These parts won't flatten and probably will get damaged.

Step 5: Collect Your Specimens

This is the best part!!   Make sure you have permits!!!

Step 6: Plants in Press

Layering out in the field was awkward, especially since the specimen was so large and it was starting to get dark. 

After bringing the filled frame home, we neatened up the stack but I forgot to take pictures.  So sorry. 

You should check the straps and tighten them every day because they may loosen as the plants dry and shrink.  Also, flip the frame over so air circulation is more even.

See the pictures on the mechanics of the tightening of the straps.  They can get EXTREMELY tight!

There are many botanical herbariums that have guidelines and instructions on how to mount plant specimens.  Check them out!

Can't wait for the next expedition!!

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    10 Discussions


    3 years ago

    This is the kind of plant press that I have used for many years now. I had made my own 40 years ago, but this one is much lighter and it is quite adequately strong. The images below show a top view, close-up of straps and bottom view. Threading the straps like this in the bottom half enable one to easily tighten the straps for really good pressing.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I didn't make a flower press but this was my inspiration for a custom proscuitto press I made! Thanks!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    the nice trail looks oddly familiar, is this in Kauai ?


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Yes it is! It is on the trail down to the Alaka'i Swamp. Isn't it beautiful?


    10 years ago on Introduction

     Met with a REAL botanist yesterday and collected some ferns.  Picked up a lot of tips.  I think my dimensions for the press should be a little larger...more like 11-1/2" by 17".  Will add instructions on how to make a really simple field press (thank you to Liloa at Lyon Arboretum!!)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    That's a really nice project - I like the straps as an alternative to the usual screws.

    However, readers ought to be aware that (in the UK) it is illegal to collect wild flowers.  It is, however, perfectly legal to collect fallen leaves and other plant parts.

    The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

    Section 13 identifies measures for the protection of wild plants. It prohibits the unauthorised intentional uprooting of any wild plant species and forbids any picking, uprooting or destruction of plants listed on Schedule 8. It also prohibits the sale, etc, or possession for the purpose of sale of any plants on Schedule or parts or derivatives of Schedule 8 plants .

    (Especially noteworthy is the bluebell - selling or trading bluebell bulbs can result in a fine of up to £5000 per bulb.)

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, Kiteman!  Yup, here you have to get a permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources before you can legally collect from any of the public lands.  And, you have to have a legitimate reason for collecting.  For plants on private property, you need to get permission from the property owner. And, as part of the documentation, before any reputable herbarium accepts your voucher, they require a copy of the permit for their records.  No one wants to encourage destruction of our environment. 

    Good info to know about the UK.  I get to visit next August, Yay!!!  So I can pick up leaves from the ground and stick them in my (by then)  newly made pocket plant press?

    Okay, you got me off track now...I'm gong to look up what a bluebell is and what makes them so very special.  Thanks again for the info!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I added emphasis on the need for obtaining permits.  Thanks for the reminder.

    Also, I added photos of how these particular straps worked.  I really like them.

    Thanks for the comments!!!