Making a Field Press
(aka plant press, flower press, etc)
First off, you can easily buy a flower press. If you aren’t handy, or want to be saved the trouble, you can occasionally get one in a local craft or hobby shop, and you can always find them online. However, if you want a nice, high quality, equivelent to what a professional would use, plant press, the cheapest way* to do it is to make it yourself.
*purchasing a professional grade large plant press will run you about $60-80…my 18×18 inch plant press made from red oak cost me half that.
NOTE: lots of flower presses are sold with the wing nuts and solid pieces of wood rather than a frame…while these are okay, they are not optimal
(this is just the “front” frame…my camera battery died as I was taking pics)
The first thing you need to do is to determine the desired size of your press. What are you going to use it for? If you are just looking to press some flowers, it won’t need to be too large. If you want to be able to press larger plant parts, then you will need to take that into consideration. My press (18×18 inches) is meant to be large enough to press a whole plant (as was often done in the Victorian era), but not so large that I wouldn’t want to take it along on a hike (while I doubt it’s period correct, I plan to put extra straps on it to make it backpackable).
Note: If you are a Victorian era or Civil War buff, I realize this is not entirely a period correct facimile of a flower press…rather, my goal was to reproduce a reasonable aesthetic of one while still making it optimally functional as a modern piece of scientific equiptment, and reasonably priced. Plus, its been a nightmare trying track down some of the primary literature that discusses the making and materials of the equiptment of naturalists. (If anyone has a good alternative to corrugated cardboard, I’d be extremenly appreciative)
The second thing you need to do is plan your frame!! Ideally, you will need hardwood strips that are 1/4 inch thick (you might need to vary the strip width with the overall size of your press). I used 1×1/4 in red oak precut (an option at many hardware stores if you lack tools or space) into 18 inch segments. I also used the “leftovers” as a decorative element. You will also need a very teeny tiny nail that won’t puch thru (I used 1/2 inch finishing nails and only needed the occasional hammering flat on the other side). Additionally, you will need two straps–I used cotton, because its easy to sew (and period correct) the D-rings onto (probably not period correct, lol), but you could use premade belting material. Make sure it is long enough to go around both frames AND however much material you want to be able to fit in the middle and still have some left over to spare.
Once your frame is constructed, you will need to find corrugated cardboard and blank newsprint. You could also recycle newspaper, phone book pages, etc for this project…or you can go high-end and use professional blotting paper. Cut the cardboard and newsprint to fit your frame, layer it in the middle, and its ready for plants!!
(the supply list *should* read 16 strips, not 18 strips of hardwood!!)
What a D-ring looks like (just incase you didn’t know…):
…when you buy D-rings, the package should tell you how to sew them on if you are sewing impaired
Attachment of the straps:
*note* The straps are ONLY attached to ONE of the frames!!!
Using the press:
A finished flowerpress looks like this. To use, you put your plant cutting, arranged in the manner that you would like for it to be arranged (which depensds on why you are pressing the plant–for identification purposes in your own field guide or herbal, or for future artistic purposes) in the press and you allow them to dry in a cool, ventilated place. Layered inbetween the frames sort of like lasagna should be your cardboard, blotting paper or newsprint, plain white paper, flower, plain white paper, blotting paper/newsprint and then start the next layer off with the cardboard.
A good resource is http://www.preservedgardens.com/how-to-press.htm, which has information on preservatives you can use and all sorts of tips…or my preferred book on the subject, Collecting and Preserving Plants.
For those on a budget, there are simpler and cheaper ways to DIY flower press–such as this, the advantage of which is that there are no metal parts, and you can utilize a microwave to dry your plants. 30 second bursts on high, and check them in between, take them out right before they are “done” so they don’t catch on fire–it really cuts down on drying time.