This Instructable shows you how to make a set of four plant presses (also called "botanical presses" or "flower presses").
Each press can accommodate at least ten pressed specimens (or "pressimens"), which should be enough for any classroom.
The supplies for this project will cost about $15 (or $20 if you opt for fancy decorations).
Since they're made of easy-to-cut MDF (medium-density fiberboard), the plant presses can be built by middle-school-aged students using only hand tools.
Let's get started!
Step 1: Materials and Tools
Here's what you'll need.
Materials for the plant presses:
Optional decoration supplies:
Step 2: Cut The Boards
Cut the MDF sheet into eight squares that are 12" on each side, as in the cartoon above.
A few extra notes:
Step 3: Drill The Holes
We're going to drill a hole in each of the four corners of the eight squares we just made.
Step 4: Attach The Bolts To The Bottom Square
For each of the four presses, pick one square from each pair to be the bottom, and one square to be the top.
Each of the four holes will need a bolt, three washers, a lock washer, a nut, and a wingnut.
Here's how to attach all of that hardware to each of the holes in the bottom square:
Repeat that sequence for each of the four holes in the bottom board. You should end up with something like the picture above.
To tighten the nuts onto the bolts, you'll need one tool to hold the bolt's head, and one tool to hold the nut. You can use any two of the tools shown in the introduction, or find a more-creative way to tighten things down. (I used a pair of pliers and a wrench, as shown in the photo above.)
Step 5: Widen The Holes In The Top Square
Odds are, no matter how carefully you drilled the holes, the holes in the top square STILL won't line up perfectly with the bolts in the bottom square. We'll widen the holes in the top square to make it easier to fit the press together.
If you have a cylindrical "rat tail" file, you can use it to widen the holes as shown.
If you don't have a suitable file but you DO have a collection of drill bits, you can widen the holes by drilling through them again with a slightly wider bit. (What's slightly wider than 1/4"? It makes for a fun lesson in fractions, right? Right?)
Step 6: Cut Up Some Cardboard
When you get to pressing your plants, it helps to sandwich them between layers of corrugated cardboard.
If you've got access to a Dumpster, a ruler, and pair of scissors, you're all set to make yourself some botanical specimen spacers!
If you've built your presses to the dimensions suggested here, then 10-1/4" by 12" rectangles (~ 26cm x 30.5cm) are a good fit.
(One of the reasons I made the plant presses to these dimensions is so that they can be used with the 9" x 12" pads of watercolor paper that are widely available. They're also a perfect match for the typical "Extremely Local News"-sized newspaper.)
Each plant press can hold 10-12 sheets of cardboard; you'll need at least one cardboard rectangle per student specimen, so it helps to make a lot.
Step 7: Put Your Press Together!
You're ready to put your presses together!
Here's the stacking order, from bottom-to-top:
Then, tighten down the wing nuts, and leave your specimen to dry!
It's a good idea to give your specimens about a week to dry fully. However, you can speed up the drying time by:
Step 8: Optional: Add Some Classy Decoration
Once you've amassed your first set of pressimens, you can use the presses themselves to show them off!
Place your favorite specimen on a piece of thick, acid-free paper and place it in a picture frame. (Watercolor paper works very well, and the 9" x 12" tablets are a good match to these plant presses.)
Use four squares of adhesive-backed Velcro to attach the picture frame with your specimen to the top of the plant press.
(If you'd like, you can paint both the press and the frame to match, or get more creative!)
If you're not going to place your pressed specimen in a frame, then you can paste it to a sheet of paper using school glue (such as Elmer's). Be sure to paste your identification and collection label to the sheet as well -- you're on your way to establishing your own herbarium!