DIY Wooden Flower Press (and How to Use It!)

DIY wooden flower press with carriage bolts

Today’s post is how to make your own simple but very effective DIY wooden flower press, and how to use it. Plus we’ve added a footnote about surface finishing if you’d like to pretty things up even more. A flower press is a great handmade present for a gardener or nature lover, or DIY treat for yourself. I have been wanting a proper flower press for ages and, at last, I have my own custom press.  No more giant towers of books and boxes.  Yay!

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Flower Press Design and Features

I wanted my press small enough to be easily portable and convenient to store when not in use. It needed to be durable and easy to use (of course). I also wanted it sized to suit a cut of pressing paper that allowed for maximum pressing with minimum waste.

There are tons of different DIY designs and options, but presses are so simple that you don’t need a pattern. Hubby simply made mine from his imagination based on what I wanted. He created pressing planks using scrappy offcuts from his workshop. I could have DIYed the planks myself (basic drilling), but he was already set-up for working on another project. Bonus, he dressed them and finished the edges for me too. Awwww…

Preparing flowers for pressing in a wooden flower press

DIY Wooden Flower Press Construction

Supplies and Materials

To make a similar wooden flower press, you’ll need:

  • Wood
  • Long bolts, washers, and wingnuts 
  • Woodworking tools, including a saw, drill, and appropriate PPE. Additional tools, like a router for dressing the edges of the boards, are optional.
  • Sander and/or sandpaper for hand sanding
  • Finishing supplies (optional – see the footnote at the end of this post)

As you can see in the photos, my press uses a round flat washer as well as a large square washer with each bolt. The square washer isn’t necessary, but helps to spread the load a little and avoid creating indentation damage in the top panel. Plus, it looks great when all done up!

Making a wooden flower press

Making the Press

  • Set yourself up for work with appropriate materials, tooling, and safety equipment.
  • Prepare two matching shape/sized pieces of sturdy wood. As an option, countersink or create insets on the underside of your bottom panel so that your bolt heads aren’t scraping and scratching things underneath your press all the time.  So helpful!
  • Drill evenly spaced holes near all four corners, ensuring that the holes are aligned when the panels are stacked.  The holes need to be large enough to accommodate your chosen bolts – check and adjust if needed.  As a little tip for ease of use later, make the holes on your top panel a tad looser, so that it’s easier to slide the top panel on and off your press.
  • Sand to remove any rough edges.  

You can finish the press now if/as you wish, or give it a test press first. I decided to leave things plain through an initial test press, at minimum, in case I wanted to tweak anything.

Pressing autumn leaves in a homemade wooden flower press

Using the Flower Press

There is a guide to pressing in our post about preserving flowers, but here is a step-by-step for using the press:
  • Insert bolts through the bottom panel (if not already in place). 
  • Measure and cut some irregular octagonal pieces of scrap cardboard so that they fit inside the bolts. You can create thin wood panels or use regular cardboard, but I like using airy corrugated cardboard for my internal spacers. They breath well, which is handy when pressing to dry flowers and foliage. Save some from scrap boxes, reuse as long as you wish, then recycle.
  • Carefully position your flowers and leaves on blotting paper (or your choice of other paper) layered between the cardboard spacers. Repeat if/as you wish for multiple layers of pressing.
  • Place the top panel over the bolts. Align and lower into position atop the pressing stack. 
  • Slide flat washers over each bolt. 
  • Use wingnuts to secure and tighten.
  • Adjust the tightness periodically if/as needed. Change the papers periodically if/as needed. The time to press and dry will depend on what you are pressing and the ambient conditions, but is typically around 2-3 weeks.
Using a wooden flower press with carriage bolts

Crafty Ideas for Creative Fun

I have to confess that pressing flowers (whether with a press or with books) is creative fun in its own right, and I often do it without any idea if or how I will actually use the pressings when they’re done. With no children in the house, it sometimes feels hard to justify a “just-because” craft project, but since this is crafting from the garden, why not? It’s almost no waste since everything can be used, recycled, or composted afterwards. Check out our post on eco-conscious crafting for more greener creative ideas or our post on creating and cooking with flowers.

DIY Wooden Flower Press
Green in Real Life blog spacer bar with floral accent

Footnote on Surface Finishing the Wooden Flower Press

This is a little addition to the post now that time has passed and at last I’ve surface finished my press. When my press was made, I decided to use it for a while before deciding on a finish, and I’m very glad that I did as the finish I chose was not what I would have used at the time.  Here’s how I chose to (finally…) finish my press and why.

Using the Press Prior to Deciding on a Finish

The square plate washers work brilliantly for distributing the pressure from the carriage bolts to the top of the press when in use, but they still compress the wood slightly (see the third image in the collage below).  The wooden plates of my press were created study and thick so that they could handle this without cracking, splitting, or warping over time.  Still, whatever I used to finish the surface of my press needed to be forgiving enough to accommodate the squeezing and shifting of the wooden panels during use and allow me to refinish or touch up easily if/when needed. 

Surface finishing the plants of a DIY wooden flower press

Selecting and Applying a Finish

To finish the wood, I opted for a creme wax. I already had some in my stash, having used it on the homemade cutting board style iPad holder I keep on the kitchen counter (also very handy). It’s easy to apply, low odour, and dries quickly. The creme wax finish will protect the wood and it wears well, can handle the pressing shifts and squeezing without lifting or cracking, and can be touched up at anytime with ease. Plus, it looks pretty great too! I used the same jar of wax as was used for the cutting board, but there are other shades available as well as a clear wax for a natural finish.

Added Details

I had originally considered painting a chalkboard painted block on the top for noting contents, dates, and drying information, but decided against this as it would make it harder to maintain the press over time. Instead, I used a simple chalkboard adhesive label that can be removed if needed. Easy peasy!

DIY wooden flower press

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