Easy project to upcycle old damaged books into a vintage-style flower press

With an abundance of spring flowers around me I wanted to find a way of preserving the petals for use in crafting. Here's how to DIY your own flower press using old and broken books...

I wanted to create a traditional flower press that was somewhere in-between pressing petals in the pages of a book and the classic wooden wing-nut press I used as a child. When I picked up a stack of old and damaged books at the car boot sale, some with missing pages, I knew they would be perfect for this project.

You will need

  • Old hardback books – it would be a nice touch to include old botany books in your flower press stack.
  • Small pieces of wood
  • 6mm washers, nuts and bolts (length determined by the height of the books)
  • Clamps
  • Drill with an 8mm drill bit

Step 1

Choose the old books that you want to use and position them on top of each other so that they line up to create neat stack. Measure the height of the pile and add two centimetres to this measurement – this is the minimum length your bolts will need to be. I chose bolts which were 9cm long, with the book stack measuring 7cm high.

Sandwich the stack of books between two thin pieces of wood and clamp the whole stack in place. The pieces of wood will protect the books so that the clamp doesn’t leave a mark on the covers.

Step 2

Measure an equal distance inwards from each corner of the uppermost book to make sure that the bolts will all be placed approximately a centimetre in from the corners. Use a pencil to mark a cross where the holes will be drilled.

Use a drill bit that is 2mm larger than the size of the bolts – in this case I used 6mm bolts and an 8mm drill bit. Slowly and carefully drill straight down through the whole stack of books. When drilling the holes for the bolts, be sure to keep the drill completely straight as you push down. This will make it easier to feed the bolts through the stack of books in the future.

Step 3

When you’re ready to press some flowers, simply cut some pieces of kitchen roll to fit the space within the holes. You’ll need two pieces of kitchen tissue for every page you’re using to press the flowers.

Open the books and place a piece of kitchen tissue onto the page. Position your flower heads and petals and cover them with another piece of kitchen tissue before closing the book. Continue to add more flowers within the pages of the books.

Close the books and restack before feeding the bolts through the holes. Add the washers and tighten the wing-nuts to clamp the pages together. Leave the flowers to press for at least 3 days before opening, although when I opened up my books after just one day, the mini daffodil heads were already perfectly flat!

I think that was because you can tighten up the bolts to add extra pressure, so the flowers will flatten and dry out quicker than when just placed within the pages of a book. The pressed petals are ideal for making decoupage artwork or for scrapbooking and it’s a fun activity to do with children.

And the best part is that the old books look lovely on a side table or mantlepiece when they’re stacked up with flowers drying between the pages. I love the vintage style and vibrant colours of the stack of books and it adds interest to an empty shelf.

Let me know if you have a go at upcycling some broken old books yourself and I’d love to see your projects so feel free to tag me in your photos on Instagram @cassiefairy. Also, if you want more ideas for upcycling old books, I’ve shared a technique for decoupaging old drawers to create underbed storage, or you could even use the pages to wallpaper a room!

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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in Lifestyle Promotion Studies and is trained in Personal Money Management. She loves to ‘get the look for less’ so regularly shares thrifty-living advice, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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