Build Your Own Herb-Drying Rack

Herbs are some of the easiest and most enjoyable plants to grow. They can be grown in a small garden plot, in a container garden, or even on a windowsill. The fact is, you can easily grow more than you need with very little effort, and you can make the most of any extra herbs by drying them. In their book Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency, authors Chris Peterson and Philip Schmidt walk readers through the step-by-step process of building an herb-drying rack to preserve your garden’s flavorful summer bounty.

Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency

Herbs are dried in two ways: lying down or hanging up. Hardier herbs should be tied in bundles and hung to dry. These include lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, and parsley and any herb with tough, woody stems. More delicate leaf herbs like basil, mint, and tarragon should be dried flat on a screen. To cover all the bases, the rack in this project includes three lines on top for hanging and three tray slots to hold drying screens. This should provide all of the space you’ll need for even a large herb harvest.

Instructions are also included for making your own drying screens. These are basically old-fashioned wood window screens. They are fairly easy to make, and by crafting your own, you control the dimensions. However, you may prefer the ease of buying premade screens, which are available at home centers and hardware stores. If that’s the case, simply alter the length of the braces and top to suit the screens you buy (as well as the height of the dadoes). Also, if you’re purchasing screens, it’s wise to invest in more durable aluminum, rather than fiberglass mesh. Choose aluminum frames for a wide selection of sizes or pick from a much smaller selection of wood-framed screens.

 

Building an Herb-Drying Rack (Assembly)

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Cutting List: Rack

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Cutting List: Drying Screen

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Tools & Materials You’ll Need:

  • Window screen mesh (aluminum or fiberglass)
  • 16-gauge stainless-steel picture hanging wire
  • (6) 1 ₃⁄₁₆” steel screw eyes
  • Miter saw
  • 2½” screws
  • Router with ¾” straight bit (or table saw with dado blade)
  • #5 x ⅝” corrugated fasteners
  • Cordless drill and bits
  • Staple gun and staples
  • ¾” brads
  • Clamps

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1: Drying Rack

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Mark the side boards for the dadoes. Set up the router with a ¾” straight bit and clamp a cutting guide to the workpiece. Start the first dado cut 6″ up from the bottom, ½” deep. Move the cutting guide and make a second pass so the total width is ⅞”, or about ⅛” wider than the wood used for the drying rack. (If you use aluminum screen frames, just add ⅛” to the thickness of the frames.) Cut the remaining dadoes. Repeat for the other side board. You can also make the cuts on a table saw using a dado blade.

 

2: Drying Rack

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Measure and mark the placement of the screw eyes on the inside faces of the side boards (same sides as the dadoes). The first pair should be positioned in the center of each side board, 4″ from the top. Each of the other two will be positioned 8″ below the screw eye above it. Predrill holes and then screw in the screw eyes until they are snug.

 

3: Drying Rack

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Cut and attach the feet with a single screw. Drill pilot holes for the braces, working on one side at a time. Screw the brace to one side panel, and then drill the pilot holes and screw the brace to the opposite side panel. Flip the frame and repeat for the second brace

 

4: Drying Rack

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Tie the picture wire to the screw eyes using pliers to twist the ends and secure the wire. Make sure the wire is tight enough to support the herbs without sagging.

 

5: Drying Rack

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Stand the dryer up on a level surface. Check for plumb and mark the proper position of each foot. Drill pilot holes and secure each foot firmly along the marked lines, with 2 to 3 additional screws.

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1: Drying Screen

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Cut 45° miters in the ends of the frame and molding pieces. Check the fit and adjust as necessary.

 

2: Drying Screen

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Assemble the frame, fastening the pieces together with corrugated staples (inset) driven at each corner.

 

3: Drying Screen

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Fasten the screen with 5/16″ staples every few inches. Pull the screen tight as you staple. Cut away the excess screen when you’re done stapling

 

4: Drying Screen

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Position the molding on the inside edge of the frame. Nail it to the frame with brads. Repeat the process to construct the two remaining screens. Coat the frames with linseed oil or other nontoxic sealant.