Running short of time, I was browsing a gardening supply company’s offerings for a nice birthday gift for my wife, the lovely Rita. I flipped a page and there it was—an herb drying rack. It was just what I needed. Simple, practical, compact and forged. It was too late to send for one, but I could duplicate it in an hour or so.

The device looked a little wimpy to me—I tend to build everything hell for stout—but it was probably strong enough. All it had to do is dangle a few bouquets of herbs from a rafter on the back porch. Nevertheless, I went to the company’s website, looked up the herb dryer and clicked on “Comments.”

Good thing. While most people seemed pleased, there were some serious complaints. The lightweight rack spun in a light breeze. The loose-fitting S-hooks, along with their bundles of herbs, went sailing and crash-landed on porch floors or in the dirt.

Made To Last

No problem, I concluded. I’ll make one that won’t spin or launch bouquets like children from a merry-go-round. So that’s what I did, and that’s our project for this issue.

As it turned out, I didn’t give the hanging herb rack to my wife. Being old and wise, I checked with her and found that she didn’t want one, since she only dries a couple of bunches a year. But The New Pioneer’s editor is an avid herb grower, and is going to be delighted come Christmas, and even more so come summer. Rita got a beautiful forged metal dragonfly with a 12-inch wingspan. So both ladies are happy.

This herb dryer can be made bigger or smaller, simpler or more complex, fancier or plainer, square, round, rectangular or elliptical, as you wish. It is easily modified to become a rack to hang from the kitchen ceiling for holding frying pans, saucepans, pots, spoons, spatulas and the like. Or you can snag chunks of meat on the hooks and dangle it over a fire pit for some old-fashioned barbeque.

RELATED: 21 Ways to Treat Your Body with Herbs & Spices

The Triangular Frame

Step 1: Mark the 45-inch bar for bending and drilling. Use double punch marks at 15 inches and 30 inches to indicate bends, and single punch marks at 7 1/2 inches, 22 1/2 inches and 37 1/2 inches to indicate drill points. Drill marks should be in the center of the bar.

Step 2: Grind a bevel on both sides of each end of the workpiece.          (No photo shown) 

Step 3: Drill 1/2-inch-diameter holes at the points marked on the workpiece.

Step 4: Clamp the workpiece in a vise. Heat with a torch at the 15-inch mark. Bend inward to approximately 60 degrees. Repeat at the 30-inch mark, as shown. Bring ends together. You are making an equilateral triangle.

Step 5: Use a protractor set to 60 degrees to check all three corners and make sure the angles are equal. Adjust if needed. (You can shorten the open corner to equalize the three angles.)

Step 6: Weld the open corner, both inside and outside. Make sure the inside weld is deep and generously filled.

Step 7: Grind the outside of the end just welded to make a smoothly rounded corner similar to the other two ends of the triangle. Wire-brush the workpiece (not shown) to remove any built-up slag and set aside. The triangular frame piece is completed.

Connecting Rods

Step 8:  Heat one end of one of the three 16-inch-long pieces of 3/8-inch-diameter rod. Over the tip of the anvil, form a loop leaving a center void with a diameter of approximately 1 inch.

Step 9: Quench the workpiece. (Not shown) Heat the opposite end. Over the tip of the anvil horn, repeat Step 8. However, do so with the loop oriented in the opposite direction. It should appear as shown.

Step 10: Repeat Steps 8 and 9 for the other two 16-inch pieces of 3/8-inch-diameter rod. However, leave one end of one of the pieces open wider than all the others. It should appear as shown. Wire-brush all three pieces to remove slag and set aside. The connecting rods are done.

The Yoke

Step 11: Heat the 12-inch length of 3/8-inch-diameter rod. Over the horn or a mandrel (shown), form a circle with a center void of approximately 2 inches.

Step 12: Weld the juncture of the circle into a ring, as shown.

Step 13: Heat the workpiece. Over the face of the anvil, bend and hammer lightly to align the protruding rod perpendicular to the ring, as shown.

Step 14: Heat the workpiece. Clamp the circular portion in a vise with the protruding rod extending sideways just above the level of the vise jaws. With a bending fork (shown) or hammer, bring the protruding rod around in a low arc until it touches the ring diametrically opposite. If you wish, you can make the bend a shallow, inverted “V” instead of an arc.

Step 15: Weld the open end of the arc to the ring.

Step 16: Reheat the workpiece. Clamp it tightly in a vise, as shown, and hammer to align the ring and arch of the yoke. Make sure that the apex of the arc is directly over the center of the ring.

Step 17: Wire-brush the workpiece to remove slag and set it aside. That completes the yoke (not shown).

Bunch Clips

Step 18: Heat and hammer a point on both ends of all 12 of the 8-inch lengths of 1/8-inch square rod. Do this before marking the center for bending. (It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to hammer the points so consistently that all of the pieces will end up with exactly the same length. If you wish, you can mark the center first and then grind the points instead of hammering them. It’s slower but more consistent.

Step 19: Lay the pointed workpieces side by side on your workbench and, with a ruler, chalk or silver pencil, indicate the center. Then use a prick punch and hammer to mark the center on each piece.

Step 20: Clamp a scrap piece of the 3/8-inch-by-1-1/4-inch flat stock in a vise, aligned vertically. Use a torch to heat the middle inch of the first piece of pointed 1/8-inch square stock. Then bend the workpiece over the clamped stock, as shown, until the insides of the workpiece touch the clamped stock. You’ll end up with a staple about 3 1/2-inches long. Do the same with the remaining 11 pieces.

Step 21a & 21b: Re-clamp the scrap piece of 3/8-inch-by-1-1/4-inch bar in the vise jaws, horizontally this time. Slide one of the staple-shaped workpieces onto the bar. Using a torch, heat 1 1/2 inches of the upper leg of the staple to red. Then, working quickly, use a pair of small scrolling pliers or needle-nosed pliers to bend the tip into a curve (Photo 21a). Remove the workpiece, invert it on the bar, heat and bend the second leg, as shown. Your workpiece should look like the one in Photo 21b. Make 11 more, wire-brush and set aside. That completes enough clips to hold 24 bunches of herbs.

Top Hook

Step 22: Heat the 8-inch length of 3/8-inch round rod. Over the tip of your anvil, if small enough, or around a tapered mandrel (shown rather precariously in the hardy hole when it should be fit into the pritchel hole), bend one end of the workpiece into a closed loop with a void in the center about 3/4 inches in diameter.

Step 23: Reheat the workpiece and, working over the top of the anvil (shown) or in the jaws of a vise, align the protruding rod perpendicular to the loop.

Step 24: Heat the straight end of the workpiece. Holding the looped end with tongs and working over the tip of the anvil horn, bend the straight end into a loop with a void in the center of about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Do not close the loop, but leave a gap of about 1/2 an inch to 3/4 of an inch in diameter.

Step 25: Reheat the workpiece and bring it into neat alignment, as shown, using a hammer and a mandrel placed in the anvil’s pritchel hole. Wire-brush to remove slag and start assembly.

Rack Assembly

Step 26: Heat the loop at one end of the two connecting rods with the narrower loops. Slip it over the yoke and lightly hammer it closed, as shown. Do the same with the second rod, keeping it on the same side of the yoke as the first. Save the rod with one end left open extra wide for last. That extra wide end goes down and mounts to the triangular rack, not the yoke, and must be positioned so that it approaches the rack from the outside. Otherwise, you’ll have a dickens of a time getting everything assembled.

Step 27: The final step is to affix the connecting rods to the triangular rack. This can be done with a hammer, over the anvil if you prefer. I did it with a gentle squeeze of a vise. Reserve the connecting rod with the extra wide loop for last. Using a torch, heat a loop, slip it through one of the holes in the rack and line it up between the vise jaws. Gently close the jaws to squeeze the loop closed, slightly rotating the rod to keep the loop round instead of teardrop shaped. Do the same with the second rod. Finally, do the rod with the more widely opened loop. It should slip through easily. If it doesn’t, it can be pried even wider with a pair of tongs and a little extra heat.

I finished the herb dryer with stove black and a clear coat. You can also paint it or, if you prefer the rusty look, leave it unfinished. Attach the hook and hang the rack from something sturdy, a 2×4 at least. The bunch clips are set astraddle the rack. They should slide freely.

There you have it. Now all you need are some herbs or cut flowers.

This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Spring 2015 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here.

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