Choosing a hydraulic press

Hello. As a relatively new metalsmithing student, I am having a
difficult time choosing a hydraulic press. I have been referred to
Harbor Freight, but do not know enough to make a wise selection.
(The Bonnie Doon is beyond my means right now). How many tons do I
need to make a dome out of 22 gauge silver, for example? What
features are important to you? Are there books or videos you might
recommend? I would appreciate some advice.

Many thanks,

Hi Betsy,

You might like to go to Potter USA - Fine Tools. Potter USA - Fine Tools

Kevin Potter makes several different models of presses as well as
other jewelers tools.


Betsy, you can’t go wrong with the PotterUSA. I have one and a very
happy customer. I was trained on the Bonny Doon, but this serves
every purpose.

Rose Marie Christison

Check out the presses by Potter USA, if the one is still on sale for
$450.00, scoop it up. Or make friends with a welding school and have
a frame welded up. I have a frame I bought while briefly in grad
school for an MFA - the school had made a bunch up. It’s made of I
beams. Quite hefty.


Betsy, Forget the Harbor Freight press…it is for light work in
machine shops. Check out the Potter Press at It is a
great press and is reasonable. Cheers, Don…just a satisfied

I to am interested in making a hydraulic press and have found a book
entitled “Hydraulic Die Forming for Jewelers and Metalsmiths” Looks
like most sites recommend using at least a 20 ton jack.


You can have a welder or welding shop make you a hydraulic press.
You need to get a 20 ton or 50 ton jack and a press can be welded
together. My hydraulic press was handmade for me for $300 a good
decade ago. That is an affordable alternative. Bring a picture of the
Boony Doon press to the welder to show how it looks and works.


You can have a welder or welding shop make you a hydraulic press.
You need to get a 20 ton or 50 ton jack and a press can be welded
together. My hydraulic press was handmade for me for $300 a good
decade ago. 

Ya know, Joy, that is good advice if one has the time and a good
welder/fabricator. For another couple hundred bucks, Betsy could get
a great press all ready put together, proven and everything if she
would check out Potter’s. Or, if she has lots of bucks, the Bonnie
Doon or the Bull Dog. Why take a chance that her welder will come up
with something as good as your welder? You paid $300 ‘a good decade
ago’ but I bet it would cost a looooot more today! Just my 2 cents.

Cheers, Don in SOFL.

Having it made for you is definitely an option. The cost will
probably be about the same as buying one.

Be sure that the person who makes it puts a 1" hole in the upper
platen or makes some sort of system to mount tooling in the press.
Many times people forget to do that. I have had to drill several
presses that people made so that they could use the accessories,
such as bracelet formers and mushroom stakes.

Be sure to leave enough space between the platens. You will need at
least 6" between upper and lower platen to accommodate a bracelet
former and urethane. You can get away with a little less than that,
but not much.

You must have return springs on the lower platen. Bottle jacks do
not return on their own.

Be sure to have them put mounting holes in the base so it can be
securely mounted on a tabletop.


Hi Joy,

You can have a welder or welding shop make you a hydraulic press.
You need to get a 20 ton or 50 ton jack and a press can be welded
together. My hydraulic press was handmade for me for $300 a good
decade ago. 

There’s a little more to it than getting a local welder to make your

First off there’s the engineering. You need to have the welder weld
the correct metal. Metal that can stand the strain & the mistakes
that may be made. Then you have to have the size of the press be the
correct size for the items you want to make. It also has to
accommodate the tooling needed to make the items you want to make &
the hydraulic jack you want to use.

Then there’s the welder. A lot of folks can weld, but you’re having a
specialized item welded. You’d better get a certified pressure vessel
welder to do the welding. There’s a lot of strain on the welds & the
welder better know what he/she’s doing or a disaster could occur if a
weld breaks when in use.


Bring a picture of the Boony Doon press to the welder to show how it
looks. Having been the person that created the Bonny Doon press, I
have followed its path after I sold the company to Phil Poirier.

For some reason, there are always way too many people that cannot
think on their own, but can always copy someone else’s original
thinking. Can you say “knock off”? I can hear the screams loud and
clear if someone copies your original piece of artwork, but if it is
"just a tool", it is fair game to Bring a picture of the Boony Doon
press to the welder to show how it looks.

There is every bit as much creative energy, thought and effort that
goes into the creation of a well designed tool as any of the art
pieces that flow through this digest. The tools that we make not only
have to be appealing to the eye, they also have to work!

The Bonny Doon press became the standard against which all others
have tried to meet. It is the epitome of simplicity, economy of
materials, and no compromises have been made in its construction.
After its introduction in 1990 at the San Francisco SNAG conference,
the name became the generic term for hydraulic presses used in
forming jewelry. The bolt pattern in the top platen for attaching
tooling that I established with the first presses has never been
changed, and all of the copiers continually refer to “Bonny Doon

Most of you that are here on Orchid use Apple vs. Microsoft. Why?
Possibly because it is a unified well thought out design with
extremely tight control over its features. It does not allow just
anybody to create a gizmo and market it without going through Apple
first. You are provided with a product that works, not something
that is an assemblage of a frame here, a jack there, tooling
somewhere else, etc…etc. There is no “plug and pray” in the Apple

A welder can put together a frame from a picture, but do they
understand the forces involved? They might make one frame, and never
see another one. It is almost impossible for someone not involved in
the field to take your ideas and picture of the Bonny Doon press and
hit a home run. Machine shops (and welders) usually don’t want to
see “weekend inventors”. Businesses are in business to make a
profit, and off the wall jobs that walk in typically are a money
losing proposition.

Safety for the operator is most important! The design that I created
(and still used today) places the upright post between you and the
part. Stuff happens, and you need something between you and the bad
stuff. The springs are inside the uprights because springs can
break. When they do, they fly off at great speed, and you just might
be in the way.

Phil Poirier has taken the press and tooling way beyond where it was
when I sold the company to him. He is a jeweler, and understands the
needs of the metal worker much better than I do, and has developed
innumerable tools that vastly extend the capabilities of the press
beyond where I left it.

I am “country folk” and adhere to the adage that “you dance with the
person that brought you to the party”. Folks…I owe support to Mark
Paisen and Susan Kingsley for the idea of a hydraulic press for
forming jewelry. I did not copy anything that they offered, but
instead created a totally unique version that has become the world
standard. It seems to me that all of the versions that are out there
now are simply copies of my idea.

When I decided to make a saw, I had several hundred years of
offerings that I could have copied. Making a “me too” saw would not
have created the Knew Concepts Saw. Why copy someone else’s idea when
it is so much more gratifying to create your own? Because the saw
ventures into totally new territory with the bridge truss design,
and I wanted to prevent knock-off copiers, I patented it.

Lee (the saw guy)

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To All

About Having a Hydraulic Press made for you…I made my own
hydraulic press. I have all the tools and materials at my disposal
to do so. If I had to make one for someone else it would cost just as
much as buying any other press on the market. So unless you can make
it from scratch yourself… having it made for you I would think
would be of little savings. Susan Kingleys book on Hydraulic Press
forming for Jewelers is a good resource and has blue prints to
making your own press in it. I did not use this blue print but it is
fairly straightforward. You still have to be pretty handy in the shop
to get it done. Anyway just backing the price of all press makers out
there…I could not reproduce a press for any less than what they
are all sold for. Happy Making and Inventing :slight_smile:

joy kruse