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H-frame hydraulic presses


I’m looking into getting a hydraulic press to use for die forming.
I’ve been using a bonny doon 20T press and it’s great, but sadly I
won’t have access to it anymore and it’s just not in the budget right

I’ve been looking at alternative options in the sub-$600 range. I’m
finding a pretty wide variety of H-frame hydraulic presses, but I’ve
never used one and I’m not sure if it would work similarly. Does
anyone use one of these? Does it do the same job? The ones I’ve seen
look like they have the bottle jack mounted to the top of the frame
and press down… but there doesn’t appear to be a flat surface, just
a ram. They also look really heavy… I’m 5’3 and most likely going
to move studio space at least twice in the next year or so.

I’ve also seen plans for a DIY press floating about, but I don’t have
the welding skills to put something like that together (I tried… it
failed miserably). Is there anyone making smallish hydraulic presses
that would work for jewelry applications? Does anyone use a DIY
press? I know a guy with a TIG welder who I could probably hire to
make one, but after my failed attempt I’m wondering if it would
actually work.

Of course, what I really want is a used bonny doon… but people
don’t seem to be giving those up sadly. Any suggestions on what to
use until I’ve got a better budget for equipment?

Kelly Farrell


Hi Kelly,

I've also seen plans for a DIY press floating about, but I don't
have the welding skills to put something like that together (I
tried... it failed miserably).

It’s not necessary to have welding skills to get a press similar to
the BD 20 ton. In fact, it’s safer to find a person that’s an
experienced welder to do the welding.

I built my own 20T press a number of years ago. I bought a 20 foot
long piece of 1/4" wall tubular steel at a local steel supplier.
After designing the press to use a 20T jack, I cut the pieces from
the piece of tubular steel & drew a rough sketch. I took all the
pieces & the sketch to a local welding shop. One of the guys at the
shop looked over the sketch & after making a few suggestions agreed
to weld the pieces together. The total welding bill was about $40,
the steel about $35, the jack about $25 & the 10,000 lb gauge about
$15. The press has worked fine for everything I’ve wanted to use it



Buy the Bonny Doon and finance it.

Here’s my set up:

I bought a welded steel frame made from I - beam looking stuff. A
graduate school where I spent a semester had had them welded up, and
I bought the last one of the lot.

I bought a Bonny Doon jack with the gauge. I researched extensively
buying a jack and gauge separately – and putting in the gauge
myself and decided I couldn’t save enough money to make it worth the
trouble and the risk that I might ruin it all in the process.

I happen to have a family member with a welding shop, so he made me
1" steel platens just like the Bonny Doon ones, with holes drilled,
so I can use Boony Doon accessories, if I ever have the top steel
platen welded on. (my family member is in another state…)

It works just fine, and I’m pleased to have it, but a real Bonny
Doon would be even better.

You’re looking at buying a BD jack, and possibly having a steel
frame welded up. Unless you know someone or find a welding school
somewhere, this could all be pricey.

And there’s safety to consider.

So that’s my 2 cents, either finance it or be willing to spend a lot
of time and money or the do it yourself option.


Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

Buy the Bonny Doon and finance it. 

I concur with Elaine’s last sentence but if that is not an option
there are plans for a press in Susan Kingsley’s book, “Hydraulic Die
Forming for Jewelers & Metalsmiths”. These plans do not require
welding. This design also works with Bonny Doon accessories.

Joel Schwalb


Hi Kelly,

I couldn’t afford a Bonny Doone so I had my 20 ton press made by an
experienced welder who has made presses for other people including a
school. Total cost was $250 without the press gage which I regret
not getting. I have had mine for over 5 years and am very pleased
with it. I did have to paint it.

Safety is paramount. If you decide to have it built make sure you
use someone who has experience in welding and understands the
tremendous pressure a 20 ton press can exert.



Hi Kelly,

I put together a press this winter. It cost me $600CAN including the
pads from Bonny Doon.

I hired a really great, thoughtful, careful welder/blacksmith to
build the frame. He improved on the DIY instructions I had (so
generously supplied by an Orchid member after I lost my copy).

It doesn’t allow for BD attachments nor does it have a pressure
gauge. But it’s done everything I’ve asked of it so far.

It is very heavy - but any model in going to be. Putting one
together isn’t a hassle; I think the key is to find a really good

Good Luck,

Safety is paramount. If you decide to have it built make sure you
use someone who has experience in welding and understands the
tremendous pressure a 20 ton press can exert. 

One suggestion if I may,

This is an excellent point, but how does one find a welder who is
capable of this kind of work? They may be slightly more expensive
that the guy at the local welding shop but in north America there are
2 groups of welders who you can trust, because they have to be
re-certified Annually in most jurisdictions. They are “High Pressure
welders” and welders who do repair work on Cranes (Often they are one
and the same group). Contact a crane company or a company that does
Boiler repairs and ask them for the name of the company that does
their welding.



My Haudraulic press was made from the plans in the Susan Kingsley’s
book, and it works just fine. Several of us got together and had the
presses made at a local tool and die place. We saved a bundle. I am
able to use all the Bonny Doon accessories with it.




Excellent point

They are "High Pressure welders" and welders who do repair work on

As I weld I had not been paying much attention to the thread on
building a press. American Welding Society (AWS) is the organization
which provides certification of most welders in the US. They rely on
independent weld testing labs that are certified to evaluate the
tests. Additionally the AWS certification requires testing on
structural competence which is why several of the posts indicated
that the welder made several suggestions to the design before it was
agreed to perform the weld. Part of the testing is to know when
something requires a gusset and where it should be placed. They will
have a wallet card and most carry it with them all the times to
present to inspectors at job sites. All welders or welding companies
who do city, county, state or federal jobs must be certified or they
are kicked off the job.



I don’t see any reason why it can’t be done, and it’s really simple
to do.

That (however) doesn’t make it really easy to do. Everything would
have to be level and the welds would need to be pretty good. I did
float this idea by a welder I know, he didn’t have any problem with
the idea and said it’s something that can be done.

I don’t know why we are comfortable spending large amounts of money
on a name-brand press, when something like this can be made for
under $200. On another note, those little arbor presses would do
wonders around a studio, and work great for punches, pressing, etc.
They are also really cheap. Or if you’re like me, I just use a drill
press vice stuck inside a bigger vice, it works great for punching
holes in 14-20g silver.

Minneapolis MN