How to Make a press in garage

Thank you!

Hi Ted,
I almost finished the press but …

I used 4 threaded rods, and i hoped that middle plate will move smoothly on this rods. My hope was wrong. The moving plate catches on threads and everything is not smooth to put it mildly. I think i should use regular not threaded rods, and thread only needed top and bottom of the threads. But i made what I made. Do you think there is anyway to save the situation. May be there are on market some liquid plastic which i can use to make the rod smooth?

And another question. Should i attach somehow the top of the jack (pushing part) to the moving plate?

Friends, I hope somebody can give me a good advise.


Please keep this conversation going as I am just joining it with the hopes of making my own press. There are several online places to buy metal already cut, but I will spend some time looking at local metal supply places first. Welding the frame should not be a big chore. I will stay tuned and contribute when I have something to contribute. Thanks…Rob

A quick look on line at Amazon results in a number of 20 ton jack options. I am curious about the pluses and minuses of low profile jacks and air assist jacks as they relate to jewelry presses. I have compressed air readily available and it would seem that air assist would speed up the process of using the jack. Thanks…Rob

I almost finished the press but …

I used 4 threaded rods, and i hoped that middle plate will move smoothly on this rods. My hope was wrong. The moving plate catches on threads and everything is not smooth to put it mildly. I think i should use regular not threaded rods, and thread only needed top and bottom of the threads. But i made what I made. Do you think there is anyway to save the situation. May be there are on market some liquid plastic which i can use to make the rod smooth?

And another question. Should i attach somehow the top of the jack (pushing part) to the moving plate?

Friends, I hope somebody can give me a good advise.

Drill the pusher plate holes bigger and run a piece of smooth pipe over the threads. The plate will then ride on a smooth surface and not the threads. Weld a piece of pipe in the middle of the pusher plate for the top of the ram to fit into. This is a part of several of the designs suggested in the archives and I will incorporate it into my press.

thank you very much

Building a press as described or even looked at in a Rio catalog should not be
a difficult project. Working in boatyard building commercial fishing boats may
give me a more intimate notion of joining steel and what stresses it is capable
surviving but I see no big deal here. Go buy a welder and a 20 tin jack from
Harbor Freight and pick up some scrap and have at it. We don’t get our first
bezels right right out of the box. It probably won’t happen here either. But
you will learn a new and valuable ability.

The metal doesn’t care if the piston is pushed by oil or air or a combination of
the two. In my experience from boatyard days when we are talking about driven
piston presses hydraulics are cheaper to buy pound for pound than are compressed
air pistons. Compressors that are not of a heavy industry quality may not be
capable of supplying the psi required from much of this work. Watch a gang of
home framers running air nailers on compressors.

Some pretty capable compressors need to recharge often before the nailers can run
again. I don’t think I have ever seen an air powered log splitter here in
central NY but I see a lot of hydraulic splitters.

The industrial compressor in a jewelry shop capacity may be able to deliver the psi
needed but it is another piece of expensive equipment to buy with limited use. To
keep the noise down they would have to be out side somewhere in an insulated room.
That means plumbing the air from the compressor to the press. There is some line
loss incumbent with that plumbing. And they are maintenance hogs. especially in a
cold weather climate. This is what we found at the boatyard. I am sure there are
compressors that will handle the psi needed but I doubt the economy is there.

Have fun. Buy a welder.

My two cents.


Ref hydraulic pump go with a manual or air powered one question, .

Personally for this application I would use a Manual one. Has the pump gets up past about ½ of it’s rating you can feel the resistance, which sort of warns you that you are into the area where you can have a nasty surprise if something lets go. Jacks ith a air powered pump will happily go up to the maximum pressure then all of a sudden BANG and flying parts. It is also easier to control the depth of stroke with a manual one.

Ref Low profile versus standard Jacks,

Low profile jacks are great to fit in tight spaces, but along with them being low profile is a short stroke, sometimes as little as 1 or 2 inches, while a typical bottle jack will have a 6 to 8 inch stroke.


Hi Boris,
thanks for the good news and bad news.
Theres not much I can offer as help till you provide me/us
with the following details.

  1. size of threaded rod
  2. size of the middle plate and the hole positions for the rods.
    3 the thickness of this plate.
    4.the distance between the underside of the top plate and the top side of the bottom plate.
    In the mean time i second the advice from rob, re putting tube over the rods. where to put it ill tell you when you have posted the answers to the above.
    To give you some idea presses are made, usually the ram diameter is at least half the width of the moving plate.
    Reason? to avoid what your getting.
    also any press design has to start with the max size of the work to be pressed. then you work out from that.
    With a point load provided by a HF jack of 20 tons your not going to get much work out of it over 2in dia.

Hi Ted,
Thanks for the reply

  1. Diameter of the threaded rod is 3/4". Overall length where the middle plate moves is 8"
  2. All plates are of the same size 12"x 6". Center of the holes are 1 3/4" from the edges. Holes in the pusher plates are 7/8" and holes in the static plates are 3/4"
    3.Thickness of all plates are 1"
    4.This distance is 17". But i can make it i little bigger or smaller depending on where i will put the top plate

Ted, what is “ram diameter”?

Can you please explain your last phrase “With a point load provided by a HF jack of 20 tons your not going to get much work out of it over 2in dia.” ?

Best regards,


Ram diameter is the piston diameter , whot slides up and down or in and out of a cylinder. do you know what that is? if not google is your friend.
your press dimensions are well chosen.
to limit tho not cure your problem fully you need to get some steel tube 1in internal dia, 1/8in wall thickness by 4in long. drill out the moving plate 4 holes to have a good fit of this tube in the 4 holes with 1/2 in sticking out above the plate and 2.1/2 in below. weld in place.
Normally a point load is around 1in dia iev 20 tons on that 1in. If your work is say 3in by 3in that 9 sq ins that will give you if your lucky 1/2 a ton per sq in .
You can get that with a big bench vice.

@rmeixner Your post reminded me of one I read some years ago which I found, as follows:

Dave Arens
6/15/2011 8:14 PM

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. 


I have no knowledge of how correct that is, I’m just passing along what I remembered seeing.

Regarding your other post about pneumatic jacks, I use a pneumatic / hydraulic 20 ton Harbor Freight jack with my H.F. press (which I’d like to replace with a Bonny Doon or a Potter). For a short quick job hydraulic is way easier, quicker. It is right there, ready to go.

For making cuff bracelets with the Bonny Doon bracelet former, or for making multiple pieces where there will be a lot of pumping, nothing beats pneumatic. It just takes a few minutes for the compressor to fill the tank and for you to make the hose connection. Then each thumb press on the hand lever is the same as a full pump of the jack. bing, bing bing… Very nice.

As for noise, if you have a decently large compressor you just fill the tank and turn the compressor off, and you can work for a long time without the compressor motor kicking in. Much easier on the arm and shoulder.

Neil A

1 Like

Regarding a DIY hydraulic press, there is a slew of designs out there on the net and even lots of images of completed presses. My local machinist said about $150 to put something together, so consider having someone else do it, but be aware this was an off the cuff quote without looking at a plan. And your machinist may be more mercenary. the quote tends to mushroom in cost when they actually look at a plan.

I concur that a manual pumped jack gives you more control, but if you are doing a lot of pieces you may want the air assist. It is only another $100 or so. As to compressor noise and repair, I think this applies more to the vibrator and/or oil-less compressors. The noise from the vibrator compressors is absolutely obnoxious…I gave my cheap new one away to someone who doesn’t use one often and got a used piston compressor using oil. These are much closer to quiet and do not require a lot of maintenance. They have a cylinder or two just like your car engine and that runs 100K miles plus. Since it takes some time to set up each piece, I don’t think you would have a problem with enough air if you size the compressor properly. A slightly bigger compressor is not going to cost that much more. This project is on my list, but behind a lot of others right now.
Good Luck,

Hi Gang,

Err…humm… About the thread-rod hydraulic presses. I have a Bonny Doon 20Tall from Lee back in the day, as well as an old Kingsley threadrod press that sort of followed me home as a spare. (It ended up out at school, and it’s been there for years, waiting for the budget fairies to come up with the cash to get a real press.) Frankly, the threadrod presses suck. If you get near full power, you can see the rods flexing. (With 4 1" dia rods.)
The trick for getting the platen to move easily is just to drill the holes in that one oversized. So 1.125" instead of 1". And then use a block of steel or aluminum in the middle of the lower platen as a ‘lift’ if you need it to reach a complete flat surface, instead of stopping short on the nuts under the upper plate. Generally not needed because there’s tooling for that space, but every so often it is required.
I’ve used both air and manually pumped hydraulic presses. Definitely prefer manuals for beginners. The feedback gives you more of a sense of what’s going on, and what force level you’re at. If you’re doing a threadrod press, you want manual. Those presses are so floppy, and the lower platen can tilt in so many directions (aimed at you) that you want to be aware of what’s going on, just in case the tool squirts out. It’s surprisingly fast and violent when that happens. Can do real damage if it hits you. So you want the manual jack for those.

Why all the interest in threadrod presses all of a sudden? I thought Kevin’s little ones were relatively cheap, and have the virtue of already being designed and (mostly) put together? There’s a reason Bonny Doon presses conquered the world when they came out. Everybody already had threadrod presses, and hated them. Why the rush back into a not-so-golden-age?

Ben, if you’re still reading this: A guy I merchanted next to at one ren-faire, years ago had a really nice drop hammer that he was minting pewter coins with, at the show. The “BANG” of the press was a real draw. Sucked people in from all over.
It was basically a tree stump with a big steel block on it, and then 2 pair of 4x4’s, about 8-10 feet tall. The 4x4s were set in pairs, about 3/4" gap between the two 4x4’s of each pair. Each 4x4 had a facing of steel angle iron on one corner of the 4x4, set so that the two reinforced corners faced each other across the 3/4" gap. Basically, that made a pair of columns with reinforced steel corners, and a slot down the middle between them. Make two sets of those columns, and set them on either side of the stump. The hammer was a big thick hunk of steel with a steel pipe section welded on top if it, and a set of ‘fins’ sticking out the side of the pipe section. The fins rode in the steel faced grooves between the 4x4 towers. So they were a big guide. In use, he had a bunch of lead scraps he loaded into the pipe section to increase the weight. The nice thing about that was he could unload the lead out of the pipe, and cart it away in bits, rather than trying to deal with it as one great heavy thing. There was various framing across the tops of the 4x4’s to hold them into alignment, and to give a place to anchor the pulley used to raise the anvil. The whole thing fit into a pickup truck with lots of space left over, and could be brought in and erected in a couple of hours by 2 guys with screw-guns and a socket wrench set. In use, he had self-aligning die sets, like commercial kickpress die sets. All he needed the hammer to do was hit it. So it didn’t matter if the drop anvil was positioned with any real accuracy. Thus the loose fit in the channel between the 4x4’s.
Worked great, and brought in all sorts of foot traffic.


Hi Brian,
Just posted some pics to the forum of my drop stamp for the perusal of Jim Grahl.
So you might just like a look too and pass on to Ben? some idea of what a genuine 1880’s looks like when made up into a
portable and to a professional standard, for proper production use at an event like the Dorset steam fair.
Note the period square bolts and nuts. Had to make them!.
The first time I took it in 1989 i didnt stop minting for the 5 days a commemorative plaque total of 1000 or so!. .
It does work well even on a production run of 2500, hot struck in bronze over 30 days.
From cutting the metal till finished in the boxes around 100 in an 6 hr day.
However! what makes you revert to the latin to say" through adversity to the stars"? that was/is the motto drilled into ones brain after ones service number!
Were you like me blessed with time in the RAF?
Also your reference to the carved relief on the franks casket of the crippled smith Weyland?
you seem to have trodden a similar path to my self!.
Not a North American heritage by the look of it.

Hello Orchidians,

I am writing this in response to Rob Meixner’s request to continue this thread and to concur with the statements submitted by Kay_Davis2.

I retired in 2012 after 40ish years in the fluid power industry which is the technology/science of hydraulics, pneumatics, vacuum and lubrication.

For Rob - Fluid power uses several methods/approaches to generate high press forces. One is hydraulic only, a second would be pneumatic only and yet another of many would be an “Air Over Oil” system or circuit. I do believe this is what is being referred to. Some air over oil systems (not all) are designed with a “separating medium” to isolate the air from having contact with the hydraulic fluid - this prevents air entrainment of the oil which can produce an unpredictable bounciness during the press power stroke if the press is frequently cycled. The compressed air is then used to pressurize and flow against the hydraulic fluid to overcome and move the load on the ram. If you were to use only compressed air, consider its compression/expansion - your press could become unstable and bounce or shudder through any change in density or hardness of the material being pressed. Since hydraulic fluid is theoretically not compressible, the speed of the ram is very smoothly controlled by metering the flow of oil to or from the ram - and is called “meter in” or meter out’ speed control - And it is very important to design in the correct way for your application, but that is another subject unto itself. Also occasionally, external spring force can be used to assist opening and closing issues such as the springs you see on photos of many of the 12 ton and higher bottle jacks. I would suggest your reading any easy text book on basic fluid power as an aid to just to polish up a bit before you begin to build.

And for Kay, your description of the possible negative consequences associated with improper use is quite accurate.I am glad to seer your comments and applaud your awareness of these problems as fluid power accidents involve levels of force that most do not imagine.

Although I would consider building this press to be an easy task, I would encourage “home builders” to exercise caution and get to know a bit about the operating characteristics of your press, its fluid power circuits and the liability associated with this type of apparatus.

Please let me know if there are any questions as I’ll be glad to give them a try.

Hi Ted,

No, no RAF for me, I’m a yank, just a well traveled one. Spent a couple of years in Brighton as a kid, and then a year at the Cass in London in college.
I knew it was the RAF motto, that’s what I meant about cribbing. I just liked the sentiment: onwards and upwards through hard work. As far as the latin, call it a relic of my schoolboy latin. A yank, but not exactly typical of the species.

I have been privileged to know a few RAF pilots over the years, including one Bomber Command pilot. Was on the first Berlin raid, and flew Wellingtons. Until they ran out. Then he spent the rest of the war flying long-range Liberators out of Scotland, looking for U-Boats. As he put it ‘Didn’t see another Jerry for the rest of the bloody war, and that was just fine by him, thank you very kindly.’


People, friends, I want to thank everybody! Thanks to your advises and help I finished my project. I have a functioning press now. Not perfect, but working for me. Heavy though, about 110 pounds.

Thank you all!


I am big on DIY but I see that Harbor freight sells A 20 ton press for $179 The lower power ones are even less expensive. Would one of these work?