When I first started teaching about use of the hydraulic press, I
asked the folks at the Discussion Group at bonnydoonengineering.com
what should be included in a safety tip sheet for students.
Coincidentally, yesterday I updated that safety sheet, to put on the
wall next to the beautiful new press that Phil Poirier, current owner
of Bonny Doon Engineering, donated to Metalwerx. (THANK YOU, PHIL!)
I’ve posted a pdf on the Discussion Group that you can download, and
printed it below. Press safely!
HYDRAULIC PRESS SAFETY-Some Rules for Keeping Your Body and Tools
Safe and Whole © 2009 Cynthia Eid. Copies may be made for personal
and instructional use, but not for profit without permission.
USE THE PRESS ONLY FOR PROCEDURES THAT YOU HAVE BEEN TAUGHT HOW TO
DO SAFELY Like a car, operators need to have training. It is safe
when used carefully, but accidents can happen if the press is not
STAND IN FRONT OF THE FRAME for protection. Take care if someone is
standing in front of the open faces of the press. WEAR SAFETY GLASSES
OR A FACE SHIELD. Things can break under the pressures used in the
hydraulic press. Plexiglas will withstand incredible pressure if it
is fully supported by the platens, but if it is hanging over the
edge, and the urethane pad starts to push on the area that is hanging
over, the tools can become shrapnel.
ALWAYS CENTER THE WORK. Not only will this create a more even
impression, but the platen will not tilt under the pressure. Remember
that the platen “floats” on the ram, which makes it self-leveling, to
some extent, but also means that a tool placed off center can squirt
out of the press like a bullet!
ALWAYS BOLT TOOLING IN PLACE, A tool can fly out of the press if it
is not attached. Tooling attachment holes are in the top platen of
the press for this reason. This is especially important for tools
that are taller than their width.
DO NOT OVEREXTEND THE RAM. THE STEEL RISER BLOCK AND SPACER BLOCKS
MUST BE USED, UNLESS THE TOOLS ARE TOO TALL.
ALWAYS PROTECT THE STEEL PLATENS WITH KEVLAR FACE PLATES. Do not
press directly against the steel faces of the press. If there is not
room for the spacer block and face plate, use a piece of brass or
nickel to protect the steel.
NEVER TRY TO EMBOSS OR USE BLANKING DIES WITHOUT THE TOP SPACER. One
of the functions of he top spacer is to cover the tooling holes.
These holes can damage your tools.
URETHANE SHOULD BE AT LEAST TWICE AS THICK AS THE DEPTH YOU ARE
PUSHING INTO. If the urethane is too thin, it shatters. Punches are
best used with a contained block of urethane. Ideally, push only to a
depth of 1/3 of the thickness of the urethane.
NEVER, EVER, USE CAST IRON IN A PRESS. Learn from this guy’s
experience: “I still have a minute piece embedded in my hand. Seems
like I was in too much of a hurry to go get a piece of steel for a
spacer and grabbed a cheap drill vise that was handy. It exploded at
about 5,000 pounds! Shrapnel every where.”
AVOID USING TOOLS IN THE PRESS THAT WERE NOT MADE FOR USE IN THE
PRESS It is not safe to use a metalsmithing stake— that was
intended to be hammered on— in the press. The cast stakes are not
designed for use in this fashion; they may shatter. They can also be
difficult to fasten to the press.
AVOID USING HYDRAULIC PRESS TOOLS FOR OTHER USES IN THE STUDIO For
instance, a mushroom punch made for the press will stand up to tons
of pressure, but may break off its stem if hammered on in a vise.
DO NOT EXCEED THE PROPER PRESSURE FOR THE JOB. Always try the lowest
recommended pressure, and check the work. It is nearly always
possible to repeat at a higher pressure.
DO NOT OPERATE THE PRESS UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL, DRUGS,
MEDICATIONS, or FATIGUE.
KEEP THE WORK AREA NEAT AND CLEAN. Cluttered work areas invite
USE YOUR SENSES
WATCH what is happening inside the press! WATCH the gauge at the same
time. If the pressure suddenly increases, stop and check the
Remember to always watch and listen to what is happening between the
platens. The gauge is an additional guide, not the only thing to
watch when pumping.
FEEL —As you pump, the pressure generally should gradually
increase. Stop if there is a sudden increase in difficulty. LISTEN
any noise that doesn’t “sound right”. Stop and figure out the cause
of any odd noise. USE COMMON SENSE. If you think it might be a bad
idea, don’t do it!
ALWAYS LET THE RAM DOWN WHEN FINISHED FOR THE DAY. The ram is oily
and attracts dust and grit, which can then get inside the jack.
Moral of the story:
- Never get in a hurry!
- Use the proper tool for the job!
- Exercise your gray cells before pumping the press!