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Hydraulic Presses

Greetings All -

I am considering buying a hydraulic press, and I am wondering what
the pros and cons are between a 20 ton press from Bonny Doon and a 20
ton press from Harbor Freight, given that I probably would not spring
for the power option on the Bonny Doon.

I would greatly appreciate hearing from those who have one or the
other, and especially those who may have some experience with both.

thank you very much -


Ivy, Just a brief comment. I’m not familiar with the Harbor Freight
model, but I can bet it would need some modification to use the
accessories you may need for jewelry applications from Bonny Doon
Inc… And hind sight being 20/20, I would have gotten the power
"drive"! Pumping the press can take the fun out of using the press. I
would consider selling my ‘new’ press and buying the motorized.
Thomas @Island Gold Works

Hi Ivy, Regarding the difference between a Bonnie Doon press and a
harbor freight press… the bonnie Doon press has a gauge tapped into
it, vital for use as a jewelry design tool.

My first jack had no gauge, and I was informed by an impartial
party that tapping a hydraulic press can be dangerous to do. I
purchased the jack component with a gauge from Bonnie Doon, and
although one could purchase a frame for the jack through Bonnie Doon,
I felt it could safely be made by a good welder, my brother is a ship
builder and so he build a frame that accommodates the Donnie Doon jack
with gauge. A great must have tool! Diane

Ivy, I went the cheapie route on my first press, and am now ready to
upgrade to Bonny Doon. the BD presses are better made (safer) and
set up conveniently for our uses. I’ve seen the Harbor Freight
version, and I think you’d be disappointed and frustrated. Also, I
think that you’ll really miss having a pressure gauge with the Harbor
Freight press. It is so difficult without a gauge to figure out what
you are doing. Did you know that there is an Orchid sort of thing on
the Bonny Doon site ( called the Forum?
Go there, and you will find that recently, someone asked a similar
question, and got interesting answers. good luck! Cindy

From John Burton - There was a thread on Hydraulic Presses. I just
took a workshop in the use of hydraulic presses, and used a press made
by ; R &D Evices in Long Beach CA Ph 562-424-0033 at 4579 Falcon Ave,
Long Beach, CA 90807. This is a press similar to Bonny Doon’s press
with a bigger platten, 8" X 10" or 10" X 10" working area. It comes
with 20 ton jack and pressure gage fior only $325. Call or write them
for literature. Can’t beat the price!!! It was a great workshop
taught by Linda Slovis, I learned a lot and
the press worked very well. John Burton

I took a workshop on the use of the Bonny Doon press and was most
impressed with this hydraulic press. Does the one from "R&D Evices"
you mention, (is that the name?) allow for attachments? Does it come
with formers for tubing, punches, etc.? Where did Linda Slovis teach
her workshop and how do I get in touch with her? I need this
soon, since I am want to purchase a press after the first of the year.
Thanks for your input. Kay

One view of the press available from R &D Evices in Long Beach CA Ph
562-424-0033 at 4579 Falcon Ave, Long Beach, CA 90807 may be seen at

I believe Ron will be posting a front view soon, so that we can see
the press from both angles. Glad to hear of another Orchidian who has
used and liked this press - I am not associated with RD-evices, but
have heard a recommendation from Gary Strickland of this list too, and
am considering purchasing one

Ivy in frosty Oakland, CA, where it looks like it might finally be
getting into winter.

Just by looking at that one picture it looks like a copy of Lee
Marshal’s Bonny Doon Press .
Although I am not sure what a company who makes skydiving equipment
is doing making presses for metalsmiths.

I would advise you to think carefully before buying any welded frame

hydraulic press That is not a Bonny Doon. The 20 Tons press generates
in excess of40,000 pounds per square inch. If the welds are not done
properly then the frame can break sending the pieces of the frame and
tooling about the studio at high speed and force. Lee has expended
many thousands of dollars and much time to develop the right way to
assemble and weld his presses and is a mechanical engineer so things
like stress and strain were calculated into the design. Welding and
choice of materials are critical on these presses if they are to stay
in one piece. I have seen less than properly designed presses bend
and break.

Lee is a friend of mine and I am biased, I think he has done a great

job. There is a reason Lee’s presses are expensive they are done
right! – James Binnion Metal
Arts 4701 San Leandro St #18 Oakland, CA 94601 510-533-5108

Hi, I was wondering if any members here are familiar or have
experience with the Bonnydoon Hydraulic Press for forming metal as
well as imprinting it. I’m also wondering about the quality of
imprints from a etched plate verses the quality you would get with a
rolling mill although a rolling mill can’t form metal like a
hydraulic press can.


I’ve used the Bonny Doon press quite a lot at the Worcester Craft
Center, for a variety of things. My own experience says that a
rolling mill can give one a deeper impression as well as a linear
distortion, while the press gives a shallower impression but also
doesn’t distort the design. I can see a need for both!

-Amanda Fisher

The rolling mill will be the less expensive choice unless you are
looking at power models. The rolling mill will thin and lengthen the
metal that you roll through it. The plate or whatever you use to
texture the sheet being rolled, is also thinned and that affects how
many times you might want to use it. The hydraulic presses do not
lengthen the metal being manipulated and as you noted, can shape as
well. You will be limited in size by your pads and the platen of the
press. I should think that you could crank a very long narrow piece
through a rolling mill, at least as long as your arm might hold out.
The press would be more versatile. You could also consider building
your own.

Marilyn Smith

    Hi, I was wondering if any members here are familiar or have
experience with the Bonnydoon Hydraulic Press for forming metal as
well as imprinting it. 

Bonny Doon H. Presses are the top of the line, most efficient, most
flexible tools available. You can’t beat them for forming
dimensional pieces and, using some of the wide range of accessories
available, they are useful for texturing/imprinting.

I'm also wondering about the quality of imprints from a etched
plate verses the quality you would get with a rolling mill 

Imprint quality from an etched plate using the press will vary
depending on the depth of the etch.

although a rolling mill can't form metal like a hydraulic press

Rolling mills have their own range of uses. I have both a BD Press
and a rolling mill in my studio and would not be without either of


Hello, I have had a considerable amount of experience with the
Bonnydoon press after having attended a class taught by Susan
Kingsley (she has written the only book on the subject to date) about
10 years ago, and teaching it’s use myself this last year or so. I
own a hand operated 20 ton press. It is one of my most used pieces of
equipment (my torch excepted)…

A rolling mill and a hydraulic press produce very different effects
despite the use of pressure being common to them both.

In terms of imprinting an etched type of design, the press does a
minimal job with the detail often less than adequate.The metal being
imprinted needs to be of 26 gauge or less… it is simply not the
right tool for the job compared to a rolling mill which does this job
more than amply… Some embossing dies (a wire design) may have an
element of detail but fine etched type detail is not what this tool

Where the press performs best is in the area of imparting a three
dimensional form to a piece. Great depth and form is possible
depending on the press, the platen size,and the urethane pads and
dies used …

One of my favorite techniques uses the rolling mill to impart an
etched design from a brass sheet onto my metal of choice, which is
then formed into a three dimensional form or vessel using the

The Bonny Doon site has a wonderful gallery which should give you
some idea of the extent of this tool… (sorry, I don’t have the
website to hand but a quick google search should pull it up).

Hope this is of some help!

Hi Folks, This is kind of a tangent on this thread, apart from the
direction this conversation has been taking. If I remember the
original application, the concept was to impart an etched pattern
from a sheet of base metal to a sheet of silver. I know people who do
this, but I continue to ask myself, “Why?”

I believe the answer has been that one can etch a copper or brass
plate relatively easily and safely with ferric chloride. This was in
contrast to the more dangerous nitric acid used to etch silver, so
transferring the reversed image from a plate using pressure was a
safe alternative.

In recent months, thanks to Karen Christians, I have become aware of
ferric nitrate, which is an alternative to using nitric acid on
silver. While it is still an acid and needs to be handled
accordingly, it is non-fuming (supposedly) and somewhat less
dangerous. I still treat it as a fuming acid though… can’t be too

It seems to me the availability of this mordant makes etching silver
directly much more feasible in the small studio, eliminating the
extra work and equipment (and loss of detail) involved in physically
transferring an etched image to another sheet of metal.

On another side note, the book Metals Technic, edited by Tim
McCreight, has a chapter on non-conforming dies for the hydraulic
press, written by Susan Kingsley. Of course, I have her complete
book, too… now I just need to get the press! :wink:

All the best,
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)