help! 6ton press or bottle jack?

Hello Everyone! I’m new and thanks for reading this. I’d like to build a at home press as seen here,

However, I consulted my neighbor and he suggested I skip a few steps and buy a 6 ton shop press and manipulate and attach a steel platen to the 6 ton shop press.

Thoughts? Should I pursue the 6 ton idea or just follow the plans I posted?

Please help! I’m running out of time to be able to return the 6 ton shop press if I’m not going to use it.
Thank you for reading this!

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If the shop press was built so as to make it easy to convert it to the printing press you want, it might be easier than building a press from scratch. How “handy” are you in working with wood and metal?

If you posted a picture of the shop press, we might be able to help you more.

Are you sure you want to build this kind of a press? It would be very inconvenient and slow to use, compared with an actual printing press, and there’s no inking system.

One other thing, 6 tons seems like major overkill to me, and I’ve been building things for a lot of years. I could probably lift a corner of my cottage with a 6 ton jack.

Thanks for your reply, Geoffrey!

This is the link for the shop press:

I found myself in this situation because I read on a blog that I could a letterpress. I’m interested and I thought I should make a goal to build one, via the instructions I found online.
Based on what I had read about making one, it didn’t seem like it would be too challenging to build. Maybe I am wrong? And I don’t know what I’m getting into?

Ideally, I wanted to dabble in letterpress. Start a new hobby. I don’t have access to any serious legit letterpresses. If you think I should not build it, I’ll consider that. I have people that can help me build it though.

I could try to find a place that has a letterpress in my city where I could take a class and pay for studio hours… I just thought that this would be something I could do at home, have, experiment with, etc etc. Get my feet wet with this route.

What do you think?

Hi again - I suppose you might be able to use the shop press you have in your link as a starting point. However, you would probably be better off building from the plan of the press in your first link, since that one is already completely designed. But before you go that route, you might look on Kijiji and Craigslist for a press. You might also look in the classifieds on this site to see if there is someone close to you, and maybe they could get you started with learning, press time, etc. They might even know of a press which is available in your area. By the way, what area are you in? If you tell us, maybe someone will contact you….. Good luck! Geoff

Bottle jack Press???One variation which possibly may be worth a little thought, utilise most of the construction principles as posted but substitute the actual bottle jack for FOUR (4) equal size and capacity hydraulic cylinders (one at each of the for corners of your platen) i.e. as 4 slaves from car breakers/scrappers etc utilise Master cylinder, same source, plus exhauster pump from diesel engine, mount all under press, foot control as in your car/truck, directly operating Vacuum cylinder, Presto at press of the foot (HANDS FREE) as much or as little pressure ON and OFF as you need, bottle jacks tend to be laborious and slow to pump up and slow to retract!!!! Think how fast and with what pressure car/truck brakes work. Would welcome comments and feedback On Line or Off Good luck Mick

There are printing workshops in many cities in the US, if that’s where you’re located — and in other countries as well. I’d suggest trying to find someplace with presses and try out the different styles — you may find that you’d really rather find a different style of press than the “bottle-jack press”. Another suggestion would be to consider building a lever press from wood — though I can’t point you to plans off the cuff. The ones I’ve seen use a long pole with the platen hinged to it near the fulcrum — you can ink the plate, lay on the paper, fold the platen down on the paper, and bear down on the end of the lever. In the drawing the platen is suspended 1/4 of the way along the lever, so pressure at the end is multiplied by 3 (50lbs applied = 150lbs printing pressure). If the lever was 6 feet long and the platen suspended 6 inches from the fulcrum, 50lbs on the end would be 600lbs printing pressure.

But an early question you should ask is “What do I want to print?” wood engravings? posters? small cards? hand-set metal type? photopolymer plates? (All of those could be satisfactorily printed on such a wooden press.)


image: simple press.jpg

simple press.jpg

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, USA, sells technical drawings of an eighteenth century ‘wooden common press’ (the standard printing press prior to the development of iron printing presses in the early nineteenth century) used by Benjamin Franklin, from which various institutions and individuals have built fully workable replicas. See, for example: This might be of interst if you enjoy building your own machinery?

The risk with home-made presses and adaptations of industrial machinery designed for other uses, is that soft lead type can get badly damaged by excess pressure.

Building a replica of an early printing press like this might be worth considering if you are really keen on building your own printing press.

If the shop press would have enough supported area underneath the ram to firmly attach a hard platen, I think you would be ahead keeping the shop press and would have a good jump on construction. You would have to build the impression platen and solid bed pretty much as the original design.

I’d have to agree that you’ll get tired of pumping up that cylinder and releasing, but if you are thinking of doing just a few impressions of your work, it should do well.

More sophiticated hydraulics could be added at a later date, if needed, or even air cylinders (although air might not give you the tonnage required for large forms).

The cost certainly is low and if you are handy with tools, this press might get you by until you can find a bargain on a small platen press.

hey umajean. I’ve made a couple of presses over the past few years and I recommend using the shop press as a starting point. I’ve attached an image of a 30ton press I made with a 55cm x 75cm platen. It cost about $400 to make (from mainly second hand scrap) which is far less than the $8000 a local antique dealer is asking for a similar sized Albion.

It works well and I’ve made the bed fully adjustable to ensure the platen sits parallel to get a nice even impression across the whole surface. It’s still a work in progress. I always keep my eye on local junk shops for bits and pieces to add. An automated hydraulic system with pressure control is my current project!

Geoffrey is right - it is slow, but I only do short runs (100-200) of posters for local bands so it’s not the end of the world if it takes a while. I’d much prefer a real press, but I’ll have to be patient waiting for a cheap one to fall into my lap.

With letterpress gear being so expensive, you’ll notice that I also make my own poster type using 3mm acrylic glued onto 20mm hardwood! $90 for a 200 piece fount.

image: photo 2.JPG

photo 2.JPG

image: photo 1.JPG

photo 1.JPG

And yes, I got the idea for this press from Pace prints in Brooklyn.

Hi Oily Rag
Love the press mate. I built a similar one years ago for printing woodcuts & Linocuts.
I still have the exact same Bob Dylan & Patti Smith Poster at home too from when they toured here in Darwin, Australia.
One of the best concerts ever to hit this small frontier town !

Oily Rag…. that’s not a bad looking press at all. I’m glad to see other folks building presses again.

umajean — I realize that this thread is 3 years old and I don’t know if you (or anyone else) is keeping tabs on it, but I wanted to mention my experiences with bottle-jack presses.

I built the one that Charles Moore provides the plans for. I made it a freestanding floor model to get the bed up to a height that I find more comfortable. I wanted to do the job right and there were a few things that had me stymied until I figured them out. I did everything with overkill and, including the lighting that I added and so forth, the project ended up taking me probably 30 hours and costing $300. $300 might sound like a lot (I’ve bought small letterpresses for less) but I wanted the ability to print images that nothing short of a Vandercook or the like would be able to handle. $300 for a press that can print 12 x 12” is ridiculously cheap.

However, I found that the hydraulic bottlejack was not only the press’ heart, it’s also its Achilles’ Heel. I discovered that the process of pumping the jack down to put pressure on the platen jerked the platen all over the place, leading to very poor registration. I tried addressing this by fabricating Delrin guides for the platen to slide up and down the frame on (while still allowing enough play so as to not bind) but, although that helped, it did not solve the problem.

I recently purchased a 12-ton air-over-hydraulic bottle-jack ($100 at Harbor Freight) that can be used entirely with compressed air through an air line. It’s my hope that this will remove the human input from the jacking process, thus allowing smoother pressure and registration. I’ll report back as to how it worked.

The question that _I_ have is this: the working pressure that the jack expects from the compressor is 80-110psi. But clearly, that’s far too much pressure for printing; 12 tons of ram pressure would push the platen right through the bed, like a pencil through a soggy saltine! So I don’t know what the best way would be to moderate the pressure. I happen to have an old 35psi compressor and an air tank. I’m wondering if running the press on pressure that’s 1/3 of what it expects, if this would result in approximately 1/3 of the jack’s usual pressure. No doubt there are more elegant ways to reduce the ram pressure. Anyone have any ideas?

What is the diameter of the piston in the jack? If for example it is 2 inches in diameter, it would have a surface area of 3.14 square inches (pi x r squared = area of a circle), so 100psi from the compressor would yield 314psi from the jack. Reduce the pressure to 1/3 of that, or 33psi from the compressor, and the result is a bit under 100psi from the jack. And so forth. You could pick up a pressure regulator from a place that sells air-powered tools if you want to be sure what the pressure is — but maybe the compressor already has one.