I've recently gotten into the art of home cheesemaking! I've always loved cheese, and when I went to go make my manchego style cheese realized I had no great way of pressing it. I had a mold, but I don't have large weights to use and ended up having to construct a weird balancing act of the heaviest objects I could find (crock pot ceramic insert and LOTS of rice). It was pretty nerve wracking not knowing how well my sketchy workaround was going to hold up overnight (Would it tip? Was there enough weight? The world may never know.) My roommates got a kick out of it but I was pretty stressed out, and wanted to make sure that I used a cheese press the next time.
I saw a lot of cheese presses online but they all seemed expensive and pretty easy to make. I decided to try my hand at making one!
This press ended up costing me less than $10, and could cost you even less if you already have some of the supplies! It's very simple and uses easy to get materials! Press on to see how I made it!
Step 1: Gathering Supplies
This was pretty easy to get stuff for, and you don't need that much! I got everything but the wood from my local hardware store and for a really decent price! Here's everything you're going to need!
- I got a 8"x12"x1" square and two 4"x12"x1" rectangles (this was the thinnest they would cut them for me at home depot)
- I found a long board in the scrap bin at home depot and had them cut it for me there (because I don't have many power tools and definitely don't have anywhere to store a long piece of lumber)
- This ended up costing me around $3 or $4!
- Two springs that can handle a decent amount of pressure. These felt too stiff but when you're clamping them down they definitely compress. The springs I ended up with were about 2" tall and difficult to compress by hand.
- Two equal length rods each being about 18" long. I bought a longer rod and cut it in half myself!
- Two wingnuts that match the threading of your rod
- Four large washers that fit the rod (aka there's a lot of metal but the hole is the same size)
- Two regular washers (not pictured, oops!)
- two of these T nuts that you can screw your rod in and mount to your bottom board
- They have 3 holes around the flange that allow you to screw them in
- 6x the biggest wood screws that would fit in the holes in the screw mount nuts (spoiler alert, they were still pretty small)
Some equipment you'll need include:
- A way to cut/drill wood
- I got home depot to do this for me!
- A drill and 3/8" bit (and endmill is better though)
- A screwdriver
- A bathroom scale
Step 2: Solidifying Your Design and Getting Started!
I had a basic idea in mind of what I wanted to do. It was going to be something like this:
Which looked like the simplest design out there that didn't involve already owning heavy weights. It used springs to provide force and those are pretty easy to come by!
I marked where I wanted to drill my holes for the rods to fit in, making sure that my molds would fit between them comfortably. This happened to be about 1" from the edge.
I then used a 3/8" drill to drill some 1/2" deep (not all the way through) holes. I messed up here and accidentally drilled on the wrong sides so that my molds wouldn't have fit, but this wasn't a problem, I just re drilled on the other sides and continued. There just happen to be some extra holes in my press now. Live and learn!
While you have the drill out, mark 1" from the outside of your smaller pieces of wood. This should mean that the holes line up with your base piece. It's very important that they do, otherwise you're going to have a hard time in the future. Instead of 3/8", drill a 1/2" hole all the way through both of these pieces.
Step 3: Installing the Rods
Now you're going to take the Screw Mount Nuts and place them over the holes. Make sure they are aligned and screw the small wood screws into the board. Repeat this for the other side!
Saw your threaded rod to size and screw it in now until you feel it bottom out on the wood.
Step 4: The Press Mechanism
Place one of your smaller pieces onto the press.
Place one washer on both of the rods, and then add the springs. Then top it off with another washer, and add your final piece of wood on top. To clarify, it should be wood, washer, spring, washer, wood.
Now add a regular washer to both of the rods and add your wing nuts!
This press works by tightening down the wing nuts and compressing the springs. This creates pressure on the bottom board which can be transferred to your curd.
Now you have your whole press set up!! This is really easy to assemble and now the only thing you have to do is calibrate it so that you know exactly how much force you are using.
Step 5: Calibration
Now that your press is all built, it's time to calibrate! I used a simple scale, and placed it on top of the base plate. Now take something 5 or 6 inches tall that can handle some force (cylinders are very strong!), such as a cheese mold or some cans stacked on top of each other and place them on your scale. This is so that you can read the numbers on your scale to figure out how much force is being applied.
I needed a way to tell exactly how far to compress the springs, so I just took the handles from a shopping bag and duct taped them to the top of my press, making sure that the bottom of the top of the bottom spacer. This is a pretty simple and inexpensive way of doing it. I placed two of these near where the springs were.
Be sure that your scale is zeroed out, and begin turning the wing nuts simultaneously. This is important so that you know you are getting equal force from each spring and can be consistent in the future. When your scale reads 10 lbs, make a mark on the paper where the top of the bottom plate is. Continue turning and marking until you reach 20, 30, 40, and 50 lbs. That's all!
I noticed some bowing in the wood when I got to the higher weights, but don't be too alarmed. We are "compressing" a solid object and when you are pressing the cheese it may put up slightly less resistance.
That's all! Your cheese press is now assembled AND calibrated! Now get making some cheese, and stay tuned for some potential cheese making Instructables coming soon!