Economy Hydraulic Shop Press





Introduction: Economy Hydraulic Shop Press

I decided to make a small scale shop press since over the years I had an occasional need for one while doing projects, but never had the justification for a typical "real" one. My design criteria was based on the lowest cost to achieve a quality product, and so that called for creative thinking as to materials and the maximum tonnage I would need to impose. The most expensive item purchased was a 4- ton H. F. hydraulic bottle jack, about $15, and I mounted it in the usual way as found in higher tonnage units. The rest of the build materials were roadside gifts such as a bed frame's angle**, and scrap hardwood (pallet hardwood, even glue- ups). A composite of steel and wood can yield a very serviceable bit of kit, and for assembly conventional fasteners were used instead of weldments- in fact nothing is welded, and one can build this project using the most modest of tools.

Step 1: The Results; an Overview

*Some additional information:*

For our metrified friends: 355.6 mm Deep X 330.2 mm Outer Wide X 203.2 mm Column I.D. X 406.4 mm Max. Retracted Ram X 127.0 mm Ram Stroke X 838.2 mm High.

Springs were needed that would retract the ram without overkill on the return force, I found a pair of 7/8" (22.22 mm) dia. x 6" (152.4 mm) L. X .091 (2.31 mm) wire worked just fine from Home Depot.

Mounted to the Waist Plate is a 3/8" (9 mm) NPT Floor Flange and 2" long (50 mm) nipple which serves as a ram & tool attachment system.

The overall height was simply the length of bedrails cut in two. Your dimensions may vary depending on needs and materials, thus height customization may even allow for under workbench storage if warranted.

Step 2: the Tool Holder

Running a round file inside to remove the weld and hacksawing an "X" down the threads makes this tapered pipe fitting an adjustable squeeze collet, thus one can make unlimited special adapters based on need. For starters I just modified a 1/2" (12.7 mm) capscrew to use as a general purpose nose.

Step 3: Clamp It

Tighten the fitting's flats and the nose tool is held fast yet can quickly be swapped out for other tools.

Step 4: A New Perspective

The Waist Plate rides up and down the column angles with about 1/16"clearance all around, this helps direct the force precisely where needed. A nice linear stroke is easy to predict.

Step 5: Squaring Things Up

The base of most bottle jacks are rough cast, and need a little filing or sanding to fair and flatten them so that force is evenly distributed across the Waist Plate. Finish off by boring through mounting holes on all 4 corners.

Step 6: Think Safety During the Build

Although I turned a Socket Plate for the jack's ram, a ferrule or other device can be used to house that part. The object is to safely restrain the jack yet allow it to do it's job. The final step was to make sure the jack was centered, then drill and mount screws through the pump's base plate mounting holes to the wooden Waist Plate.

I next loaded the press and applied maximum pumping pressure, checked for square, and retightened all fasteners. Deflection of the Head Rail was barely perceptible across the top during this operation.

Step 7: Let's Do Some Work

First use of my new shop tool is to assist in the removal and replacement of a motor bearing set, an outstanding success story that is documented here:DeWalt MBF Motor Restoration.

Step 8: Customize the Width

Adjustable Flank Supports are simply set in or out to a scale scribed on the Foot Rail to ensure even, parallel force application

Step 9: Carry On

A used cabinet door pull makes a nifty carrying handle, and a little filing and tapping permitted me to mount an old valve wheel handle to bleed the cylinder off without using a tool.

Step 10: a Squeeze Play

Here it is used to help construct a 32" long glueup that will be resawn into cabinet legs. Note the large batten strips used under the waist ram and atop the flank supports, they help spread the force over a larger area. The major amount of compression is imparted to the middle with handscrews taking care of the ends. This method can also be used for small flat panel veneering jobs of appropriate size.

Step 11: More Applications

A short list of other possible uses for a shop press are:


The design of course depends on desired end results, but not having a shop press is now unthinkable in my workshop.

Step 12: Parting Thoughts

It should be noted that in most instances the precision use of force will be more influential than the bone- crushing type, which is why I made sure the frame and it's parts were all very square in relation to each other. With even a modicum of care in machining and assembly, perfect results can be expected.

** I will also note, for the record, that bed frame angle can be unpredictable as far as workability goes. Some will hacksaw and drill just fine while others need an abrasive saw to be cut and carbide drill bits to bore with, so when you pull up to that free bedframe roadside, just keep that in mind and good luck with your build.



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Trolley jacks generally have a fat, short cylinder that could be removed from the jack to get a higher strength press but they may be tricky to mount

" No welding , " two of my favorite words.

I have a store bought press that i modified to accept different tooling more easily. I took a long coupling nut and chucked it up in my metal lathe and used a file to round off the flats until they could be pressed into the pipe under the jack plate. the internal threads of the nut allow me to screw in all sorts of dies. this could easily be done using a drill press and a file if you want to spin it or even run a bolt trough it and chuck it up in a drill and run it opposite against the rotation of a grinding wheel to keep it mostly round.

Beautiful build! I didn't even know I needed one of these until I saw your instructable!

Too bad you can't use one of these to make novelty coins...guess the pressures involved would have to be considerably greater. But! This is a seriously useful tool, sir, and I thank you for your creativity.

Thank you for the compliment. I am hopeful that those who do find alternate uses for the press will comment on their application and suitability for it.

I live in Jax too. 32216 Would like to meet up sometime. manna4us(at) (Corrected typo)

Actually I live in Palm Bay, I just mean anytime I go North of J- ville I put on snow boots. ;-)


Very nice job,thank you.What sort of material did you use for the top,waste plate and base of the press,please?