Introduction: Economy Hydraulic Shop Press

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of  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

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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

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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

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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

Picture of 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

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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

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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

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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

Picture of   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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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.


owatson (author)2016-07-26

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

BeachsideHank (author)owatson2016-07-26

I had to look that one up:

It would probably destroy the press too. ☺

oldschoolwood (author)2015-08-26

" No welding , " two of my favorite words.

weldor (author)2014-10-08

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.

bricabracwizard (author)2014-09-08

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

digitaus made it! (author)2014-09-07

Hey Hank, I thought this was a brilliant project, a tool that I've always wanted but couldn't justify the $200 - $300 or the room in my shed. As soon as I saw this instructable I thought that’s me, I will do that this week. Total cost was around $40.00 I had to buy the jack and springs, everything else came out of "stock" . My wife and I make jewellery as a hobby and I've been thinking about an arbour press for awhile but this will be better. We will use it for punching disks with a disk cutter using copper brass and silver... opens up a few ideas for other uses for jewellery as well.

Great idea and easily made.

BeachsideHank (author)digitaus2014-09-07

I think nothing gives an author greater pleasure than hearing how his project helped another fill a particular need, and successfully so. Thank you for taking the time to tell me all about it.

pheenix42 (author)2014-08-31

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.

BeachsideHank (author)pheenix422014-08-31

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.

Mannaman80 (author)2014-08-28

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

BeachsideHank (author)Mannaman802014-08-28

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

cb55 (author)2014-08-27

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

BeachsideHank (author)cb552014-08-27

Those were nothing special, some dropoffs I had kicking around the shop, can't remember exactly what species, but just about anything will do, there's a lot of forgiveness in the build, which is what I wanted to demonstrate.

Thanks for your question

cb55 (author)BeachsideHank2014-08-27

thanks you.

rolandcontreras (author)2014-08-27

Use as oil press for walnuts is also possible, I believe.

Thanks for the suggestion, I'll call it "NUT OR OLIVE PRESSING" then.

espdp2 (author)2014-08-27

1. In Step 9, can you remove the water valve knob and show us how you fitted that on?

2. I've never owned a shop press, so I only have a vague idea of what sort of tools you might attach to that nifty collet. Could you expound on how you might press things in or out in Step 11?

Great little low buck shop project. Thanks for sharing! Faved and saved.

BeachsideHank (author)espdp22014-08-27

I'm glad you enjoyed the project, I use mine quite often. In step 7, I have a link taking you to another story showing how the press was used to help change motor bearings, a common procedure now made much easier thanks to this tool. Attaching a valve wheel is really pretty straightforward, just file a square into the flat, which most press actuator valves have, until it slips on. Retain by drilling and tapping for a retainer screw. It might be advantageous, and certainly more fun to include another person in the build and draw upon their expertise also to cover areas where one might not be knowledgeable about.
Thank you for your comments.

bgerens (author)2014-08-27

Very well executed and explained, a fine instructable.

throbscottle (author)2014-08-27

Brilliant - I just need to make a smaller version. Whacking things with a hammer is Soooooo last year...

zappenfusen (author)2014-08-26

The valve handle is genius! I've also been fumbling with pliers for years. Being from Savannah, Ga. I was raised believing Canada was North. Being included (taken from your bio) in the great white north is something only a Yankee craftsmen living in Jacksonville could come up with. I bet it's nice having no snow shovels in your shop. Nice Instructable with a multitude of uses.

Yes, I like it down here in Florida, I came in 2000, and arrived just in
time for the year of the hurricanes: '04 & '05. I tell relatives back in Illinois if any of 'em
kicks off during winter, keep the stiff on ice until July when I might consider
going back up there.

Thanks for your comment.

DieCastoms (author)BeachsideHank2014-08-26

I'm in Augusta Georgia, but am another Yankee Craftsman, and will be sending the link for this 'Ible 'back home' to my father, in Connecticut! I'm sure he'll love the idea!

Thanks for posting!

GrfxGawd (author)2014-08-26

Wow, you have no idea just how many applications you may have enabled to be at my disposal, including injection molding. But of course, I look at a single 4 ton jack and think, "Why not three more?" I wonder just how synchronised they may operate if all four handles were carefully attached to a single handle across the four jacks. I suspect I might need part of an old truck frame, or salvaged smaller I beams. But first things firts, build a working serviceable unit. Then, play Frankenstien.

Ottoclav (author)2014-08-26

This is a freaking awesome project!! I can't wait to build one!

Cueball21 (author)2014-08-26

Very good job!!!!

I have been mulling around how to create just such a device for an assembly line project I'm engaged in. Building one of these will make that project - an many others, without doubt - much easier.


58cadi (author)2014-08-26

Great job. Love the clean lines and multiple use. Can't wait to build one.

tonemeister69 (author)2014-08-26

WOW! I am DEFINITELY going to have to incorporate THAT into my HF Press that I currently have! GREAT IDEA!

bruce.desertrat (author)2014-08-26

I was JUST looking at one of these in Harbor Freight a few days ago, and thinking " I wonder how easy it would be to build one of these?..."

Well, now I know!

Off to sort through my bedframe supply right now.

Also, you're right about the varying state of the bedframe materials. I've had my best luck drilling through them by using a smaller carbide or titanium nitride bit as a pilot, then using a step drill or larger drill, with lots of oil.

ktenney (author)2014-08-26

Brilliant toolholder! Nothing better than turning plumbing stuff into machine tools.

BeachsideHank (author)ktenney2014-08-26

When I gave the boys in the R&D lab the tooling assignment, I told 'em "make it so the common man or woman can do this lads, and hang the development cost." Actually though, I borrowed it from an old woodturner's tip I read years ago. He used drain fittings to hold a workpiece to the lathe's headstock using the same "X" scheme, and I've been dying to use it ever since. But please, don't tell anybody, this is just between you and me, right? ;-)

txadams (author)2014-08-26

Potential to press herbs. I'll give it a try.

BeachsideHank (author)txadams2014-08-26

I'll list that in the "Possible Use" section too.
I also forgot to mention pressing briquettes, that seems to be a popular thing
to do in the U.K.
and elsewhere.

Thanks for the tip.

dancmarsh (author)2014-08-26

Thank you so much for including metric measurements! It makes all the difference.

BeachsideHank (author)dancmarsh2014-08-26

No problem on that, it's easy to forget the internet is
global, and someone's "trunk" may be another's "boot", so a
little extra effort helps get the important stuff across.

And thank you for noticing, I was beginning to wonder if...

billbillt (author)2014-08-26

WOW!!... I never thought how simple it was to build a quality press... THANKS for this!!... Double plus good!!..

luckydogstudio (author)2014-08-26

This is one of the best written instructables I've seen. Nice work! If I didn't already have an altered shop press for my use with pottery I would build this little dynamo.

gunshw301 (author)2014-08-24

The water valve knob is genius. I have been a chump using pliers for years, will have to get this done. Thanks.

technovative (author)2014-08-22

I appreciate you ingenuity. The business end collet and the hand wheel for the release valve are nice touches.

wilgubeast (author)2014-08-22

This is a remarkably good-looking economy tool.

About This Instructable




Bio: Was it you or I who stumbled first? It does not matter, the one of us who soonest finds the strength to rise must help ... More »
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