I took a printmaking class and, after the experience, I just knew that I had to have a printing press of my own.  After much research, I decided that a platen press would work for me at home, and I started my shopping.  The press I wanted was beautiful but it was expensive and the cost of shipping would double the price, so I made one.

From a photograph in a catalog that I can no longer locate, I drafted plans to build.  If I can find my original sketches, I will post them.

I did not know about instructables at the time and failed to photograph the process so much of this instructable is based on photos of the finished project, explanations and diagrams.  And while I rarely use my press, the reward of drafting plans and executing them give me great satisfaction and pride.

Step 1: Tools and Materials



Materials and Supplies  


  • Note:  With hardwoods, generally, there is one finished side and one raw side.

2” Maple
  • 6 inch wide – 9 ft
  • 5 inch wide – 9 ft
  • 4 inch wide – 8 ft           

1” Maple
  • 6 inch wide – 9.5 ft


1” Birch Plywood
  • enough to cut four 18” x 22” rectangles


Hardware  (I used all Stainless Steel hardware)
  • Two 42 inch (3.5 ft), 3/4” diameter Stainless Steel Rods (to be threaded at a machine shop)
  • Bottle Jack Guide (to be fabricated at a machine shop)
  • 8 Washers and 8 Nuts to fit threaded Rods
  • 9 - 1/2 inch diameter, 4 inch long Lag Bolts & Nuts
  • 12 wood screws
  • Two-part Wood Adhesive
  • Lacquer or wood sealer

The following may be found at Marine Hardware stores
  • 2 Snap Hooks
  • 2 Swivels
  • 4 Pad Eyes


Make sure you work on a level surface.
<p>Awesome works.. Did you ever try this for commercial use?</p>
Hi! Thanks for your comment! I can't use the design commercially. The original design belongs to someone else.
<p>Well done but as a retired letterpress printer I can assure you even with 6 tons pressure over that area you will not achieve a good impression. Try dampening the paper it will make printing easier. You'll need a pin system or a frisket to get some form of registration. Good luck there are no original wooden presses around.</p>
<p>really an excellent job! I would like to see an engraving wood remains. I do woodcuts why I say. I think quedaria different. I find it most interesting that your project roll press used to print engraving.</p>
A very detailed instuctable, but made more complicated than needed. Essentially you are making a Hydraulic press. Making it as one and then adding the larger press platen would be simpler and you now have a multipurpose tool. <br>Not to distract from a great instuctable, just another method.
Thanks, but now I have to look up to see what a hydraulic press is! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Always more to learn! and more and more and more!
Are there any videos of this printing press being used? I'd like to see it in action before I try building it for a school. Thank you to whoever can help!
No videos but if I get around to it, I will post it. thanks!
Two questions.<br>1. How much did it cost, approximately?<br>2. Do you think you could use it for finely etched copper plates (the traditional intaglio printing process)? It doesn't look like it would work, but the pressure sounds like it might be enough..... thoughts?
Hi! It cost about $300. I think I was lucky to get the stainless steel hardware fairly inexpensively (at least that is what I remember). There was a huge store that carried marine supplies galore and priced really low.<br><br>In theory, it should do fine with intaglio, but I am not sure that the pressure across the platen is even enough. Perhaps if, after the first press, you rotated your printing sandwich, and then again and again, it would turn out. Can't be sure.
Thanks! That's super-helpful. $300 is pretty cheap for this type of thing, even if you got the materials inexpensively... But I think I might be able to get a teensy etching press for like $400. Hmm... I'll weigh my options and perhaps beg for a Christmas present?
This could also be used as a paper press or book press. Nice job!
Great job on that press. Say, has anyone made a movable type printing press?
Router sign cutter would go good with this press. I had a 3x5 Kelsey letter press when I was in grade school. Grad 1955. Now have my own machine and injection molding shop. Your press is extra awesome. Old Printer.
I am envious of you and your shop...if I could start all over again...<br><br>When I retire (ha!), I would like to learn how to weld.
A nicely documented piece of work. Do you really need 6Tones of pressure though? That said, I can see this design being adaptable to other purposes how is the wood holding up against this use?
Thanks! Good questions! I wasn't sure myself about the weight capacity, but the press in the catalog called for a 6 ton jack, so that is what I got for Mothers Day!<br><br>When pressing, I lift the jack as far as I can, using my full weight and strength and I am not a tiny person (I'm not that big either). I'm sure I'm not using the full 6 tons of weight. I'm not sure what difference a 2 ton jack would make. The wood is holding up very well.<br><br>I used the press for drying tree fern fronds and some of the stipe pieces were about 2-1/2 inches thick to begin with and ended up being about 1 inch thick and very very hard. My husband, a big guy, helped me with the jack then and I had to stop him from lifting the jack too much because the stipes were being crushed and damaged.<br><br>Other than the different types of ink printing and pressing plants, it can be adapted to press foods (coconut for haupia, guava for jam, molds (I was thinking of making ceramic tiles, but might make a different type of machine for that).<br><br>What else did you have in mind? I would be very interested.<br><br>Thank you for your comment! It is much appreciated.
After studying your press, I could not find springs or counter balance to lift platen. The springs should be a little stronger than weight of platen. You could use more than 1 screen door spring on each side. I think you are right raising platen each time would be energy consuming. The weight of the platen, about 125 lbs. I would guess, would be what you are lifting each time? <br>Old Franklin presses had a threaded screw for pressure and it raised platen by turning screw backwards. Again this press is extra AWESOME. Old Printer
I'm not sure I understand. Actually, when I say &quot;lift&quot;, I mean that cylindrical part of the jack is cranking up and the jack's expansion against the Top Bar. The platen is heavy but not too heavy to manage by myself. I have a little (approximately 12&quot;x12&quot;x12&quot;) threaded screw type of press but I didn't think it would have sufficient pressure for engravings and etchings but I really never tried. I like the way they looked.<br><br>Old Printer? got to get going again! Thank you for your comments.
That really is a thing of beauty. Great job. Thanks for sharing.
Wow- fantastic job and great write up!
Wow! What a compliment, especially coming from you! Thank you so much!! You are legendary. :)
<em><strong>Beautiful! &nbsp;A piece of art in itself! &nbsp;And a great instructable-- great job!</strong></em>
:D everyone is so nice! I really loved making it but I didn't realize that other people would like it too!<br>thanks so much for the kind comments!
Absolutely amazing instructable!!! As i read through it i thought about making it more and more because the hardware store i work at has all those exact pieces! Its too rich for my blood, but it is just awesome.
thank you so much!
. Wow! Fantastic job.
thanks a lot!!

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