Introduction: Car Jack Cider Press

About: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." - Antoine de Saint Exupéry. I long …

I built a cider press in one day with scrap lumber and a couple of steel baking pans. This press uses dowels and an I-Beam like 2x4 layout for strength.

You will need

  • 2 x 40" 4x4 lumber
  • 2 x 20" 2x4 lumber
  • 2 x 16" 2x4 lumber
  • 4 x 8"x1/2" inch dowels
  • 1 x Screw type car jack (A bottle jack would work with modifications)
  • Carpentry glue
  • 12 x 3" inch wood screws
  • A saw you can cut accurately with
  • 2 x 10" STEEL pans that nest neatly.
  • a plastic tub to place under the pans
  • Something to press
  • Something to catch the pressings in
  • A couple of 4x4x4 cubes for spacers
  • 1/2" plywood circle that just fits in the bottom of a pan.
  • 1/2" plywood square that's a little bigger than one of the pans.

Option but recommended:

  • Two drills. One for pilot holes and one for driving screws.
  • Chop saw
  • Table saw
  • Chisels
  • Flush cut saw
  • Sandpaper and wood finish/paint.

Step 1: Prepare the 4x4 Lumber

This is the most time consuming part of the build. You need to cut notches 4 inches from the top and bottom of each 4x4.

  1. Mark out the notches on one post using your 2x4 as a template.The notches should be exactly the actual width of your 2x4s.
  2. Cut the notches. I used a table saw sled to remove the wood one blade width at a time and cleaned up with a chisel.
  3. Mark the center of the notches by drawing an X with a strait edge on the diagonals.
  4. Drill a 1/2" hole in the center of each notch.
  5. Using the first post as a template mark matching notches on the other one.
  6. Label the TOP and BOTTOM of each post.


  • Make sure your 4x4 are exactly the same length
  • Use on 4x4 to pattern the other one.
  • Make sure the notches line up exactly and fit a vertical 2x4 snugly.

Step 2: Install Cross Braces

You now need to install the two cross braces in the notches. There are 4 notches. Repeat the following steps for each notch. Pay attention to the top and bottom of each notch.

  1. Center one of the long 2x4s in one of the notches.
  2. If it doesn't fit snugly use a small wood wedge to fix it in place.
  3. Using the existing hole drill into the 2x4 with you 1/2" drill bit.
  4. Take everything apart
  5. Apply plenty of wood glue
  6. Put it all back together and insert the dowel with plenty of glue but not so much the dowel won't go in all the way.
  7. Cut the dowel off flush
  8. Drill a pilot hole above and below the dowel about 1/4" from the dowel.
  9. Screw in two of the 3" wood screws to hold things and clamp them while the glue dries.

Step 3: Install the Top and Bottom I-Beam Braces

Attach the small 2x4s to the top and bottom of the cross braces. When you push up on the cross piece with the jack it's going to want to bend in the middle. This will give it rigidity. It will also try to break off the top of the 4x4s. As the tops torque this board will brace them as well. (At least that's my theory, it's plenty strong whatever the mechanisms)

  1. Using plenty of glue place a 2x4 flat on the top cross piece.
  2. Make sure the wide part is against the cross piece.
  3. Pilot drill a couple of holes at each end down into the cross piece
  4. Use wood screws to fasten

Flip the assembly over and repeat for the other I-Beam brace.

Step 4: Install the Jack and Pan Braces.

Now you just need to fix the jack to the top middle of the brace and add a bottom support for the bottom pan.

  1. Find a way to hang the jack from the top middle of the top brace. If it has a plate with screw holes it will be easy. If not you may have to improvise. I used a 3/8" hardwood strip sandwich with some bolts to slide under the top plate.
  2. Secure the plywood square in the center bottom with a couple of screws.

Step 5: Drill Some Holes

  1. Drill 4 - 8 holes in the side of the bottom pan close to the bottom for the juice to run out of.
  2. Cut a hole and make a spout in your plastic pan.
  3. Test the spout with water to ensure it doesn't dribble. It may require a bit of pipe or shaping.

Step 6: Press Something

  1. Place the bottom pans on the press. Center the steel pan.
  2. Place some clean cloth over the bottom pan. It should cover the pan with about 6 inches to spare on each side.
  3. Be ready to catch juice. It will start coming out before you start pressing in some cases.
  4. Place your stuff to press on the cloth, if you do apples puree them beforehand. You can fill up the bottom pan.
  5. fold the cloth over the apples securely
  6. Place the other pan with the wood insert on top of the apples.
  7. Using your 4x4 spacers and the jack start pushing on the apples.
  8. Make sure everything stays centered.
  9. Turn the jack as much as you can. (If you hear the wood strain, then stop! My jack wasn't strong enough for that but a bottle jack may be)
  10. Catch the juice

Enjoy the fruit (juice) of your labor!