Economy Hydraulic Shop Press




About: 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 the other. - Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

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.



  • Fandom Contest

    Fandom Contest
  • Frozen Treats Challenge

    Frozen Treats Challenge
  • Pets Challenge

    Pets Challenge

39 Discussions


2 months ago

I needed a press to use in conjunction with my bullet swage, so I made this basic unit.

I've been getting pretty good results swaging cores poured out of pure
lead, not such good results using melted wheel weights. Besides being
free, wheel weights seem to be more easily removed from my core molds. I
decided I needed a press. Being too cheap to buy a commercial press, I
made my own. It works fine for my purposes.

The top and bottom bearing pieces are 4"x4"x18" treated pine left over
from some project. The upright pieces are 2"x4"x24". The bearing pieces
are connected with 3" screws and 1/4" bolts. The bottom pieces a
2"x4"x12" and are connected to the uprights with 3" screws. A piece of
2"x1/4"x3" steel protects the upper bearing surface. Height adjustment
is via scrap wood. Pressure is provide by a 1 ton hydraulic car jack
from Harbor Freight "borrowed" from my wife's pickup. Out-of-pocket cost
zip, since I already had everything I needed.

Hydralic Press 3.jpgHydralic Press 2.jpg

2 years ago

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

1 reply

4 years ago on Introduction

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!


4 years ago on Step 5

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.

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Step 5

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.


4 years ago on Step 4

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

2 replies

Reply 4 years ago on Step 4

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


4 years ago on Introduction

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.

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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.


4 years ago on Step 12

Very well executed and explained, a fine instructable.


4 years ago on Introduction

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


4 years ago on Introduction

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.