People that maintain and repair their own vehicles and equipment will eventually have a situation where they need a hydraulic press. Handymen seldom need a hydraulic press unless they don't have one! Here's how to rig your own simple hydraulic press in a pinch with items that may already be lying around your shop collecting dust. As a precaution, always wear protective eye wear when using presses. If the cost of materials will exceed fifty dollars, forget about making your own--new 6-ton units that are hard to beat are available from discount sellers for about $100.
Searching for Materials
The heart of a hydraulic press is a hydraulic bottle jack in good working order. Most do-it-yourselfers have one lurking in a corner of the garage. If not, units are available from Internet outlets and discount chains for about $12 for a 2-ton unit, and about $25 for a 6-ton unit. After locating a jack, a strong frame will be required that can adjust to the height of the work to be pressed. Use 2-inch threaded steel pipe for small applications up to about 2 tons for frames. The press will require two pieces of the threaded pipe to a length of at least the height of the retracted jack, plus the desired press depth, plus at least 6 inches for the long legs. It will also need two 8-inch long threaded nipples of the same pipe. Locate four 90 degree threaded elbows, and two 4 by 4 inch pieces of steel plate at least ½ inch thick. The latter will comprise the work platforms at the top and the bottom of the press. Finally, find two 6-inch long sections of the next pipe size down that will join the top and bottom after cutting.
The long pipe sections will have to be cut in half to allow assembly of the 4 threaded corners with elbows. These are all threaded connections. The 6-inch long pieces of slightly smaller diameter pipe will fit inside the 2-inch cut sections halfway up each side. Drill holes for ½ hex bolts to go through the outer cut pipes, through the 6-inch joiner sections. One bolt is required for each of the through-holes in the 4 resultant cut ends. There will be 2 through-holes drilled through each joiner pipe to match the through holes in the cut ends. The flat plates need to be welded to the inside surface of the top and bottom 8-inch sections, to hold the jack and the work piece steady while jacking the press. Weld on small gusset pieces to reinforce the flat plates on the round pipe both front and back.
Using the Press
Always soak a tight press fit joint with rust-breaker oil or other penetrating oil. Tapping it with a mallet can help break a frozen taper fit. Always jack the press a little at a time and tap the joint a little. As the broken fit starts to slide, soak it with penetrant. When pressing on new parts, make sure they are perfectly straight so as not to gouge them.
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