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Advice about hydraulic press wanted.


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What is the best hydraulic press for a beginner(ish) on a budget? I'm looking for one to draw out 1/2" to 2" round/square and also make damascus. I've heard of converting a logsplitter to a press but it sounds like there could be problems there.

Edited by Emery White
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Not sure what your budget is... I reviewed Coal Iron's smallest offering here: Coal Iron 12-Ton Press - Tools and Tool Making - Bladesmith's Forum Board (bladesmithsforum.com).  They do have financing available.

 

I love it, and it is great for small-sized projects like you're describing. And if you can weld at all, you can easily make your own dies for lots cheaper than they sell them.

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Your question doesn't really have a answer, there's just too many variables to say “This press is best for beginners” Plus, while many of us have used a number of different presses, I don't think any of us have used enough presses to claim a broad working knowledge of which press is best for beginners.

One point to consider, if you get a press just to get started, how soon will you outgrown that press and can you afford to spend the money a second time. Look around where you live and see if there's any smiths that might let you get a taste on their press. There's nothing like in-person advice and tasting. Having said all that, I've used the Coal Iron 16 ton and it appears fine for general use. 

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When it comes to presses and budgets, the less money you have the more fabrication skills you need to keep the costs down.  I don't have one for that very reason. :lol: Not a good enough welder/hydraulics guy to build one myself, too cheap/frugal/otherwise financially involved to buy what I know to be a good one.  The ones from Coal Iron seem underpowered to me, but I am used to homebuilts in the 30-60 ton range and the Uncle Al's from Riverside Machine that I know can do anything you could ask of them.  

 

If you're not comfortable working with serious hydraulics, try to find someone who is to give you a better idea of what works and what doesn't. The forces involved are pretty dangerous if you don't know what you're doing.

 

Which brings me to the log splitters.  The gas-powered ones work fine as forging presses.  A little slow, usually, but built to take some pressure. If you're a good welder you can easily make dies and die holders to replace the stock wedge and baseplate.  If you're not a good welder, don't try it yourself.  A sheared weld at 12 tons can send a chunk of steel several yards downrange, and if you are in the way it will go right on through.    The electric ones aren't powerful enough, unless you get one of the really big ones, at which point it'd be cheaper to just buy a real forging press to start with.

 

So: If you have a decent gas-powered splitter, there's your cheap option.  If you'd have to buy one, it's no longer the cheapest way to go.  Finally, cheap is usually the opposite of safe and/or good when it comes to this kind of equipment.  

 

Edit: Gerald posted as I was typing.  He is absolutely right. 

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Thank you. I will look into those and I greatly appreciate the advice.:D

 

Would presses or power hammers be better for making small billets of Damascus? (About knife sized billets)

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If you want to make the modern patterns, a press has a slight advantage.  If you want ancient patterns like composite multibar twists, a hammer does a fine job, since the guys who invented those patterns were working with hand hammers.  If you want to do powder mosaics, a press is a must.

 

Hang around, visit your local smithing guild, see how things work.  If you're just getting started, take a year or two to learn the basics before dumping serious cash on this.  You'll be surprised what you can do with minimal equipment. And then, if you still want to do it, you'll appreciate the power tools that much more!

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if i were buying only one i would prolly get a good size press

 

if i was building only one i would build a tire hammer

 

as it is i built a press and years later started to build an air hammer and picked up a old hammer before i finished the air and then another hammer (help)

 

the press will be more neighbor friendly the hammers for when you dont care any more :lol:

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Brandon Sawisch bladesmith

 

eagles may soar but weasels don't get sucked in to jet engines

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I bought a Riverside machine (also known as Uncle Al's).  Last I looked it had the best price per tonnage of presses I could find.  It is also really easy to make dies for it.  I mean if I can do it anyone can.  I had them put wheels on mine so I could move it easier as well.  There are several people on YouTube who can give U a good review.  I would definitely recommend one.

 

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I'll add a bit of info to @Tim Cook's comments on Uncle Al's:  the one big thing I don't like about the Riverside Machine press is that you can't really use combo dies on it, because you need to keep the stock as close to the center of the ram or you will get some significant 'racking' of the frame.

RIP Bear....be free!

 

as always

peace and love

billyO

 

 

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That applies to most any press, except for home-built heavy-duty H-frames.  As long as your steel is hot and you don't try to chase the last of the heat it's not a huge issue.

 

On the press versus hammer thing, that's been discussed at great length around here in the past. The biggest two things to remember are 1.) that a press will stop working at around 1/4" thick steel, since the dies suck the heat out too fast to keep pressing.  Hammers can go as thin as you want, if that's what you're after, and 2.) if you're making a straight laminate pattern, i.e. you're just stacking steel and you want the cross-section to look like parallel lines, presses work from the inside out due to the chilling effect of the dies, and hammers work from the outside in.  If you turn the cross section sideways, a pressed billet in which you  tried to take too large a bite will look like this when etched: |))|(((|.  A hammered billet you work too long will in turn look like this:  (((||))).  It's easy to prevent that, just keep the billet hot through and don't try to chase the heat all the way out.  

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