Q&A: Hydraulic Press

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What Type of Press to Use?

Question

Can I use a press from harbor freight? Or should I try and get a expensive potter USA or Bonny doon?

Answer

Here is some information from Nicholas and Felice at Etsy Forum.

Tonnage is really dependent on what you want to do. Simple doming with matrix dies should be easy with an arbor press but more detail/heavier gages requires more tonnage. The arbor press makes things like disk cutting (Although I use a Heinrich lever action press for that, principle is the same though) and dapping easy as well. You can even use it for stamping with letter stamps, better (and slower) than

Here’s information from Kevin Potter of Potter USA.  Here’s their shopping site.  They carry a press for $325.00 to $550.00.
One more, my friend, Sue Lacy’s press modification.

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How to get my modified Harbor Freight Press to work?

Question(s)

Part One:  Here’s a problem I’m trying to solve: texturing metal with my hydraulic press.

It’s a cheapie from Harbor Freight, but I figured it should still be able to impress a texture plate (Bonny Doon) onto 24 or 26 gauge sterling silver, dead soft.

I tried it all kinds of different ways, including with a 95 hard urethane pad that’s 1/16″ like the instructions say. I’ll have to anneal the metal now. But I’ve cranked and cranked that thing and I still get vague impressions that I can rub off with my finger. Curiously, though, there are areas where there’s a gap where only the urethane pad, the silver, and the texture plate pop out where they shouldn’t get any pressure at all, and that little bit looks great!

So I’m trying this: cranking fewer times to lesson the pressure…so far that hasn’t worked, but I’ll try some more after annealing.

Part Two:

I didn’t get the photo of the hydraulic press, but it’s just like Sue Lacy’s Harbor Freight press before she modified it.

See how each HF platen doesn’t cover all the metal because it’s curved? Well, in the areas not covered by the platen (that only had the silver, the urethane disk and the texturing plate sticking out)? Those small areas got embossed!

That’s why I’m thinking I was using too much pressure, but I stopped experimenting because I was wasting a lot of metal. I’ll use the info. you sent me as a checklist and go over everything.

Part Three:  I do have a regular unmodified cheapo press. I annealed a piece of silver I had tried earlier. (brown spots: no time to leave in pickle!)
My basic setup is in the first picture.
The next pic shows how I made the “sandwich.” From bottom: black platen thingie, steel block, texture plate, thin silver strip (forget, maybe 26 gauge ayyy), red polyurethane thing, more black platens on top of that.
The third pic illustrates how part of the sandwich isn’t covered by the black platen thing, it sticks out because of the shape of the platen. Last time I was only getting bits of texture on those parts, which seemed strange to me. No texture in the middle of the silver, which was under and being pressed by the platen.
I had been assuming that I didn’t need to straighten out the metal. Annealed, it was deforming just as I held it in my hands. I hadn’t wanted to hammer it and then have to anneal it again…and it would flop again…
Anyway, I pumped until I couldn’t pump any more but it got me more texture in spots. The next pictures show how I got texture in spots in the MIDDLE of the silver this time!
One mistake in my previous try might’ve been to use too much pressure?? Dunno but I remember using 20+ pumps last time. . . this time I  could only do 9 pumps. The mistake this time has to be that I didn’t completely flatten out the silver, dunno about last time.

Anyway, I’ll try annealing the silver again and make sure it’s all straight and even tomorrow, and let you know.
Hmmm the brown spots didn’t come off after pickling and scrubbing. Hope I didn’t make it worse by pressing on it. Any suggestions for cleaning it would be great.

modified-harbor-freight-hydraulic-press

Answer(s)

Part One:  I have no idea how the harbor freight presses work.  Have you gone in and talked to them?  Sounds like it is unbalanced or not machined properly.  Have you checked out some of the sites on the web?  Sue Lacy has a modified HF press.  

Is this your press? Inline image 1  My first thought is that you aren’t getting enough pressure to imprint.  But, without pictures and knowing your process, it’s hard to know.
Here’s one video on using it and a Ganoksin post.

Parts Two and Three:   You need to put a flat, smooth  piece of steel over the top of the metal.  The metal is probably bumpy because it’s not receiving even pressure. I’ve never seen such a bumpy piece.  Is it possible you are giving it too much pressure?  Does the metal looked stretched?  Is that top piece of steel covering the entire width of the pattern sufficiently?  It looks too short.  Maybe it’s causing some problems.  Can you find some smooth flat steel sheet?  I order from Online metals but, you could source it at a metal junk yard – perhaps. I’d check out my other suggestions first.

Try a softer, thicker piece of urethane like 80 durometer.  There isn’t much “give” in that thin, hard piece you are using.  Also, have you tried flipping the whole setup over?  Have the urethane down, then the metal, next, the pattern plate and finally, the steel. I don’t see why that would change anything but, what the heck.
Wish I could see the patterned side of your metal.  Are you getting adequate patterning?
My guess, in summary:  uneven pressure and not a soft/thick enough piece of urethane.