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Pressed Tin Ceiling Tiles

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Howdy folks,

My wife and I are planning on eventually installing pressed tin ceiling tiles in our house, and we were playing around with the idea of making them ourselves. The only information I've found about the process was on wikipedia. They mentioned that they were originally produced using drop hammers and cast iron molds. I was thinking of making mild steel dies and using a shop press. Has anyone done anything like this? It would seem like I wouldn't need to use that large of a press? Any info or advice is much appreciated :)

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I have rubber pressed copper ceiling tiles and light switch plates using a cast zinc dies or cnc machined plastic bottom dies. There is plenty of information on rubber pressing on the net. You may even be able to use a press that uses a bottle jack. The capacity of the press is a consideration for large tiles.

The advantages are simple setup and simple die production.

The dissadvantages are you need a larger blank to limit the formation of wrinkles; so you have to trim.

I will try to find some dies from around the shop and send you a picture.

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The traditional presses that made these tile were a free falling drop press.

They were phsyically quite large presses but I do not know the tonnage.

The presses in the factory I am familar with are rope operated press. They had a constant turning shaft or drum with several wraps of around the drum that was connected to the ram (hammer). The operator pulled the rope tightening the around the drum, lifting the ram. At the right time the operator released the rope allowing the ram to fall.

I assume board hammers were used as well but I do not know for certain.

A board hammer is a common type of hammer still used in drop forging. The board hammer has a long heavy board attached vertically to the ram. This board is located between 2 counter rotating rollers. When the operator actuates the press the rollers clamp the board lifting the board and ram. When the ram reaches near the top of the stroke the rolls open and board and ram fall.

I have considered making a power hammer of this design. It would require activation every stroke and control may be difficult as how long you hold the controls the falling height and energy of the falling hammer.

I feel the idea in the earlier post of of the hard topdie and the resilient lower die has merit. Typically the lower die is urethane and this concept has served well for lower volume work. Hard top die pushes the steel into the resilient lower die conforming the steel to the shape of top die.

The blanks will need to oversized and trimmed to exact size after forming.

I would search the net and see if information exists on the size of press required. Of course the actual tonnage will depend on the type of detail your tile has. (more detail = more tonnage)

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use mild steel plate and mig your design and use a resilient bottom die and press. you would need your force equalized acrross the die (large die).

I was thinking about the need to equalize the force of the press. Would having a very thick die take car of the problem on it's own? That way the outer edges of the die would have no chance of bending, or not pressing fully...
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As promised ... I have some pictures of tooling I use to make pressed light switch plates. I have not used them for some time so there are a few missing pieces... including the 50t press. Also age is preventing me from remembering some of the details.


is a close up detail of a abs die. I made this die with pin router attachment and a dremel tool. CNC routing will make a smoother die but unless there is a radical mistake or the stock is thin that level of detail does not transfer.

is a full view of the die.

is a view of the box I use to press the plate in. The 5/8 plate resting on the top is the "pusher" that the hydraulic ram presses against. Not shown because it is missing, is the rubber blanket that sits between the die/work and the "pusher". The pusher fits relatively tight to the box.

is the result of a pressing. You need to make the blank larger then needed and then trim the excess. This has to be determined by trial and error. The stock is 24oz copper. Anneal first!

Although it is hard to tell from the picture of the die; the cut out where the switch protrudes is under cut slightly. This will actualy punch that section out. Usually this only works fo a few impressions and then you have to pre cut them. To make the under cut I used a router dovetail cutter. If you make your dies from steel they will punch that section out much better.

one last thing ... well ... two things. 1) You need to experment a little with rubber density ... I used a piece of rubber belting. Harder rubber will make better detail but will wear ABS dies out much quicker. 2) use soap to lubricate the dies NOT oil or wd40. Lubrication makes much better pressings !

I am sorry I can not find any of my lead or zinc dies, they are better if you have to produce a lot of pressings; as the dies wear out you can just cast new fresh ones.

I hope this helps you out a little.

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  • 11 years later...

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