Small Fly Press Restoration project

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I’ve started this thread to document the restoration of a small bench top fly press I recently acquired via the usual on-line auction site. The press was advertised as a “Barn find project” and “rusty and not moving” which turned out to be a fair and accurate description. I’ve wanted a small fly press for a while and always enjoy the challenge of bringing an old tool or machine back to life (to use, not for show)

The final price at the end of the auction was GBP£24, about US$ 31. I guess I spent a similar amount on fuel to collect it and a 5 hour round trip in the car. (Broke the journey in the middle with a quick trip to Iron Dwarf’s forge to pick up some coke and a quick chat with the dwarf and the copper elf, always a pleasure.)


The first challenge was to remove the four rusted in bolts holding the ram guide in place. I wanted to remove these before attempting to free of the main screw just in case the ram was rusted to the guide. 


I don’t claim to have a lot of restoration experience but have learned the hard way that impatience when working on old stuff is a very, very bad thing that always results in broken bolts or blood loss somewhere along the way. With that in mind after a cursory wire brushing to remove surface crud all relevant parts were liberally dosed in Plus-Gas (my preferred penetrating fluid) and left overnight. 

Finding a spanner (wrench) to fit the bolt heads took a while, the UK went metric a long time ago but fortunately I have some imperial sized tools and an old BSA motorcycle spanner fitted perfectly and with a little persuasion with a soft faced hammer they were free. Luckily the ram was not rusted to the guide.


At first I couldn’t see what holds the ram onto the screw but after a little cleanup I could see a couple of dovetail pieces on the ram, one on each side. After some thought I decided to leave well alone (KISS and “if it aint broke......”



Moving on to the next challenge, there was something stuck in the tool hole at the end of the ram but fortunately it was threaded. after some time rummaging through my collection of non-metric fasteners I found a nut to fit:


I filled the retaining screw hole with more Plus Gas and left it overnight then rigged up a small extractor using large washers (including a recessed one from an old angle grinder) and the nut found earlier. By steadily adding washers and/or shims made from broken hacksaw blades it came free without the use of heat or brute force.  


The piece removed: It is 5/8" in diameter and as can be seen there was no shoulder on future nothing will be allowed into the tool hole without a shoulder!



Next task was to free up the screw. As I have no handle for the press I found a wrench large enough to engage with the nut on top of the press and used it with a soft faced hammer to wind the screw inwards by a fraction of a turn. After quickly making up some soft jaws for the bench vice I inverted the whole press, (glad it wasn't a Norton #6!!) clamped up the octagonal handle spigot in the vice and turned the whole press to free off the screw......that was easy!

The next job (not started yet) will be to make a handle. I'm not sure of the best way to do it yet. The handle fits onto a tapered octagonal spigot. Width across the flats at the bottom is 1 1/8", tapering to 1" at the top. The spigot is approximately 1 3/4" high.  I guess I will need to make a tapered octagonal drift then slit and drift the hole on my handle stock. I'm not sure if I should drift a tapered circular hole first or go straight to octagonal? Also as it's a single use thing I am wondering if I should harden the drift? Any thoughts or advice very welcome please.



That's it for now....




I've a couple of questions about this press; at the rear of the frame there is a tapped hole about 3/8" diameter and 1 1/4" deep. (So it doesn't penetrate right through the frame) Below that is a slit that does go all the way through the frame. I'm wondering what they are for.....possibly for mounting some kind of stripper?  Any thoughts or ideas are welcome!

Tonight I'll look through my bar stock and old bolt collection and start planning to make a few basic press tools. I'll also start making a very substantial bench for the press to sit on.


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hmm I would forge a crosspiece arm with a boss in the middle---Powerhammer time---and drill a round hole and drift octagonal---of course I have an octagonal drift on my tool rack... I'd make the ends bend up/down and round them off to hold the weight and make the handle(s) too. _or put a boss at each end of the cross bar and drill and tap for a substantial sized bolt to make weight holder or handle depending if it was mounted up or down.

I'd try to go with at least a normalized medium carbon steel for the drift; perhaps the sway bar from a lorry as starting stock or an axle the correct diameter for the tool?

I was lucky; my screwpress just sat in the nice dry corner of a toolroom collecting junk for 50 years---At the sell off auction; I talked with a retired fellow who had been working there when they originally bought it in the 1950's. He said it saw very little use as everyone wanted to use the hydraulic press they bought soon afterwards....

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Never heard of a penetrating fluid named Plus-Gas, just wondering if it's a 50/50 mix of acetone & automatic trans fluid, like we use over here. That mix works wonders on rusted parts.

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Thomas: Thanks for the advice on making the power hammer here so I'll have to do it the hard way. (Thinking of enlisting a friend to be my striker for a few hours)

Irondragon: Plus Gas is a commercially available dismantling fluid available here in's the best I've tried and has never failed yet, I find if I leave it overnight I very rarely need to use heat when dismantling rusted fixings etc. (That said I've not tried Acetone and ATF, I have some acetone somewhere so will give it  a try)

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Not a great deal of progress over the weekend due to other projects. I dug through my steel stock and found an old pry bar and cut the ends off in preparation for forging it into the handle. I also cut some square bar ready to attempt making an octagonal punch for the hole that will be required in the handle. Also found some steel rollers from a broken overhead chain hoist carriage that may be suitable as substitutes for the missing ball weight. Nos just need a free day with decent weather so I can light the outdoor forge, 40mph winds precluded that at the weekend !

metal for punches.jpg

handle and weight.jpg

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