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90 Ton Hydraulic Press For Under $500 [Mockup]


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I need a cheap but powerful hydraulic press in the $300-500 range to help with forge welding / making damascus on a budget. $200-300 log splitters are too weak, $1500+ log splitters are powerful but expensive, a $5000-10,000 industrial press is out of the question for me.

I think an automatic press would be too expensive (just the motor alone will probably go over my budget), plus it adds lots of complexity to the project. So instead, I'm thinking about keeping it cheap and simple by using manual jacks. I can get 3x - 30-ton bottle jacks from princess auto for around $350 total. The rest of the money would be spent on the metal frame. Overall it would have 90 tons of total pressing power for under $500. 

I can think of some possible issues:

  • Getting 3 presses to all work in-sync. If one is pressing more than others it can put negative strain on the system.
  • Releasing pressure from all the bleeder valves at once. (I think I have ideas to solve this) 
  • Inability to lower and raise quickly - slow reset time

Please critique the build idea as much as possible. Are there any issues I'm not thinking of?

I made these rough mockups in photoshop, click image or here for full size:

pvFPjnw.jpg

Note the frame in the image is just a rough mock-up it would be re-enforced where necessary.

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One thing you need in these presses is speed and a the ability to controll it along with force and i don't see any of that in your design.In other words you need to be able to squeeze the material quickly and release it quickly and repeat before you lose the heat in the material thats why hydraulics are the best.Save your cash till you can build or buy a press..I'm not trying to be to critical on you but i've built one so i got a bit of experience around them and if you look around long enough you can gather the parts and build a nice hydraulic press..

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If you build this with the intention of making Damascus billets you will be disappointed. It just wont have the speed. Not a good design for a forging press, as speed would be the most important factor. There really is no 'cheap' or 'budget' design that is going to work very well. Have a look on the forum at presses that have been built from scratch which have been successful forging presses, I don't think you will see a bottle jack in any of them ;)

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As mentioned: Speed!  The biggest problem with presses is that the long contact times suck heat from your workpiece.  Where a powerhammer may actually heat up a piece with many rapid blows, the slow apply-release, apply-release will cool the piece off making it a bad choice for welding billets larger than can be accommodated in one action.

Just buying the motor you would need will probably break your budget!  What are your welding skills like?  Willing to trust your life and the lives of anyone in the shop to them?  If you are a good scrounger you may be able to find and modify a used system; but you will be looking at one for scrap rate and hope to rebuild it.

If I said I wanted to build a Formula 1 race car for under US$5000; what would your reply be? 

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Better and safer choice to accomplish your goals for pattern welding and damascus on a budget would be to either hire and train a striker, or build a simple tire  or "Rusty" style power hammer.  You still need fabrication skills, and a power hammer parts will likely cost at least $1K (depending on your scrounging abilities), but the build is less likely to be catastrophic and the end product likely more versatile. 

How much pattern welding have you done?  You know it is certainly possible to do them by hand to see whether you truly want to continue with them.  Regardless of the equipment there is still a lot of time, effort and waste involved in pattern welding, and you may find out it really isn't your cup of tea once you do it.  I really thought that I loved hamon on blades, then made a couple with them and found out that I really didn't care for it after all.  At least I didn't make an investment in new equipment to figure that out though.

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bubba682 - I appreciate the input, especially the constructive criticism. it can save me lots of wasted time and money. I'm trying to think of a workaround to get past the speed issue.. it's a tough drawback! The force is controlled by manual jacking.

Johnytait - I need a very powerful press for cheap, from what I've seen nobody has made one yet, it might not be possible. All the good presses are out of my budget so I have no choice but to try to innovate / improvise (which might end up being a waste of time - I'm ok with that). I might not build it, but it's worth doing a bit of brainstorming.

ThomasPowers -  I think maybe one thing that can help counteract the speed deficit is the sheer amount of pressing force. It should be able to crush a billet as much as I need in 1 single pressing cycle. The slow part is the release and "reset", I'm trying to think of ways to reduce that.

Latticino - The problem with a power hammer is that I'm surrounded by fragile suburban people :P. They will call cops / bylaw. I'd have to rent a garage in an industrial sector to use it. A press would be ideal since it's relatively silent.

Is this possible or do the parts not exist? I'm thinking of taking out all 3 bleeder valves and merging those into some kind of high pressure "master release valve". Basically it would look like this:

YIZXGVm.jpg

This high pressure valve is just a random one pulled off google images. The idea is to have a centralized release mechanism that can drop the pressure on all cylinders at once just enough to break the clamping force and back the cylinders off by 1-2 centimeters. I'm not sure if this even exists since 90 tons of pressure should have a PSI high enough to probably destroy most specialized hoses and valves fairly easily? The price of those hoses and valves might make this project a no-go as well.

 

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ovlt51s.jpg

Can open and close the 3 bleed release valves based on a lever of some sort. I played around with a bottle jack in my garage and it seems possible.

If I get strong springs to pull down the cylinder it should only take a second to drop 1 centimeter and then I can rotate the billet, quickly shut the valve in 1 pull and start pressing again. Manual jacking is slow but it's especially bad to have to jack up the full length of the cyclinder. Jacking 2-4 CM of total distance doesn't take long from my test on an old 3 ton bottle jack. If I go really fast I can do 1CM of distance in 1 second.

I'm getting the itch to try and make it.

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apex,

In general blacksmiths are known to be frugal problem solvers.  I don't want to kill your dream here, but if there was a cheap and effective way to build a suitable forging press it would have been done many times.  That is an area with much interest and lots of people putting their minds and effort into it.  In my opinion you are trying to reinvent the wheel from ground zero. You may come up with something no one has ever done before that works well, but the odds are against that.   In the end my prediction is you will have spent a fair amount of time and money on something that doesn't function well for its intended purpose.  So far what appears to me to be the least expensive yet effective way to go is to modify a 20 ton or more log splitter, especially if you already have one or can pick up a used one cheaply.

I don't think you're really grasping the combination of speed and power needed to make a decent forging press.  Using any kind of hand pumped bottle jack configuration will most likely not even allow you to get one full press on the hot steel before it cools to much to move.  You really want to be able to do several cycles before having to reheat the steel. I had considered using air over hydraulic bottle jacks.  We have a couple rated at 30 tons in the shop.  When I watched those in operation (at 150 psi air input) with a load on them I concluded that even they were too slow to be effective for forging - although admittedly I've still been tempted to try.

If you decide to go ahead with this let us know how it works out for you.  If you do come up with the next big thing in forge presses we will want in on it. 

 

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I'm really curious how it would move the steel as well. From the videos I've seen a modified 20 ton log splitter will compress a billet like butter. I'm get you though, even at 90 tons the manual jacks seem like they might not perform well.

I wonder how much force I'll have to exert on the jack on each stroke (while its compressing a large billet) because it needs to go up and down FAST, repeatedly, multiple times per second for the cylinder to move at a decent rate. I could definitely see the project ending in failure, but I do think there's maybe potential for success. Spreading the load across 3 jacks might really help if I can make it feel seamless.

Next issue is the cost of the frame :huh: is it possible to make a stable frame for around $150? I'd need thick blocks of metal for the press plates as well. Any recommendations are appreciated.

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A hydraulic press is a potential bomb with often large shrapnel. Just winging it is like driving blindfolded with someone in the back seat shouting instructions in your ear. Watching what folks on youtube cobble together actually makes the bomb allegory more likely. 

How about you stick to learning the craft by hammer and hand, selling your products as you go so by time you know enough and have enough skills to maybe successfully make damascus blades you'll be able to hire someone to build you a hydraulic forging press. 

Wait until the end of winter to look for log splitters, we're just getting into needs fire wood season so even used ones are going for premium prices. 

Learn patience grasshopper it will serve you well.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Note:  you cannot get more energy out of a system than you put into it; so if you are putting all the energy into the jack(s); you could do as well with a hammer.  The idea of making a press is to have a nice large motor pushing energy into the system and making use of that!

Laws of Thermodynamics paraphrased:    You can't win.  You can't break even. You gotta play the game...

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Frosty don't worry I'm not planning to win a Darwin award anytime soon! I'll ask you guys for advice along the way to make sure it's as safe as possible. My cousin is a talented machinist so he can help me too. Thick steel and very large industrial grade bolts will be used. I'll try my best to make sure it's very basic but safe.

ThomasPowers I don't know almost anything about physics or thermodynamics but if I hammer a cold 4mm thick piece of mild steel plate 50 times it will be slightly dented up, if I create a punch using a 4 ton jack it will tear straight through the cold metal in seconds (very easily and quickly with much less effort). Something to do with leverages, gearing and concentration of force I think. I don't really understand it and haven't looked into it much. Same principle may apply to crushing a billet?

 

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As you say yourself, you know almost nothing about things like basic physics. What makes you THINK a 4 ton jack will tear straight through cold metal in seconds? On WHAT do you base that? To quote you, "I don't know almost anything about physics," and you are attempting to make an argument based on the very physics you, "don't know almost anything about."

Look we aren't trying to stop you from learning the craft, we're trying to prevent you from wasting a lot of time and money on things you don't" understand, know how to use, let alone know how to design and build.

You are so far out of your depth you don't know where the ball park is. 

Keep thinking about things though, it's good for you.

Frosty The Lucky.

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The reason I mentioned that example was because I just watched a guy do it on video. He used a manual 4 ton jack inside a very simple welded frame and he punched through 2-4mm cold steel plate clean and easy (it warped the surrounding metal a bit but overall it was a clean punch). In the same setup guys are easily crushing 2mm thick rectangular stock (1" diameter) into a flat bar. With 20x the crushing power of their setup (and a much, MUCH beefier frame) I think I can push a billet together. I maybe wrong, and I'm very open to admitting that.

I'm ok with learning through failure as long as 1) it's only time and money on the line 2) I don't get seriously injured or die.

I believe there's enough possibility of success to give it a try. I'll update sometime in the coming weeks!

wX7Ezz5.jpg

 

 

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Here is another thought for you if you have issues with noise and want crushing power.  Research fly presses.  Unfortunately the used ones are a whole lot more common over in Europe, but if you can lay your hands on one you can do a whole lot of work even more quietly than a hydraulic press.

BTW, I am also in a residential area with relatively close neighbors.  I don't forge a whole lot with it, and am careful to keep inactive during evenings, but I have a small power hammer (Anyang 33) and haven't had any complaints yet.  My shop has insulated and sheet-rocked walls to attenuate sound, and the 33 is a small hammer.  In use it is no louder than my neighbor's lawn service (possibly even quieter...).

If you are determined for a hydraulic press I would agree that a modified log splitter is the way to go.  See if you can find one with a bad gas engine.  You are going to want to replace it with an electric motor anyway, so that can be a way to get one cheaply.

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Speaking of close neighbors in a residential area. I used to hand forge on my Soderfors in my "yard" in a trailer court, the neighbor's mobile home was less than 30' away.

I tried to never do any smithing after dinner time. I sharpened every: kitchen knife, lawnmower blade, pair of scissors, wood chisel, etc. in the court. The only complaint I ever got was from mothers who couldn't get their kids to come home for dinner without shouting. I usually had a dozen or so kids watching me and if they didn't behave they had to leave. 

PR is important if you have close neighbors, mine got to where didn't even care when I got out the 9" Milwaukee disk grinder and there's no quieting one of those down.

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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I didn't read anything above me yet, I assume bomb has been mentioned by everyone, that's worst case scenario based on your honest assessment of your welding abilities and fab equipment. It's a real life don't cheat yourself scenario. That said, you're going to waste a lot of time and money hodge podgeing random log splitters together. You've probably made your mind up if you're going to do it already, but I'd advise you to start off with baby steps. Just buy a harbor freight air/hydraulic jack and use that in a frame, they can be very capable in that role. Or just use one log splitter, don't think a rube goldberg contraption of a bunch of log splitters is going to be any better than just one when you are forcing yourself to be a cheap skate on parts.

That said, deals are out there for hydraulic presses if you go the air/hydraulic cheap route and wait until a real press comes along. I bought a 60 ton extremely fast industrial press for $400 as example just searching Facebook marketplace. I've seen 3 small presses, and multiple power packs in the last 6 months at auction, so keep an eye out for industrial auctions and scrap yards you can buy from. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another thing that may or may not help you out... 

Are there any other smiths near you?  Could you go in together and share cost? 

Is there a maker-space close enough by that you could rent time on a power hammer or press there? 

I've found there is usually a smithy set up to teach classes pretty close by where I've lived.  Reach out and contact them, they may let you come and use their shop in exchange for work or for an hourly rate.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The bottle jacks arrived, had to special order them for some reason. $99 CAD/unit seems dirt cheap. The metal frame for the press is soaking in vinegar to remove the rust. I still need to source more plate. Going to the salvage yard tomorrow..

pdEDMrI.png

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