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March 2005 Willies Workbench Homemade Shop Press

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on March 1, 2005
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Jeeping buddy Mark Pickles was on a New Zealand ski vacation and brought me back a 4x4 magazine from the land down under: New Zealand 4WD & Sport Vehicles. It's very similar to Four Wheeler, with articles on trips, new vehicle tests, competition coverage and tech articles-even ads for a lot of American-built products.

On the last page was an article that really caught my eye. It was a simple homemade shop press. Now just about everyone I know has had the need for a hydraulic press, but without one, we just use a B.F.H. to drive the part on. Sometimes this results in broken parts and even a broken thumb! Just about everyone I know also owns a hydraulic bottle jack. It's a pretty handy tool that has more uses than just jacking up your vehicle to change a tire. And yes, I've used it to press bearings on a differential by placing it between the vehicle's frame and the differential sitting on a plate on the ground.

But why not make a simple frame to set the jack in that can sit on top of your workbench? It doesn't have to be pretty, or overly large, but it's important that it be strong. Might be even able to put it together with some of the metal you have left over from other projects. Use your imagination as to the material needed. You could even bolt it together if you don't have a welder. Do keep in mind that you're working with a lot of pressure. Even a cheap bottle jack has a 2-ton capacity-that's 4,000 pounds of force! A broken weld or a snapped bolt could lead to a serious injury.

It can be built to any size you like with material used proportional to the application. Perhaps make it light enough in weight to be portable so it can be set out of the way off the shop bench when not needed. Make the base wide enough to ensure stability. Most small jacks have at least 4 inches of travel and another couple of inches in the screw shaft. You can adjust the height even more with wood 2x4s and 4x4 blocks placed between the frame's base and the bottom of the jack.

Keep some flat steel plate of various thickness as well as an assortment of old bearing races, tubing ends and short round stock around for press plates. Your homebuilt press may not be quite as user-friendly as a commercial press, but the more you use it, the more uses you're going to find for it. One thing for sure-it's going to beat a hammer and a smashed thumb.

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