Questions to ask yourself when considering a press. I don’t have the answers, btw, just some of the things to think about while considering presses.
What type(s) of material(s) will you be pressing? Paper? Leather? Jewelry-thickness metal? Vehicle part repair/replace? And so on.
Where do you want the tool to live? Basic options are table-/bench-top, on its own stand, or floor.
How much pressure does it need to exert? Mere ounces? A zillion tons? What size(s) of dies will you be using? The larger the surface area that needs to be pressed, the higher the pressure will need to be, thus the higher the tonnage that will be needed. What kind of pressing will you be doing?
What bells and whistles do you want? Manual? Air-assist? Computer-assist? Dials? Gauges? Mulitple pistons/rams? High-speed? Automation?
What production level are you seeking? One-offs? Batches? Day-in-day-out churning out of pieces?
Will you be able to get it to where it needs to go? Seriously! If I could afford a Potter press I’d do it in a heartbeat, but even then it comes fully assembed and I had to take it down the stairs (if we didn’t have a dolly and a walk-out basement) I’d never be able to get it from porch delivery down into the basement studio. So, that’s something to consider. The Harbor Freight press I’m eyeing appers to be less substantially engineered (layperson’s opinion only) but it comes in pieces that should be easily transported separately as needed.
Can the table/bench/stand/floor where you’ll using the press withstand the weight and the usage impacts? Maybe more directed at those looking at higher-end presses that drive the piston/ram vs. manual ones.
What are the typical parts, moving or otherwise, of a generic bottle-jack hydraulic floor press? Roughly from the top down: frame, bottle jack, jack/ram plate, ram, cutting board (for use with clicker dies), spacer plate(s), arbor plate(s), apron, hardware – Springs/Nuts/Bolts/Pins. Here’s a quick video on hydraulic presses and some more info on how they work. There’s also a lot of information out there in the ether on how to make your own if you want to do that.
So, am I getting a 2-Ton Heavy Thing?
I’m personally going with a very entry-level manual 20-ton heavy thing. I’ll be working with both leather and jewelry-thickness metals and that tonnage should be adequate for my needs. Higher tonnage might be nice to have for the outliers (e.g. coining is reputed to require at least 30 but more like 150+ depending on size) but the price jump on basic floor presses after 20 tons is more than I’m willing to spend on “what-if”.
OK, you’re in. Where do you get one? Your options, and how much you can spend for the same tonnage, are almost endless. Here are some to get your search started (pricing rounded and as of post date; no links are affiliate links).
If none of those do it for you, how about this 2,000-ton hydraulic press?