Hand-Built Flat Press

The flat press was built from 1 4′ x 8′ sheet of 3/4″ plywood, several 1″ x 4″ boards, 1 veneer press screw, 1  18″ square piece of granite.  Varnish, glue and 6 bolts are also needed.  I used a circular saw and saw guide, drill press, and miter saw.

I worked out a plan that used a 12″ veneer press screw, and then a plan for cutting the plywood:

The plywood is used to make the base and the platen.  Because I don’t have a table saw, I cut the plywood using a circular saw and a saw guide.  This worked much better than I thought and the pieces turned out to be correctly cut (with the exception of one piece where I was about 1/8″ off, whew!)

The base is made of 20″ square pieces (4) and the platen is made from 16″ square pieces (6 or 7).  They were cut from the 4′ by 8′ plywood according to this plan.  A one foot wide strip of plywood is left over (which I wanted for a different project).

The guide is clamped onto the board, and positioned to allow for the distance from the edge of the saw to the blade.  The four pieces were glued together and clamped with strap clamps.  The same process is followed for the platen.  I ended up only using 6 of the platen pieces (because 1 of them was off in its dimensions).

The frame for the veneer press screw is made from 1″ x 4″ lumber (3/4″ x 3 1/2″ actual dimensions).  The top is made from alternating 27″ (4) and 20″ (3) pieces, and the sides are each made from alternating pieces of 18″ (3) and 14 1/2″ (4).  The drawing gives the total number of pieces needed. Once cut, these are glued together with the strap clamps.  The base was used to square up the legs and make sure that they fit snugly.

The press was sanded and a hole drilled for the veneer press screw, before varnishing each of the pieces.  Three holes were drilled in each of the legs to bolt them to the base.

I found that a piece of metal was needed to protect the wood platen from the veneer press screw.  I had previously made friends with the local granite counter top company and had them cut me an 18″ square scrap to use as a flat hard surface for printing.  The granite sits on padding material so the wood base isn’t scratched.

The press in action:

What I would do differently:  The connection between the legs and base isn’t as solid as it should be.  The pressure exerted by the screw pushes against the bolts and their connection to the plywood base.   So far it has not been a problem, but I think it will eventually loosen too much.  It would be better to build the base from 1 x 4s and connect the base to the legs in the same was as is the top.  For this design more 1 x 4s would be added to the sides of the base to make is as big as the 20″ square plywood.


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