Making tools – a hand press made from scrap metal

Posted: January 5, 2011 in Uncategorized
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We use our hand press to set rivets and snaps, and punch holes in thick, tough materials.  The problem – we only have one press, and have to change out the tooling on it everytime we want to punch a hole and then set a snap or rivet in it.  We needed another press.  I saw a simple press at at a leather shop in the Bay, and decided to make one out of scrap metal. 

This is a worn-out towing hitch from a tractor.  It will become the body for our rivet and snap-setting hand-press.  The bandsaw is from a junk store down by Yuba City.



Trailer hitch marked for cutting with a torch



Rough-cut with a torch, and ready for grinding.


After grinding the edges of the body, I welded on a piece of pipe that will become the cylinder that the press shaft slides up and down in, and also, the pipe will hold the anvil at the bottom that carries the bottom half of two-part snap and rivet-setting dies.  I needed the top and bottom shafts to be perfectly centered with eachother, so I used this single piece of pipe, and then cut the center section out once it was welded. 



I had a piece of hot-rolled steel from another project that is the the right size to fit inside of the pipe cylinder to act as the ‘ram’ for the press.  I couldn’t accurately drill a hole in the center of it with my drill press, so I took it to a small machine shop in North Chico called ‘Machine Works’ and they reamed out a 3/8″ hole in the center of it for me.  Most snap and rivet setting tools have 3/8″ shafts – these tools slide into the 3/8″ bored shaft. 



Here I have cut away the un-needed sections of pipe, and cut a length of the steel rod to act as our bottom anvil, or tool-holder.  Notice that the anvil fits loosely in the pipe.



This piece will become the mount for the handle – on top of the press body.



Cut out with a torch.



The pipe that I used for the cylinder was welded pipe, not seamless, and the bored shaft was about a 1/16 of an inch smaller than the pipe.  I used some galvanized flashing to shim the pipe to just barely fit the bored shaft.



Shimmed cylinder with shaft in place.  Threaded eyebolt on top of the shaft will attach to a linkage from the handle, pressing the shaft down when the handle is pulled.  I welded a nut onto the top of the shaft which allows for adjustment to the length of the eyebolt – so you can adjust the clearance at the bottom of the shaft if you need to use larger tooling or punch thicker materials.



I needed to have two identical pieces for the linkages that connect the handle to the eyebolt on top of the shaft.  Rather than trying to get the holes perfectly spaced on the drill press, I cut lengths from some commercial shelf brackets that had holes at 1.5″ centers.



Here is a cut, ground, and stamped linkage piece.



Handle, linkages, and eyebolt on top of the shaft.



Tapping threads into the shaft for the setscrew that holds tools in place.  I used the wrong sized tap and broke it off in the hole, thought that I had ruined the entire shaft, but was able to punch it out and retap it with the right size.



So here is the fully assembled press.  The shaft, moves up and down in the cylinder, holding tooling (hole punch) which presses against the bottom anvil.  In this case, the bottom anvil is a 3/8″ bolt. 



I thought about just welding the body of the press to a steel baseplate, but decided that I might want to attach it to something else in the future, so I drilled the press body, bolted on some angle iron, and then welded the angle to the baseplate.



Mounted on the table and ready for use.



Wrapped the handle with some old handlebar tape.



Punching holes and setting snaps.


  1. DSKVR says:

    Really, really cool. Thanks for sharing this DIY 🙂

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