I’ve been using a simple hydraulic press powered by a bottle jack for years to produce our stamped jewelry. The old bottle jack was a Harbor Freight 20-ton model that finally gave up the ghost. What I hated about the jack was how much pumping it took just to get to the point where it was acting on the die, so I decided to look around at other options. While I’d love an electric powerpack with a ram, as used on the Bonny Doon presses, the cost was beyond our tool budget. Likewise an air over hydraulic jack would have required a larger compressor than we have. And an Enerpack with a long lever? Maybe next time.
So I decided to try the Northern Hydraulic Torin 20 Ton Fast Lift jack. It promised quicker ram travel than a regular jack and the price was reasonable ($49.99). I installed the jack in my press and was amazed at the difference it made. I now only need a couple of strokes to engage the die — then there is a sound that is probably related to whatever bypass valve switches over for greater force (I’m guessing here, but I think that’s how it works) and it completes the pressing in another couple of strokes. Less time equals more money and less boredom.
Above, you can see the jack in my homemade press (the top isn’t that curved; it’s an artifact of the camera). As you can see I added a knurled handle for the pressure release valve so I wouldn’t have to use the jack handle every pressing. While I don’t have a huge amount of confidence in the longevity of import jacks, generally, if the jack even lasts a year of use it will have saved me a huge amount of time. My only complaint thus far is that they painted the jack with thick red paint that flakes off.