View Full Version : Hydraulic Press Recommendation?

04-24-2007, 12:13 PM
I've been putting-off getting a hydraulic press for a long time, and have been doing bearing replacements by freezing shafts, heating bearings, etc.
But I need to do a rebuild on my Millrite spindle, and I'm really going to need a press to do it right.

I was looking through the various posts here on building one from I-beam, but Harbor Freight has their 20 Ton hydraulic press for $189 with a 15% coupon = $160.
I'm pretty sure that 1/4" I-Beam stock alone would be a lot more than that.


I'm usually very wary of Harbor Freight tools, but for pressing bearings and such, I won't need anything near the "20-Ton" capacity of the HF press.
One thing I've noticed on the presses I've seen at the HF retail stores is that the ram is almost always welded on crooked, but that can easily be
fixed with a cutoff disc and a MIG welder.

Does anyone have any experiences with the HF press, or overall recommendations?



04-24-2007, 12:26 PM
Is the 15% cupon good now? One of them expired last month and I was toying with the same thing. I ended up using the cupon on one of their cheap porta-power units (that I sure wish I had back when I was trying to get my lathe on a pair of skates).

I have been trying to hold off for this one:


I don't need the extra force as far as I know although it could come in handy with some home-made bending dies. However, the extra size could be nice. The work envelope is larger and you never know when you are going to need more elbow room for working on an unwieldy piece or another. Shipping would add almost $100 sending it out of contention, but we pass the Springfield, MO store from time to time on our way to visit family.


04-24-2007, 12:37 PM
I bought one a few years ago. My evaluation was exactly the same as yours. Well worth the money and I couldn't buy the steel for what it cost. I doubt I'll ever need a full "20 tons" worth of press, but then again, I don't even dream that it would come close to providing 20 tons of press power. I figure it's about equivalent to a US made 12 ton and use it accordingly, though to be honest I've stalled that "20 ton" jack a few times without damaging the frame.

Likewise, the ram bar is crooked, and the moving cross bar fit was very sloppy. The slop caused some problems at first, including spitting out things at dangerous velocities. I still have not fixed the ram bar, but I made some (loosely termed) "gib strips" and added them to the sliding bar. I had planed to take it off, drill and tap the bracketing flats, and truly add some adjustable gibs. But hadn't gotten to it yet, and then needed it for something that would not work with the shifting ram, so I tacked them into place. That was probably close to a year ago... ;) Works fine and the ram moves smoothly enough for it's purpose, so I have not felt the need to "fix" it.

The horizontal feet (or whatever you call those bits of angle) are pretty flimsy. It let the whole tower sort of sway if you were hossing around with it. I replaced mine with some lengths of 4" C-Channel turned open side down, with vertical tabs on the sides that go up inside the main frame channel to locate it securely. Then added castors to make it easily mobile and set my spare 350 SBC long block on the base for stability. Also provides space for storage of things like bearing splitters, my 20" press brake I made for it, and so on.

Finally, I got tired of ratcheting that darned pump. A (nominal) 20 ton jack takes a lot of pumping when you're doing repetitive work. So I got one of the air-over 20 ton jacks on sale for $65. Big improvement.

Nothing stays original in my shop for very long... :o

04-24-2007, 12:50 PM
I've got one of the HF presses as pictured. As with most HF (and other import) items it's mostly a "kit" with modification required. As BadDog said, the horizontal ram bar fits loosely and needs some sort of gib adjustment, the ram usually needs alignment, and the base is VERY wobbly. I can deal with the pump stroke rate required as I'm not under the time gun, but it does become a nuisance for repetitive jobs. I've only needed it a few times and it worked acceptably. I have managed to bust a few things with it though (recent post on cracked bandsaw bearing flange hub). My to-do list includes addressing the issues above. All easily fixable, I just haven't gotten to it yet. For occasional HSM use I think the HF press is a bargain.


dirty old man
04-24-2007, 01:25 PM
The issue raised by BadDog and cadwiz is very real and can lead to damaged work and/or personal injury.
Gib strips added to the horiz ram bar is one way to correct it.
The 12 ton US made press I have (probably 40-50 yrs. old) solved it with 11/4" gude bars that are affixed to the horiz bar vertically out near the vertical rails of the frame itself.
These bars are long enough to go clear thru the top rail of the frame and thru bushings mounted to the top rail. they then extend on up enough to carry compression springs that return the press to retracted position when the jack's release valve is opened.

04-24-2007, 04:03 PM
Does anyone have any experiences with the HF press, or overall recommendations?



Over the years I've had various presses.

One was similar to the 20 ton HF, as I recall made in Taiwan about 20 years ago. The whole press bent when I put some serious pressure on freeing a stuck shaft. Seemed strange to me that a press would be designed such that it could destroy itself!!

My current press is made in USA, with electric pump with a double acting cylinder rated at 50 tons. This was much overkill when I bought it, but the price was right at an auction, $2K.

That kind of money may be out of most people's budget considering the usage a press gets. All I can say is the convenience of not having to hand pump and having the power return have been very nice. Now, after 5 years or so of ownership I look at the press as a frequently used shop tool.

Aside from the usual pressing of bearing type work, we bend, form, punch, shear, among other uses.

04-24-2007, 04:30 PM
Our school has a "big red" version of the HF press. I expect its nearly the same thing; made in china and of dubious quality. From what i saw with that press, its a good place to start. Everyone else has pretty much said what i was going to say, so i'll just put in my vote for "nice, but modifications needed"

I made my own press... its real heavy duty, you know 8 ton with a wooden frame :D It works for small things... very small things...

04-24-2007, 05:41 PM
Thanks for the replies!

Paul, I just got the latest Harbor Freight flyer in the mail yesterday, and it's got a 15% coupon that expires on May 15. I can scan it for you if you'd like.

That Grizzly 30-ton press looks very tempting. It's a copy of the (American) Arcam press, and at least from the picture it looks like it won't have the problems with the anvil moving around. It's also 6 1/2" taller than the HF -- the HF is pretty low to the ground.

The Grizzly also weighs nearly 100lbs more than the HF, which is a good sign.

Grizzly has 3 months, no payments, enough time to hide it from the Wife :p

04-24-2007, 05:43 PM
i just recently bought a HF press, one of the triangulated looking things. It was on a half price sale, so at about $80. it was still overpriced.
My first intuition was to build my own, I wish now that I had listened to myself.
The HF was poorly boxed, inasmuch as the box was split opened and all the hardware was missing. When I called them I got a very helpless person who tried to turn me into a helpless person as well.
Wanted me to send back the unit and wait 3 weeks for another to come in to stock. I just scrounged hardware and made do. All I use it for is small trans shafts in MC transmissions and the occasional bearing on electrical motor armature. It flexes like a big dog, scares me sometimes.
Just my humble opinion, but when it comes to presses, you get what you pay for.

04-24-2007, 06:53 PM
That's why I went with the 20 ton. Most all HF equipment like that is generally usable, just not at the rated level. I tend to cut most of their ratings in half, and feel that doing so puts back in a bit of a margin for error the Chinese importers take out. If I find that I'm still happy with the price at that rerated level, I feel ok getting it. But if it starts getting even in the neighborhood of do-it-myself or buying used US made, then I leave it at HF...

Seems to me that US stuff (old school, before the modern race for the bottom) is generally under-rated with a very generous safety/performance margin so you pretty much can guarantee to exceed the rating. The Chinese and/or their importers will not only cut it to the bone in order to make the ratings sound better, but they will look for any way to bend the rules in order to inflate it even more. For an obvious instance, look at Chinese electric motors. As I understand it, they are rated using HP numbers that are calculated (not measured) based on *PEAK* amp draw AND motor efficiency being 100%, which is why you can't tell much of anything based on rating.

Likewise, that 20 ton press is probably equivalent to an old 10 ton US made press, or what might reasonably be expected to function safely and reasonably reliably at 12 tons. That makes it about the right "rating" for most HSM guys who want to do automotive, light press brake, light punch, or similar work. That's still cheaper than you could make it, or buy a comparable 12 ton US made press (unless you find a smoking deal). The lighter A-Frame (12 ton rated?? Maybe 6-7 tons realistically?) presses are only good, IMO, for home lawn mower and modeling type work.

04-24-2007, 08:26 PM
Lazlo we have two at work . A 20 ton and something smaller. I like you was leary of them but after using themfind they not too bad for what little you pay for one.No they wont compare to Dake but the price dont eather. been thinking of a small one for my home shop.

04-24-2007, 08:45 PM
Sitting behind my BridgePort (before I moved it into the shop) is my home-made hydraulic press. Has a small electric power unit and a 7" X 10" cylinder. Boat trailer winch to raise and lower the platten. Uprights are 8" 'H' beam, platten is 7" channel iron, boxed.


Your Old Dog
04-24-2007, 10:23 PM
I have the Harbor Freight press you're looking at and I don't think my jack is welded to anything but rather sits in a captured arraignment. I think it's a bargain for the money. Only criticism I've heard about it was the cast iron plates have broken on some. Mine are fine but I normally use my on 1"thick steel plates.

If my press turned up missing I wouldn't hesitate to get another one.

04-24-2007, 11:00 PM
Being spoiled at work with a 50ton Dake and having a 20ton import at home I can say the 20 has three shortfalls.

Not enough daylight under the ram.

No setup for raising the table other than armstrong.

And the top plate that the jack ram bears on needs a stiffener as it is less than the 20 ton jack will put out.

I made up a simple crank winch to raise the table on mine and added a plate stiffener in between the top channels to strengthen up the bent top plate:D

04-24-2007, 11:29 PM
How about posting pictures of the mods that you have done to your HF press?

Also, how about describing and showing us the different fixtures and adapters that you use with your press?

Finally if you could redesign the HF 20 ton press....how would you improve it?



04-25-2007, 01:25 AM
I've got the 12ton version of their press...cost me like $80. It has paid for itself many many times over. Going on at least 7 years in service... This and my engine hoist are two Harbor Freight products that have really been a time and money saver.