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Arbor Press Sizes: What You Need to Know

Whether you have an at-home workshop or you’re at a job site, an arbor press is an essential piece of equipment. This device allows you to cut and shape various materials, and its relatively small size works well in most spaces.

When buying an arbor press, you need to know the right size. When sizing your arbor press, there are two elements to pay attention to: tonnage and throat depth. Tonnage means the amount of force you can bring down with the ram (head). The throat depth refers to the space between the base and the ram. So, you’ll need to figure out the proper measurements for the type of project you’re doing.

Let’s dive into the world of arbor presses and see how they can work in your workshop.

What Is An Arbor Press?

JET AP2-M, 2-Ton Arbor Press (333620)

This machine is a hand-operated press that allows a user to exert incredible force upon an object. The way an arbor press works is that the operator pulls down on a handle. Inside, a gear translates the handle movement into downward force.

Larger arbor presses enable operators to exert several tons of pressure on an object without needing an extra-large handle.

The head of the arbor press is called a ram. This piece presses against the material on which you’re working.

Arbor presses can work with metal, wood, or plastic. You can also swap out the ram tip to do different jobs.

There are three types of arbor presses: single leverage, ratchet, and compound. Here’s a quick rundown of each model.

  • Single Leverage – This is the smallest option and often ranges from one to three tons. Single leverage presses only have three or four moving parts, making them more affordable.
  • Ratchet Press – A single leverage model allows you to move the handle up or down. A ratchet press locks the handle in place with a ratchet system. These units also have a separate handle for controlling the ram to enable you to work faster. Ratchet presses are larger and more expensive than single leverage models.
  • Compound Press – If you need to exert a lot of force, you should use a compound press. This machine transfers minimal energy into as much as 15 tons of pressure. You can also convert your compound press into a single leverage model if necessary. These presses range from six to 15 tons, and they’re the most expensive option.

What Are Arbor Presses Used For?

Arbor presses are highly versatile machines that work well for:

  • Staking – Connecting two pieces with interlocking sections.
  • Riveting – Installing rivets into your material.
  • Punching – Creating holes inside the material.
  • Bearing Removal – Removing ball bearings from a piece.
  • Embossing – Imprinting a design onto a surface, such as leather.

Arbor Press Size Guide For Different Projects

JET AP2-M, 2-Ton Arbor Press (333620)

Before buying an arbor press, it’s essential to know what size you need. However, size doesn’t just refer to the tonnage of the machine itself. You also need to know about throat depth.

Let’s break down the different options available and see for which jobs they’re best used.

Arbor Press Tonnage

You can find models ranging from 1/2 ton to up to 20 tons. As you’ll notice, presses with a more significant tonnage will be much bigger than those that don’t offer as much pressure.

Typically, one-ton or smaller models work best for jewelry and hobby crafting.

Since you’re working with relatively thin and light materials, you don’t need much pressure to perform various tasks. One-ton presses work well for leather, plastic, and some softwoods.

If you want something a bit more versatile, a three or five-ton press is going to be your best option.

These models are small enough to go on a workbench or table, meaning that you don’t have to dedicate a lot of floor space to your machine. Five-ton presses work well for hard and softwood, and you can do some light sheet metal alterations.

Finally, if you’re working in a professional workshop, we recommend buying a larger arbor press – possibly up to 20 tons.

In some cases, you might need a hydraulic press to get even more pressure.

When you ask arbor press enthusiasts which size is best, they’ll tell you to buy the largest model you can afford (and that you have space for).

You can always use less pressure in an arbor press, but you can’t increase the force beyond the maximum limit.

Throat Depth

JET AP2-M, 2-Ton Arbor Press (333620)

Although tonnage is vital for choosing an arbor press, you also need to ensure that you have sufficient space in which to work. The throat depth is the distance between the ram head and the unit’s base. So, the larger the depth, the more room you have. You should also measure the space behind the ram.

Throat depth is crucial because it dictates the size of the pieces you can work on. A smaller space is pretty limiting, especially if you’re working with oversized materials. In some cases, you might have more than enough tonnage, but the throat depth may be too small for your needs. Overall, you need to check both measurements to ensure that your press is sufficient for the work you’ll be doing.

FAQs About Arbor Presses

How Much Is An Arbor Press?

If you’re buying a small tabletop model, you can expect to pay between $100 and $400 for a high-quality press.

However, this price is for one to three-ton machines.

For larger presses, you’ll wind up dropping several thousand bucks on a single device. Massive 20-ton presses can cost upwards of $25,000.

Do I Have To Mount My Arbor Press?

If you’re setting the press on a bench or work table, you need to fasten it somehow. Otherwise, the whole machine could wobble or tip over with too much pressure.

If you don’t want to mount the press permanently, you can use vice grips or something similar to hold it in place.

Do I Need To Wear Safety Gear When Using An Arbor Press?

Yes, you should wear gloves and safety goggles when using this machine.

Since you’re applying so much pressure, a part could break and fly off toward your face. Also, if you’re holding the piece in place while pulling the handle down, gloves can help protect your fingers.

As you can see, arbor presses are highly versatile machines that work well in virtually any workshop.

Now that you know more about how they work, you can find the best size to suit your needs.

Happy pressing!

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Joshua Garcia, Founder

Hi, I'm Joshua. I created Maker Industry to share my passion for maker tools and help others learn about 3D printing, CNC systems, laser cutting and more. Learn More