Pressing Needs – Dave’s Garage

I recently purchased a tool I have been having a hard time living without. It is something that any shop should have, yet I have been working for years without one. I just purchased a 20 ton press. A press is really handy, almost essential for pressing out bearings, u-joints, ball joints and many other jobs.

20 ton shop pressA tool needs to justify the expense, and the floor space it takes in my garage. I have been looking at presses for years. I decided I needed at least a 20 ton, a 12 ton would not be strong enough. I saw prices around $1,000. That was way out of my budget. Harbor Freight had this 20 ton, and it had all good customer reviews. The price? $199. I don’t know how they can sell them so cheaply. I can’t even buy the steel to make one for that price. This press is well made, and very strong. It does not look any different than the $1,200 presses I’ve seen elsewhere. As with most tools Harbor Freight sells, I would not rely on them to make a living, with 8 hour a day use. For occasional use however, most Harbor Freight tools fit the bill.

I tried to order it on line, but the shipping would have been roughly $100.00. This purchase had to wait until I was near a Harbor Freight store. I tried to buy it the end of February when I was driving through Springfield, MA. Unfortunately, the Harbor Freight in Springfield didn’t have it in stock. On my way home from an MG event in Norwich, NY I stopped at a Harbor Freight store. Success… stock, $199.00 as advertised. I also bought a bench top 1 ton arbor press for light press duty. It was only $50.00. I’ll keep you posted on how they work.

Out of necessity I have learned a few tips to get jobs done without a press. When I have to replace a bearing, I usually hammer the old part out. If it is really stuck, I will use a cutting torch or a hammer and a chisel. I place the new part to be pressed in the freezer for a few days. I take the outer part (that the part is being pressed into) and place it in the oven for 20 minutes at 300′ (don’t tell my wife). The difference in size caused by the temperature extremes causes press fit parts to easily fit together. I recently rebuilt the transmission on my Saab. All the bearings are press fit, but I did not use a press. I used the freezer/oven trick for all of the new bearing installations, and it worked like a charm. The bearings just fell into place with a light “clunk” then the temperatures equalized and the pieces were tightly married together.

The temperatures that the parts were exposed to is no more than the parts will see in use. I only put all metal parts in the oven, and the temperatures on a cold winter night are colder than in the bottom of my freezer.
The oven/freezer trick takes time. The parts have to sit in the freezer at least overnight, and it takes time to wait for my wife to leave the house so I can borrow the oven. If for any reason I assemble the parts in the wrong order, I need to start all over again. The oven/freezer trick only gives you one shot to assemble everything correctly, and you only have a minute or two before the temperatures begin to equalize and the parts won’t fit. I’ve also been living in fear for years… Waiting for the investable day when my wife would come home early and catch me cooking automotive parts in the oven.

I am glad I finally have a press. It will be a big help with future projects. It is a tool I should have purchased years ago. Now that I have it, I can’t believe I lived without it for so long.

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477


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