In 1883, an engineer and general inventor, Robert Greenerd, took out a patent for a small hand-operated machine which was named a press and since then, the arbor press has been used through the years. This leaves us the question of what exactly is an arbor press and its uses.

An arbor press is a small hand-operated tool that makes use of gear theory to multiply its leverage when pressing. The arbor press comes in different shapes, ratings, and has multiple uses. They are used in woodworking shops, by jewelry makers, metalwork and other industries to punch holes, shape metal, or fit bearings. In this post, we explore the uses of arbor presses and the different types available to you.

What are Arbor Presses Used for?

 An arbor press is used to add a slow, steady pressure to items or specific sections of an object. Any object that can be fitted into the throat of an arbor press can be pressed according to specific needs. With the arbor press, you can choose to cut, punch holes, or emboss objects by simply changing the tool head attached to the arbor press.

In the design and leatherworks industry, arbor presses are used for cutting out patterns from leather. In this case, the arbor press presses the shape onto the leather surface until the pattern is produced. In the jewelry industry, the arbor press is also commonly used as a cutting, punching, and pattern embossing tool. The force an arbor press provides has the ability to punch through some metals without damaging the surface, unlike other pressing options.

In the automobile industry, the arbor press also features as a mandril press. Here, the arbor press is used for press-fitting bearings and embossing metal objects that fit in its throat. The arbor press is also used in woodworking for creating patterns and metalwork that enhance the functions or aesthetics of a woodworker’s piece.

This list highlights the fact that the arbor press is used across diverse industries for different tasks. This has always been so since its founding in the 19th century.

How an Arbor Presses Works

The arbor press is a compact machine with different parts working together to produce a press. The components of the arbor press include the ram, a recoil spring, a lever arm, an arm stop, the press caul, and the arbor base.  When using an arbor press, the item to be pressed is placed on the base and the lever arm is pulled down.

Pulling down the lever arm turn an internal pinion cog the pinion gear rotates along with the toothed rack of the ram which forces the press caul onto the workpiece. This action leaves its mark on the workpiece which gives you your pressed item.

Applying the lever arm generates the required pressing pressure and this pressure is determined by the diameter and the number of teeth in the pinion and rams gear arrangement. The pressure a press provides also decides the ratings used in categorizing arbor presses on sale. This rating is the tonnage rating. Tonnage rating is the maximum pressure a press can safely provide when putting to use. Thus, when purchasing an arbor press, look out for the tonnage rating and the force it can safely provide.

Types of Arbor Presses

There are different types of arbor presses but only three are popular because of their commercial success and widespread use. These three include the following:

The single lever press

The single lever press is the more common arbor press and you are likely to see it more often than other options. The single lever press has few moving parts and is generally rated from 0.5 to 4 tons. The few components within this press make it easy to use and all you need to do is pull the lever arm to press objects.

The ratchet press

This press comes with a handwheel which helps with positioning the ram to apply maximum pressure. The handwheel is also the differentiating factor when compared to other presses. Once you see a press with a hand wheel by its side, it’s most likely a ratchet press.

The compound leverage press

The compound leverage press is used for heavy applications and serves as more of a professional-grade arbor press than a DIY tool. The compound leverage press is capable of delivering pressure above the 6-ton mark. The compound leverage press can also be converted to a single leverage press if the need arises.

Arbor Presses to Consider Purchasing

When purchasing an arbor press, the things to look out for are its tonnage rating and if it is fit for the purpose you intend to use it for. If DIY pressing is your plan, then the single lever press may be the better option and here are some arbor presses to consider purchasing:

Palmgren AP05 0.5 Ton Arbor Press

This arbor press is made from cast iron and integrates a steel ram powered by a milled pinion. The press has a 0.5 tonnage rating which is enough for your DIY projects.

SE JT148RR Ring Stretcher and Reducer

This is a common arbor press used by jewelers to stretch and reduce rings. The press is made from cast iron and has a tonnage rating of 0.5. The SE arbor press is a bit expensive and you will have to part with at least $160 to get a new one.

HHIP Robust Press

This is a single lever press for DIYers. It is easy to use and one of the more affordable options out there. You can purchase the HHIP press for $50 and for this you get a press with a 0.5 tonnage rating with 4 position steel anvil.

BestEquip Screw Press

This is a ratchet press with a 1-ton rating and made from premium iron. The ratchet press is great for personal projects and commercial use due to the stability and pressure it provides. The press is affordable and costs within the $70 to $90 range.


Arbor presses are versatile tools used for cutting, punching holes, embossing patterns, and adding pressure on items. It is one of those tools you purchase and keep within your workshop as a need for it will come up sooner than later.