Etching Press Showcase
Steel Side-Rail Designs
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Steel Side-Rail Press | Wood Siderail Press | Small Bench Press | Customized Designs
The press designs on this page are constructed mainly of Steel, Stainless Steel or Aluminum
Thanks for your plans! They made building my new press a breeze, with only a few minor modifications. I am waiting for my blankets to arrive before I can use it, and am also adding a designated 300sf printmaking studio as well to my large art studio (fineartist.com). I have also started building a smaller press with wood sides that will be quite unique. I will also send photos when that one is complete. Thank you again!...and feel free to use any of the photos for your websites.
Here are some pictures of the press I recently completed. In the last photos the press is pictured with an inking cart. The granite top should clean up easily and be very handy to store supplies in. We had saved it from an earlier remodel, its reuse here is perfect! The bed is 30 X 65 of cast aluminum, should be very flat. The rest of the press is made of 6061 aluminum jig material. The cart holding the press I was able to fabricate out of steel I had left over from a previous project, the top is a used solid core door, I picked up at a construction recycling center.
I am a long-time (part time) fine art photographer -- photographing and working in the darkroom for more than 40 years -- but I have turned to printmaking in the last year.
I have never had a lot of money, so I have built almost all my own equipment -- including my own cameras and darkroom equipment.
I could not even begin to afford purchase of an etching press, so I decided to build one from scratch. I have developed reasonable machining skills from having built the cameras, etc., so I designed and built the thing from complete scratch (with my own two hands - no outside labor or services involved) from "scrap" raw materials which I collected slowly over a half a year.
The bed of the finished press is 24" wide, and it is 34" long overall. It is made (mostly) of 3/4" aircraft aluminum (6061), though some parts are heavier.
The platen is fully supported by steel rods and plastic bearings for the full length of the bed.
I made the rollers using a somewhat unique design, at least for what I observed in my study of existing designs. They are a composite assembly of steel and aluminum. They were considerably more difficult to make than solid rollers, or hollow rollers with welded ends, would have been. But I did do some analysis of what I thought the stress loads problems would be; I believe the finished rollers are stronger than equivalent-sized solid steel, but weigh about 1/3 as much.
The upper roller is 3.5" diameter; the lower is 2.9" diameter. I turned them on my lathe so they are concentric and smooth within 0.001" over their entire size.
Weight (or lack of same) does seem to be the biggest problem with the press -- it only weighs about 150-ish lbs. I made a "crank" drive instead of a "wheel", so there is a fair amount of "vertical" force in the direction of lifting the press for 1/2 the turn. I need to make brackets to bolt the press down to the cart I made.
The press has a 1::2.8 chain drive made from ANSI #40 chain and solid steel sprockets. That has a breaking strength over 8000 lbs -- strong enough for sure!
The upper roller "tensioners" are driven by 1/2-20 steel threaded rods. Then,even with relatively crude paper scales to gauge the top roller's height, the actual height of the top roller can be easily determined within about 0.005", because the screws lift or lower the roller 0.050" in one complete turn. Hence, no micrometers are needed to achieve ablout 0.005" repeatability.
I have also made a UV light box suiltable for up to 16x20 prints, though I only have a 14"x17" (home made, naturally) printing frame.
I have also been doing a lot of research into digital negatives (well, digital positives), starting with the techniques in Mark Nelson's "Precision Digital Negatives".
Some pictures of the press we built with you excellent plans. The bed is 40 inches wide and 60 inches long. As you can see we added an chain system on the top to automatically control the pressure evenly on both sides. Not a classic feature, but very practical and time saving! Thanks a lot! And good luck to all those who are building their etching press now, it's definitely worth it!
Here are some pictures of my new press built by some local students from plans. My wife got me your plans for my birthday last year and though the total price of the press was reasonable it was still slightly out of reach at a thousand dollars and it was difficult to find a shop willing to do custom work. On a long shot I contacted the local high school technical center and explained my situation. As it turns out they were looking for a project and had much of the stock on hand from a military discard, which saved me quite a bit. I spent just over $300 in materials and $150 in labor -Total cost $450 - I'm excited to say the least.
The press is much like the one in your plans though a little longer with 5' rollers instead of 6' . It look like a tank and felt like one too as four of of us carried it up three flights of stairs to my studio.
Thank you for your quick responses to my queries and making your plans available.
Just a note to let you know that my press is on the production line. Though very much inspired by your plans, which gave me the confidence to start, I have re-designed much whilst drawing on your information. Attached is a photo of the main frames on test assembly. I have some drawings in dxf format, including those for laser cutting the frames, which I can send to you when the press is proofed. You might want to add them to your library of information. I also have a list of UK suppliers for all the 'interesting' bits - took me three months to source all the parts here!I'm a student of the third age studying Art at UCB (University of Huddersfield).
Printmaking has now completely taken over my life. It's very addictive. My tutor says that my embryo press is akin to a Sherman Tank, but added that, while the college presses are 'Fords' mine will be a Rolls Royce. (Hope that doesn't get lost in translation!) I'll keep you posted on progress. I expect to take three months over construction fitting it around my assignments.
Dear Mr. Forsythe,
I'm an german artist. Some months ago I ordered plans for an etching press from you. Now the work is done and I realized an fantastic etching press to a relatively low budget (approximately 900 dollars- the tradesmen who realized the press from my/your plans insisted in quite expensive steel ensuring a high quality product with a very high-grade look. An etching press in an comparable quality should be viable for only 500 dollars, but in the end I'm very happy with the look of stainless steel).
Thank you very much,
Andrew K Gott
View It Here!
Here is a rather well documented press project by Andrew Gott. It shows how determination gets the job done!
"This was a FUN project- And I saved myself a small fortune!"
I owe you a ‘THANKS’ and LONG overdue! So... THANKS! One of the best $25 I ever spent!I used your plans to jump-start my 5x10 foot stationary bed pinch-roller press and... Well it all worked out very well! http://mlyon.com/2005/10/large-format-woodblock-printing-press/ was my first post about your plans and my work... But maybe the best illustrations are in videos... Have a look at http://mlyon.com/2006/02/movie-aspen-grove-pigment-application/ for one example of the press in use. You’ll find others if you look. Again, MANY thanks, Doug! You were a great help! Mike Mike Lyon
Kansas City, MO
Walter Di Marino
As I promised, I send you some better pictures of my portable press. All the press is made of aluminum anticorodal, an aeronautical league, the cylinders are cm. 52 wide and have a diameter of mm. 140.
If I need to move the press I take off the bed (cm. 130x52) that weights nearly 18 Kg. and I deplace everything by myself. The press itself weights around 30 kg. So I thing the total weight is less than 50 kg. (less than lb 111).
Finished press bed is 36" x 66" rollers are 34". It works
smoothly. You may notice that the gear box is quite thin as the axle end on the
bottom roller which was adapted from a different design was only 3".
This necessitated quite a few changes. the paint is a hammered finish silver.
the heavy duty casters on the bench so that the press can be moved around
and the great pressure turn screws and custom wheel. Fine job Paul!
Mel..... a thing of beauty
I'm speechless! I'm sure you will all agree a great press for a great
Here it is. Rollers are 31 inches long and
6 3/4" OD. The bed is 34X60. I'm a bit out of practice but it looks
like it will print well, once I get the hang of it again....................regards...........
32" roller width. 8" diameter top roller, 6" bottom
Sailboat steering wheel for a drive wheel (required changing the
shaft on the driving sprocket to a 1" shaft to fit the standard 1" key way
in the wheel). I powder coated the steel parts in a beautiful copper-vein
hammered finish to complement the copper spacing pipes. I'm currently
using a melamine bed, but am looking to upgrade to something a
little less compressible (perhaps Aluminum with a phenolic resin
laminate?). The press is installed at Saltgrass Printmakers (www.saltgrassprintmakers.org)
where it's being used with great results!
The size is 33.5 x 55(bed). Works great, real smooth. I am looking forward
to building another now that I know it works so well. Hoping to sell
the next one and at least pay for the first.
Sincerely, Doug Jaap
And thank you for your helpful comments I'm sure they will be of help to other press builders
Note the welding on the top.
High quality acme threaded rod with brass machined insert bolted in place. Note also the nylon washer above the nut, which is fixed with a set screw to adjust the tension on the washer. No up-down slop at all.
My answer to calibration issues. The top roller is calibrated to the bed, and then the two dial calipers are zeroed. We still need to adjust this to vertical.
The old bicycle crank works really well for the crank handle, with the axle cut in half and inserted into a hole in the 5/8" rod end. Then welded into place. The handle is some kind of plastic that was lathed to fit on the peddle shaft.
The bed is two 1/8" hardboard layers and 6 1/4" hardboard layers glued with white glue. Total cost is $50, so if we have to re-do it with epoxy it isn't a big deal.
I had to weld plates to the back of the sides to hold it in a vertical milling machine.
Realistically, you need access to a machine shop to do it yourself. I turned the bottom roller on an older lathe, but it vibrated terribly. We sent the upper one out to be turned, and they did a terrific job for about $120. I went high end on some components, and the total amount was about $1700. But I feel I have a $4000 machine in terms of accuracy.
Thanks for your great plans.