Friday, February 8, 2013

Tools That Make You Go Hmmmm: Arbor Press

Bubbly: Sterling silver, CZs, Brass and Faux Bone

The unfortunate truth is that Harbor Freight is next door to my daughter's music lessons. Need I say more? For months now, I have ambled past the arbor presses and thought, "hmmm, what could I do with this?" I do not own a hydraulic press (yet) so every week I try to convince myself that this would be a great, inexpensive alternative to such a press. Of course, I know this to not be the case, but when the 1 ton press went on sale for $49, I couldn't resist.


Disc Cutting
The first thing I tried was to punch discs in metal and leather. I placed a bench block under the arbor press ram and topped it with a cutting mat to preserve the edges of my cutting tools. Success! I easily punched 24 gauge brass and leather using my disc cutter, as well as leather using hollow punches. If nothing else, this is well worth the $49 to me. It saves my hammering arm (and head) when I need to make multiple discs. I suspect, with some experimentation, I will be able to set snaps and rivets in leather...will update you when I go down this path!



Just for Fun...
And then, just for fun, I thought I'd try forming techniques that would normally be done on a hydraulic press, but in miniature. I started with a nylon spacer and a solid brass half sphere that fit perfectly into the spacer. I placed a 24g annealed metal disc on the spacer, centered the sphere, rounded side down, and used the arbor press to push the sphere down, creating a well in the metal. Success! The result was a cute little "fried egg" shape (see pendant above). I could repeat these results consistently as long as the metal was fully annealed. When it wasn't properly annealed, the metal tore at the edge of the dome.


But why?
I always ask myself this question...am I using this tool because it is truly a right tool for the job, or because, hey, I got it for $49! So I tried the same technique using a hammer and using a dapping block and punch. While I eventually got the hammer to work, I spent more time trying to find the brass half sphere that flew across the room when my hammer strike wasn't centered. The dapping block was difficult to line up the punch with the hole and, even when annealed, the metal tore... and I risked damaging my block. So in this case, yes, the arbor press actually is the right tool (at least in my arsenal) for the job.


The Final Product...
I am committed to getting better at soldering this year, so you will notice that many of my new projects are soldered. I have provided the steps for making the pendant, but know that there are many other ways to solder it together. This is simply the way that worked for me as I practice and experiment with soldering.

1. Form patterned, annealed metal discs with the arbor press(or hammer), as described above

2. Coat both sides of the formed discs in Firescoff (or flux) so you do not have to pickle between solder joins

3. Layout the discs as desired and place a 3X3 SS crimp bead where the discs intersect

4. Drop in a small hard solder chip (medium if using a butane torch) into each crimp tube, heat around the outside of each tube one by one until the solder flows.

5. Turn the piece over and use medium solder (easy solder if using a butane torch) to solder a piece of brass tubing (to serve as a bail) onto the back of the top disc and a 9/32" tall Crafted Findings rivet, head down, into the depression of one of the discs.

6. Pickle. Patina and polish as desired

7. Set the stones as shown in my Crimp Tube Stone Setting blog

8. Punch/drill 1/16" holes in the center of a contrasting metal disc, piece of leather and/or Faux Bone and place on the rivet, using the Crafted Findings tool to flare the rivet. (Check out my next blog for a quick trick on getting centered holes everytime!)

And your done! Want to try it out yourself?? I have nylon spacers and brass half sphere sets that I will send to the first 6 people who request one in the blog comments. If you are among the first 6, just email me your mailing address at melissa@melissacable.com.

Thanks for stopping by...create recklessly this weekend!

Melissa

36 comments:

  1. This looks like an awesome new technique to try - who knows what might be next - Do you have anymore brass half spheres and spacers left?

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  2. Oh, oh, me, me, me, please?
    I'll email my address. :>)

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  3. Hmmm... An arbor press. Now that does sound like a lot of fun! I love the idea of being able to punch out discs. I would love a spacer and sphere set!

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  4. Oh, and BTW, I LOVE Harbor Freight!

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  5. Would love to try.
    HF - few blocks away for me, dangerous place!!

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  6. Would love your free offer of nylon spacers and brass half sphere sets. I will email you my stuff. I'm an old metalsmith that switched to beading but the metal beckons me sometimes so I really enjoyed reading your blog.
    thanks so much
    Dana Rudolph
    ps: Harbor Freight has some interesting stuff. I live about an hour from one of their shops and I love it when I get the time to go there.

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  7. Thanks all! I rounded up another 6 sets, so keep submitting your comment/emailing your address and I'll be happy to mail them out. Last night I also successfully embossed leather with the arbor press using a brass texture plate...beautiful impression. Have a great weekend!

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  8. Sweet technique! Ummm....you know my addres!!!

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    Replies
    1. Surely you knew one was on its way to you regardless of your post!

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  9. Melissa you are the most generous artist I know thank's for sharing all your experiments, if you still have it I will appreciated a set. Any ways the advice is good enough.
    Thanks' Mariela

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  10. Have 7 sets left (found 2 more). An additional update, Robert Dancik suggested I use Faux Bone instead of the cutting mat (my hollow punches get caught in the mat now and again) and it worked great! Now, why didn't I think of that!

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  11. What a great idea! I LOVE Harbor Freight! I have been eyeballing the Arbor Press for a while. Guess where Im going this weekend! I would love one of your sets! I will email you now. Thanks!

    Angi Mullis dj2isme@aol.com

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    1. Great, will look for your email.

      SAFETY TIP: Make sure to screw the press down to a sturdy bench securely. : )

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    2. Thanks for the tip! My hubby said the very same thing! Im surrounded by smart people!

      Angi Mullis dj2isme@aol.com

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  12. Melissa - thank you! (I think.) Love that a $49 tool can do this, but I would've not been reckless enough (excuse the pun) to try it. I need to get out of my box and just try stuff! Until then - thank you!!!

    HF isn't that close to me, which is probably a good thing, but last time I saw it I knew I was supposed to go in.

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  13. I would like a set if you find more. The disc set you used--is it the harbor freight one or is it the peep tools?

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  14. Love this - and I was just looking through my Harbor Freight ad. May have to make a trip tomorrow! Thanks for always inspiring me to try more!

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  15. Pretty cool what you did! I experimented with a vise just the other day in lieu of a hydraulic press. This 1 ton press may be the answer I've been looking for! Merci beaucoup!!!

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    1. Robert Dancik teaches a class that uses the vice as a press, so I know it works..I just don't have a good, heavy vice. Would love to see your experiments!

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  16. Being that close to Harbor Freight could pose a problem for me...how many of those yellow and black tool bags does one really need?

    My favorite HF tool is the 8" table top brake/shear; an impulse buy of DH's that I have taken over. (He must have a had a good coupon since it's kinda spendy.) It has terrible on-line reviews, but I love it for cutting and folding thin metal sheet(usually 26ga); does a straighter job than my sawing.

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    1. oooo, don't temp me Susan! (See ya soon!)

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  17. Hi Melissa
    I have an arbour press too...I got some basic shapes cut from thick acrylic like squares, heart, circle...love the puffed metal effect!

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  18. Oh I forgot to say I also got an engineer to make a hole in the "blade" plus a little side screw to screw in punches. I then use polyurethane sheet(60-80 Duro). annealed metal and then the die and pull down the handle to make puffed metal shapes.

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    1. Annette, you must send me some photos so I can share. I was just trying to figure out who I could call to drill into mine so I can insert my snap setters...what type of shop did you call? Love the idea of puffed shapes and hope we get to see them. Thanks for sharing!

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  19. I will definitely be looking at the arbor press. Thanks so much for sharing. jrgkuhn@gmail.com

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  20. i am not one of the first 6 but where can we get that set?? also that arbor press could be a god send for all of us that cannot afford the hydraulic press, hammering metal has become a problem for my back that is ruined after a life of being a nurse, this could be a solution, i wonder about shipping charges! aloha, angi in hana

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    1. Hi Angi, yep I have a few more. As long as you emailed me your address I will get it sent. Thanks!!

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    2. Hi Melissa,
      I love this technique. Harbor Freight has a 1/2 ton arbor press that they are selling for approx. $35. Do you think that might work as well as the 1 ton for the fried eggs?
      sara

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  21. Melissa, any chance at all you have one of those sets left?

    Janet.

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  22. You wrote this post 2 years ago, but it is new to me. I bought your book on leather jewelry. You mentioned the arbor press in it. I have since been on a mission to find (or make) unique shaped cutters. I don't want to pay $120+ for an industrial-strength cutter. Any suggestions?

    Carol

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  23. Noise Question - Arbor Press -

    Do you find that this is quieter than hammering? I put aside my jewelry making because I live in a condo and I really like hammering ornate wire patterns flat but it's too loud for too long. Is this faster and less hammering, can it just be squished without tapping the top at all? Your thoughts would be appreciated :)
    Thanks!
    Shan

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    1. Hi! This probably wouldn't work for that...sounds like you may want to consider a rolling mill. That would allow you to flatten your wire patterns quietly and efficiently. The arbor press is good for pressing and punching. : )

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    2. Thank you so much for that advice - I had no idea that rolling mills existed. I like the look of the durston style, but I may check out something under $500 to start. Great Info! Thanks :)

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  24. Wow! You've solved my problem with cutting circles in leather. I just couldn't get perfectly round circles with the leather scissors I'm using, now I know how.

    One question: There's 1/2 ton, 1 ton, 2 ton Arbor presses out there. What Tonnage is your press?

    I'm using off cut leather from furniture making, so not the same veg tan leather as you've used here in your experiment. It's alot softer but quite thick (2-3mm).

    Appreciate your help & what a great blog!

    Annxx

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  25. Thanks Ann! Glad it helped! It's a 1 ton press. Good luck! : )

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