My Bottle Jack Press - The Evolution of an Idea
The Mark I design was based around a 6-Ton Hydraulic Bottle Jack and three 14" x 14" x 0.5" steel plates.
Bottle Jack Press Mark I
The first operational all-metal prototype. It was used to produce the T-shirts shown at the top this page using a linocut block.
Bottle Jack Press Mark II
The Mark II was essentially a wooden scaled up version of the Mark I centered around a 30-Ton Bottle Jack. The supporting rods do not pass through the bottom platen in order to avoid binding issues and the press is now rolling on wheels!
Bottle Jack Press Mark III
In the Mark III design aluminium alloy plates (24" x 24" x 0.75") enter the picture and it is essentially an all-metal design capable of printing on half-sheet paper (15" x 22"). This is now a large heavy press - please read the safety warning at the bottom of this page.
Bottle Jack Press Mark IV under construction
The Mark IV design under construction showing the bottom plate assembly made out of stacked steel plates (24" x 24" x 0.5").
Bottle Jack Press Mark IV (Final)
The Mark IV bottle jack press is now complete and ready for action! The double thickness (1.5") upper assembly used the aluminium plates from the Mark III design. This press should be capable of generating a pressure in excess of 400 psi.
Another view of the Mark IV. Notice the chrome ornamentation and beautiful stainless steel sheet top plate - it matches the fridge in the kitchen! ----------------------- Performance Testing Update (November 2019)
I initially had the hope that the significant pressure that this 30-ton bottle jack press can generate would permit intaglio printing and the short answer is that it can - within limits.
Platen presses are great for relief printing but cannot generate enough “instantaneous pressure” to do fine line etching (e.g. hard ground) prints which does indeed appear to be the dominion of the cylinder (etching) press. Having said that, I have been able to produce some interesting prints using a combination of intaglio and relief inking on the same etching (zinc) plate and applying a lot pressure – this technique works well for more abstract imagery where fine line detail is not needed (e.g. monotyping).
Relief – platen style presses (e.g. bottle jack) are really suited to this type of printmaking. Embossment – the bottle jack press can certainly generate sufficient pressure to emboss dampened paper. Intaglio – sort of, as described above. With dampened paper you can pick up ink from the recesses, within limitations. Fine line “traditional” etching print – I have not been able to do this with satisfactory results using my press.
I, of course, will keep on experimenting with this versatile machine ... thank you for your interest!
Safety Warning I engaged the services of a professional machine shop to drill the various holes through the large aluminium and steel plates of the Mark III & Mark IV designs. This simply cannot be performed in a home workshop due to size, weight and plate thickness considerations. Furthermore, a plate weight of 50 lbs was at about at the limit of what I could safely carry and manipulate when assembling these presses.
Building a bottle jack press is a very satisfying project and I suggest you consider the smaller wood based designs (e.g., described on the internet) if you would like to start building one for yourself. These generate sufficient pressure for relief printing.