A Simple Finishing Press and Plough

Side of the Press

…Finally!

I had wanted to make a finishing (lying) press for ages. In my dreams I was going to buy on of these wood thread tools, some dowels, and make some wooden screws. Because they are just so cool and I love the creaking sound you get when you turn them. That was a long time ago. I didn’t ever get around to it.

Then, the other weekend, I decided after a flash of inspiration to just make a very simple version with some long bolts with wing-nuts for ease of tightening. I never wanted to make one like this, because I wanted the beautiful wooden screws mentioned above. I also tend to have very grand ideas that I have to think about for ages and that are too hard for me to accomplish, thus they never get done!

To make the press, I cut two cheeks on the table saw out of 25mm MDF (while wearing an old pair of pyjama pants as a dust mask—MDF dust is bad to breathe in). Next I drilled holes through both cheeks, and finally made the holes on one cheek bigger for ease of movement over the threads. All I had to do was thread the bolts through the holes and tighten them until the square bit under the cup-head sank a bit into the MDF.

Plan View of Lying PressPloughing in Progress

Chisels into Ploughshares

Part of the reason that I made this was because I wanted to use one of my chisels as a sort of plough for finishing off the head, tail, and fore-edge of some books I was working on for Christmas gifts. After making the press as described above, I gave one of my chisels a sharpen and a strop on leather, then set about testing the setup. It worked very well, but with some possible areas of improvement. In thicker books, I found that standing with the press perpendicular to me and using a pulling motion on the chisel was much easier and safer than trying to push it through left-to-right or right-to-left.

The Result III (Fanned Edge)
The Result IIThe Result I

Improvements

After using the press and chisel–plough to finish the edges of some small books I was making for some christmas presents, there were some things I wanted to improve. I  got longer bolts so that I could make the press cheeks thicker, which I’ve done by adding on another bit of MDF to each side, doubling each cheek’s thickness. The 25mm by itself tends to bend under a lot of pressure, and also is not quite wide enough for the chisel to rest firmly and securely—on 50mm the chisel is much more stable, and doesn’t bend as much.

I also want to build a better plough, more like the traditional bookbinding plough. I have found that the results from the chisel are OK, but it tends to leave lines in the paper, where I might have moved the chisel slightly up or down between passes. I want to make a blade from some old hacksaw blades too—one that can be used pushing and pulling.

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2 thoughts on “A Simple Finishing Press and Plough

  1. Thanks for following my blog! Presses are so expensive, so this is pretty genius. I’m really interested in the plough you made, would you happen to have more pictures of what it looks like?

    • Thanks for the comment.

      My so-called plough is just a wood chisel that I use as described in my post. I am planning on making a better version—one that can be used pushing and pulling—with some circular blades, more like a traditional plough. Also pretty important I think is that the plough has a reasonably large, flat bottom surface that runs on the press top, more like a traditional plough. The chisel tends to be a little unsteady, which leaves little lines along the edge of the book.

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