Refurbishing/modifying a crappy arbor press into a functional tool

  • I spent the better part of a day fixing up a cheap arbour press so that it would work properly. I bought the press a couple of years ago and the casting were the worst I had ever seen. None of it was level on any surface, the ram was so loose and would either wobble or lock up when trying to tighten the gib screws. I should have just taken it back and bought a higher quality tool. Instead of that, I just let it collect dust in the shop. For those of you who don’t know, an arbour press is used to press in, our out, parts that have interference fits. Things like retaining pins, small bearing shafts etc.

    The ones bought looked like this but mine was painted black


    I took the press apart and was only slight surprised to find the gib plate that is supposed to hold the ram tight against the back of the casting was a peice of thin sheet metal, there were no gibs for the side adjustments, just two bolts that pressed directly against the ram. The ram itself has a gear rack cut on the backside that seemed fine but the ram had a bow in it from top to botton, it’s a wonder it worked at all!

  • Cool, you think we could use something like this for the etcher punch and die project?

  • I have a very similar press, I will have to check the ram on the granite plate tonight… How did you get the bow out of the ram? I’d be tempted to blue it up and flycut the high spots. I bet it’ll warp as you relive stresses though.

  • I used a 12 ton press to get the majority of the bend out of the bar and then used a shaper to square it up. It was amazing how bent the ram actually was, there was a gap under it on my surface plate that was probably 1/16th" or more. It was clearly visible just holding the ram in your hand.

  • @arasbm I’m not sure if an arbour press would work for your project or not. Worth a try and if not they can be pretty useful for other things, never have to many tools. You can try mine or use my hydraulic press whenever you like.

    Ram in the Douglas shaper getting squared up.

  • I think the arbour press I own must have got past quality control by accident. It has, by far, the worst quality casting I have ever seen. I tried at least three different setups before settling on this one to machine the table. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best.


  • I’m certainly not the only guy to own two shapers but I might be the first to get both working at the same time 😳😁

    Cleaning up the table plate on the South Bend shaper


  • Founder

    Wow. Not surprised at all to here that there are substandard tools out there. I see them all the time, just walk the isles of Princess Auto…

    It is a shame that so many bad (and I have seen many I would characterize as ‘useless’) tools are mass produced, it is a waste of energy and materials. And it isn’t just tools either, it is everything. Mass-production has its serious drawbacks. How many times have you picked up a brand new object that is supposed to do X, but it is so poorly designed that it is almost impossible to accomplish the task? It is as if the people who are designing, QC checking, making these things have never and will never actually use them.

    Kudos on taking the time to make it functional, I have done this with a few smaller hand tools over the years, it is hard work, but rewarding. I admire that. You have redeemed a shitty product. A drop in the bucket maybe, but its good if your thirsty.

  • When I first started buying tools I wasn’t nearly as picky as I am now. I would rather make do without than pay for a poorly made tool now. For me it’s just a hobby anyways, so everything can wait till I find a good deal or just cant live without it anymore 😁

    I had an old hand wheel I scavenged from some equipment destined for the scrap yard so I turned down the spindle and tried it out. I might still go with a rachet crank or maybe both? The bottom of the ram was drilled and reamed for 3/8 and I ground a few various size inserts. The final step was to make a new gib plate, I had a chunk of naval brass that will outlast both me and the arbour press so I cut a chunk of that and milled it to size. I also added a couple of brass plugs to the two screws that hold the ram laterally. They don’t grab nearly as bad as the plain steel bolt and won’t mar the surface.


  • Close up, much better for pressing small pins etc. I’ll take a final photo when I’m done cleaning all the sharp edges off the casting and give it a coat of paint.


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