Anyone have a flypress out there? I have been reading a bit on them, and
they seem pretty interesting, but I am not sure exactly how one uses them.
Does the press "bounce" back when it comes it a dead stop? Is it quick
enough to, for example, draw out a bar? Can one control it precisely? How
do they compare (in functionality) to a treadle hammer?
Thanks for any input,
Take this with a grain of salt.
I too have been reading some on fly presses. And, from what I gather,
they do what they say; press metal. I believe you put a hot bar or
something in there and press it into shape using a top and bottom die.
I could be totally wrong, but that's what it seems like anyway.
Greetings and Salutations.
Well, Ron Reil has some info on this...
is my picture of reality that the fly press is more useful for
punching images and such...like embossing coins and that sort
of nonsense. It would not be much use for drawing out metal,
as it is just too slow.
It works well in printing too...
Basically, it uses momentum from a flywheel to
produce large, instant forces on a die...more than one
could produce with a large lever.
"don schad" wrote in
I have a small fly press I use it for a variety of purposes. The press
does bounce when it reaches the bottom of its stroke provided it actualy
impacts the work before it hits the stop.
I would not recomend the fly press to draw out a bar however I would
recomend the press to punch, slit, bend and detail a bar. They are great
for makeing collars.
Most fly presses have an adjustable stop to vary the length of the stroke
this makes repeatable and acurrate work.
They need to have a fairly heavy table and should be bolted to the floor;
the momentum of the fly wheel and be large. Also watch your head its not
hard to become involved in your work and forget to avoid the handle on
the fly wheel.
I also have a treadle hammer they can do some of the same operations but
I prefer the treadle hammer for repousse.
I do have a new tool which I would also recomend and rave about for a
second ... a nibbler with a 3/8 capacity. I can use it for all kinds of
metal forming operations. Although not as powerful as my hydraulic press
it is much faster. I can texture, inset a nice border, roll an edge,
create a bowl in not time flat.
Bob Walsh bought one a year or so ago either right after the ABANA
conference in LaCrosse or right after he saw them demonstrated at our
Guild of Metalsmiths conference. Give him a call.
I watched Brad Silberberg demo the flypress and he can really make it
sing. He had a lot of tooling for it that held work in place for
I have had a #3 flypress for a number of years. It is like most tools,
excellent at some things, good at others, but it doesn't do everything.
It is excellent at drawing hot iron. I do this a lot. It is very much
under your control, you smash just where you want to. The screw should
have a depth stop. This allows you to draw out a uniform thickness bar
with just a slight scalloping (which you can get rid of, depending on
how patient you are). I generally get a nice smooth finish using top and
bottom tools made from 1" round rod stock. I don't have an actual timed
example handy, but I would expect to be able to draw 1" x 1/2" bar down
to 1/2" x 1/2", ending up with 4-6" of 1/2" x 1/2". I would certainly
expect to rough draw out 6" 1/2" thick, with the sides bulging out (only
draw on one axis, not both).
My flypress has about a 40:1 mechanical advantage. I move the arm 12",
the top die moves about 5/16". It bounces a little bit, but through this
40:1 ratio, bounces are not very noticeable.
Precision is what a flypress excells at. I hear that in England they use
them to press bearings on and off shafts (in preference to hydraulic
presses). You have a very good feel for what is going on through the
handle (and the 40:1 ratio). The top tool holder runs in a dovetailed
slide, so it always hits in *exactly* the same place.
You must have a rigid table to attach it to. I started with a very
sturdy wooden table built out of 4x4's mortise and tenoned together.
The table was nicely rigid; using the flypress just caused the table to
dance all over the shop. I next tried burying 2 telephone pole sections
in the ground (about 2 feet) and putting bars across the top and
mounting the flypress. The flypress puts a fair bit of torque on the
mount; the two poles just rocked and rolled. I finally got mad at it and
poured a yard of concrete around a part buried base. The base legs were
3" pipe, located at the corners of a 3'x2' square. I built up a table
out of some heavy scrap I had. This was great. I could balance things on
edge (like a coin) and they wouldn't wiggle when I used the flypress.
The other thing I noticed was that there was much more power in the
blows. If your flypress and mounting surface are moving at all, you are
wasting a lot of the power.
I will repeat Brad's comment about watching your head. I've never
whacked myself. It seemed so obvious that I didn't even mention it to my
friend Arne. First thing, he bends over, sticks his head in so he could
see, and whacks himself. You need good lighting so you can see without
A lot of people use them for veining leaves, but I haven't tried this.
Slitting and grooving are great. Repeated patterns, like driving a ball
tool in, can be made very uniform by means of the depth stop. They're
great for beveling edges (cold). I've bent 1 1/2" x 1/2" bar the hard
way cold in mine. Mine has made a lot of coin blanks, punching rounds
out of pewter, copper and silver. Many other uses, highly recommended.
Can I ask what the numbers refer to when describing flypresses? Are they
standard between manufacturers? Is there a most useful size for
blacksmithing (at least at the scale I do it, decorative stuff)?
Nobody knows. Mine is from England and from what I've heard their
numbers run 1-5. Mine weighs about 300 pounds.
The best size for a blacksmith is, of course, the absolute largest
If you're doing decoration on sheet metal, most any size will probably
do it. I'm pretty happy with the size I have. For bigger stuff I use my
hydraulic forging press. If I didn't have that, I would probably want a
and see the flypresses they have to sell.
They're English designs made in India. Check the weights and dimensions he
has, that should give you a ballpark figure about different flypresses. I've
seen his presses in use and they're quite good. I just wish I had the space
for one. Dan is a good guy to deal with.
Steve - it sounds like you do a lot of the stuff which I was wondering
about with your press. So I'll pick your brain a bit more if I might...
I'm trying to visualize the motion - more fling-let-go-catch motion, or
a back-and-forth motion. I gather it is the latter (esp. since you say
bounce is not noticable).
So when you are drawing out is the action to "fling" the wheel and let
it go down and hit the metal and/or stop and then return back w/ a
bounce (so you start it moving and let go), or do you leave your hand on
the wheel, winding it down with a more controlled force, and then bring
it back up by turning the wheel counter to they way it was just going?
Do you have a treadle hammer? It sounds like it offers more control and
power then these, but is perhaps a bit slower?
Steve Smith wrote:
I never let go of the handle. I think you get a better blow (also better
tactile feedback) by following through on the stroke, pulling the handle
hard all the way down to the work. Remember that 40:1 advantage--you can
do a lot just squeezing with it. I see no advantage to flinging the
handle and letting go, at least for the size I have (maybe it makes more
sense on the smaller ones). Flinging it doesn't make it move any faster
than you can move it while holding onto it. Repeat blows are just a back
and forth motion. There isn't any serious impact on your arm, again due
to the mechanical advantage. I find what limits the amount of work I can
get done quickly (besides heat in the iron) is air. Repeated blows can
be pretty aerobic.
Drawing out consists of pulling the handle toward you firmly, coming to
full stop against the work (or the stop nut), pushing it away to raise
the screw, repeat while you've got heat.
Mine isn't as big as the ones with a continuous wheel for a weight. Mine
has a bar across the top (through the diameter, if it had a wheel). The
bar has a weight on each end. A second bar comes down (upside down L)
from one end for a handle. The center of the top bar has an octagonal,
tapered hole that mates to the flypress screw top. Kind of a hassle to
move the working position of the handle, take off weights, whack on the
bottom of the bar to loosen taper, lift and re-position. I usually use
1/4-1/3 of a full circle stroke, and you get the best power pulling at
yourself (not turning the corner to where your hand is moving sideways).
I also use a treadle hammer a fair bit. Before we moved last summer, I
had both the hydraulic press and a 25 pound Little Giant working, so the
treadle hammer was mostly used for working with short tooling
(decorative chisel work). My new shop in Maine didn't get its chimney
in before winter (next project on the list), so I haven't been doing any
smithing. After I get a chimney, I won't have a power hammer (sold
before moving), and still need to build a phase converter for the press
and wire for three phase (maybe this summer? lots on the list), so I
will definitely be using the flypress (which still needs a stand...) and
treadle hammer for heavier work than I usually do with them.
The treadle hammer is probably about the same speed as a flypress in
repetition rate, but you get a lot more power out of it. If you put a
smithing magician setup on your treadle hammer, you have just as much
precision as a flypress. The two tools cross over to each others jobs a
I put a piece of 1" plate maybe 6" x 20" as a work surface (the lower
die sits in this) on my flypress. I drilled and tapped several rows of
holes in it so I could use the stud and clamp arrangement that is used
on milling machines to hold tooling. This makes it easy to put in a
stop, or to hold bottom tooling in place that doesn't drop into the tool
hole (such as tooling that has a flat bottom instead of a stem). This
could also be done for a treadle hammer, but doesn't fit nearly as well.
If I had to pick only one, it would be the treadle hammer. I think it is
more general purpose than a flypress. Given room and budget for two, I
have both and wouldn't give them up (didn't give them up moving cross
country). Besides, it is always fun to have more tools.
d> Steve - it sounds like you do a lot of the stuff which I was wondering
Thanks. I was wondering about the relative functions of each of those
tools (treadle and flypress). My smithing time is getting more and more
limited (bought a house, getting married) so I'm looking for ways to get
more bang for my time-buck.
I think I'm leaning towards building a treadle hammer at this point.
Put it on the list...
Steve Smith wrote: