West Coast Flypresses was established in 2013 shortly after I attended a workshop put on by the CBA featuring the skills and craftsmanship of Daniel Miller. Upon seeing the different tasks such as the ability to repeat accurate strokes of the ram and tooling, the lack of noise, no power supply needed, the mechanical advantage this tool gave the user, it was very apparent that a flypress had to be a part of a smith’s arsenal.

After finding only three flypresses available in the USA on the east coast, I knew I had to cast a wider search.  Six presses were found in the UK, purchased, sent over, and sold quickly. Obviously there was quite a bit of interest in this great tool.  Fast forwarding, we have imported more than 100 presses. We continue to seek and import used flypresses, blacksmith equipment such as anvils, swage blocks, hand tooling, power hammers, and other curios from a bygone age.

Flypresses are available in multiple sizes.

While we endeavor to sell you a press in the best shape possible, the buyer should bear in mind that these presses are 50 years old or more. Some wear is not adjustable and the buyer will be informed if this is the case, however, the majority of these presses have been used mainly for stamping type applications and producing specialty small parts as shown in the picture below. Buyers can purchase with confidence that they will get many more years out of their flypress.

Small Parts for Flypresses.

“The flypressses we bring in are used, so they are inspected for wear & tear, missing parts etc.”

The flypresses we bring in are inspected for wear and tear, missing parts, etc. Before a press goes out, the ram is detached from the lead screw and checked for oil and the presence of the round metal slug on which the bottom of the lead screw rotates.  The half nut retaining assembly is inspected and can be replaced if needed.  The cast iron assembly is often broken from over tightening so, when needed, we remanufacture a replacement out of steel in our machine shop. The gibbs or guide plates are cleaned and greased, the ram is greased, oil is put under the upper ram hole, and everything is re-assembled.  The proper adjustments are made to make sure the gibbs allow ease of ram travel and any backlash in the ram is taken out. (See Maintenance section for continued maintenance of your press) Maintenance is very minimal once you receive your press but like everything else, “If you love it, lube it.” Periodic, light oiling of the lead screw is advised for friction reduced rotation.

Swage Block.

Flypress History

The screw press was   invented by the Romans in the first century A.D. It was primarily used for wine & olive oil production. The screw press was then later used as a printing press in the mid-15thcentury. The French started using the screw press for stamping coins for the mint. Over time it became an invaluable tool for a variety of metal working applications.

In the UK during the 1920’s a number of factories sprung up in the Midlands producing flypresses as we now know them. Every mechanical/engineering shop had a flypress to perform tasks that we now use hydraulic presses for. Their ability to accurately perform stamping, punching, bending, breaking type tasks without the use of a power supply made them an invaluable tool. Upon the introduction of hydraulics their use began to wane, but they still remained popular with small companies producing small parts for different industries where they could still compete in the market with low overheads. Blacksmiths started to use them, once they realized the versatility of this tool. It gave a single operator the ability to exert tremendous force and transfer it to a tool, to punch, slit, drift, fuller, bend, straighten, texture steel, and in many cases do it cold.

In America, manufacturers in Rhode Island sadly closed their doors approximately 50 years ago. In the UK all but one manufacturer closed their doors around this time. Norton flypresses are still made to this day, as there is still a demand for this old technology in the engineering testing field, and in sheet metal work.  An Indian firm also currently makes flypresses and exports them to the U.S.

A lot of these older presses built in the last century are still in circulation today and are still in good shape.  With a little maintenance they should offer many more years of service because they are a viable, robust, versatile piece of shop equipment.

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