23 March 2012

A Pressing Matter

Why is it so hard to find a Fly press these days?( aka "screw press") It is as if someone is secretly stockpiling them. Here are some that got away: (they are ugly biffers, true, but I would black japan them and they would look "boss")

Oh well... but hey—listen, I really really want one of these for my next body of work, so if you see one for sale please tell me!
So what does this thing do anyway, you ask?
Basically it applies a lot of force (several tonnes) to whatever you place in the "throat".
In my case, I want to shape metal; punch out shapes, impress designs and so on. A bit like minting coins.
Certainly you can use hammers for this-I tried doing these tasks with a sledge hammer, to get the amount of force required, but this tends to be a bit wild and inaccurate.(well, the way I do it anyway). Ancient people had ways of controlling the blow, and I may revisit these.

These are illustrations of coin production by hand-striking. I think that the historical illustration is a bit inaccurate here, and 'updated' versions just copy the older ones. (I would bet that the child on the right would be the one holding the die, while the striker delivered a dead-on perpendicular blow.)

Still, the fly press delivers a very measured blow.
Here are some amazing old examples (far more massive than I need);

Looks like you needed a lot of men to operate the things.
Look at this beautiful one:

Finally, a coin with an impression of a coining press. 


  1. What's an "ugly biffer" ? What does "black japan" mean ?

  2. A "biffer" is a pugilistic person- or thing- maybe its like "frappe l'oeil" ; striking to the eye- but in a bad way.
    Yeah- that's it- an eye sore. But I call something a biffer if it is massive, brutish, inelegant, clumsy etc.
    "Black Japan" is a a type of black coating, typically pre-1900, that was applied to machinery. It is some kind of baked-on shellac or bitumen or something. It is not from japan. A good example would be an old sewing machine, with gold livery...

  3. !!! would be very excited to see what you'd make with one of these