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Wet Press drawing one, front and side views

Wet Press for Handmade Paper

The Wet Press is a special tool for handmade paper making. It is used to squeeze the water out of a stack of new wet paper and felts. This stack is typically four inches thick and up to 36 inches by 36 inches wide. It is handled by placing it between two boards made of plywood like a sandwich.

More details of the handmade paper making process can be found in my description of a paper plant I built some time ago.

To use the wet press, the paper maker lowers the jack and places the wet paper sandwich between the the two pressure plates. He or she then centers the stack carefully and pumps up the jack slowing forcing the water out of the stack. Jacking must be done several times over several minutes without using excessive pressure at any one time. The water, with some stray paper pulp, runs over the edge of the bottom plate and into the gutters. The gutters carry the water to a bucket at the base of the press.

After pressing the paper will be dry and strong enough to be pealed off the felts without tearing. It is placed on racks to dry.

This press can also be used dry to press stacks of paper between pieces of sheet aluminum. This compresses the paper and smooths the finish.

Caution: The eight ton car jack is strong enough to break the main beams of the press if you use a long handle and press done on it very hard.

The wet press in color

All the materials for this press can be bought at your local home improvement store, although you may have to try several stores or come back a time or two. The cost, using all new materials, is about $500.00 for oak outer boards, fir plywood, and steel. The cost can be much less if scrap wood and steal parts can be recycled rather than bought new. When completed, the Wet Press will be a key tool in a handmade paper plant.

The vine and flower patterns for this press can serve as well a very first lesson first lesson in wood carving.

The wet press Wet Paper Press, Tom Riley 2007

  1. Rockler order link to first page
  2. Ordering the Sketches

    This design includes nine detailed sketches that are critical to your successfully building this desk. Here is where to get all the ordering information. Or you can email me at:

    Woodware Designs, Woodware@woodwaredesigns.com

    The plans for our major projects are brought to you on the Honor Plan. You may look at as many plans as you like, but when you start to build please pay for the plans you use. These small payments are critical to keeping this Web Site open.

  3. Construction Steps

    You can make one of these presses by:

    1. Printing out this text
    2. Ordering the sketches
    3. Purchasing the materials locally
    4. Cutting put all the wood and plywood pieces.
    5. Building the main beams
    6. Building the pressure plates
    7. Building the stand
    8. Trial assembling the press (a two man job)
    9. Carving the patterns (optional)
    10. Sanding and finishing all pieces
    11. Reassembling the finished press (a two man job)
  4. Discussion of Sketches

    After you request and receive the sketches, these notes will help you understand them.

    1. Front and Side Views

      The overall size and construction of the Wet Press are shown. The jack presses the lower moving pressure plate up while all other parts remain fixed.

      The top and bottom beams are made of stacks of oak and fir plywood. They are strengthened by by 1.15" angle iron pieces on the top and bottom. The carving pattern show clearly.

      The sides are made from eight 0.5" steal rods. The outer four of these are inside pieces of 0.5" ID steal pipe. The inside four serve as guides for the moving lower pressure plate.

      The press sits on a simple stand made from pine lumber and plywood. The bucket sets on a shelf at the back.

    2. Sketch #2, Plates

      The top and side views of the upper pressure plate are shown as well as the bottom and side views of the bottom plate. Both are pieces of 0.75" fir plywood with wood strips around the edge. The outside of each pressure plate is covered with a grid of strengthening ribs of fir plywood.

      The Top Plate has wider strengthening ribs that are notched to receive the top beam. Between the ribs are many small blocks of plywood.

      The Bottom Plate has a wider trim around the edge to form a drip edge. It has 4 - eight inch pieces of pipe to serve as guides. It has has a piece of channel iron across the bottom for the jack to push against.

    3. Sketch #3, Wooden Parts

      This sketch shows all the wooden, but non-plywood, parts of the press. Note that the edging for the bottom plate is one inch wide and that the blocks for the pipe guides are one inch thick.

    4. Sketch #4, Plywood Part

      This sketch shows the plywood parts of the press. The blocks need to be carefully cut for a good tight fit. The base needs an extra small piece of plywood for its shelf.

    5. Sketch #5, Gutters

      This sketch shows gutters around the parameter of the bottom plate. They are standard plastic house rain gutters. If you buy one 12 foot piece of gutter and cut it at 72 inches for easy carrying home, it will make all the needed pieces.

      The gutters are held together with a glue for this purpose and are custom fitted to the bottom of the bottom plate. They are held in place with small wooden screw blocks.

    6. Sketch #6, Plywood Layout 1

      T his sketch shows the layout for the first of two pieces of 0.75" fir plywood. Note the "First Cut" line which can be made at the store to make it easier to get the material home.

    7. Sketch 7, Plywood Layout #2

      This sketch shows the layout for the second piece of 0.75" plywood. Again note the "First Cut" line.
      Sketch #8, Steel Parts

      This sketch shows all the steal parts.

      The angle iron pieces come from the store in this length. They each need four 0.5" holes and five small screw holes. Round off all metal points and edges.

      The Channel Iron piece also come from the story in the right length. It needs only six screw holes to match the ribs on the bottom plate.

      Four of the 0.5" rods can be completely treaded as they go inside the pipe pieces.

      Four of the 0.5" rods should be smooth and will need to have the last two inches threaded. This is not hard to do but does require a die and handle.

      The T Plates hang the top pressure plate from the top beam. The four mending plates hold the short pieces of pipe to the bottom plate.

    8. Vine and Flower Carving Pattern

      The full size carving pattern is available as a separator file.

    Rockler order link to first page
  5. Materials

    The Wet Press is made from hardwood, plywood, and steel. The parts are assembled with glue, bolts, and screws. The mail order source for some of the hardware is given below.

    1. Wood:
      • Oak -- 10 board feet @ 7.50 /bf ------- $75.00
      • Fir 2x4, 12 lft ----------------------- $ 8.00
      • Fir 1x4, 16 lft ----------------------- $14.00
      • Fir 1x2, 16 lft ----------------------- $12.00
      • Plywood:

      • Fir 4x8x0.75 - 2 ---------------------- $64.00
      • Fir 2x4x0.75 -------------------------- $ 8.00

      ---------- Subtotal: $181.00

    2. Steel:
      • Angle Iron, 1.5"x1.5" x 48"- 4 -------- $64.00
      • Channel 2"x 36" - 1 ------------------- $15.00
      • Threaded Rod, 0.5"x36" - 4 ------------ $12.00
      • Rod, 0.5"x36" - 4 --------------------- $12.40
      • Thread Rod, 3/8"x36" - 1 ------------- $ 3.00
      • Pipe, galvanized, 1/2" ID x 22.5" - 4 - $16.00
      • Pipe, galvanized, 1/2" ID x 8" - 4 ---- $ 4.00

      ------- Subtotal: $126.00

    3. Hardware:
      • Nuts, 1/2" - 24 ---------------------- $ 3.00
      • Flat Washers 1/2" - 40 --------------- $ 3.00
      • Finder Washers 1/2" x 1-1/2" - 24 ---- $ 4.00
      • Finder Washers 1/2" x 2" - 24 ------- $ 4.00
      • Bolts 0.5x8" - 8 --------------------- $ 8.00
      • Nuts, 3/8" - 4 ----------------------- $ 1.00
      • Flat washers, 3/8" - 4 --------------- $ 1.00
      • Screws, flat head 1.25 # 8 - 100 ----- $ 3.00
      • Screw, Pan head 1.25 # 8 - 32 -------- $ 2.00
      • T Plate, 5" - 2 ---------------------- $ 6.00
      • Mending Plate, 4" - 4 ---------------- $ 2.00
      • Glue, water proof - 1 pint ----------- $ 4.00
      • Silicone Sealant - 1 tube ------------ $ 6.00
      • Plastic hose, 1" ID - 36" ------------ $ 3.00
      • Hydrolytic Jack, 8 ton - 1 ----------- $32.00
      • Finishing Nails, 1" - 1 box ---------- $ 2.00
      • Gutter section ----------------------- $ 4.00
      • Gutter outside corner - 4 ------------ $20.00
      • Gutter down spout adapter - 1 -------- $ 6.00

      ---------- Subtotal: $114.00

    4. Finish:
      • Artist's Acrylics ---------- 2 colors ----- $12.00
      • Polyurethane ------------- 1 quart -------- $12.00
      • White Metal Primer ------- 1 quart -------- $10.00
      • Shellack ------------------ 1 pint -------- $ 4.00
      • Wood filler --------------- 1 can --------- $ 3.00

      Finish Subtotal: $41.00

    5. Omissions and Contingencies (~9%)( Tax, sandpaper, etc.) $37.00
    6. Estimate Total Cost $500.00

    This is only an estimate (made in Winter 2007). The price may vary in your area. Getting a good price on the hardware and making use of scrap materials is critical to keeping the price down.

  6. Tools

    This press was designed so that it could be built one person with a modest home shop. Access to a table or radial arm saw is needed. Some of the parts are heavy and the assembly or the press requires a second person.

    The design uses steal pieces in the lengths they normal can be purchased from a home improvement store so that they do not have to be cut. You do have to drill some holes in the steal. Four of the 0.5" rods should be bought unthreaded and only the last two inches of each end treaded. This can be done with one die and a handle for it. The pipe can be bought to length or cut with a small hand tube cuter. Sharp edges and corners from the inside of the pipe and all the steal parts must be removed with hand files and a bench grinder if available.

    The very simple carving needed to make the vine flowers can be made with one gouge. The one I use is a 3/16 inch #6 gouge. You also need a small, rounded-edged slip for sharpening it. A simple hand mallet can easily be cut from scrap wood. This is a very easy and fun way to start learning wood carving. Please e-mail me if you would like more information.

    Rockler order link to first page
  7. Fabrication Notes

    This is not intended to be a detailed step-by-step construction guide, but rather a number of points to consider. It is your project and you can build it to suit your likes.

    1. Options

      Look over the drawing and decide what you are going to do:

      1. Carving -- The carving is optional but really sets off the piece.
      2. Scrap steal use -- If you have access to scrap steal and can cut it to length, you may be able to build a stronger press for less money. For example the eight pieces of angle iron and the piece of channel iron can be replaced with three pieces of 6" channel iron. You can put a steal plate under the jack.
      3. Color of Gutters -- The gutters come in only limited colors, usually white or brown, and their color sets the color scheme for the entire press. Choose the gutter material first and then complement the color on the base and metal work. White metal primer makes a good color for the metal to go with white gutters.
      4. Cast Iron Washers -- See if you can obtain 24 - 0.5" cast iron washers to replace the stacks of flat washers, and two finder washer where the 0.5" bolts meet wood. The cast iron washers are hard to find but will add a lot to both the strength and appearance of the press. If you can find them, you will have to make small the long pipe sections shorter.
    2. Making the press

      This press has two beams, two pressure plate, and a stand.

      1. Beams

        Rip the plywood into 12 pieces and trim the four hardwood boards to match. Choose one piece of plywood for a pattern and drill for guide holes and cut four saw clefts. Use this to drill all the other pieces and cut clefts in one other piece of plywood.

        The exact width of the beams can be adjust to suit the exact materials you have. If you have 8 inch bolts then you may need one extra plywood pieces to make more width. If you steal you have for the top of the beam needs to have its holes farther from the edge, you may want to add two thin pieces of plywood outside the saw cleft pieces.

        The parts list above calls for a stack of a flat washer, a 1-1/2" finder washer, and a 2" finder washer every where a 0.5" bolt meets wood. If you can get eight 0.5" cast iron washers, they will look and do this job much better but they take up some of the bolt length. In any case paint all the washers with metal primer.

        Drill four bolt holes in one piece of plywood and mark it as a pattern. Use it to drill the bolt holes in all the other pieces.

        Select four pieces of the plywood and cut four saw clefts in each about 1/8" deep where the upright rods will go. These guide holes will make drilling much easier.

        Glue the beams together and clamp them with their bolts, washer stacks, and nuts. Keep the wood stack as square as possible. Be sure to place the pieces with the saw clefts in the order you need. Let the glue dry thoroughly.

        When the glue is dry, plane the top, bottom, and ends. Round over all the edges. Mark the top and bottom beams.

      2. Top Pressure Plate

        Cut the plywood pieces to size. Notch the ribs to fit the top beam as tightly as possible. Round off the tops and ends of the ribs.

        Cut 0.75" edge strips of wood. Glue and nail them to the sides of the large board. Use a cut off nail for a drill bit to make pilot holes. Set the nails. Trim the ends and then place similar strips on the front and back edges.

        Screw and glue the ribs to the worst side of the large board. Be careful to line up the notches for the top beam. Cut the blocks to fit as snugly as possible between the ribs. Scrap wood will work better for these blocks than plywood. Align the blocks with the outside of the top beam. Screw and glue the blocks in place.

        Check the fit of the top beam.

      3. Bottom Pressure Plate

        The bottom plate is made the same as the top plate except that the trim has to be 1.00" wide and protrudes down. This makes a drip edge that keeps the water from running off across the bottom of the board. This is an important feature.

        Take care in drilling the holes for the four guide pipes. These four holes must be centered exactly the same as the holes in the top beam.

        Make sure the outside ribs are right up against the holes for the guide pipes. Clean and prim the metal. Fit the guide pipe blocks against the pipes and install the mending plates to hold them in place. The pipes should stick up 1.5" inches from the top of the plate.

        The channel iron must be wide enough for the top of the jack to fit inside it. A wider but perhaps shorter piece of scrap material may be substituted. The channel should be drilled for a pan head screw at each rib except that the center area must be free of holes. Round off all corners and shape edges. Clean and prim the angle iron.

      4. Stand

        The stand is made from standard lumber with a plywood shelf and brace. Trimming the plywood with wood strips like the top plate makes it look much nicer and will let it stand up to water better. The gap in the stand must be fitted to the lower beam. The stand is held to the beam by two 3/8" threaded rods.

      5. Uprights

        The four outer upright rods may be fully threaded. They fit loosely inside the pipe spreaders. Prime pipes and all the washers before installation.

        The four inner upright rods should be smooth and will require threads to be cut on both ends. This is not difficult but requires a die and handle to match the threads on the treaded rods. Be sure to rock the handle back and forth as you work down keep it oiled. Threads 1-1/2" will do. Clean up all the oil from your wood working area.

        Drill the upright holes in the top and bottom beam. The saw clefts made before assembly will act as drill guides.

        Drill holes in the angle iron pieces to match the beams. You may need to grind a flat spot on some washers making a D if the nut is close to the iron. Drill four holes for pan head screws down the length of the angle irons. Round off all the corners and sharp end edges. Clear and then prime the metal.

      6. Gutters

        Turn the bottom plate with the guide pipes installed upside down. You will fit the gutters to the bottom of this plate. The gutters are attached with wooden screw blocks that are screwed to the gutter with pan head screws. The blocks are then screwed to the bottom plate without glue.

        The side gutters pass between the guide pipes and the outside upright pipes. Hand cut and fit notches in the side gutter pieces to fit upright pipes. These notches should be about 1/2 the height of the gutter. The notches will drag on the upright pipes.

        Trim the pieces gutter and file the edges smooth. Fit the pieces to the bottom of the plate and locate the screw blocks.

        Make a wooden plug for the down spout and fit it with an adapter for the plastic hose. A copper pipe junction or scrap of PVC pipe can be used for this.

      7. Trial Assembly

        Assemble all the pieces to check the fit.

        This is a two man job!

        1. Lay the bottom beam on the floor
        2. Install the eight rods with the angle irons, bottom bolts, and washers
        3. Screw down the angle iron
        4. Install the four pieces of pipe with eight washer stacks
        5. Group the ends of the four rods together and tie them with masking tape
        6. Locate the base in its final floor space
        7. Place the lower beam into the base and install the two 3/8" bolts
        8. Get one, or better yet two people, to help
        9. Remove the four inner rods from the tape
        10. Place some wood blocks on the bottom beam to hold the bottom plate up a little
        11. Install the gutters on the bottom plate
        12. Slip the bottom pressure plate over its four guide rods and lower it in place
        13. Remove the tape
        14. lift the top beam and place it over the four outer rods then the four inner rods
        15. Put the top angle irons and nuts on the rods
        16. Screw down the top angle irons
        17. Screw the T Brackets to the top plate
        18. Raise the top plate and slide the jack under it
        19. Slide the top pressure plate on top of the bottom plate
        20. Jack the top plate up and install the screws in the T brackets
        21. Install the drain tube and bucket
      8. Disassembly for Painting

        Reverse the assembly steps. Remove any metal parts that need additional painting but leave the eight beam bolts in place.

      9. Carving the Vine and Flowers

        Take the press apart for carving. Temporarily remove the bolts. Place the top beam flat on a bench or saw horses for carving. The beam is heavy enough that it does not need to be clamped.

        Print out full size copies of the vine and flower pattern. Tape several pieces of paper together if necessary. Make a copy for each carving. Glue the paper patterns to the wood with rubber cement. You can carve straight through the paper. It best to start with a trial piece on scrap wood.

        The vines and flowers can be carved using one small gouge. The groves should be done in at least three passes to insure good control. Have fun.

      10. Finish Preparation

        Fill all exposed voids in the plywood edges with splinters of wood and glue. You may use toothpicks. This is particularly important on the top of the lower beam as water can stand there. Sand all surfaces after the glue is thoroughly dry.

        Fill all exposed screw holes with either wood plugs or wood putty. This is particularly important for the working surfaces of the pressure plates. Counter sink all nails and fill their holes.

        Sand all surfaces and round off all wooden edges and corners.

      Rockler order link to first page
    3. Finish

      Finish your press any way you like. I recommend: Artist Acrylics in the carving, white metal primer on all the metal, a spit coat of shellac on all the wood, oil based enamel on the base, two coats of satin finish polyurethane on all wood, and four coats on the surfaces of the pressure plates.

      1. Artists Acrylics

        Artists Acrylics are widely available in any art or crafts store. They come in a wide variety of very fast colors and are easy to apply. They will easily last a hundred years deep down inside wood carving.

        Mop a thick coat of paint into the carved lines with a cheap brush. Don't worry about the color spilling out of the grove; use plenty of paint. Let the paint dry thoroughly (at least 4 hours) and then sand the flat surface of the wood. The effect is wonderful.

      2. Signature

        Be sure to have everyone on the team signs and dates the press. This is easily done by signing the underside of the bottom plate with a permanent marker before finishing.

      3. Stain

        If you can stain the oak to make sure it is of even color. Be sure to wipe excess stain out of the carving with a cloth before it sets.

      4. Spit Coat

        A spit coat made of one part 3-pound shellac to five parts shellac thinner makes a good wood sealer. Several applications will be needed on all exposed plywood edges.

      5. Paint

        Paint all the metal parts with white metal primer. Even paint the bolt and nuts.

        Paint the base with a oil based enamel to shad water.

      6. Top Coat

        For this press I like satin finish polyurethane. At least two coats will be needed on all wooden surfaces. Four coats will be needed on the surfaces of the pressure plates.

        Do not let excess finish accumulate in the carving.

    4. Completion

      All that is left is to move the press to its final location and reassemble it.

      This is a two man job!

      1. Reinstall the metal parts removed for painting
      2. Lay the bottom beam on the floor
      3. Ensure the eight rods with the bottom bolts and washers
      4. Install the four pieces of pipe with eight washers
      5. Group the ends of the four rods together and tie them with masking tape
      6. Locate the base in its final floor space
      7. Place the lower beam in the base and install the two 3/8" bolts
      8. Get one, or better yet two people, to help
      9. Remove the four inner rods from the tape
      10. Place some wood blocks on the bottom beam to hold the bottom plate up
      11. Install the gutters on the bottom plate
      12. Slip the bottom pressure plate over its four guide rods
      13. Remove the tape
      14. lift the top beam and place it over the four outer rods, then the four inner
      15. Put the top nuts on the rods
      16. Slide the top pressure plate on top of the bottom plate
      17. Raise the bottom plate and slide the jack under it.
      18. Jack the top plate up and install the screws in the T brackets
      19. Install the drain tube and bucket
      20. Touch up the metal paint
      21. Seal critical areas

      Place silicon sealant around the four guide pipes where they come out of the bottom plate. Seal around the inner rods at the bottom beam. Seal the adapter for the plastic hose.

    Rockler order link to first page
  8. Conclusion

    Thanks again for using Woodware Computer Plans. We very much want to know how you are getting along with your project and will be happy to answer any questions by e-mail.

    If you send us a picture of your finished press, we can put it on our Web page. We need pictures of projects with real people standing beside them.

    Don't forget to order the sketches.

    Rockler order link to first page

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