I'm looking at possibly buying a shop press to use in making a skateboard deck (to shape the wood by pressing it into a mold), and as this is a tool I haven't seen used before, I'd like to ask: what other good uses does a shop press have in a woodworking shop? Is it worth $100 for a little one, or $200 for a 20-ton press?

  • 2
    I cannot answer your actual question since I do not own a shop press, but if you have clamps and cauls, you don't necessarily need to use a press. And of course, you will undoubtedly need clamps on many projects, especially if you get into cabinetry and furniture.
    – rob
    Nov 10 '16 at 15:21
  • Cracking walnuts. Nov 11 '16 at 16:18

If your need is to produce skateboards then I think the press would be a worthwhile investment given the prices you quote, but for just one (or occasional decks built periodically) then clamps can do what you require, with a little more effort.

Bigger clamps can exert enormous pressures and combined you could easily get to the pressing force of one of these presses. And you'll always find further uses for whatever clamps you get*, while the shop press will sit there taking up valuable space while you struggle to find other ways to make use of it.

Excluding pipe clamps which I don't think are applicable here C-clamps are the most powerful clamps woodworkers have available, but both larger C-clamps and well-made F-clamps are good candidates here. 8" C-clamps can individually produce nearly 7,000 psi so it's easy enough to imagine what four of them spread around a forming jig or clamping caul might be able to do.

If you need a wider opening than an 8" model will provide the clamping force goes up the larger the clamp is so you'll potentially have even higher pressures available to you if you have to go larger. But larger Cs are increasingly expensive and tend to be less useful (in addition be being very heavy) so F-clamps begin to make more sense if you need a large opening, and they're more versatile in woodworking. As well as being lighter of course they're faster to set and both can be boons in future clamping situations.

*Remembering the woodworker's mantra — you can never have too many clamps :-)


A press is more of a metal forming tool than a woodworking tool. For wood, you will typically use steam bending or a similar technique to make curves in wood. Wood will need to stay in a form for some period of time in order to maintain its shape.

Typically a hydraulic press will be used to press (insert) or remove bearings or be used with dies to act as a press break for forming metal.

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