I used to use two short wooden planks with a G-clamp at each end as a finishing press. It worked well enough for what I needed. So long as the arms of the clamps didn't get in the way. So here is improvised improvised Finishing/Lying Press mark 2.
The contraption is a a black and decker workmate I inherited from a relative. I'm sure there are other brands, and before I realised I already had one, I looked on ebay and found some second hand ones (although there are none there as I write). Also, there are brand new similar benches available form hardware stores for around AU$50. Because it wasn't mine, I don't want to modify the structure, so I've had to work around that. So, the significant (but not unique) thing about the workmate is that it has two built in screw clamps (the black handles on the left). These allow the two faces to be moved together. Unfortunately for our purposes the bench faces are horizontal not vertical. So that's the trick, to attach vertical faces. If you were prepared to screw into the wood, it would probably be easier. Still, my first pass was to get two bits of laminated shelving. They form the upright faces. To them I have screwed two squarish cross section pieces of wood (with the channel). Originally I just laid them in place and balanced book and boards while I tightened. If you were prepared to screw the square profile wood in place that would fix it.
Luckily for me, it turned out the bench came with a pair of clamps which you can see at top left. They stabilise my two vertical faces very nicely.
This easter G made me a nipping press. We have very little woodworking experience. I was more concerned with functionality than look (although I like the look of the marine ply). Experienced woodworkers look away now. Our first try simply glued the dowel in, which predictably didn't hold when I stress tested it, hence the screws into the dowel. We retrofitted them, but I've included instructions in place in the process. The top plate bows a little under maximum force. If this becomes a problem, we will reinforce it and update here.
The Shoulder Vice Screw cost $30, the sheets of ply $40. We used marine ply for strength, resistance to moisture and a flat surface that we didn't need to finish. We had to buy some screws and the feet, - $10-15. We had the dowel and the flooring finish already. So, total price, ~$80. You could get your hardware store to cut the sheets for you, that may add to the cost. So, the minimum required tools then would just be a drill.
Instructions for a home made nipping press.
Marine Ply 9mm - 6 x (usable area + 10cm in one direction) plus approx 15cm x 15cm offcut
Oak dowel 22mm x 4 times screw length + some for handle
Screws - 6 x 10g 20mm for screw mounting, 8 x 10g 45mm for corners.
O-rings to hold handle in
Saw (used circular saw)
Drill - Used 22mm 25mm and 29mm bits, spade bit and hole saws (circle cutters).
Cut six sheets of the ply. The ply needs to be 10cm longer than the desired usable area in one direction. So, if you want a 30x50 usable area, sheets must be either 30x60 or 40x50. Our plates are 55cm x 35cm giving a usable area of 45cm x 35cm. It may be better to use a squarer profile to spread the force. Also cut four squares approx 7cm - these will be used for reinforcing the top in the last step. You could also do simple strips across each end.
Clamp two of the sheets together. Mark approx 4cm in on each side from each corner. This will leave approx 3cm between the edge of the dowel hole and the edge of the plate. Use a drill bit equal to size of dowel (you want a snug fit) and drill through both sheets at once. For all holes we used a drill press to get perfectly perpendicular holes. This is important to get everything in alignment.
Take one of these sheets and clamp it to one of the unused sheets. Use this to mark positions of holes but don't drill. We didn't think to do this, and had to drill through the pilot holes for markings after everything was laminated.
Laminate each of the drilled sheets to an undrilled, unmarked sheet using PVA glue. These are your top and bottom plates. These plates should now have holes that go through one of the sheets but not the other - i.e. halfway through the finished laminated plate.
Laminate the remaining two sheets (the marked sheet and one other), markings out. This is the middle plate. We clamped all the sheets together in a bundle with lots of clamps and used the workbench across the middle. You want good contact while they dry.
When dry, drill the four marked corner holes on the middle plate using a drill bit a couple of sizes bigger than the dowel. These will be the guides for the dowel to move up and down , so they must be big enough to allow free movement.
In the middle of the top plate, drill a hole large enough for the screw of the shoulder vice screw (top right). On both top and bottom plates drill small pilot holes in the middle of the dowel holes through uncut sheet (bottom right).
Cut 4 lengths of dowel. Calculate the length like this - the length of the screw from bottom of fixing plate to bottom of foot plus twice the width of your ply (which is the width of one laminated sheet). But, we want them to be a few mm shorter so that we can screw down tight, not just meet. Finished length = length of screw + (2 x width of ply [2 x 9mm]) - 3 mm. You can get all the dowels exactly the same length by rough cutting and then taping the four together to do the fine cut.
Cut a length of dowel for handle - we happened to have bigger dowel which fitted better in the handle, so we used that.
Sand all the edges and anywhere else that is rough.
OK, assemble! Place dowel in holes of bottom plate. Slide the middle plate over the dowels. Put top plate on top of dowels. Use rubber mallet to seat home dowels. Drill pilot holes in top and bottom plates down through dowels for 45mm screws. Now would be a good time to mark the screw holes for the shoulder screw plate and foot - make sure the screw is screwed all the way down as if you were pressing a book so as to get it completely straight. (We didn't think to do this and ended up having to work within the finished press - hard). Disassemble, drill pilot holes for shoulder screw just marked.
Now reassemble - Put wood glue in the dowel holes in the bottom plate. Put in dowel. Slide on middle plate. Place glue in top plate holes. Top plate on dowels. Use rubber mallet to seat. Use 45mm screws to attach feet to bottom through pilot holes and into dowel (right). Glue one side of each reinforcing plate. On top plate, screw through reinforcing plate, through top plate and into dowel in each corner. Make sure you clean up all the glue and hold the bottom two plates apart just so the plates don't get accidentally glued together. Leave for glue to dry.
Finish with estapol or flooring finish, including handle. I used a nail halfway down the dowel to make it easier to work on the the handle. One of the websites we looked at advised not to finish between the working surfaces because if you screw them down without anything between they can adhere.
Once dry, screw in foot and fixing plate of shoulder vice screw (note reinforcing plates missing in picture at left as that was version one). Slot handle into top of shoulder vice screw. Slide o-rings over to hold it in place. We used o-rings that were smaller than the dowel but were fat, they stretched around. We couldn't get them all the way into the shoulder vice screw but the handle isn't budging. Finished!
If you have any questions, you can email me - replace the first dot in the URL of the home page with an @