A Saw Maker’s Old Friend

March 17, 2010

One tool you don’t hear much about these days, but that was of extreme importance to early saw makers, is the fly press. For those who aren’t familiar with it, a fly press is a massive iron frame pierced by a heavy screw; on one end of the screw is a ram, and on the other end is either a weighted wheel, or a weighted arm, used to turn the screw. The screw raises and lowers the ram, and the inertia of the weight above imparts incredible force to the ram as it is lowered. All sorts of tooling can be devised for the ram end of the tool, to convert the energy of the press into useful types of work.

Today in the U.S. at least, fly presses when you do see them are usually characterized as a blacksmith’s tool—a wide variety of hot and cold smith’s work can be done with them. Historically in the U.K. and Continental Europe, the fly press was used in numerous trades in addition to blacksmithing, from making coins, to making locks, to making saws. If you have access to a copy of Diderot’s Encyclopedia, look in Volume 1 at the gigantic fly press used for coining. It was so huge, it took several men pulling ropes to operate it.

For saw makers the fly press was used to fold brass backs and to punch saw teeth. I would imagine a much larger press was used to fold the backs than was used to punch the teeth.

The press that I use weighs several hundred pounds, neither small nor huge as fly presses go—a nice mid-sized press that can handle a wide range of work. Powerful enough to do work that a smaller press could not, and small enough to do more delicate jobs for which a larger press would be too slow and cumbersome. But one characteristic that all fly presses share is a unique combination of power and control.

This is the press I use to punch my saw teeth, close my brass backs, and stamp my medallions. Quite a work horse. And one of the coolest things about this press is that it requires no electricity. It is very quiet in use.

The stand is welded from heavy 1/4″ wall tubing, angle iron, and a 3/8″ thick plate for the table. It also has a 1/4″ thick skirt around the top. I doubt I will get invited to weld on the Alaskan Pipeline anytime soon, but this stand should enjoy a longevity equal to that of the press itself.

Stay tuned, because in the coming entries I will show the press in action.



  1. Hello, found your site looking for information about flypresses. I wasn't sure if there were any manufacturers left making these. Do you know if there are other makers? I usually try to buy American, but can you recommend a distributor/importer of your press?Thank you.

  2. Hi Philip,Well, I don't know of any American company making these things. The one I own was made in India, and to my knowledge all of the presses sold in the U.S. are made in India. I'm aware of three companies who sell them–Pieh Tool, Old World Anvils, and Blacksmith Depot. The last place sells a press that appears to be made by a different manufacturer than the ones sold by the first two. Hope this helps.

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