A handcrafted hydraulic press can be both your friend and your enemy.
And that’s the takeaway from a recent survey of 3,000 US citizens that analyzed a range of hydraulic press products.
The survey of more than 1,000 people found that those who owned a handcrafted press had a 25% higher rate of asthma-related visits than those who did not.
While it’s possible that handcrafted presses could be a better option than a manual hydraulic press for those with respiratory problems, the results also suggest that those buying a manual can be at risk for asthma attacks.
“Handcrafted hydraulic presses are the most popular brand in our survey,” says John Tait, CEO of the handcrafted market research company Longevity Inc. “In addition to being the easiest and safest way to build a hydraulic press at home, they are also the most expensive.”
While handcrafted tools have been around for decades, they’ve only become more popular over the past decade.
“Since the advent of hydraulic presses in the late 19th century, there has been a growing demand for handcrafted products,” says Mark Wollers, a certified handcrafted electrician who co-authored the survey with his wife, Karen.
“This is largely due to the availability of inexpensive and readily available materials such as wood and stainless steel.”
That makes the products available to anyone with a little DIY elbow grease.
For many, a handmade hydraulic can cost anywhere from $10 to $30.
“For the average person, the cost of a hand crafted hydraulic is around $10 per hour to $20 per hour,” Woll, the Longevity CEO, explains.
“With a high quality tool, the total cost of materials can be as little as $10-$20 per tool.
That means that for most people, the savings of buying a hand made hydraulic can be substantial.”
To be sure, handcrafted production techniques have been a part of the hydraulic tool industry for a long time.
Before the invention of hydraulic pumps in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was a lot more difficult to produce hydraulic tools in the U.S. than it is now.
That meant that the process required an enormous amount of time and effort.
For some, the extra expense meant that they were less likely to invest in handcrafted skills, says Longevity founder and CEO John Tainter.
“The majority of handcrafted professionals were very poor and did not have access to any tools,” he says.
That’s why Longevity’s survey found that the average cost of creating a hydraulic tool from scratch for a typical person was about $100.
But those with some entrepreneurial flair were able to create their own handcrafted systems.
“People who are just interested in making some simple tools have an incentive to make one themselves,” Tainters says.
“They’re not thinking about how expensive it will be to do it, but rather how much time and care they will have to put into it.”
“We are seeing a lot of handcraft enthusiasts making tools,” Wolkers adds.
“We have a lot people making handcrafted parts and we have a ton of people making custom parts.”
As a result, he says, the number of people using handcrafted equipment has risen from 5% to 16% over the last five years.
“If you are a professional, that’s not a big deal,” Wolters says.
However, for those who want to create a hydraulic product and have little to no technical background, handcrafting can be intimidating.
“Many people are intimidated by it,” Taint says.
Handcrafting requires a lot less skill than traditional manufacturing, but it can be a daunting process.
“I have to admit I had a bit of an apprehensive reaction when I first saw the scale of the scale involved,” Welters says of the process.
Even if you’re not a professional and you don’t have the skills, it’s still important to understand the process, he adds.
For example, the average workday for handcrafts is only 10 hours.
“It’s the same as manufacturing a piece of machinery,” he explains.
And, while a handcraft can be made in an hour or less, there are also times when it can take several days for a machine to reach its final shape.
“You can’t expect the handcraft to be finished in a few days,” Tait says.
For that reason, it is important to plan your time around the process of making your own hand crafted tools.
And because the process can take hours, it makes sense to use a tool with a high finish that can withstand the rigors of the job.
“There’s a lot to consider when it comes to handcraft,” Wilters says, adding that the final product should look as close to the final workpiece as possible.
“One of the things that I always say to people is ‘