Brad Silberberg on Fly Presses

Brad Silberberg is one of the foremost proponents of the use of the fly press in blacksmithing and metalsmithing today. He has demonstrated the use of the fly press for blacksmithing/metalworking for ABANA chapters all over the US. Brad has used the fly press for his own art and business for a variety of tasks that the fly press does with ease, while allowing the user a sense of touch and feel as the metal moves. This sense of touch is not found on hydraulic machines, where you just step on the pedal and watch the hydraulic unit do it's thing. Because working the fly press uses a body motion that Brad describes as like "opening and closing a door" you can exert infinite control of the moving of the metal. Usually, the fly press only momentarily contacts a hot or cold work piece with repeated strokes so the tooling doesn't absorb the heat as quickly as the constant contact of a hydraulic press.

Another real advantage to the fly press is that the ram moves a great distance for each short pull of the handle. Hydraulic presses are generally pretty slow. This also minimizes contact time with the tooling. The ram advaces approximately 3" on one revolution, but you only need a 1/4 revolution of the flywheel handle for most work.The power of the press is amazingly efficient.

More From Brad
The first safety rule I tell my students is: SLOW DOWN. THEN... SLOW DOWN SOME MORE!

I am always careful not to wail away at a tool that is bearing only against the bottom of the ram tool hole. This only really happens with chisels and punches. Pushing tools usually bear against the flat of the end of the ram.Your tool holder is taking up some of your stroke!

I use hex stock for press chisels. The flats in the hex allow me to index the tool in the ram with out spinning. It just takes a little care to forge the chisel in alignment with the hex. I usually make the cutting edge parallel with the flat of one side of the hex. That way, the tool locks in with the cutting edge aligned to work the stock left and right. The hex also facilitates using the chisel at the same angle left and right by turning the hex.

The thing that my little fly press gets used for the most is straightening and bending. I never incorporated plain barstock straight from the truck without straightening it first. (I don't like the look of rails with bent pickets.) I can straighten 1"square bar (cold) with my 2-A. I put up roller support stands at either side of the press and have straighted 15 ft lengths for rail tops. It also works great to straighten forgings after they have cooled. (Hot straightend work sometimes changes as it cools, cold stays put!)
Presses are great for bending curves also. (Inch-mark the stock, set the depth stop and bump on the marks as you feed stock along.) Again, hot bent curves often open or close as they cool. Cold bent work stays put. I also have a great tool for opening up curves that are too tight. I sometimes work on stuff at black heat, using less force to get the line I want. The press is also handy to bend or re-align hot stuff that I just can't seem to get to with a hammer.

The quik bump from the fly press does the work without sucking the heat out of hot work the way a continuous-contact hydraulic does. I can also FEEL when the stock "gives" so I can make slight changes in stuff. With my big hydraulic, I can only WATCH. Sometime I use the press by holding the handle with one hand and putting the other hand on the counterweight to give an extra hard squeeze -- if I can place work so it can be "hands free".

The depth stop also comes in handy to keep you from having the press always dropping to the bottom of it's stroke when you take the work out from under the tool. Saves a lot of needless raising of the ram. Brad

Brad's Contact Information for Fly Press Demonstrations: If you're looking for an experienced, high end artist/blacksmith to show you or your ABANA club how this tool can be integrated into to your shop and possibly result in more profit and processes previously thought impossible contact Brad Silberberg at the following:

  • Brad Silberberg
    Bradley Metal Design, Inc.
    30 Miller Business Park Dr.
    Burgettstown, PA 15021