As a leather crafter, I make some items repeatedly, like coasters, wallets, and key chains. While they are simple projects, they can be tough to make in large batches. Consistency takes precision, and speed causes mistakes. Recently I’ve been looking at investing in a clicker press, a time-saving tool used for cutting out leather.
A leather clicker press is a machine used with steel dies to cut leather shapes. Clicker presses use a large downward pressure forcing dies through the leather. They come in both manual and hydraulic, and various tonnage. Leather clicker press machines save time with unmatched speed and accuracy.
A clicker press can be an invaluable tool for those in leather production. Although the high cost can hold crafters back, let’s explore the leather clicker press in detail to help you determine if it’s right for your workshop.
What Is a Leather Clicker Press?
A leather clicker press is a large machine that presses down on the cutting surface below to cut leather. By using a metal leather die, a clicker press pushes the metal through the leather to create an efficient and accurate cut. Leather clicker presses can be manual, using a handle to apply force or hydraulic.
While both presses accomplish the same goal, hydraulic presses are typically able to apply more pressure, allowing them to cut larger dies or thicker leather. A press can also be used as a stamping tool by controlling the force applied to the stamp to ensure a crisp outcome.
What We’ll Explore
- Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
- When You Might Use a Leather Clicker Press
- Leather Clicker Press Quick Reference Table
- Leather Clicker Press Types and Variations
- Leather Clicker Press Characteristics
- Leather Clicker Press Pros
- Leather Clicker Press Cons
- Leather Clicker Press Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
- Leather Clicker Press Costs
- Alternative Options to a Leather Clicker Press
- Experienced Tips for Working with a Leather Clicker Press
- My Personal Research with Leather Clicker Press
- Leather Clicker Press Care and Maintenance
- Helpful Leather Clicker Press Insights
- Key Takeaways
Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions
A common concern when discussing clicker presses is their die-shape limitation. Many will see how other crafters use their presses for small, simple leather goods and feel it would not benefit them. However, this is not always the case.
Custom-shaped clicker dies can be purchased for any specific need. A die can also be much larger than standard small dies. The press head can swivel to target different areas that need to be cut. As long as the die stays in place, multiple presses can be used to cut out much larger pieces.
When You Might Use a Leather Clicker Press
The most common use for a clicker press is to produce multiple leather pieces in a production setting. Since the clicker press cuts out leather accurately and within seconds, there is no quicker method for cutting leather. By utilizing leather dies with stitching holes, a clicker press may also speed up the stitching process by providing a ready-to-stitch piece.
Another interesting use for the press is stamping. With a manual leather clicker press, the pressure applied can be controlled, allowing crafters to add a clean mark into the leather without it becoming mushy. Similarly, a pattern can be pressed onto vegetable tanned leather using large plates, embossing it with the clicker press.
Leather Clicker Press Quick Reference Table
|Tool||Leather Clicker Press|
|Component Materials||Cutting base, pressure plate, force lever, or hydraulic system|
|Common Sizes||1, 4, 8, and 12 ton|
|Cost Range ($)||$300–$4500|
|Recommended Maintenance||Routine cleaning, plate rotations, and oil changes|
|Recommended Storage||Powered off, with a dust cover applied|
|Common Uses||Cutting or stamping leather|
|How Long It Lasts (on average)||Lifetime|
Leather Clicker Press Types and Variations
Leather clicker presses come in two main types, manual and hydraulic.
- Manual – A manual clicker press uses a level that applies force from the user and machine mechanisms to apply the downward pressure. These types of presses will usually have a large level that helps provide the user leverage to maximize pressure.
- Hydraulic – Hydraulic presses, on the other hand, are entirely electrical. Two simple button presses force the swivel head downwards, generating extreme pressure. Hydraulic presses are typically larger than manual ones while also commonly doubling how much pressure can be generated.
Leather Clicker Press Characteristics
Leather clicker presses are made from metal but comprise three parts to form the machine.
- Pressing plate – This is a large flat surface that gets pushed onto the die cutting the leather. The pressing plate determines where the pressure will be applied as they are made to swivel to different areas.
- Cutting surface – Typically made of high-density plastic, this surface is what sandwiches the die between the two surfaces. By being made from plastic, the material can prevent the blades from becoming dull quickly or breaking.
- Pressure mechanism – For manual machines this is typically in the form of a level that will be pulled down, amplifying the force a crafter can apply. For hydraulic machines, it will be replaced with an automatic auction that starts with the press of a couple of buttons.
The size of a clicker press determines the amount of pressure the machine can apply. Manual machines start around 1.5 tons and are decent for home use to cut keychains and other small dies. From there, sizes 4 and 8 tons are common options used by small businesses. Both work well for cutting out wallet-sized pieces.
The 8-ton press offers a larger cutting area, and the ability to click out larger dies in multiple presses. When switching to hydraulic presses, their pressure output is much higher at around 12 tons. These machines are great in an industrial setting or for businesses that produce many leather goods.
They provide more pressure and are control operated rather than requiring the user to apply force. Heather Mckinley, Bachelor of Science in Merchandising from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, conducted a case study involving developing a leather retail store and found that preplanning was a large part of the process.
In Mckinley’s study, researchers address large hydraulic presses, noting how they must be placed near an outlet with enough space to operate. The research indicated how larger presses may need the workshop to flow around them and can possibly be intrusive.
Many variables should be considered when purchasing a leather clicker press. The most obvious is the size needed. A small clicker press will not be as effective in cutting out the leather piece and may become quickly limited by its maximum pressure. Typically leather crafters stay in the 4–8 ton range to maximize efficiency without spending as much.
However, if larger projects are the main focus, 12-ton presses or larger may be something to consider. Another variation is the type of press available. Manual uses a level that is pulled down to achieve the pressure, while a hydraulic press uses electricity to power the mechanism. Both are viable, with hydraulic presses being better suited for those in an industrial setting.
Leather Clicker Press Pros
A leather clicker press can be one of the most useful tools in any workshop. The benefits of a leather clicker press include:
- Precision and accuracy
- Speeds up production
- Cuts production costs
- Provides versatility for using stamps or embossing patterns
- Specialty dies can be created to cut out personalized shapes
A press can also be used as a stamping tool by controlling the force applied to the stamp to ensure a crisp outcome.
Leather Clicker Press Cons
While leather clicker presses are great tools, they may not be for every workshop. Some potential cons of a leather clicker press include:
- Cost – Clicker presses are a large investment, costing well over $1000 for the machine alone. When including the dies required, each template may cost $100 or more.
- Space – A clicker press also requires a dedicated large space. While most can sit on a workbench, they will need to be secured and are not easily moved. Since the die determines the final shape cut out of leather, crafters who enjoy innovating every project may find it hard to find a use for a clicker press.
- Waste – While dies can be custom-made, they can not be easily modified and result in wasted money for some.
- Customer opinions – For many, the handmade part of leather craft is what draws them to small shops. While a clicker press provides a flawless piece, some may see it as machine-made rather than a personal item.
Leather Clicker Press Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
The many parts of a clicker press are made from metal molds. This process works by turning various amounts of steel into a molten liquid, which is then poured into a mold and cooled. When hardened, the molds can be removed, producing the shapes required. Each piece must be sanded, polished, and sometimes painted before being assembled.
Leather clicker presses have a base shell with a pressing mechanism inside. This is utilized through a level or by electrical means. Typically the cutting surface used at the base of the machine is aftermarket and simply sent to the purchaser.
Leather Clicker Press Costs
Prices of leather clicker presses are part of why they’re a big decision when investing in one. The smallest clicker presses, 1.5 tons, start at around $300. These are level actioned but are only suitable for small dies and thin leather. Most crafters looking for small production runs opt for a 4-ton, $1700, or an 8-ton, $3350.
Both machines produce enough pressure to work with most medium-sized dies, with the 8-ton being usable with larger dies. If an electric clicker press is needed, their starting cost is around $4500, producing 12 tons of pressure. However, regardless of the clicker press purchased, it is important to consider the shipping costs, as presses will require pallet shipping, adding over $250 to the final price paid.
This insightful video by Orraman Leather provides a closer look at a budget clicker press. It covers the pros and cons of a small press for leather crafting.
Alternative Options to a Leather Clicker Press
A great alternative to a leather clicker press is a laser cutting machine. With less speed, laser cutters are just as accurate as a clicker press. They also offer the ability to create your own designs at no extra cost, making them ideal for crafters looking to prototype. Another alternative is hand-held dies.
These tools come in small common shapes and use a mallet to drive them through the leather. Their cuts are consistent, but handheld dies are limited by their size, with the largest being around the size of a coaster.
Experienced Tips for Working With a Leather Clicker Press
- Practice clicking out scrap leather to understand the alignment of the tools better.
- Split up larger dies into multiple presses to ensure the leather is entirely cut out.
- Plae precut leather pieces on the press instead of maneuvering an entire hide.
My Personal Research with Leather Clicker Press
With clicker presses being such a significant investment, having as much information as possible when purchasing one is key. To research, I looked at four common sizes of clicker presses, exploring what retailers and crafters suggest.
Most people looking for a clicker press will see the price and look for a budget alternative. They will most likely come across a 1.5-ton press, costing around $300, a fraction of the price when compared to other presses. Some crafters pointed out shortcomings in this press when looking for information online.
The first was the die limitation; these presses will only work with dies up to a bifold size. They also worked best with dies with a large surface area, though dies like this limit the visibility when placing them. All dies will work, but a smaller surface area will lead to less pressure and sometimes multiple presses.
Another area for improvement was the way the pressuring surface was built. It is locked in a position and does not swivel like most other presses. This requires the leather to be cut to slide in between the metal posts. Overall this machine could benefit those with limited needs and who do not mind making adjustments when necessary.
For the 4 and 8-ton press, I looked at the Weaver models as they are the most popular available. The 4-ton press is $1700, a large jump in price from the 1.5-ton. The main benefits of a machine like this are the added pressure and the swivel head.
The press area and the cutting board are similar in size to the 1.5-ton presses, meaning larger dies will be tricker to place, but can be maneuvered and cut in multiple passes. Whole hides may be used when cutting; however, the cutting area is not ideal, making it easier to cut smaller pieces as necessary.
The 4-ton leather clicker press is also easier to make necessary adjustments. These machines will have dedicated knobs for height changes, while the 1.5-ton presses require hand tools.
The 8-ton leather clicker press is nearly double the price of the 4-ton at $3350 but offers some significant changes. The pressing and cutting surface is nearly double in size, and the machine comes with its own stand. The 8-ton press comes nearly fully assembled, with only the handle needing to be installed.
However, because of the stand, the press must be bolted to the floor rather than a workbench, potentially limiting its ability for some crafters in small shops. They progressively get larger when comparing the level used for the manual clicker presses. A larger handle provides more leverage, making the clicking process easier.
Utility-wise, the 4-ton and 8-ton press will handle similar-sized dies and leather thicknesses. In addition, the 8-ton press will offer a larger cutting area, limiting how much a die may need to be moved and creating an easier pressing motion.
The switch is made to hydraulic clicker presses when looking at presses larger than 8 tons. I took a look at a 12-ton press by Techsew to compare it with manual models. The cutting and pressing surfaces are larger by nearly 50%.
However, the most significant change is the method of cutting. It no longer requires the use of a level and instead uses buttons that are pressed to force the plate down. The Techsew machine has two buttons that need to be simultaneously pressed, which helps prevent accidents. Hydraulic presses are freestanding and require an electrical supply.
A huge con of these machines is the weight differences. Even the large 8-ton clicker can be moved with two to four people. Hydraulic presses are much heavier and will typically be installed by the retailer for a fee. Once in place, they are not easy to move around a workshop.
The right clicker press is all about finding what suits your needs best. Size plays a key role in the price of each press, but so does utility. While ideally getting the largest press possible will provide the best tool, the requirements may change the possibilities. Smaller workshops may not be able to justify a hydraulic press but may benefit from a 4-ton manual press — each situation is different.
Leather Clicker Press Care and Maintenance
How to Clean a Leather Clicker Press
There are a few key areas to keep clean when using a clicker press. The first two are the pressing plate and the cutting board. Any debris here will be pressed into the leather, potentially damaging it. The other areas are anywhere that an action is taking place. This is typically at the base, which houses the pressing mechanism. It is important not to let areas like these jam up with dust.
How to Maintain a Leather Clicker Press
Routine cleaning is a must for a leather clicker press to keep the parts working smoothly. In addition, some manufacturers recommend greasing some areas annually to keep the machine in the best condition. Over time, the cutting board must also be replaced. Typically the board used can be flipped to provide a clean surface, but once both sides are used up, a new one will need to be purchased.
How to Store a Leather Clicker Press
A clicker press should always be stored clean in a dry environment. Ideally, a dust cover may be placed over it to prevent key parts from jamming over time. If the clicker press is electric, keep the power off when storing. For long-term storage, removing the press handle as a space solution may be advisable.
Helpful Leather Clicker Press Insights
What is a clicker press for leather?
A clicker press used for leather is a heavy machine that places pressure on a die to cut through leather. The die used determines the shape of the cut-out piece, as the press only provides the downward force. These machines help speed up the production of leather goods by quickly and accurately making pieces like a cookie cutter cutting dough.
What is leather clicker press die?
A clicker press die is a steel shape with a cutting edge and a flat surface. When used with a leather clicker press, the pressure plate pushes onto the die’s flat surface, forcing the cutting edge through the leather. The dies used determines the shape of the leather being cut out and can be ordered in any custom design.
How do you use a leather clicker press?
To use a leather clicker press, place the piece of leather on the cutting surface with the die on top. Adjust the clicker press height for a taller or shorter die. Swivel the press head over the die, and pull the lever down until a “click” is heard. Lift the pressing head, and remove the pieces of leather. A hydraulic clicker press is similar with the difference being the action to send the press down. Hydraulic presses use a two-button system instead of a lever, keeping hands free from danger.
What is a manual leather clicker press?
A manual clicker press is a similar machine to a hydraulic one, with the main difference being how pressure is applied. Manual clicker presses have no electric parts and rely on compounding the force applied to a lever. These presses will have large levers to pull down, resulting in the cutting force. As a result, the amount of pressure generated is limited by the operator and leverage available through the handle provided.
- Leather clicker presses are the most efficient and accurate method for cutting leather.
- The price of a clicker press can be well over $1000 and requires additional costs for dies and shipping.
- A clicker press is limited to the dies available, which dictate the shape being cut out of the leather.
While clicker presses are expensive, their ability to save hours during production can make them invaluable. For those looking to expand their small shop into a business, a clicker press may be the perfect option for large-scale production. Providing both efficiency and accuracy with each cut made. There is no better option for cutting leather than a clicker press machine.
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