How to Build a Rack and Cloth Apple Press

This press is very easy to build with simple lap joinery and a few mortise and tenon joints.  The entire press is held together with carriage bolts so it can be easily disassembled for storage.  I made mine out of white oak but other species could also be used. The accessories consist of a tray to collect the juice, racks(lattices) to direct the juice out of the stack, a form to hold the apple pulp as it is loaded, a top plate, and a press block.

The Press


Since I didn’t have any 16/4 or 4″ thick white oak, I’m going to glue up the parts for the press from 8/4 stock.  These three boards are all from the same tree and the two on the left are sequentially cut so I’ll be able to show a few different techniques for disguising the glue lines.  I’m starting with the uprights since they are the longest.


The board on the left will give me three of them and I’ll cut a section out of the boards on the right to give me the fourth.


I’ll crosscut the boards to more manageable length and then use the bandsaw to rip each upright section out of the boards.  I also labeled these as I went to keep the pairs matched up. One face gets flattened on the jointer and an edge gets squared up.  The boards then get run through the planer to clean up the opposite face.  I didn’t plane these all to the same thickness.  I only planned them enough to get the other face cleaned up.  I’m trying to maintain thickness since I’ll be remilling the uprights once they are all glued up.


This first glue up example is the best case scenario.  These are sequentially cut so the grain on the edges continues across the glue line as if it was one board.


This next example is a bookmatch.  I wider section is ripped into two and folded in two.  This creates a mirror image on one edge which disguises the joint.


This last example is an end to end slip.  This helps to hid the seam since the growth rings on both boards have the same orientation which means the grain will look similar along the edges and should blend together well.  This is also the technique that can be used when matching up boards from nonadjourning areas.  Matching end grain will result in a more natural looking face.  Another tip for gluing up stock this way is to have straight grain along the edges.  It’s always easier to hide a glue seam where the grain is straight.  This is also a common tip for panel glue ups.  I did the same thing to create all of the stock for the rest of the press.


Once the glue was dried, I’ll mill the parts flat and square on the jointer and run each face through the planer at the same setting to end up with square stock.  All of the parts can be cross cut to length. Start by squaring and cleaning up one end of each piece and then use a stop block to set the final length of all same length parts.


Now for some joinery.  I’m starting by cutting the notches in the upright to receive the upper beam.  The distance this starts from the top will determine the shear strength of the press.  Here I’m leaving 1.5″ from the top of the post which was a lot stronger than I thought it would be however through some destructive testing, I’d recommend leaving more material.  I use a stop block to set the distance down from the top so each notch will be in the same position.


I’ll then remove almost all of the waste and use a stop block to cut the bottom so the beam fit snugly into the notch.  The notches for the lower beams are cut in a similar way.


Last up are the tenons on the bottom of the uprights.  A stop block is used again to make sure the cuts are in the same location all the way around the upright and from one upright to the next.  The blade is lowered for the sides of the tenons.


Next the underside of the top beam receives a mortise for a stainless steel plate that the bottle jack will press against.  This just protects the wood from becoming dented.  I used a piece of stainless steel that I drilled and counter sunk some screw holes into.


Onto the feet.  These receive a decorative chamfer on each end and a relief cut along the bottom.


Everything can be sanded and a finish applied.  I used Salad Bowl Finish on of the parts for the press.


Time to start on the assembly.  I made a couple of hole location templates: one for the upper beam area and one for the lower beam area.  The holes get drilled through with a 1/2″ hole.  The holes are enlarged to 5/8″ on all parts except the part contacting the head of the bolt.


On those parts, a square mortise is cut to give somewhere for the underside of the carriage bolt head to go.  I use a 1/2″ mortising chisel to easily make a square hole but it can also be created manually with some layout lines and a chisel.


The parts on the back side receive a 1 3/8″ counter bore to receive the washer and nut.  The feet get these holes drilled before the mortises are cut.  The wall thickness gets a bit thin which could cause some blowout if drilled afterwards.  To cut the mortises, I first drilled out the majority of the waste and then used a router with an edge guide to clean it up.


Next the press can be assembled and the bolts installed.  And lastly the feet can be installed and pinned with the bolt.


When we used the press we wanted to test the shear strength press.  The 1.5″ above the beam did hold up really well but failed probably somewhere passed 8 tons of force.  The repair was pretty simple: some glue to reattach the piece that sheared off.   Now to actually make this stronger, I install some dowels which have a very high shear strength.  If you’re making your own, you could extend this area and if you really want to, some dowels will add even more strength.



The base of the tray is made from marine plywood.  I painted it tan so it would somewhat match the white oak.


The angled front of the tray is laid out and I’ll cut along the line with a track saw.  I have two pieces stacked together so I can make two trays at once.


To make the walls of the tray, I milled up some more white oak and started cutting the pieces to length working my way from the front pieces to the back.   I added a few dominos to help align and strengthen the joints.


At the front of the tray, I’m going to install a plastic drain.  The drain has a lip that I’ll counter sink and I’ll also need a through hole for the spout to pass through.


The frame gets glued to the plywood base with epoxy and I’ll also epoxy the drain into the hole.


The tray get finished with a bar top epoxy to both protect it and to make it watertight.



I’ll start by making the strips.  I want straight grain for these so I’ve laid out what I can use onto this board.  Just for reference, this board yielded enough strips to produce three lattices.


The strips are going to be 1 1/8″ wide, which is wider than the thickness of the board, so I’m ripping the boards into roughly 1 1/4″ strips which will get milled down to the width needed. I face jointed and squared up an edge on each of these.  I’ll rip a strip and bring the board back to the jointer to joint the edge after each cut.  The strips can then be planed to the 1 1/8″ thickness that I need.  I’m leaving the 4th face rough since it will be the waste side.


I set the table saw to rip these down to 1/4″ thick.  Each of the strips gave me 3 of these 1/4″ strips.


Next I’m going to make a jig to hold all the strips in position so they can be easily glued up.  I made a template of the lattice patterns with the center of each gap marked.  I transferred that mark to a piece of melamine.  I stuck a second piece of melamine to the first one and drilled 1/4″ holes at each mark.  I set the depth stop on my drill press to drill all the way through the top piece and about a half inch into the bottom.


Each hole then receives a short piece of dowel. One end is chamfered to make insertion into the hole in the base easier and the other end is sharpened to make installing the top of the form easier.   All of these alignment pins are not completely necessary but as we’ll see, it makes it really easy to be able to see where to apply glue.


The base layer of strips can be inserted between the pins and glue can be applied to the intersection areas.  The perpendicular strips can be added and the top of the jig can be installed.


Since the press is already assembled, we can use it to clamp the entire jig.


The lattices can be removed from the form and cleaned up starting by trimming the excess off of one edge.  The two perpendicular edges can be squared and trimmed and the last edge can be trimmed using the table saw fence.



The forms are just frames that are used to shape the apples for pressing and then are removed.  The joinery here can be utilitarian or decorative or anywhere in between.  I chose to use box joints here mostly for their looks and I figured this would be a good time to try them.


Want to see the press in use? Check out my other post:


Plans For This Project


With these project plans, you can build the apple press using either hardwood or common construction lumber from the hardware store. The press uses a bottle jack and can accommodate six layers of apples at one time. One full press load gave us roughly 12 gallons of juice, though your results may vary as apples are all a little different.

This is a perfect project for beginning woodworkers. It uses simple half-lap joinery for most major construction, along with some mortise and tenon joints. Carriage bolts join the major pieces together.  The apple press uses basic tools and is a one or two weekend project (the accessories can take longer to build than the press itself).

The PDF plans include over 20 pages of instructions with dimensions and illustrations for each step. You will be guided through the project from start to finish. Whether you are an experienced woodworker or just getting started, you can successfully complete this project.

These plans are electronic and can be downloaded immediately after purchasing them.

Products Used

General Finishes Salad Bowl Finish:

Triton Track Saw:

Incra iBox:

Saw Stop 3hp PCS:

Bar Top Epoxy:

Home Addition & Renovation

Upper Cabinets and Range Hood Surround

Welcome back to our home renovation.  Today I am going to be working on this wall. It needs some upper cabinets and the surround for

3 Responses

  1. Great job on the press and accessories Matt! ….I was thinking, that lattice jig could be a useful byproduct, if you wanted, you could use it for batching out some trivets ( it looks like you could probably cut nine trivets out of one lattice.) Additionally, you could skip slats and do every other one or even every third one and make lattices with different size openings for various projects.

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