As leathercrafters, we’re all familiar with the fiddly nature of snaps, rivets, studs, eyelets, and the myriad other hardware we often use in our work. A frequent challenge in using these is getting an even, flat set to ensure quality and longevity of the finished work. To this end, many commercial devices are offered to mechanically assist in a perfect set. Unfortunately, these devices are often several hundreds of dollars or more. I wanted a more reasonable option.

Enter the inexpensive half-ton arbor press. I got mine from Harbor Freight for around $50, but Amazon and many other offer them as well. To make this conversion, you’ll need:

  • Arbor press
  • Drill press
  • Drill bits appropriate to your setting tools
  • Thumb screw
  • Tap, same size as thumb screw
  • Cutting oil
  • Center punch

Remove the ram from the press by removing the set screw, collar, and handle assembly first. Drill a hole down the length of the ram a few inches. I made mine 1/2 inch in diameter. Go slowly, use oil.

Drill a second hole, perpendicular to and intersecting the first, about half an inch up from the end of the ram. This hole should be appropriately sized for your thumb screw. Drill just until you break through to the central hole, not out the other side.

Tap this second hole to accept your thumb screw.

Reassemble the press, install the thumb screw. Insert a pointed setter or other pointed tool into the hole, and secure it with the thumb screw. Gently lower this onto the base plate and note the point of contact. Mark and center punch this spot.

Drill this spot to accept your hardware setting tools.

That’s about all there is to it! You can now easily swap out your hardware holders/setters usually intended for use with branded setting machines. Enjoy perfectly set hardware at a fraction of the price.

Thanks for reading!