couture sewing, Tailoring, Uncategorized

Make Your Own Professional Pressing Tools

Pressing plays such an important role in producing great results when sewing. Unfortunately, many professional pressing aids are difficult to find and extremely expensive. They tend to be bulky and heavy which further contributes to the cost if you need to have them shipped. I’ll share some of my favorite tools and methods I use to make my own for very little cost. Warning: You need access to a few power tools or someone who has them.

I love this press buck for long, gently curved seams such as the back sleeve seam in jackets, hip curves for pants/skirts or center back seam with shaping at the neck and waist. I also works well for basting the canvas to the front of a tailored jacket.

This is about 28 inches long, 8 inches wide and 3.5 (measured from the bottom of the wood) inches high at the highest point. To construct this, you’ll need one piece of wood 8” x 28” x 3/4 for the base and one piece of wood 10” x 30” x 3/4”, two 4” high legs plus wood screws. Print out the file for Press Buck here.

Trace onto the 10” wide piece of wood. The pattern is for 1/2 the template, so flip and trace the opposite side. Cut out with a jigsaw. I used two unfinished short legs from Home Depot and attached them as shown. My legs had bolts at the bottom. I drilled a hole slightly larger than the bolt to allow the legs to sit flat on the wooden base. Attach the remaining piece of wood to the legs from the underside so the screws don’t show (countersink the screws so they don’t scratch or snag any surface).

I used a length of heavy wool and cut concentric shapes as shown. You want the thickest part on top of the right hand leg, tapering to nothing along the edges.

View from the top of layers. I cut a paper pattern the shape of the bottom layer and worked upwards. Cut a layer of wool fabric, trimmed the pattern down a little around the edges and continued until the shape was built up. View from the side. The thickest part is about 3.5 inches high including the wood. In other words, 3/4” thick wood plus 2.75” of fabric.

Cover the entire top with two layers of wool. Staple the wool to edges of the wood base.

I added a finishing layer of wool felt (available in the utility fabrics section at JoAnn’s), wrapped it under the edge and secured with double sided masking tape.

Ease the felt around the curves, stick to tape and trim the excess.

For the cover, add about 2.5 inches all around the pattern. Cut from heavy muslin. Cut a bias strip about 1 and 1/8 wide long enough to go around the outside edge of the cover (piece as necessary). Starting in the middle of the larger curved end, turn end of bias under and stitch at 1/4 inch. Fold end under when you reach starting point.

Wrap the bias around a thin sturdy cord and stitch, making sure not to catch the cord when sewing. The cord will act as a drawstring to tighten the cover. I’m nudging the cord against the fold and stitching along the seam line (badly in need of a manicure; COVID hands).

Place the cover on the press buck, making sure there is equal amount to turn under on all sides. Place a few pins to hold the cover in place while you pull the drawstring tight and tie.

Adjust the gathers and steam to smooth out any wrinkles. I’ve added a couple of lengths of twill tape secured with safety pins along the underside of the long edges to tighten up the cover in that area.

The sleeve board is made the same way except instead of multiple layers of wool, the surface is flat.

Cut a piece of acoustical ceiling tile using the same template. Glue it in place. Cover with thick felt and a muslin cover. The muslin cover should be about 2.5 inches larger than the pattern template to allow for the increased thickness. The combination of ceiling tile and thick felt makes a pin-able surface to secure the work when pressing.

Sleeve board. This one is much more stable than most. A rolling tool chest stores loads of supplies and the top is a sheet of plywood covered with the pin-able tile and felt. The heavy canvas cover can be replaced when worn. Can you tell Home Depot is a great sewing supply store.

Last tool is a point presser.

Cut 3/4 inch wood the shape of the pattern and mount from the underside. The base is 8” x 28.” Shape the point with a wood file and sand smooth.

I have more of my favorite makes coming: seam stick, pressing block and pin cushion which goes around the palm of your hand. I think it’s easier to use than the typical wrist location. Thanks for reading and enjoy making new tools.

24 thoughts on “Make Your Own Professional Pressing Tools”

  1. Mary I am absolutely delighted that you have once again generously shared with us. Just this weekend I was hunting for a pressing buck, was thinking of making my own, and hey presto you give us these instructions! And a pattern as well! I can’t thank you enough. I am making a fully canvassed Harris Tweed waistcoat for a gift following Stanley Hostek’s instructions, and find myself needing a pressing buck to shape the fronts – the front canvas and lining is cut on the bias.

    1. Thanks for letting me know that this came at such an opportune time. Stanley Hostek’s books are the best and a hidden gem in the world of tailoring. I can recommend watching the YouTube video from Bias Bespoke in which Artur mounts a chest canvas. He doesn’t use a buck but loads of good info. He did several of the costumes for Hamilton. I would love to find a wooden tailors egg but that’s probably another home project. I would love to see your jacket; I adore Harris tweeds.

  2. This is fabulous, thanks for taking the time to write it. I have coveted a pressing pig after seeing one once in a sewing class. I hope that is the right term for it. It was big and heavy but so handy. Vanessa

    1. Thank you for letting me know you enjoyed this post. I’ve heard multiple terms so pressing pig is fine. Yes, they are big and heavy but that’s what makes the home-made version so great.

  3. Wow, this is wonderful, thank you. I’ve looked at these, but they’re so expensive. My dear spouse has already agreed to give me a helping hand. Christmas come early! Yours, Carol


  4. Thanks so much for these fantastic tutorials. I have needed something like your buck for a long time. I’ll see if I can get the hubs to take care of the wood part.

  5. This is great. I will be making one. I already have a seam stick and the pressing block, but I am looking forward to the pin cushion.

      1. Hi Mary,
        Thanks for this pattern for a press buck. My friend made one for me and now I am in the process of the padding and cover. I am using an old wool blanket (less cutting) and I was wondering what your thoughts are on a velveteen cover. Is it impractical? It does look nice but I am more interested in the pressing results. Thanks, Joanne

      2. You want a firm surface which heavy muslin will provide. Velveteen may look nice but doesn’t give you the necessary pressing surface for tailoring. If you’re working on a high nap fabric such as velvet, velveteen or very soft wool, then use a piece of velveteen to prevent crushing the pile. I use a needle board, which is pricey, but a square of mohair velvet: the old scratchy velvet on sofas, works well. Pro level tools are more concerned with function than looking nice. You’ll enjoy your new press buck. Thanks for reading.

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