I enjoy blending my own tobacco, and recently started pressing some of it into kakes. Before I start working with whole-leaf, I wanted some thing stronger to make firmer, plug-style tobacco.
The reason for pressing is simple: artificial aging. Pressing gets the juices flowing and inter mixing. There's a little bit of anaerobic fermentation. In the end, you get better tobacco.
Yesterday I picked up a 20ton shop press from Harbor Freight. It was time to step up my game. I destroyed my first two presses each time I used them, and they were only able to crank out 6 tons of force.
With the new press assembled, I put together a lil test batch using some Virginia, Dark Fire Cured and Perique tobaccos. I used a (thoroughly) clean 2" pipe as my form. This size fits well into a mason jar when all is said and done.
I lined the pipe with parchment paper to help ease the extraction when all is done. I then filled the pipe with 2 ounces of tobacco. The most that I might be able cram into the 6" long pipe is probably 4 ounces. The press also only has a little over 5" of travel, so using anything longer will reduce pressing capabilities.
I cap off the tobacco with another pieces of parchment, and a HDPE "piston" that I used on my previous presses. This really just helps seal the top of the pipe and apply the force evenly.If it wasnt there, the tobacco would just extrude around the piston of the press.
Now I just sit and wait. Well, not completely. Every day I'll go and see if I can't get another pump out of the press and keep things under tight pressure.
I'm off to the hardware store to see what I can come up with for a box to press some whole leaf!
Couple of C-Clamps are a great start, and how most guys do it. Trim the sliding lid off a cabinet style cigar box so that it will drop inside. Line with wax paper, fill with tobacco, and clamp it down!
That's a serious press!
I justified it by saying I can replace the wheel bearings on the car...
This was my last press. I built it out of scrap lumber that I had laying around. It died tragically when I gave the jack one last pump. The whole bottom 2x12 split
Prior to that was another cobbled together press. It was nice because I could press upwards of 24oz of tobacco. But it was also pretty dangerous.
Press got another upgrade
Now using a 4" aluminum tube. Also made matching 1/4" aluminum plates for either end.
I can ram a large amount of tobacco into this thing, upwards of 3lbs if my math is correct.
Here's a beautiful puck, fresh out of the press
That's a half pound of Dire Straights (misspelling intentional) after a week. Under an inch thick. Less than 24hrs later and it feels like it has rebounded, and I am certain I can easily break and crumble, as opposed to the puck in the photo, but it's still measuring about the same thickness. At this point I'm going to continue to let it rest for a week and see how it all goes.