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I have and use both the Hobby Horse and Lionel presses. The Hobby Horse is a heavier press with a wider opening. It is used for larger rivets and all wheel pressing.   I use the Lionel press for smaller rivets and more precision work. I also have the Brakeman's hand riveting tool that I use for coupler knuckle replacement. When you read Carl’s book on how to use the press, he talks about having to hit the handle of the press with a hammer to get some rivets to set properly. I have a heavy plastic hammer I use for this and it works well. I would not hit the Lionel press handle with the hammer for fear of breaking it. The Hobby Horse press is a stout tool. The one I have is cast iron. I understand they are now aluminum castings to try and keep the shipping cost down. 

The Hobby Horse and Lionel tooling is interchangeable. As with many machines, all the money is in the tooling. There are several sources for the tooling. I have a mix of tooling from many sources.   Most recently I have been getting tooling from Jeff Kane, The Train Tender. His riveting tools are well made and the face is polished, which gets a smoother roll on the rivets. He also has a line of long rivet sets that are good for getting in tight places. These will not fit in the Lionel press. Denis Waldron, Just Trains, also sells press tooling. He also sells a press that competes with the Hobby Horse press.  I have no experience with that press, but worth looking at.  The Hobby Horse press has been on the market long enough that they now show up used on auction sites. 

One word of caution.  The press tools are made with tight tolerances to hold them ridged in the press. Some times there is even a slight interference. If you use the tools with an interference fit, and press them together, you will probably never get them apart. I keep a small jar of 400 grit lapping compound next to the press. When I get a new tool that is a little tight, I lap the fit until I can assemble and disassemble the tools by hand.  

Every press job seems to be different. I have found it pays to keep a stack of different thickness 5/8 diameter arbor washers next to the press to get that final adjustment. On the Hobby Horse press the pressing is done with a cam. This gives different mechanical advantages for different handle positions. When setting up a press job I always take this into consideration. 




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David - I have asked Carl at Hobby Horse to make a couple of different special tools for me. When completed, he offered them pre-tempered or post-tempered stating that if they needed any tweaking he couldn't really do that after he had hardened them. The tools that you have used lapping compound on, were they hardened already? And how exactly do you go about lapping the tool? I have spun a couple that would fit into my drill, holding various grits of emery cloth around the shaft, but that was largely ineffective on hardened steel.

And I know what you mean about not getting them apart - I knew better one day as I used a bit that didn't quite fit, and jammed down on it just a bit. Had they not eventually separated, that would have been an ugly process trying to drill that bit out of the rack. I think replacement parts would be the only cure.


George, to lap tools that fit tight I apply the 400 grit silicon carbide lapping past to both parts and just work the parts together until I have the clearance I need. I renew the lapping compound every few minutes.  I do not think that I am removing very much, maybe in the ten thousandths. It does take time.  I cannot figure out why Carl hardens the wheel cups so hard. I just do not think at this time in history any of these tools are going to be used so much that they will wear out. In my experience wheels press on fairly easy. If they do not there is a risk of bending the axle. I find I usually have to ream the wheel bore to get an interference of about 0.002”.  That is interference between the bore and shaft ignoring the serrations. 

Most of my tool interference problems have been on the lower tool holder where I think less hardening has occurred. The rivet sets have always seem to fit well in the top tool holders. Most of the rivet sets I use are either original Lionel or from Jeff Kane. 

I might let my Hobby Horse go. Thinking about going to a straight arbor press (there is another firm making one that uses the ST series tooling like the Hobby Horse and the Lionel presses.

I have had it about 3 years, it's been a good friend. It will do standard gauge thicknesses as well as O, the Lionel one is not deep enough for Std.

There are a couple of firms selling or making the tooling, which at the end of the day is what it's all about. I picked up a Hobby Horse press with an unbelievable amount of tooling at York a year or so ago. Have wheel tools for every conceivable wheel size (except AF S gauge, which I sold off, not doing any of that). Was not really cheap, but selling off the S gauge stuff made what was left a good buy (anybody need wheel cups for a 250 Hiawatha engine, Marx?, Any variety of prewar Lionel steam and electric). Even with all I have, I'm still looking for some specialized tools for certain operations.



Frank B

I have not made the move to go from the Hobby Horse to a modified arbor press. I have gotten a ton of use out of the Hobby Horse, but I believe that control is better with the arbor, since you don't have to adjust to get maximum mechanical advantage (always having to change the set up to get the arm low enough to pull). The 5/8" washer idea is something that I also do, can get some accuracy when pressing on drivers (full stroke to the right gauge if you get it right). I have been pressing a lot of wheels for my new GG1 (6 axles per loco, just finished the 9th one, 2 presses per axle). At this point, one of the arbor presses will have to come to me, then I'll let the Hobby Horse go, but NOT most of the tooling, which will be common. You can never have enough press tools. I was fortunate enough to find a very large set of tools with a Hobby Horse at York. Bunch of the American Flyer S gauge tools sold off almost paid for everything else!.


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