A Homemade Tortilla Press

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I had a hankering for homemade tortillas one day recently, but my personal experience making them has not been, shall we say, highly successful. They always turned out too thick, too chewy and oddly shaped.

I got my inspiration from the lovely Indian women in Mexico near San Cristobal de la Casas who made them completely by hand. They worked the dough and then cooked them on big metal plates over an open fire. Boy, oh, boy, were they good! Since there’s only a small likelihood that I will ever be able to catch up to their expertise in my lifetime it seemed that I needed some mechanical assistance. You can get beautiful metal tortilla presses from Williams Sonoma and elsewhere but that’s no fun and … expensive! So we decided we would make our own. Phooey on buying one! I looked all over the Internet for a design. I could find some but the instructions seemed incomplete. Making our own tortilla press showed us where the design flaws are so I pass this on to you so you can make an even better one!

2-by-10-inch wood (did you know that a 2×10 is actually 1 1/2 inches by 9 inches?), cut into three pieces: 1 – 9-by-9 inches (Top) and 1 – 10 1/2-by-9 inches (Bottom) and 1 – 2-by-9 inches (Presser Bar)
1 – 16-inch 2×4 cut into 2 equal pieces (8 inches long each) (Support Bars) and notched at the bottom 1 1/2-by-1 1/2 inches
1 – 15-inch 1 1/2×1 1/2 wood (Handle)
2 – 2-inch removable pin hinges
4 – 3-inch wood screws
1 – 5-inch bolt with washer and nut
Wood glue

Skilsaw, table saw or hand saw
Power drill or hand drill
Hand sander (A power hand sander makes the job go faster but sanding can be accomplished without power tools. It just takes longer.)
Sandpaper, rough P36 and fine220

How to:

Here’s a hand-drawn schematic to label all the parts.

Find your wood. We got free wood from the lumberyard in the discard pile. Make sure it is straight! Ours had a slight camber to it, which we remedied by matching the pieces exactly. But we’ll allow that if your pieces are perfectly straight you will have an easier time of it.

I wish we had a table saw but my husband is very adept and safe with a Skilsaw. However, a table saw would have made it a lot easier. Also we did all the drilling and cutting by our firewood kindling cutting area so any debris would not need to be cleaned up.

Make marks on the board where you are going to cut it.

Sand the wood.

Cut your wood to the specified size.

Sand the edges.

Here are all the pieces lined up and the bolt that is going to go through the Handle and the Support Bars. Then we placed all the pieces loosely together to show you how your tortilla press is going to go together.

Drill two holes in each Support Bar at the bottom for the wood screws to go in when you attach them to the Bottom.

Drill a hole all the way through the top of the Support Bars and Handle so the Handle and Support Bars will line up correctly for the bolt to go through.

Glue the Presser bar to the Top. This has to set overnight so we balanced big books on top of it and put up our feet.

Attach the Support Bars/Handle assembly to the Bottom. Put the bolt through the Support Bars and Handle before you apply the glue and put in the screws. This is so you know you have correctly positioned the handle and it will move up and down freely. Then take the Support Bar/Handle assembly and glue the notched sections of the Support Bars. Position them in the center on the Bottom. Screw the wood screws through the support bars into the Bottom.

Make sure the notched part fits snugly on the bottom with no gaps.

Position and screw the hinges to the Top and Bottom.

I used a small hatchet to carve the handle to a roughly round and hand friendly shape and then I used a small hand sander to smooth it down.

That’s it! A very simple mechanical device with a minimum of working parts.

My next blog post will show you how to make simple corn and flour tortillas.