Thursday 16 September 2021

My DIY Tofu Press craft project

I've long wanted a proper wooden Tofu Press rather than relying on my previous system of wrapping the block in swathes of kitchen roll with something heavy balanced on top. That method is not only wasteful on kitchen roll paper, but I also discovered that tofu rarely compresses evenly - and stacked china plates don't bounce. Oops!

My DIY Tofu Press started with two sycamore wood rectangles, kindly cut and drilled for me by my friend David Dyke @ Luthiers Supplies. David is something of a wood guru so I took onboard his recommendation of sycamore as the best wood to use for the project. I had originally thought I wanted paduak due to the beauty of eatroot's elegant tofu presses for sale on Etsy. However David championed sycamore for food preparation purposes and I already have a great pig-shaped chopping board in the same wood (a gift from the same source) which the press would match nicely.

The two wood rectangles were each drilled with 4x 5mm holes and I managed to buy 4 5x100mm bolts, together with matching wingnuts at C C Clements, a wonderful traditional ironmongers in Wymondham, Norfolk. It must have taken the helpful assistant a good 10 minutes to trial various options until we found exactly what the project needed, and the hardware still only cost £3.20!

Having now got all the parts together, I then set about refining the wood. My partner keeps a few sandpapers in his toolbox in our campervan so I was able to find one suitable to rub down the sycamore. I took everything apart, sanded all the rough edges smooth and gave the angles a bit of a curve. I also tried to sand inside the bolt holes by rolling the sandpaper into tubes but this didn't work so well.

I don't know how well you can see the colour difference in this photo. My little HTC phone is now eight years old so its camera struggles! I lightly rubbed the sycamore rectangle on the right with rapeseed oil - the better of the two food grade oils we already had. I repeated this a couple more times on both pieces of wood before my project was put to use as the oil soaked in really quickly. I think, over time, oiling will give the wood a nice honey colour too.

I was so pleased with how the press worked on its first use. I actually position it slanting, on its end, across a deep plate so only one corner of the press stands in the drained liquid. I hope alternating the corners will keep my press going for many years. I did notice, after the first use, that the screw holes appeared to shrink a little, resulting in needing to completely unscrew and rescrew each long screw in order to disassemble and reassemble the press. This was even more of a faff to do than to type. We decided the best thing would be to slightly enlarge the screw holes with a handheld drill so now the wood slides without catching and only the wing nuts use the screw threads.

So here is my finished project. A Tofu Press! Obviously this pic is a mockup - I know I need to remove the tofu from its box first (and, despite what Tofoo claim, I think their tofu does need a half hour's pressing before use). I'm delighted with it and look forward to lots more easy and delicious tofu meals!