"Hand press" is a term used in both the printing and the manufacturing industries, with widely divergent meanings. In the printing industry, the definition of hand press is as simple as that of a printing press which is operated by hand. Historically, the printing hand press dates back centuries in both Western and Eastern civilizations, although in the case of Western civilization, printing presses didn't become practical until Johannes Gutenberg created movable type in the 15th century. The 17th century saw the invention of the much stronger iron printing press by Earl Stanhope.
A hand press operates by turning a crank to produce pressure, or by using one's hands to lower a lever or handle. The Victorian era introduced parlor presses, much smaller printing presses. The introduction and popularity of the smaller printing press occurred because many people of the Victorian era took up printing as a hobby. Sleek, strong, small printing hand presses are available on the market today, as well as larger hand presses for commercial use.
In the manufacturing industry, a hand press refers to the machine used to attach grommets. A grommet is basically the reinforcement surrounding a hole, such as the eyelets in a shoe. A grommet may be found in cloth, leather, sheets, or panels. Sizes of hand presses vary greatly, depending on the industry in which they are found and the use to which the final product is going to be put. For home use, a hand press may fit into one hand, while in manufacturing applications, most hand presses are bench- or table-mounted.
With industrialization, precision in manufacturing and industry has become critical. At the same time, flexibility is often key for smaller manufacturing firms. Whether or not a hand press is flexible, it must be extremely precise. Imagine trying to mass-produce an item by hammering each grommet into place as was done in the past.
A third use of the term "hand press" is found in the specialized world of hunters and target shooters. Due to the high cost of ammunition, many people involved in these sports use a process termed "reloading," whereby they take a spent cartridge and reload the essential ingredients needed to make a bullet fire. A hand press is necessary to complete this process. The majority of presses used are bench presses, but some people favor a hand press for its portability.