There are several ways to pressing pipe tobacco and as elaborate as your budget will allow. Why press? It melds the flavors better of the tobacco no matter if you are doing raw leaf or using an existing blend. Many folks like make tobacco cakes and plugs.
Moisture content will affect how the plug compacts. One experiment was pressed right our of the bag and another press where the tobacco was microwaved for 20 seconds and tossed it like a salad to get the excess moisture out. The straight out of the bag pressed for 3 weeks quickly expanded like a crumble cake after 3 weeks. Not a lot of color change. The microwaved tobacco came out as a black plug as dense as Salty Dogs. The dense plug was cut into flakes and was a sweet mellow smoke that went for an hour and 45 minutes with no relighting.
Recommending for beginners to first started trying with a Noodle Press off of Amazon. This is the simplest method for anyone to get started and perfect to make 50 gram plugs/cakes. Just put some wax paper on the ends. Just don’t crank super tight or you will break the plastic top. Much inspiration here on Pipe Smoker’s Den Home Pressing thread. Yeah it is a long thread but some gems were dropped by Ernie Q, owner of Watch City Cigars. Much of those gems were pulled out in to it’s own thread here This is where Ernie suggested drying prior to pressing in which I thank him for all the knowledge bombs he passed along.
My progression was to move up using 3″ PVC with two steel plates. Highly recommend using hockey pucks rather than steel plates. The plates tend to move around and can create an uneven puck. The 3″ PVC is perfect for 100 gram plugs/cakes. The big issue with 1/4″ steel plates is if you want to use a single C-Clamp the clamp would not stay centered. As it slips off center it will make an uneven plug. Here you see my PITA (pain-in-the-ass) solution using 3 C-Clamps
Finally, The aluminum press was made by a guy on Etsy whose shop is no longer in existence. You could probably make one from scrap tubing sold on eBay and figure out a thick plate to compress. Maybe wood block with metal plate on top so the compression piston does not break the wood. He does nice work and has a beveled end cap to match the square tube. The whole thing is 3″x 3″x 7″ with a thick press plate. 200g whole leaf plug is tough to initially stuff and it takes about 10 days to crank to the final form of 2 1/2 thickness X 3″ X 3″ and feels like a block of wood. Been using a C-Clamp but I’m starting to eyeball buying a shop press from Harbor Freight as 10 days of cranking down is a bit of a strain.