It has been strongly said by other makers that the modern hydraulic forging press is the ONLY to go if you're really serious about making damascus steels. We were certainly impressed by all those comments, so we started looking at the Batson press design. As we analyzed the Batson hydraulic press design (sometimes available from Don Fogg), we found that could not be used to forge along the length of the die as a power hammer allows. To enable this capability would mean turning the dies, and cutting a window in the main structural beam of the press. This would reduce its strength considerably. We evolved a design which has lasted several years of use in several presses.
Our experience with the presses is just like everyone elses ... these machines are invaluable for the damascus maker! If you are adding capabilities to a shop, the hydraulic press is the first heavy working tool you should consider. It moves metal faster than imaginable, and with good die tooling can do some simply amazing things. In our shops we still use the hammer for finish surfacing and final shaping of billet and rod, but we have to conclude it is now much more a luxury than a necessity.
Here are the drawings for Starling's press which uses the robust but difficult to build Batson ram guide.