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No. 68, Fall 2015

Manual Bale Press

By Jeni KardinalOctober 12, 2015May 9th, 2022No Comments

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By Jeni Kardinal

The “Bali Baler” is a manual press that creates bales measuring 50 cm wide x 50 cm high x 100 cm long (19″ x 19″ x 39″). The bales are a bit wider than the standard bales in the USA. Designing in metric made everything simple and with the 6:1 ratio we were able to build the walls 3 meters high – close to 10′ tall.

Designed by Architects Frank Hyde and Jeni Kardinal of Dual Dimension Architect.

The nice thing about designing your own press is you can create a design and press that work together.   We didn’t need to cut a single bale for the project.  The half bales and full bales were exactly what we needed.

The other great thing about designing your own press is we modify it for curved bales as well.  No need to fill the cracks between the bales anymore.   There are no limits to ones design – we can create bales with any radius.

Our Design Concept
The straw is placed lengthwise keeping the stocks long and then pressed in the horizontal direction.   In Bali we are able to collect straw that is up to three feet long.

Our press is opposite to the more common pine needle press design. We press in the shorter direction, from the horizontal top down and not vertically from the ends. It seemed to make more sense to me so we thought we’d try it this way.

The levers are made with locally available hard woods and measure 2.5 meter long.   The levers are made with Iron Wood, which resists insects and is extremely durable.   As the name implies, it is as heavy and strong as Iron.   The boat builders use this wood for the keels of large schooners to withstand impact so we know it’s strong.


The levers have withheld many people sitting on them, and after making over 100 bales show little sign of failure.

The press is designed to make either two half bales or one full bale.   When making half bales a piece of plywood is placed in the center of the press dividing it into two.

The entire press can be disassembled and taken directly into the rice paddies to make bales or the straw can be brought to the press, which is what occurred on the Nawa Kerti project.  The main thing is to use DRY straw!!!

The press does not have any nails, screws or bolts in the box making it easy to take apart and remove the bale.   They use a crow bar to release the press for removal of the bale.

The paddles at the top of the box are adjustable, but we found it was easier to stand on the straw and push the first few layers with your feet, using the levers for the final compression.

It takes about 10 minutes to make a full bale or two half bales.

Built to Withstand Pressure
Nobody knows wood better than the Bugis Boat Builders from Sulawesi.

We were fortunate to be able to work with such amazing craftsmen who are gifted in wood construction without the use of nails or screws.   They normally make 150 foot schooners called Phinisi’s in Indonesia – using iron wood and teak.

Baling twine made with bamboo fibers are placed in the box prior to the straw and tied before the press is released.

Bamboo rope is strong but expensive and brittle so needs to be wet when tying the knots. Finding good quality, affordable baling twine proved to be one of our biggest challenges.    We ended up bringing a few rolls from the USA back with us to Bali.

Jeni Kardinal is a licensed Architect in the State of California (since 1987)

Previously running a small office in Sausalito California: “Kardinal Architectural Services” remodeling and building new homes in Marin County until 2003 when it closed it’s doors to depart on a 4 year sailing adventure that led to New Zealand. Living in Bali, Indonesia with her husband Frank Hyde and daughter Abby for the last 8 years designing and renovating Sailing Yachts with Sea Trek Sailing Adventures and delving into the world of building with Straw to follow a long time desire to build sustainably.

Member: Bali Taman Rotary Club

Co founder: Dual Dimension Architects
See also and facebook: Balistrawbaleproject

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