With some models of Spätzle presses, the main body of the gizmo is a flat rectangular piece metal with sharp, perforated holes in it, that acts as the grater. You put a hunk of the noodle dough in a small metal box attached to the grater, then run it back and forth; as you do so, it shaves the dough off in small pieces.
Another common model is a steel bowl with holes in the bottom, with a handle attached. You hold it by the handle, and put the dough in the bowl. In the bowl, there’s a slanted paddle that is turned with a crank. You turn the crank, and as you do, the slanted paddle catches the dough and forces it through the holes.
Some versions of the dough will be more liquidy and will drip through the holes with a minimum of forcing.
The type of press used can help determine whether the Spätzle made are short, round ones, or long ones.
Many traditionalists feel that the best Spätzle “press” is in fact no press at all, but rather a board and a scraper: the Spätzle dough is scraped off the board a little bit at a time straight into the boiling water. They feel this gives the best texture.