This is 9 Tips for Making a Reloading Bench. If you are interested in making a bench to house all of your reloading activities, then these tips are for you. I’ll show you everything you need to know, and you will be able to avoid a lot of common mistakes. Enjoy.
Making a Reloading Bench
A reloading bench is a little different than a normal workbench, but in a lot of ways it’s also very similar. You can use many of the same skills and techniques in creating a craftsman style workbench and adapt those to making a reloading bench.
The biggest difference in the two is what the bench is used for. Benches for different activities are purpose built for the activity itself. On a woodworking bench, there are vices and dog holes that are used to hold and manipulate pieces of wood.
On the reloading bench you don’t need those things, but you do need others. In this post, I will give you several tips to make a very good bench that will serve you well for a very long time. Get these few things right, and the rest will work itself out well.
Make Your Reloading Bench Very Sturdy
The very first thing you should know about making a reloading bench is that it needs to be sturdy. All work benches in general need to be sturdy, but the reloading bench in particular goes through some stress that a woodworking bench does not.
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The repetitive action of pulling the handle on the press, and applying downward pressure as well as forward and backward pressure can cause stress on a bench. If your bench is not sturdy, a lot of the stress will be absorbed in the bench tipping and flexing.
This is a very poor experience, and it will frustrate you. Not only that, it can interfere with the proper operation of your reloading tools, and that can be both frustrating and dangerous in the long run. Thankfully, there easy ways to make your bench sturdy.
Bolt the Bench to the Wall
One of the easiest ways to make your reloading bench very sturdy and stable that not a lot of people think about is bolting the bench to the wall. It’s not uncommon to think about building strong legs, and strong joints. Bolting to the wall however is a different story.
The framing inside of your wall is very strong, and it’s attached to the rest of the house. This is an amazing anchor to help hold your reloading bench in position. It’s also very easy to take advantage of that structure.
You can use lag bolts with washers to secure one side of your bench to the wall, and you only need a few tools to do it. You need a way of finding the studs, which is pretty easy, and then a way to drill holes through your bench and into those studs.
The easiest way to do it is to find the stud locations and then push the bench up against the wall, and mark where to drill through the bench. Drill a hole that is a little smaller than the threads on the bolts, and go through both the bench in the wall stud.
Then, use a larger diameter drill bit and drill only the bench side to enlarge the hole so that the bold drops through all the way to the head without touching the sides of the hole. What this does is allows the washer and the head of the bolt to pull the bench to the studs.
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When you push the bolt through the bench, the threads will grab the wood in the wall studs, and pull the bench to the wall. This creates a very tight joint between the two, and can increase the sturdiness of your bench several times for the cost of a couple small lag bolts.
Make the Bench Intentionally Heavy
Another thing you can do to make your loading bench even better is to design it in a way that it is intentionally heavy. Heavier items are harder to get into motion than lighter items, which is a basic scientific principle.
A feather light bench will quiver and react to every little movement that happens on it. In contrast, a bench that was made out of solid iron, and weighed 10,000 pounds wouldn’t move at all even if you were using a jackhammer on the top.
Those are two extreme examples, but they illustrate a point. The heavier your bench, the more force it can absorb, and the less moving around it will do. As you create your design, do so in a way that makes the bench heavier.
Here are a couple of suggestions that are easy ways to make your bench heavier:
- Make your bench legs larger by using more pieces of wood.
- Make your benchtop heavier by using several plies or laminated wood.
- Dress the sides of the bench with thick plywood to add weight.
- If choosing between 2 x 4’s and 4 x 4‘s, use 4 x 4‘s.
- Double up your 90° angle braces which adds both strength and weight.
See Also: Wood Design and Woodworking Ideas
Design the Top With Enough Space
One of the biggest mistakes you can make it with a reloading bench is to create a design that’s not big enough to handle all of your activities. That being said, you also don’t want to go overboard and create a monster bench that you don’t need either.
The best way to ensure that you have enough space is to take a look at the different activities you will need to do, and plan accordingly. You can also look at some other reloading benches and compare their dimensions.
Plan an area for your main reloading activities, and then another area for supporting activities that you need to do as well. Spread out your items on a table that you already have, and see how much space you need in real life before designing the bench.
When in doubt, give yourself a little more space and you think you’ll need. You’ll be glad you did, and you can always fill that extra space with a little bit of storage if it turns out that it’s extra room.
Create Storage for Your Supplies
One of the best things that you can do for your bench is to create areas to store your supplies that are commonly used when you are reloading. It’s nice to have everything right near you as needed, and it’s very easy to accomplish in the design phase.
It’s great to work in an area that’s efficient. One of the ways to be efficient is to have all of your tools and supplies right where you need them. Design your bench with tool holders and storage areas in mind, and it will function much better.
The bottom of the bench is the best place to focus, but you can also look at adding storage to the sides, as well as the wall in front of the bench. These are often overlooked areas that are a gold mine for storage.
One thing that you can do to the wall is add a small section of pegboard. Pegboard is great for holding tools, and you will need several tools while reloading. Instead of wasting space somewhere else, you now have them in full view right in front of you.
I recommend a piece of pegboard that is the same width as the bench, and about 2 feet high. That’s plenty of room for tool storage, and not so tall that it’s difficult to reach over the bench, which can cause lower back pain.
You could also put pegboard or other hanging storage on the sides of your bench. This is a good place to store tools, materials, and other things that you need to have at your disposal while reloading.
Have a Dedicated Area for Your Press
The centerpiece of any good reloading bench is the press. Without the press, none of the other activities are possible. For this reason and many more, it’s important that you have a dedicated area on the bench for your press.
There are a couple different schools of thought when it comes to placement of the press, but they are mainly about using the center or the end of the bench. There are benefits of both, but in general having the press near the end I feel is the best use of the space.
A reloading press doesn’t move. It stays in the exact same spot, so everything else you do has to be worked around it. When you place your reloading press in the center of the bench, it makes it difficult to access nearly every area other on the bench.
In contrast, when you place the press in one corner, it frees up the other areas of the bench for activities that are not possible with a press in the way. If you like to pull with your right hand, put the press in the right corner. Left-handed, use the left corner.
Buy a Replacement Counter Top for the Top
If you want to add a top to your workbench in a way that’s very easy, but also adds weight, a replacement counter top is a very good way to do it. You can buy sections of laminate counter top from the home-improvement stores, and they are not very expensive.
Depending on where you go, they might even have some sections that were returned or otherwise damaged slightly that you can get for a discount. After all, you aren’t making a kitchen counter out of this piece, you are using it as a bench top, so the dings don’t matter.
Over time, the types of dings and dents that you will acquire are something you would never have done in the kitchen, but it would look just fine and a bench top. Finding a deal in a home improvement store on a piece of laminated counter top that might be a little different color is great too.
See Also: How to Find a Good Woodworking Bench
Add Some Drawers for Storage
A quick way to add some storage under your bench is to create a set of drawers that fill the entire width of your bench between the legs. Break them up into several drawers that are a couple feet wide, and you can add a lot of inexpensive storage space.
Drawers are awesome for a lot of reasons. Not only do they increase your storage space, but they also don’t take up any additional floor space in doing so. This means you can put more stuff into your shop without eating up floor space.
On your reloading bench, space may already be at a premium. If you add drawers underneath the bench, you capitalize on a space that is not being used and turn it into something that contributes to the overall success of the bench.
Everything With Reloading is Heavy so Design Appropriately
Something to know about reloading is that everything is heavy. The tools are heavy. The machinery is heavy. The materials are heavy. Everything about reloading is heavy, so it’s important that when you make your design, you factor that in.
In the drawer example from above, you definitely don’t want to make one big drawer that’s 5 feet wide. A drawer like this would never survive the weight that could be piled inside of it, and eventually it would break off the tracks.
Instead of making a wide drawer, make several drawers that are more narrow and that fill up the same space. These smaller drawers will be harder to overfill, and each one of them would have it’s own suspension system to keep it from breaking.
Also, when you’re designing your top, make sure that there are reinforcements underneath to prevent it from bowing under the weight of what’s on top. If you plan on storing things on top of the bench, the weight can build it very quickly.
See Also: A Beginners Guide to Woodworking
Your Action Assignment
Now that you have several great tips on designing your reloading bench, get out some paper and a pencil and start drawing. Right from the beginning, design a bulky bench, with thicker legs and a thicker top.
Plan for your storage, and plan for a little extra space just in case. If you have to, pull out your supplies and lay them on an existing table or even on the floor. Measure out the space requirements for your items, and then work around that dimension in your drawing.
Spend a lot of time with this drawing. Right now, it’s all on paper, so it doesn’t cost a penny to make very large changes. The more time you spend with this bench in your head and on paper, the better your chances of making a great bench right from the start.
Also, take a look around the internet and YouTube and see what others are doing. Use their work for inspiration, and collect the best ideas from them to incorporate in your bench. Everyone that makes a bench has a wish list of things they wish they did, so take a vantage of what they share.
Once you have a design that you’re happy with, start building. For the planning and the learning that you have done, you will have a much better bench in the end.
If you have any questions about making an awesome reloading bench, please Post a Question and I’ll be happy to answer them. Happy building.
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