Date: Apr 01 2009
I built my first reloading bench in my closet. I dragged out all my clothes, rounded up some used 2x4 lumber and 20-penny nails and went to work. Dad didn’t care too much, except that Mom was whacked out over the pile of clothes on my floor. I picked up a Lyman reloading kit, mounted the press on my miniature bench, and the first time I tried to resize a .270 Winchester case, the entire bench pulled away from the wall and landed in my lap.
I put my clothes back in the closet and moved the press to a much sturdier workbench in the basement. I didn’t like the idea of my reloading stuff not being in my room, where I was also allowed to keep my rifle, but I didn’t have a lot of options.
I’m still not a carpenter, but I have learned how to build a reloading bench that won’t come off the wall. After constructing them in several houses, basements and outbuildings, I have learned a thing or two about what makes a good loading bench. I’ve handloaded on benches that were less than two feet wide like the one I used when I lived at my hunting camp. I’ve also loaded on benches so wide you could stand in the middle and not reach either end. For me the perfect balance is a bench where I can stand in one place and reach anything on the bench; about five feet wide seems right. This keeps all the tools and components within arm’s reach at all times.
I also like to stand when I handload. A good friend who loads thousands of rounds on a progressive press prefers to be seated, and I’ve found that when working with a progressive press, which is somewhat of a redundant procedure, I like to be in a chair too. Either way, for me a bench that is positioned at about bellybutton level when standing or when seated works just about right for operating a press handle, reading manuals that lie on the bench or working with other handloading accessories.
One of the most rugged benches I ever built was made by screwing a half-inch piece of plywood measuring 5x2 feet to six 2x4s placed side by side. I mounted it in a five foot wide nook in the upstairs of a farm house, right beside a window overlooking a 300-yard field. This bench was sturdy enough you could have used it to work on a small block Chevy engine. It was also ugly. At the time I didn’t really care about looks and actually did all my shooting – load testing – out the window.
About 10 years ago, after I moved, I built a loading bench in an outbuilding that sits right beside my 100-yard range only 20 yards from the house. I picked up some inexpensive base cabinets at Lowe’s and mounted a particle board top on the cabinets. This worked just .358Winchester brass from .308 cases, and on the down stroke, my Redding press ended up on the floor, missing my foot by inches. The section of the particle board top where the press was bolted had broken off.
I used a jigsaw to square up the busted section and remounted the press, recessed in the bench. This time I used a 2-feet by 6-inch piece of one-inch shelving board under the particle board top to beef up the mount. The mounting bolts for the press go through the bench and through the shelving board backer. It’s worked fine ever since, even under heavy pressure. If you are forced to work with a less than ideal bench, consider adding reinforcement like this on the underside.
Most recently I built a reloading bench in the closet that adjoins my office. This is a large walk-in closet measuring 5.5x12 feet. Lowe’s sells finished, Formica, kitchen countertops in various lengths and colors. I bought a white, 6-foot section for around $60, cut it to length and cut the splash guard off the back side.
Using 2x4s on the bottom and 1x4 boards on the top, I created a channel on the back and each side wall to slide the Formica top into. This looked nice but with the 5.5- foot span, the countertop was bouncy. So, underneath the middle and front of the top I ran two, 2x4s the length of the span, securely screwing them to the 2x4s underneath the bench on each sidewall. This made the bench solid enough I could sit on it with no deflection.