When space is limited we more often than not make do with what’s available. Not satisfied at being relegated to the shed for reloading, I negotiated some space in the office of our new house to conduct one of my favourite hobbies in comfort.
A reloading bench doesn’t need to take up too much room but must be functional. There are no set dimensions but strength is vital and while you may get by using an old timber table, there’s no substitute for the strength steel has to offer. A laminate top such as melamine supported by a steel rectangular hollow section (RHS) frame will enable a solid platform to mount the press and handle the rigours of repetitive reloading.
My frame design uses vertical supports angling back to the wall, a method which reduces floor space obstruction and allows for the transfer of weight through the press back to the wall.
1: Ease of movement around the bench; 2: Dimensions (length and width) suitable for the work required; 3: A level top is paramount for positioning of precise electronic and manual scales.
After some serious thought I decided on a bench top 2m x 400mm, a conservative size but adequate for rifle cleaning and all my reloading needs. I drew a rough sketch of my proposed bench and began the build, the following steps and photos provided as a guide to help the DIY handyman in building a home reloading bench.
Locate studs in the wall for positioning of vertical wall brackets. Studs are usually spaced at 450mm centres but not always and a stud finder, available at most hardware stores, is handy for this. Make a note or slight marks on the wall of the stud positions, draw a sketch of the desired position and transcribe the measurements to it. Over my bench size of 2m long I needed three vertical supports at approximately 900mm (every second stud). Important: Ensure the bench support fasteners won’t conflict with power cables hidden in the stud frame (an electrician can help with this).
With all available dimensions to hand you can begin the build. Using an abrasive metal cut-off saw I cut the 40x40 and 30x30 x 2mm RHS to my allocated dimensions for all square and angle cuts. Make sure the steel is secure and hands are clear of the blade before cutting. With all cuts made, grind off of any excess burrs around the edges.
Find a clear flat work space and set out the steel for tack welding together. A gas MIG welder is perfect for light RHS but for those with a stick welder it’s important to keep the amp adjustment low. Before you attempt any form of welding, ensure you have the correct safety shield visor to avoid weld flash or eye damage. Tack weld the frame to the desired dimensions, including both vertical and horizontal frame, and check the square with a carpenter’s roofing square.
Once the frame is tacked you can start fully welding it together. When welding light steel it’s important to evenly distribute the heat of the arc to avoid blowing holes in the steel. Weld one section of a join in rotation with all the others until all welds are completed, allowing the frame to cool down and not become distorted.
Using a chipping hammer, remove all slag from welds and dress back any ugly welds to an acceptable look. Grind the welds flush on the surface where the bench top sits then finish off steel surfaces and welds with a rotary wire buff to remove any unwanted impurities and aid paint preparation.
Measure and mark holes for bolting the frame to the wall. Centre punch the hole position and drill a pilot hole before finishing with the correct diameter as this will help avoid wandering of the drill bit. I drilled 10.5mm holes to allow clearance for a 10mm diameter fastener.
Before painting it’s important to prepare by filing off all burrs and wiping the surface with a rag and paint thinner to clean and remove unwanted oil and grease. It’s individual choice how you paint the surface but I used a spray gun with gloss enamel steel paint. Wearing a safety filter mask, select a well-ventilated area and apply two coats to all surfaces with even spray strokes for a good finish. I allowed 48 hours’ drying before the next step. Note: The enamel paint could have been just as easily applied by brush.
Position frame against the wall until the vertical wall supports align with the stud positions as set out in Step 1. Enlist a helper to mark fastener positions to the wall and once again drill a pilot before the finishing hole. I used 10mm x 100mm coach bolts as fasteners which required an 8mm finish hole. Bolt to the wall checking verticals for plumb and horizontal frame for level before tightening.
With frame completed, cut the bench top to size and scribe to the wall. Using a good quality polyurethane adhesive apply even strokes of glue to the horizontal steel surface. Place the top carefully to the glue and clamp in position, wiping off any excess and allow adhesive to cure before removing clamps. Alternatively, screws can be used to fasten the top but I prefer a clear surface.
The bench is almost ready for use but prior to mounting my press I took into consideration the space needed for rifle cleaning. I mounted the press directly over the right-hand vertical support and bolted it to the frame, thus allowing all forces generated by the press to be transferred to the wall. The bench is now ready for use.
I realise not everyone has the resources to undertake a project like this but my intent was to assist those who may be considering a similar venture and how to tackle it. I hope the process serves as an inspiration to build your own, saving you money and providing the joy you get from building something for yourself. Approximate material costs: $130.