Our reloading/gun room--planning phases


November 20, 2007, 02:09 PM
So far, all my reloading activities have been at a friend's house.

My husband and I are blessed though, in that we're both into guns and we have a nice big laundry room that is slated to become a gun room.

Sadly, the washer and dryer have to stay. This is actually an advantage because once we add some handsoap, the laundry tub will help encourage good lead-handling hygiene. Also the furnace and a small workbench that hold a dehumidifier on the bottom and two printers on the top. Other than that, it's gonna become a gun room. Chances are we'll be in this house long-term, and so we're not shy about building a permament bench.

Right now, we have no especially pricey guns, and so we keep 'em on a pegboard in the basement. Ammo is stored upstairs, for safety reasons (we have a toddler, plus nice and handy. And of course the HD guns are kept with their ammo, elsewhere) . We have a small bench down there already that we use for cleaning. Trouble is only one person can stand there at a time, which really cuts down the marital joys of cleaning guns together.

We've got a bank of shelves along on one wall, and a full-pegboard as-yet blank wall maybe 5-6 feet long. Another 10 feet or so of cinderblock wall.

We're on a budget. I wish we could spend $0 on benches and spent all our discretionary cash on equipment and components, but our building skills are minimal and our supply of building tools is seriously lacking, so a kit is probably the order of the day.

So, if you had a shoestring budget (but were looking a long-term project), a big ol' basment room, and were looking to ultimately have a setup that could have two people or more working at once, with (ultimately) two or three basic single-stage presses, a progressive press, and (ultimately) one single-stage shotshell reloader and one progressive shotshell reloader, along with tumbler, component storage, and cleaning and maintanence plus having it look nice and like a neat workshop where you'd spend time, how would you approach it?

Benches along all the walls? Just 2x4 benches made with kits (and suggestions on kits--I've seen links but can't find any just now), or cupboards and things with heavy duty tops? A couple separate benches, or one large one? What to use for tops? Ikea sells wood counter-tops designed for kitchen use that get great review for durability--it seems like those would be both attractive and durable for this use, but kitchen use is not quite the same as multiple reloading presses, ya know?

What would you do about powder and primer storage, keeping in mind there's a kid in the house? Just high-up storage, or some sort of lockable but open enough to be safe storage (and what might that be?)?

Gun lockers for now, or stick with pegboards for at least the cheap mil-surps, because guns hanging on the walls is just cool?

I'm not keen on affixing anything to the walls, because at some point in the next fifteen years there's gonna be some serious repair work on this older basement, and drilling into the walls might speed up the falling-apart rate. Also, no skills, no tools, and less confidence on that sort of thing.

We can probably borrow a circular saw for cutting wood, but the fewer tools we have to borrow, the better. On the one hand, cheap kitchen-style cupboards with locks installed and sturdy countertop seem best for keeping stuff organized despite the child, but on the other hand, I have less to no desire to either spend that kind of money or to have our gun room look like a second kitchen.

The only thing we have going for us is that we have the space and we're both willing to put the time and energy into turning into the closest we can get to the ultimate gun/reloading room.

And btw, I'm posting this because poor Thain has to work for a living, while I stay home with the aforementioned child and allegedly do homework. It's not my gun room or his gun room, but ours. Realistically though, most of the work will be done by me alone, during the kid's naptime. I'm not shy of learning new things, but I defnitely fit the female stereotype of not knowing much about building. I can put together kit furniture and make adaptations just fine, but have never built anything from scratch before.

Hope this fits here rather than in General Discussions. Been thinking about posting this one for quite a while, hence the length. Hope it's in the right place.

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November 20, 2007, 02:38 PM
What a great opportunity! You can plan it from the ground up and you already have an idea of the equipment you'll ultimately have, so you can build for it.

For starters, you're going to need some really sturdy shelves for storing both bullets and loaded ammunition. Don't get too wide with them, since the weight adds up rather quickly, and the wider they are, the harder to keep straight and level. You don't want to have all that stuff come crashing down, and it's nice to have the stuff you use the most at eye level.

On the benches, since you mention several loaders, I would opt for at least two benches as long as you can make them. They will need really sturdy bench tops, and need to be reinforced, so there won't be any movement when really cranking on the loader handles. That's where a lot of people get in trouble with seating primers. They have some play in the bench, so they're not able to fully seat primers consistently. You can never have enough bench space, so the more the better.

You might give some thought to having some of your presses mounted on either steel plates or 1" thick plywood bases. I generally make mine about 10" x 10" square. The machines that don't get used a lot, like shotgun loaders and bullet lubri-sizers, get mounted on those bases. I have an area on my bench that I keep clear for those machines and use very large C-clamps to secure them to the bench.

My bench tops are made from 3" x 14" heavy lumber, and then covered with 3/4" plywood. The benches themselves are overbuilt, with very heavy legs and I've used steel telephone pole cross arm braces for cross bracing. There is absolutely no play in either of my benches. I also put a 3" x 14" shelf under each of them and stack loaded ammunition, bullets, or shot bags on them for added weight. The shelves are at the back of the bench, to allow for leg room under the bench when sitting on my stool and using the machines.

It's really great that you both enjoy shooting, and reloading. My wife enjoys the shooting, but the reloading is something she leaves to me (along with cleaning all those guns).

You're right that you don't want your reloading room to look like another kitchen, or use kitchen materials. They just aren't heavy enough for what you want to do. I suggest you stay away from particle board counter tops, which I call "picture of wood", wherever you'll be mounting any reloading machines. Particle board just doesn't have the sheer strength that plywood and solid wood have. You can buy sheets of laminate to cover the bench top, after building it good and sturdy. It glues on and will make cleanup easier after a loading session.

Those are just a few suggestions, and there are going to be many more. Have fun with this project.

Hope this helps.


November 20, 2007, 02:47 PM
Might want to check out post 190 in "What have you invented thread" Rembrandt has a pretty good system for multiple presses, and it is not really all that out of line price wise.

November 20, 2007, 03:13 PM
Try that link for some plans. The bench is large enough for two people, but you'll need to come up with a way to easily remove and attach presses since it'll comfortably hold two presses. Good storage too. My lumber yard cut all of the pieces to size for me except for the leg "notches". Materials were less than $200, but you may able to go cheaper if you use OSB instead of plywood.

Two people should be able to get the bulk of the assembly done in a weekend. Only tools you need are a hammer, drill, screwdriver bits, some wrenches for the carriage bolts, circular saw for the leg notches, and a hack saw to cut the shelf tracks.

November 20, 2007, 03:14 PM
I like lots of lighting and a center bench with walk all around access - nice to lay out progressive presses with access from all sides so two or even three people can jointly operate feed cases and bullets and keep components topped up.

Depending on equipment it's nice to have chutes and bins to take machine output - a Star/Magma lubrisizer feeding through a hole into a cushioned slide and a decapped primer catch can.

On the other hand when I had my ideal setup I made the mistake of ignoring lead hazard - it was long ago and I was young - I had a pair of Lee Yankee screwdriver style primer pocket cleaners stuck handle down in holes in the bench top along with an '06 size base for punch and base decapping - worked for .30-'06 as well as 7.62X51 and 5.56 decapping crimped primers then hit the Yankee screwdriver and drive it down once for light primer pocket cleaning - and scattering lead styphenate all over the room. I'd make more provision for good ventilation today than I did then - although I did all my casting in cooler weather with all the windows open and fans going exhausting to the outside and some understanding of where the molten lead would go if I got a live primer, cartridge or steam explosion in the pot. Never did but there was a scorch on the floor from I don't remember what.

I find as I age that I give more weight to a versatile installation than to a perfect - for the present - but harder to change setup.

Grandpa Shooter
November 20, 2007, 03:35 PM
If you are into scrounging you can build your entire room at little or no expense. Depending on where you live you will see people piling stuff out for bulk pick up day. Look close and you will find banquet style tables (If the top isn't good the folding legs still are), base cabinets, counter tops, upper cabinets (which can become lowers), steel entry doors or old hardwood heavy ones (which can be recovered easily), various lengths of scrap 2 x4's, 2 x 6's, etc. You can easily build your whole set up on discards.

Using 12x12 squares of 3/4 or 1" plywood to mount your press(es) to, you can mark and drill identically spaced holes in each 12 x12 square, mount your presses to the squares, drill your bench and attach with bolts and wingnuts for interchangeability.

Buy a metal two door cabinet 32" by 72" with shelves, brace the shelves from bottom to top and you have a storage locker for primers and powder. (important note---drill some holes to let gasses escape in the event of a fire so you don't have a huge bomb in your basement)

Don't rush into this project, and don't do it alone. If this is going to be a joint marriage enhancing endeavor----keep it that way. Work out the master plan and then divide it into do-able stages. You will discover that what worked in your heads, or on paper doesn't work out well in the real application.

Good luck and good shooting. Post some pics as you progress. This is my reloading room set up for now. It is an 8 x 12 rear bedroom. They fill up fast.

November 20, 2007, 03:48 PM
I'm using a metal folding table with a laminate top for a reloading bench. It's plenty sturdy and heavy -- once I stacked a few boxes of bullets along the back.

If you want something sturdier than that, look for used commercial solid-core doors to use as a bench top. I bought one for about $5 (no frame or hardware) and use it for a workbench in my garage.

November 20, 2007, 04:47 PM
I have a roughly 7' workbench that I built primarily out of reclaimed lumber. The legs are 4x4s cut down from old patio support beams. The lower side-pieces and 2 center supports are from the patio rafters (2x4s). The upper side pieces are 2x6s, positioned above the legs sufficient to drop a reclaimed interior door on top of the 4x4s. There are 2 support pieces installed under the door, and a sheet of 1/2" plywood tops everything. My only expense was for the plywood and the 8 brackets that hold the center supports. Well, that and screws and nails. The size of the door determines the overall dimensions of the bench. For a bench intended from scratch to be a reloading bench, I'd probably use 3/4" plywood instead, and might also make it double thick where the presses are mounted. Build it to a comfortable height for how you will be reloading, standing or sitting. Mine is on wheels (remember, mine is really a workbench), but yours could be built without wheels and with sides and shelving underneath for lots of storage. This can be built with no more tools than a circular saw, drill, tape measure and hammer. I like using long screws instead of nails to hold the 2x4s and 2x6s to the 4x4s. Less chance of them pulling loose.

November 20, 2007, 05:15 PM
Mounting presses to plywood and then clamping them down sounds like a great plan, as it will let us start some reloading here at home while we are still gathering materials and building the dedicated reloading benches.

Grandpa Shooter--you have a point. We'll work on it together as much as possible.

I have no idea what to do about ventilation. Right now that room has two windows. Half of one has the dryer vent and plywood covering it up. The other 1.5 windows do not open. Is is possible that sweeping up debris regularly and avoiding casting would be sufficient? We're a long way from casting or dripping shot. Of course that sounds cool, but we've got a long to do and learn first.

For lighting, right now it's pretty weak. A flourescent shoplight over the current bench, and another in the ceiling. It is insufficient at best. Additional ceiling hung shoplights, on more focused incandescent or compact flourescents mounting directly by each work station?

Also, what *is* a comfortable height? I'll look at those plans, but it varies by sitting or standing? I'd guess probably standing, for most tasks. My friend has his presses mounted to a kitchen counter height cart, and the lever throw is so long that it is not entirely comfortable working it--I gotta bend way down. I probably want it mounted a bit higher, and Thain is several inches taller than me.

November 20, 2007, 05:42 PM
I picked up an additional fluorescent shoplight at Walmart, ran about $15 or so. Mounted it right over the bench and two of those long fluorescent bulbs put out quite a bit of light.

For those bench plans, I had them cut the legs a bit shorter. I stand when I work, but I'm short.

November 20, 2007, 05:42 PM
You don't want to cast bullets in the basement, it is an outside job. You want to have plenty of ventilation. I have incandescent lighting in my reloading area but I have heard that flourescent lighting can cause problems with a digital scale. Grandpa Shooter had a great idea about looking for curb side treasure.:D Also if they are building any new homes in your area they usually have a good size scrap pile. You don't want to store powder and primers in anything to tight like a safe, that can get bad real quick. Your husband is a lucky guy. I wish I could get my wife interested in shooting. Good luck with your project and keep us updated on the progress.

November 20, 2007, 05:56 PM
Couple of thoughts

1. I work on concrete floors all day, they are hard on knees and hips. I recently picked up some floor mats for my loading bench. Got them at Sams Club, for $15, they snap together like a puzzle and are about 3/8 thick. There are 10 in a pack and cover about 20sqft. They are easy to remove, clean, custom fit, and replace. I actually have a couple left over for replacements.

2. "Comfortable height" is a relative term. I prefer my press to have full extension, just at the point my elbow locks. If there is a big difference in height between the two of you, you might want to go with the clamp down (or other quickly attached system) press, and a work bench at two fixed hights, 1 for each of you, this way any press is comfortable for you to use. I have a employee that is 6'6" and his partener is 5'7", for them to share a tool presetter, I had a extension made for the base for the guy who was 6'6", which set his work higher and more comfortable for him, and was easily removable for his partner.

3. Ventelation, Is there room in the plywood to put a 2nd dryer vent? Another idea would be to use the dryer vent as a common outlet and out a T in the line comming from the dryer.

November 20, 2007, 06:15 PM
You don't want to cast bullets in the basement, it is an outside job.

Yeah, I tried and managed to not actually say that I'm not ever thinking of casting anywhere but my garage, with all kinds of doors and windows open, but that I was still concerned aobut basement venting just for the reloading itself.

Your husband is a lucky guy.

I hope he agrees with you, I do my best! And guns and shooting and loading and such are just fun.

I work on concrete floors all day, they are hard on knees and hips. I recently picked up some floor mats for my loading bench.

thanks for reminding me, it's been a awhile since I worked long shifts on hard floors, but well I remember how good it felt to be able to work standing on a floor mat for a few minutes. We'll add that to th list for "eventually."

If there is a big difference in height between the two of you, you might want to go with the clamp down (or other quickly attached system) press, and a work bench at two fixed hights, 1 for each of you, this way any press is comfortable for you to use.

We're pretty close--I'm about 5'8", he's 6'0". Still I see what you mean aobut "comfortable height" being variable.

Ventelation, Is there room in the plywood to put a 2nd dryer vent? Another idea would be to use the dryer vent as a common outlet and out a T in the line comming from the dryer.

There is, but it is a very nice, very professional installation that I doubt I could equal. A T in the line sounds nice. Materials and costs on creating a system to vent into a dryer hose? I'm guess some dryer-vent sorta' material overhead and some sort of fans built in? I know my grandpa had an extensive ventilation system in his woodshop, but that was a long time ago.

November 20, 2007, 08:22 PM
Re the ventlation. I had to replace a long run of the flexible vent stuff for my dryer, I went with a piece of thin walled PVC, I believe it is used for vents for your house, but it is the same size as dryer duct material, and fittings are avaliable, and in the end for me the price was 1/4 of replacing with flexible duct work and I had to replace 30'.

November 21, 2007, 04:19 AM
I like the bench in the link. However, you will need to put it up against a studded wall if you can. I have a similar and more basic 2x4 bench with no shelving up top. However, using 3" screws into the studs of my garage wall made is super solid and I can easily press out large calibe rifle cartridges without having to hold it down or brace it from moving in any way. I topped the 1/2" plywood top with an old solid core door I replaced this year.

I went to a place called The Rebuilding Center (in Portland) and picked up 7 old upper kitchen cabinets this summer for $70. Only one of them was not plywood. They don't match, one of them needed some repair work because it was over the top of a stove and had the vent pipe holes cut in it. But, it's my garage, and the storage really cleaned up the clutter and I now have storage to spare.

Being you're on a budget, if you cannot find a rebuilding store in your area, try and hit up some cabinet shops. They quite often have plenty of old cabinets they are removing from homes that they are remodelling kitchens in. Most of these end up as scrap or in the dump, so you should be able to get them cheap. Besides, this way you might get lucky and find enough to do what you intend to that actually match. Which is a nice bonus.

Building what you have stated should only take a few handtools.
A skilsaw, drill, measuring tape, square, sawhorses and a wrench for your carrier bolts that hold the thing together. Personally, I use deck screws because I find it easier for me, but I have lots of tools. You can do it without the sawhorses, but they will make things much easier to get done. Being it is a reloading bench and stability will be key, I suggest you get a bottle of titebond wood glue, it'll make a world of difference in how stout your final product will be.

If your located someplace close to Portland, Oregon I can help you out in regards to tools if you're comfortable borrowing things. I have the Do It Yourself bug to a fault, I have the tools to show for it too. Just PM me.

November 21, 2007, 09:34 AM
I reloaded on concrete for a while and just recently added one of those kitchen mats from Walmart that the dog did a number on so the wife banished it. It's not even a doormat, it's the kind you stand on while doing the dishes, and it looks like a Berber rug. Very cheap, and effective enough. They also prevent bullets, primers, and cases from flying all over the place when you drop them.

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