A question about reloading benches


November 24, 2008, 11:48 PM
Hey guys, new to the forum, and to reloading. I've been looking through the big thread with pictures of everyone's setups, and they have given me several good ideas for building my own bench. I do have a question, though. How tall are your benches? do you like to have the tops of them at waist level, or a little higher? I can't imagine them being much lower than waist level, seems like it would make the hobby a little uncomfortable.

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November 25, 2008, 12:10 AM
Bench height is a preference, will you be standing or sitting ? your equipment maybe a factor. I would build it to tall so it can be cut down, mine is 37" high and my stool is about 27" this bench height works if I am standing. My press is mounted on two layers of 3/4" ply which puts it at 38.5" from the floor to the base.

November 25, 2008, 02:46 AM
One thing you might want to consider is whether you will be adding a casefeeder or not. I designed my bench so I could reload sitting down and at the time had a Lee LoadMaster with a short case collator. Then I changed to a Hornady AP and I am glad I kept my bench low. I had to modify the shelf over my press to accommodate the Hornady casefeeder had I had it any higher I would have been modifying two shelves instead. Casefeeders do need a lot of overhead room so if you use a strong mount plan accordingly.

November 25, 2008, 09:32 AM
WT101, welcome to the forum and to reloading. I began the same odyssey almost a year ago. Man, what a ride! I wish someone would have slapped some sense into me years ago about reloading. There are a lot of great people on the forums that are willing to share what they know and have learned. I'm still thanking them and borrowing ideas from them.

jibjab & Idano imparted good advice already. If you can, try to anticipate where you are headed with your reloading. If you already have a press that will help, as you know the dimensions/requirements. Decide where on your bench you want to mount the press. If you think you might be adding more presses in the future, take that into account too. If your press can be modified and you think that might be in the cards down the road, that should be taken into consideration.

My bench is a shelving unit I bought at COSTCO for $75. It is approximately 22in deep x 48in wide by 6ft tall. The shelves are all adjustable. (It came with 5 shelves; I use 4 of them.) The top shelf, mounted at the very top has my 4ft fluorescent light hanging underneath it. I store my tumbler inside a 5gal. bucket overhead along with other items. That leaves me 2 shelves below for bullets, powder and everthing else a loader is wont to accumulate! :uhoh: I beefed up the top where the press is mounted with in. plywood on top of the original shelving material and skinned that out with in tempered masonite. As for the height, that is totally up to you, the user. Whether you choose to sit or stand, I would take into consideration that when you are doing the actual loading, make sure you can visually check the powder charge in your cartridge before seating the bullet. One last thing, cuz this is getting kinda long: If you use a beam balance scale (as I do) affix a shelf near your eye level if you can. This makes reading the scale much easier. Good luck to you. Let us know how you make out. Happy Thanksgiving! Oh, I almost forgot; if you buy bullets, powder, primers, etc at the gun show, take a small rolling cart to carry the stuff in. I use a luggage tote (the thing that was used before luggage had wheels) and mount a small basket on it. 1000 rounds of 230gr bullets weighs 34lbs give or take. Add any other stuff to that and you will be lugging. My luggage tote paid for itself in 20ft!

November 25, 2008, 10:11 AM
I'm 6'2" and reload while standing; it's easier to move about & reach the scale, remove loaded rounds, replenish the bullet tray, etc.

My bench is 40 inches high, and the Dillon 650 is mounted on a Strong Mount, 7 inches high. I can load 1000 or so rounds in a single session without undue fatigue, but I'm only 76. Older shooters may tire sooner. ;)

Most inportant: Your bench must be rigid! My bench stands on 4x4 legs and sits in the corner of the room. Additional rigidity is achieved by husky shelf brackets, secured to the bench top and wall studs on two sides.

November 25, 2008, 10:36 AM
ambidextrous1 brings ups a good point--i.e., the impact of our (aging) bodies, and other related subjects.

I built my original bench at 40", and I used to stand while reloading.

When I moved / built a new bench a couple of years ago, I again built it at 40"--but I knew I wanted to sit. So, I used a "bar height" workstool I had on hand.

Then, my eyesight started being an issue--rather, the bifocal head-tilt started being a nuisance. I found I wanted to work closer to the press head.

Now I reload while sitting on an adjustable-height stool. This works fine--I can avoid bifocal issues, and tweak the height as my back comfort requires.

One last tip: My bench is built on conventional base cabinets, not a 2x4 / dimensional lumber build--and the smartest thing I ever did was get a HD laminate top made (1.625" MDO) that overhangs the front by at least 6". IOW, the top is nominally 30-31" deep, which allows for one to readily install the presses without interfering with bench top space. Everything is tied back to the wall--and the back of the top has a row of bullet boxes on it as well--helps dampen the press stresses.

Jim H.

The Bushmaster
November 25, 2008, 11:11 AM
Build your bench so it is a comprimise between standing and sitting when working (reloading). I'm 5' 7" and my bench is 38" high. I use a bar stool when I'm sitting.

November 25, 2008, 12:17 PM
I think mine is 37", but I could be wrong. I sit on a bar stool type chair.

Yep, 37"

November 25, 2008, 06:31 PM
I prefer to stand while loading but.... I do have the option to use a padded bar stool if'n I do want to sit.

My bench is built into the corner of my garage so I have two adjoining benches you might say. Due to the way they are joined my left bench is 43" high from the top to the floor. The right one is 40.5" from the floor.

I have a dillon mounted on the left bench, a Lyman single stage, a dillon and Mec on the right bench....

I think I like the dillon mounted at 43" best (I do not use the Strong Mounts) but both benches are right/okay for me, I'm 6' 1".

If I were to rebuild my benches, which I won't, they would range in 40 to 43" in height.

I used 1" rough oak, plained boards bolted to fabricated steel framing. A rigid bench is a necessity.

Hope this gives you a little more insite as to your wants/needs.

Good Luck

November 25, 2008, 07:30 PM
"built a new bench a couple of years ago, I again built it at 40"--but I knew I wanted to sit. So, I used a "bar height" workstool I had on hand."

Ditto, but I made mine in 1970 and still wouldn't change a thing. You are likely do at least some of your work standing and the bar stool, with a back and swivel, for seated is a good solution. Got mine at a yard sale for not much.

Build your bench so your elbows will clear the top by maybe an inch. That wll allow you to have things close but comfortable. And allow your top front to overhang the lower part by some 3-4 inches to leave some knee room while you work. Then put a shelf about 10-12 inches off the floor so you can use it for a foot rest when working on the stool. Store "stuff" in plastic kitchen type contaniers under the lower shelf - brass, tumbling media, lead ingots, etc.

Set your press high enough to allow fully depressing the lever without bending and your back will thank you! I blocked my Rock Chucker with two 10" pieces of 2"x6" pine (it made up a 3" block) to get it high enough, even with my 40" high bench. Used a couple pieces of 3/8" "All Thread" for the really long bolts needed to hold it onto the bench top. Use big washers under the bench top to avoid excessive compression of the wood. (In fact, I cut and drilled a 6" long strip of scrap 2"x1/8" steel bar to make a two hole "washer" on mine.)

November 25, 2008, 07:41 PM
Build your bench so it is a comprimise between standing and sitting when working (reloading). I'm 5' 7" and my bench is 38" high. I use a bar stool when I'm sitting.

Agree except im 5'5 before i start to reload i make sure the press is ready everything adjusted and i have what i need within arms reach. a good barstool is the key. Something that will be comfortable.

November 25, 2008, 09:15 PM
I'm 6'1" and I like to move between my Single stage and my T7 while I am doing rifle so I like to be on my feet. When I am loading pistol, I usually sit. So I built my new bench 42" high, 2 feet deep, and 10 feet long. I also added a small bench on one end to create a "L" shape. I have 3 bar stools for sitting.
I still have my old bench as well and but I only use it for holding my powders, primers and bullets.


November 25, 2008, 09:36 PM
I like the machine up in my face so I can "see the action". Pick a comfy chair and build bench to suit.

November 26, 2008, 03:36 AM
Thanks for the replies, guys!!! I've done a little reloading with a cousin of mine, and his bench is a little over waist-high on me and I'm 6' tall. It seems to work well, but I wanted more input so I could make the best decision. I suspect that much of my reloading will be done using a bar stool or some sort of stool as a leaning post, so to speak, similar to the way bass fisherman use the little seats/posts on one of those sparkly glitter rockets that they fish out of. I plan on getting a 4x8 sheet of 3/4" oak plywood, the grade right under cabinet grade (I saw it at Lowes for $20 a sheet the other day:D), and cutting two 4'x2' pieces out of that sheet to glue together for the top. I'll make a shelf or shelves out of what I have left. I'm also going to get a 12"x12" piece of 1/4" steel plate at Lowes and mount that on the bench where I plan on putting the single stage press. I tend to over build things, I know. Planning on the legs being 4x4s and the rest of the frame made of 2x6s. Should be quite heavy. Any additional thoughts?

The Bushmaster
November 26, 2008, 09:40 AM
No...Just use bolts, flat washers and nuts to tie down the press'....:D

November 26, 2008, 09:57 AM
"Planning on the legs being 4x4s and the rest of the frame made of 2x6s. Should be quite heavy. Any additional thoughts?"

Yeeah. A few anyway.

First, if you make your bench top only four feet long it won't be long before you regret that it isn't much longer. If your space will permit, saw the plywood into two 2'x8' sections and laminate them for your top. As a practical matter, I have kept the left end of my bench clear of mounted tools so I can mount scopes, glass bed, clean bores, etc. And the loads of stuff you will soon put on the lower shelves will make the bench plenty heavy so you don't need to make it of heavy materials for that!

Building strong and over-building are two different things. Single 2x4s are plenty for legs. Wood has great compression strength and there are no shear stresses on the legs so greater mass isn't needed. If you attach it to the building wall you will get plenty of stability but, if it's a free standing unit, use sheet plywood, 1/4" is plenty, on the back and ends for total rigidity. And making doors for the lower shelves to help keep things dust free is a good idea too.

An under-frameing of 2x4 is also plenty strong. It is good to plan for a leg under the press, and a front-to-back cross member there will take the maximum loading you will put on any compound linkage press. Put the press on or near the center of the bench to permit freedom of work for other tasks later. Let the bench top extend a couple of inches past the under frame so you can C clamp things in place later (case trimmer, lubrasizer, shotshell press, small vise, small bench grinder, etc.).

If you have the needed carpentry skills, put two-three narrow, shallow drawers between the bench legs, no deeper than maybe 3" or things will get lost. You will enjoy having a place for screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, dial calipers, toothpicks, que-tips, etc. And install a holder for a roll of paper towels/and or toilet paper too; you will know what they are needed for when the time comes!

Use glue and screws/bolts on all stress points because nails may eventually pull loose. I use bulk screws, the "dry wall" type, from Lowes and Liquid Nails to make sure nothing EVER moves or breaks free! That glue is good for the top lamination too. A couple of lengths of 3/8" "All thread" rod can secure any press to any top/frame but use large fender washers under the lower nuts.

Build a set of sturdy "book case" type shelves on the wall above the rear of your bench top for convienent storage of dies, powder, bullets and primers. Install at least one shelf at nose height to put your powder scale on for easy reading and safe storing too. Mount your powder measure no more than 12" from the scale for easy working.

Paint at least the top surface. Give it at least three coats of a good poly, marine varnish or oil enamel so it will be easy to clean and resist spills.

Have several AC power outlets or a power strip on the wall above your bench or very near it. You WILL be using some power tools, battery chargers, tumbler, etc, so providing for it from the first is good.

It's often overlooked but you will need light, a LOT of light. I think a dual tube 48" flourescent shop light fixture is minimum. Mine is a four tube unit and it's not too much. Hang the light directly above the front edge of your bench top to prevent shadows on the work surface.

November 26, 2008, 12:05 PM
Echo Rangers comment on light, the more the better. Im now on my *fourth* loading bench, Nos 1-3 were all combinations of dimensional lumber with a plywood top at 42 off the floor. They were all built to fit inside a closet and No3 was literally 2x4s bolted to the walls and a double 3/4ply top applied with screws. No4 is built inside a TV cabinet; the doors will open all the way around to sit flush with the sides. The fixed shelf in the middle is resting on the ends of the two original shelves which puts the entire base and mass of the cabinet to push against, its a little short at 37 so plan your bench carefully for height. Surface area isnt much but Im used to that, it just makes me stay that much more organized; only one caliber at a time, right?

Also the recommendation for the scale at eye level is spot on; I got really tired of hunching over to make sure the powder scale was properly level. The shelf in my cabinet is dedicated to the scale and very little else, any bending of the shelf my be detrimental to accuracy.

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