Home-Made Shooting Bench [Many Photos]

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by MikeJackmin, Mar 31, 2009.

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  1. MikeJackmin

    MikeJackmin Member

    Feb 24, 2005
    Here's some pics of a nice shooting bench I've just built:


    I had a bit of an adventure dealing with the 2 inch pipe used for the legs but overall the project worked out quite well. The dimensions are arbitrary, so no plans are really necessary once you get the general idea of how it all goes together.

    The design criteria were simple; I wanted my bench to be semi-portable, optimized for right-hand use, spacious, very steady, and easy to store outdoors on its side. Most of all, it had to be easy to build, because honestly, I am a lousy builder. (My idea of "easy to build" means that you can vary any of the dimensions by half an inch or so, and nobody cares). This is a very forgiving design.


    The frame is a simple crosspiece of 2x8 lumber, lag-bolted and glued, and braced with some big steel angle brackets. I went a little overboard here because this is the heart of the bench's stability. This frame must not flex.


    The legs are made of 2 inch steel pipe, cut and threaded on both ends for me by the good folks at Home Depot. Standard pipe flanges hold them to the bench. Pipe was a perfect solution for my needs: removable, adjustable, and very solid.

    Here you can see the incredibly close tolerances necessary for a solid build:


    If it looks like I just laid all the parts together, traced them with a sharpie and hacked them roughly into shape with a circ saw, well, there's a reason for that. Fine carpentry this ain't.


    Here's the top, glued and lag-bolted and deck-screwed into place. The frame, as solid as it was, still had quite a bit of wiggle in it before the bench top was applied. After the top was fastened down, the bench became rock-solid.

    Three Things I Did Right:

    One clever trick I came up with was to use a leftover piece of luan underlayment as a quick prototyping tool for the bench top. This stuff is like super-thin plywood, cheap and easy to cut (just score it with a knife and snap the pieces off). I took a 4x4 piece and sketched out the bench top I thought I wanted, quickly cut it to shape, and placed it on my work table. Once I actually sat behind it, it was immediately obvious that my original dimensions were all wrong - too long here, too short there - and I had to reshape it a few times, sometimes holding the scraps together with duct tape. Once I was happy with the final design, I just traced it directly onto the plywood, and once the plywood was cut I traced it directly onto the frame. Even now I have no idea what the actual dimensions are.


    Prototyping something as simple as a bench top might seem like a lot of effort, but really it wasn't. Seriously, it was probably the one really smart thing I did on this whole project.

    Here's clever idea number two - by twisting the frame slightly with respect to the bench top, the overall design becomes a bit more steady. In this photo, the tape shows where the frame members will rest, and the little X's are where the legs will go:


    The 'sweet spot' on the bench is the area within the triangle formed by the three legs. I wanted every part of the bench that I touch while shooting to be within this sweet spot. I also wanted the legs to be out of my way and as far apart as I could get them, and I wanted the strongest part of the frame to be right under the center of the bench. This little twist makes almost everything better, essentially for free.

    Clever idea number three? Note how these two edges happen to line up:


    This is to help the bench rest gracefully on its side for storage outdoors. I put a lag bolt in each of these edges to act as a little foot to help protect the wood. Keep a cinder block under each foot to keep the edge from sinking into the damp ground.


    The Biggest Challenge:

    The one big surprise was that a tremendous amount of force is necessary to twist all those pipe fittings together. You'd think you could just clean and grease all the threads and you'd be good to go, but no... I could not even begin to assemble this stuff without resorting to a really big strap wrench. Seriously, you need to apply a crazy amount of force here.

    The good news is that a really big strap wrench is easy to make; all you need is a 2x4, and a strap. This strap was just a piece of 1 inch webbing I had handy:



    I had to brace the frame into position on the ground to keep it from twisting away. I used a handy tree stump and a garden stake as an assembly fixture:


    I leaned HARD into this 2x4, and even then, I was barely able to thread these pieces together. I got to the point where I was just starting to worry about snapping that 2x4 when the strap finally failed instead.


    I have to admit, I was a little bit taken aback by this. This is brand new, 1-inch, tubular nylon webbing - I used to rock climb on this stuff, and I've unhesitatingly trusted my life to it. I've known it to fail from being cut, abraded, or rotted, but I'd never seen fresh new webbing just plain break. It almost didn't seem possible.

    Right about then, I figured those legs were screwed in well enough...

    Bottom line? About a hundred and fifty bucks including finish and hardware, but I had the plywood on hand already. The pipe and fittings were about half the total cost. A drill, a circ saw, and some clamps were pretty much the only tools necessary, and I used a hole saw to get that rounded edge on the one inside corner. It was fun to build, easy except for the strap wrench stuff, and I'm very happy with the results so far.


    Next project? That big reloading bench I've always wanted...
  2. cbm1948

    cbm1948 Member

    Jul 23, 2008
    Mike you went to a great deal of trouble taking and posting all the pictures. Thanks for the effort, their are several ideas I will use on my next portable bench built. The steel pipe legs for one. Once again Thank You.

  3. CoRoMo

    CoRoMo Member

    Sep 21, 2007
    Californicated Colorado
    Great job!!

    I'm a 'basement cabinet maker' and I piddle around with wood almost everyday. I'd love to have something like that.
  4. MikeJackmin

    MikeJackmin Member

    Feb 24, 2005
    You're welcome. One last thing I should mention is that I really should have taken the time to countersink the lag bolts I used in top surface of the bench top. I thought they would be out of the way, but they're not...
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2009
  5. Acera

    Acera Member

    May 26, 2007
    Free State of Texas
    Don't sell your self short, that is a good job. Close tolerances don't necessarily translate into quality. The finished product speaks for itself.

    You ingenuity and engineering skills produced a very clever design.

    I like it.
  6. scrofcheck

    scrofcheck Member

    Sep 1, 2003
    You did good Pilgrim !!! Keep up the good work. I like it.
  7. Funderb

    Funderb Member

    Oct 23, 2007
    Jacksonville, Bold new city of the south.
    if you flip those threaded plugs over you wont have those pokey outy stubs.
  8. Albert A Rasch

    Albert A Rasch Member

    Feb 20, 2009
    West Central Florida, Tampa Bay Region
  9. JT'sDad

    JT'sDad Member

    Apr 17, 2007
    Great job. Nice dog too. I have the same model in black/brown.
  10. shotgunjoel

    shotgunjoel Member

    Nov 15, 2008
    Looks good and solid. Good job.
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