New Reloading Bench Setup

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Post by cam_1100 on Sun Apr 28, 2019 3:28 am

I'm building a bench for my first venture into reloading, and I'm trying to gather advice on what makes a bench useful, safe, and comfortable.  I've searched this forum and several other sites and have basically come to realize that there are as many different ways to set up a bench as there are folks who reload.  So I thought it might be best to provide some info on my specific situation and pick your brains for any advice you might have.

Background: I've been shooting .22 indoor bullseye at my local club for the past couple years and I'm getting ready to venture into centerfire.  To help facilitate this, I plan to start reloading with a Dillon 550 on a Strong Stand I inherited last fall along with all of the associated parts and supplies to get started.  So far all of that stuff has been sitting in boxes taking up space in my garage, but I recently made room in my basement to be dedicated to reloading. 

So far, I've got a basic 2x4 foot bench, about 36" high since I plan to stand while reloading.  I slapped it together with some scrap material I had laying around, so I'm not really attached to what I have.  I consider it more of a prototype just to see how it works and what I might change.  I plan to be build some shelves with small cubbies to mount on the wall behind the bench to store dies, brass, tools, scales etc. (Powder and primers will be secured elsewhere)

Here are some of the questions I am trying to answer:

1. What is the minimum size required to fit everyting you need for reloading comfortably on the bench?  Is 2x4 big enough?  I want the press permanently mounted, with enough clear bench space for cleaning and tinkering.

2. What needs to be on the bench while reloading?  I figure I need room for scales and supplies of bullets and brass (I don't have case or bullet feeders).  I figure being able to have a reloading manual open for easy reference would be a good idea as I get started.  Is there anything else I should have handy?

3. How much bench space to I need on each side of the press?  I plan to mount it as far to the right edge of the bench as I can and still have room for a supply of clean brass to the right of the press.  I'm right handed if that makes a difference.

4. What would you do differently with your bench if you were building a new one? 

I'm not looking for any advice related to the actual reloading process just yet.  I'll be starting slow and learning carefully as I got.  For now I'm just looking for feedback on the bench itself and tips or ideas for how to set it up while reloading, and efficient storage near then bench. 

Here's what I have so far.  I'll update when I get shelves built.

New Reloading Bench Setup Bench010New Reloading Bench Setup Bench011




Thanks!!
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Post by mikemyers on Sun Apr 28, 2019 7:45 am

There are many, many, many people here who know far more about this than I do.  After setting up reloading gear in my rooms several times in the past, I keep learning what I could have done better.  The following are some suggestions.....


Something nobody listens to when I suggest it, but my very first suggestion is to buy a single station reloading press, and learn.  I spent well over 30 years with a single station RCBS Big Max.  Starting out with a progressive press I think is a terrible idea.  The one person I watched do this never "learned" reloading.  There is so much to learn, including how to "feel" what is happening.  In my opinion that's not likely to happen with a progressive press, as there is too much happening simultaneously.  A progressive press increases your output, which is not what you need to think of.  Instead, one by one, think of turning out perfect rounds, loaded as per the reloading manuals specify.

(If you were buying your first lathe to make parts from steel or aluminum, would you buy a manual lathe and learn how to use it, or would you buy one of the precision computer controlled machines?  Same thing here, learn how to reload before learning how to reload faster.    ......and I might as well add that when I did move up to an RCBS Pro2000 press, I used it to load one round at a time, for well over a month.  Only when I felt comfortable, did I start doing two rounds at a time, and then more.  You can't "feel" what is happening at any one station, when things are happening at all the stations at the same time.  At least I couldn't.)


Have lots of lighting  Makes a big difference. ...and have NO distractions, TV, phone, nothing to interrupt you.


I've got a tiny place to work in, basically in a closet.  The press went to my right, but I needed to make room for my reloading scale so every tenth round or so, I could check the weight.  I put the scale in a place that wasn't too inconvenient, but most of the space at my left I left open for all the other stuff I need to do.  (I still have my RCBS Big Max set up, I moved it to the right, to make room for my newer progressive press.  If I get stuck for whatever reason, I can still load manually on the old press.)


If you have space, make your bench longer.  You'll thank yourself later.


However you set things up, make sure that you can visually see how much powder got loaded into every case.  On a single station press, this is simple.  On a progressive press, it takes some doing.....      


Got a Lock-Out Die from RCBS.  Not sure how to put it on a Dillon, as you don't have enough stations, but if you ever make a double-load, or an empty load, it will literally "stop the press".  Not sure if your press is auto-index or not, but it it isn't, you need to be especially careful.


Be especially careful how you set up the primer feeder.  With the primer tube on a Dillon, if somehow one primer "goes off", they all do.


Regardless of anything else you do, get a pair of safety glasses, and make it a point to ALWAYS wear them.  Especially true if you're just starting out.


Watch lots of the dozens of reloading videos on YouTube, and see how others do this.  You'll get lots of ideas.


...........I could go on, but I've already spent far too much time with one person, who insists on churning out ammo as quickly as it shows in the Dillon blue magazine, and in my opinion hasn't learned the basics of how to reload.  You learn how to drive in a basic car, not a Ferrari or a Mercedes.  If you get yourself a decent single station press, you can use that for a year or so, until you feel comfortable about reloading, and your reloaded ammo works as expected.  Then you can consider a better press.


Question - what is your reason for wanting to reload?
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Post by dronning on Sun Apr 28, 2019 8:40 am

The 550 with the manual index is a great first press.  That's what I started out with before adding a 1050.  I still use the 550 for rifle, lower volume pistol loads and load development.  Does it have a case feeder?  I had to remove my Strong Mount when I added a case feeder to my 550 because I have low ceiling in my reloading room. 

Loading with ANY press just requires attention, never force anything.  I know a guy using a single stage that doubled EVERY round he loaded during a loading session.  Luckily his loads were light and even though he doubled them it didn't destroy his gun, yes he shot a second round before he packed it up. 

Your bench size will work just fine. The bigger the bench the more crap it will collect, but think about expansion when you place it, like 2 ft from a corner so you could add another section for an L shaped bench.

Look for LED lights for the press, there are several out there, it makes it easier to see
Screw the bench to the wall
Place the press toward one end or the other so you have free space to work.
Shelves, lots of them
Storage, ammo cans (air tight) or plastic bins (ez to see)
Blue painters tape to mark things 
- Dave
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Post by NuJudge on Sun Apr 28, 2019 8:44 am

You'll find you always need more space, but about a foot and a half to each side of a press is the minimum I need.  Whether I am loading rifle, pistol or shotgun determines what I need nearby, and the particular caliber will change what I need and how much space it takes up.  

In order to maximize the use of space, I have a reloading machine docking system, which accommodates a variety of presses, each mounted on a plate, which is inserted in the dock.  There are various available, including this one:  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fPHWNcltn8  

You'll need more shelves above and below the working surface, and cross-bracing would be good to have.  If you are going to shoot pistol, you will probably do a good bit of loading on a Progressive press, and anything that allows movement of the working surface is bad.  Cross-bracing and lots of weight is good.  

I am taller than most and like to load while standing, so I put my working surface higher, and got a drafting chair so I can can sit at higher or lower levels, if necessary.  

Make sure you have electricity available nearby, as I have lots of task lighting, plus electronic tricklers, trimmers and other equipment.

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Post by TonyH on Sun Apr 28, 2019 9:06 am

This was my first reloading bench that I built more than three decades ago and have really not needed much more for all the basic reloading tools, components etc. It is rock solid and works well. I did move across the country (left the bench behind) and ended up replacing the table piece with a all steel frame bench that I picked up someplace, but rebuilt the top shelf piece.
I have a single stage press and a Dillon 550 on this bench.
NRMA Reloading Bench Plans
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Post by Archer Gravely on Sun Apr 28, 2019 10:20 am

This is a great reloading bench. It took me about 3 weekends to build mine and it is very functional and heavy duty.   The storage cabinets are especially nice and it has a pull-down shelf designed to hold a reloading scale.
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Post by cam_1100 on Sun Apr 28, 2019 10:26 am

Great advice from everyone!  Thank you!
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Post by carykiteboarder on Sun Apr 28, 2019 10:31 am

If you want a "forever" bench, look into "Kreg" steel frame components.  You can mix/match frame width/depth options and get a variety of standard leg heights.  The legs come with threaded feet which let you level the bench on an uneven surface.  You need the bench to be strong and rigid.

https://www.kregtool.com/store/c42/universal-bench-with-standard-height-legs/

Glen
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Post by dronning on Sun Apr 28, 2019 10:45 am

carykiteboarder wrote:If you want a "forever" bench, look into "Kreg" steel frame components.  You can mix/match frame width/depth options and get a variety of standard leg heights.  The legs come with threaded feet which let you level the bench on an uneven surface.  You need the bench to be strong and rigid.

https://www.kregtool.com/store/c42/universal-bench-with-standard-height-legs/

Glen
Thanks for that link, I was just starting to design a new shop bench. 
- Dave
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Post by cam_1100 on Sun Apr 28, 2019 11:26 am

mikemyers wrote:...my very first suggestion is to buy a single station reloading press, and learn.  Starting out with a progressive press I think is a terrible idea.  A progressive press increases your output, which is not what you need to think of.  Instead, one by one, think of turning out perfect rounds, loaded as per the reloading manuals specify....You can't "feel" what is happening at any one station, when things are happening at all the stations at the same time.
I might have chosen a single stage press at first, but I literally inherited this one from my stepfather.  I know it's possible to have more than one press, but I didn't see that as a practical option for me. I DO plan to start out loading 1-by-1 so I know exactly what's happening with each round.  You mentioned that you didn't "feel" what was happening on a progressive...is that true even when loading a single round at a time?

mikemyers wrote:Have lots of lighting  Makes a big difference.
..make sure that you can visually see how much powder got loaded into every case.
I will be mounting an LED shop light overhead and using a clamp on light to "spotlight" the press while loading.  Part of my reasoning for building this bench at standing height was so it would be easier for me to move around to see what's going on in the press, especially with the powder.  

mikemyers wrote:If you have space, make your bench longer.
The dimensions for this one were based partly on space and partly on materials I had available.  I've got room to expand a little if I decide I need more room, but not much.

mikemyers wrote:Regardless of anything else you do, get a pair of safety glasses, and make it a point to ALWAYS wear them.  Especially true if you're just starting out.
Preaching to the choir on that one!

mikemyers wrote:Watch lots of the dozens of reloading videos on YouTube, and see how others do this.  You'll get lots of ideas.
You got that right!  Part of the problem was there is TOO MUCH information.  That's why I thought I'd try this approach and see what advice you all had for my specific situation.

mikemyers wrote:Question - what is your reason for wanting to reload?
I've been shooting .22 in an indoor bullseye league for a couple years, and I'm planning to expand to shooting centerfire (.45), both indoors and trying to get into some bigger outdoor matches, and I want to be able to load rounds to help with that.  Accuracy and consistency are my main goals, quantity is a secondary goal insomuch as it relates to what's required for Bullseye shooting and keeping costs "reasonable".  

The Dillon came into my possession a couple years ago when my stepfather passed but stayed on his reloading bench until last fall when I decided I to start shooting CF.  The point is, I'm not rushing into the decision to reload just to check it out, or to crank out a stockpile of ammo.  I'll be taking my time along the way, learning from the people I shoot with and people on this board...and this thread is a great example!  Thanks again!
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Post by john bickar on Sun Apr 28, 2019 11:45 am

TonyH wrote:This was my first reloading bench that I built more than three decades ago and have really not needed much more for all the basic reloading tools, components etc. It is rock solid and works well. I did move across the country (left the bench behind) and ended up replacing the table piece with a all steel frame bench that I picked up someplace, but rebuilt the top shelf piece.
I have a single stage press and a Dillon 550 on this bench.
NRMA Reloading Bench Plans

I built the NRMA bench too. I put a lot of time into it and it came out beautiful. A fellow shooter recommended to mount the cabinet on the wall above the bench to gain some benchtop space, which is what I did. Let me see if I can find the photos.

I have no doubt it will last 3 decades or more. My daughter will be the one who gets to deal with it after I'm gone. It'll probably go with the house, like my sisters and I did with the giant Diebold safe when we sold my parents' house.
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Post by cam_1100 on Sun Apr 28, 2019 11:51 am

dronning wrote:Does it have a case feeder?
No case feeder or bullet feeder.

dronning wrote:Your bench size will work just fine. The bigger the bench the more crap it will collect, but think about expansion when you place it, like 2 ft from a corner so you could add another section for an L shaped bench.
That's kind of what I was worried about with going too large.  This bench pretty much has to sit in the middle of an open wall, but if I need more room I have a spot on the opposite wall where I could place smaller bench but I'm hoping not to need it.  My large workbenches are in the garage so if I have a specific project or something to work on, that's where I'll do that.  The goal for this bench is reloading and gun cleaning only.  

dronning wrote:Look for LED lights for the press, there are several out there, it makes it easier to see
Do you mean the ones that attach directly to the frame of the press?  I saw those but didn't really look into them.  I'm planning to mount some shop lights overhead with a clamp-on spotlight I can position to see what I need.

dronning wrote:Screw the bench to the wall. Shelves, lots of them.
Storage, ammo cans (air tight) or plastic bins (ez to see)
Blue painters tape to mark things
I'm going to use a french cleat system to attach the bench to the wall and to hang some shelves over the back of the bench.  This is a storage room and we may need to be able to get things in and out occasionally so I wanted to be able to move the bench and shelves out of the way without too much hassle.  I inherited dozens of small plastic ammo boxes along with the press, so I think I'm covered there.  Good idea on the painters tape!
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Post by cam_1100 on Sun Apr 28, 2019 12:00 pm

NuJudge wrote:In order to maximize the use of space, I have a reloading machine docking system, which accommodates a variety of presses, each mounted on a plate, which is inserted in the dock.
I've looked into similar systems before for bench mounted tools (and even though up my own plans for one before I knew it had already been done!). Still haven't gotten around to implementing it, but the more stuff I acquire the better that idea seems.

NuJudge wrote:You'll need more shelves above and below the working surface, and cross-bracing would be good to have.
Shelves are definitely on the way, just haven't built them yet. I'll add some bracing when I've used it a bit and know exactly where it needs it. What I learn will go into the plans for when I build the "final" version.
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Post by cam_1100 on Sun Apr 28, 2019 12:09 pm

TonyH wrote:This was my first reloading bench that I built more than three decades ago and have really not needed much more for all the basic reloading tools, components etc. NRMA Reloading Bench Plans
I saw the NRMA plans when I was researching. I really like it. It was the general inspiration for what I'm working on: sturdy bench with compartments behind and above the work surface. My plan right now is to build an array of ~4"x4" cubes for sorting dies and press parts by caliber, with a couple larger spaces for specific items like scales, manuals, etc. and mount it to the wall behind the bench.
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Post by cam_1100 on Sun Apr 28, 2019 12:14 pm

carykiteboarder wrote:If you want a "forever" bench, look into "Kreg" steel frame components.  You can mix/match frame width/depth options and get a variety of standard leg heights.  The legs come with threaded feet which let you level the bench on an uneven surface.  You need the bench to be strong and rigid.https://www.kregtool.com/store/c42/universal-bench-with-standard-height-legs/
Yeah, I saw those when I was researching. They look really nice! I tend to build everything I use so I can customize it to my needs and to save money, but I also just enjoy doing it. But I must admit some of the commercial stuff out there is really tempting!
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Post by cam_1100 on Sun Apr 28, 2019 12:15 pm

Thanks again to everyone for all the advice! I tried to respond to everybody, but you guys are hard to keep up with!! I'll keep checking back for more advice and to update my progress.
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Post by mustachio on Sun Apr 28, 2019 12:59 pm

I have a work bench that measures 60"x24". I load on the far right corner and it is more than enough room.  See Pic.

New Reloading Bench Setup OY3qUOP
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Post by Wobbley on Sun Apr 28, 2019 1:01 pm

Your bench looks fine. I like mine 60x30 or 72x30.

As for use as a “cleaning bench” I’ve found that I like a separate top for that and an old used “potting table” that some gardener is throwing away works well for that.

The big thing is storage shelves and cabinets. You can’t have too many of those.
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Post by mikemyers on Sun Apr 28, 2019 1:43 pm

cam_1100 wrote:
mikemyers wrote:...my very first suggestion is to buy a single station reloading press, and learn.  Starting out with a progressive press I think is a terrible idea.  A progressive press increases your output, which is not what you need to think of.  Instead, one by one, think of turning out perfect rounds, loaded as per the reloading manuals specify....You can't "feel" what is happening at any one station, when things are happening at all the stations at the same time.
I might have chosen a single stage press at first, but I literally inherited this one from my stepfather.  I know it's possible to have more than one press, but I didn't see that as a practical option for me. I DO plan to start out loading 1-by-1 so I know exactly what's happening with each round.  You mentioned that you didn't "feel" what was happening on a progressive...is that true even when loading a single round at a time?
I probably didn't word that correctly - it's not that I "don't feel what is happening", but rather I feel everything that is happening at all the stations simultaneously.  

To answer what I think you're asking me, sure, with the RCBS Pro2000, the durn thing is made of   steel or cast iron, and weighs a ton.  By loading one round at a time, I feel everything that is happening.  I like lubing the cases, even though I don't have to, so I feel that nicely.  I seat the primers "by feel", and that's simple when it's the only station doing anything.  I can (and do sometimes) load one round, and cycle it through, just to "feel" everything.  I suspect that if anything is ever going to go wrong, I'll "feel it" before I "see it".

When everything is going well, I'll try two rounds at a time, which has worked as smoothly as doing just one.  

When I finally start loading rounds for continuous loading, I still try to "feel" the things I consider most important, and gradually cut down on the number of rounds I create before going back to measure the powder.  I'm not that good at multi-tasking - if I'm going to weigh a round, that's where most of my concentration is.  While the machine is turning out rounds, I'm not paying special attention to any one thing, I'm mostly listening for, watching for, and feeling anything that changes.  The only things I've "caught" that way had to do with loading the primer.  That rarely happened, but every time it did, I've caught it immediately.  

(I've got to add that this wasn't true for quite a while.  I had to use the press for many weeks before I got "tuned in" to what it was doing.  Even seating the primer took a while for me to get used to how it "should" feel.)

(Not sure if you've got an auto-index press - the people in a different reloading forum STRONGLY suggested I get the auto index kit for my press, which eliminates a lot of potential problems.  The chances of an empty load, or a double-charge, drop to practically zero if you operate an auto-index press the same way every time.  You've still got to be aware that you're not running out of primers or powder.)

(.....and at some point you need to decide if you want to follow the advice from the experts here, to seat and crimp in separate stations.  On my RCBS, I can't do that while still using the Lock-Out die, which I still insist on, so I'm going against the advice and seating and crimping in one station.  That bothers me, as I'd like to load the best I can, and that leaves me only with adoption of crimping the rounds in my old single station press, something I haven't done yet, but probably should.  If you've got only four stations, I think there's a way to do it on the Dillon press, but I don't know the details.  At some point I'm going to start doing it their way, even if it means running each round through the other press to do the crimp, but that's what I said a year ago.....)
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Post by LenV on Mon Apr 29, 2019 12:51 am

A sheet or two of plywood, some 2x4's, 1x8 pine boards for shelves, screws, stain, power screw driver and a little bit of time and you can pretty much make any custom bench you want. I waited maybe 15 or 20 minutes after my son left for college to steal his room. Before that they looked like the ones above. Had one in a storage closet one time. One time the only room I had was under a set of stairs. This is the same bench I built in my son's old room and the third house I've moved it to. I'm getting good at taking it apart and putting it back together. Very Happy 

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Post by john bickar on Mon Apr 29, 2019 1:02 am

Len, it's cool that you fit a TRS-80 into your reloading bench.
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Post by mikemyers on Mon Apr 29, 2019 3:15 am

LenV wrote:A sheet or two of plywood, some 2x4's, 1x8 pine boards for shelves, screws, stain, power screw driver and a little bit of time and ..............
.............and a brilliant and experienced mind for doing things like this, not to mention the skills to actually DO it.....


If prizes were awarded for "the best", you'd be right there competing for first place.  Mine is literally a table in a closet, but even if I had the space, I could never create something even remotely as nice as what you've built!


(Does your son know he's been evicted?)
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Post by Axehandle on Mon Apr 29, 2019 7:22 am

I like to bolt my progressive loaders to short pieces of 2x12.  Attached to the bench with a C clamp it works good for me.  Smaller tools like single stage presses and the like go on 2x6.
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Post by Domino1 on Mon Apr 29, 2019 6:01 pm

I would suggest building it bigger than you need as you can always use more space.

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Post by blindshooter on Mon Apr 29, 2019 6:58 pm

Some kind of socket and plate arrangement is nice if you don't have a lot of room. I've built at least 6 different setups over 45 years, one was a fixed almost furniture like built in a dedicated "gun" room. Wife #2 took care of that one, house and all. Sad I've used somewhat mobile benches after that. Now I have 3, all different heights for different tools. I'll see if I can get some pictures included.New Reloading Bench Setup Bench_10
New Reloading Bench Setup Bench_10
New Reloading Bench Setup Benchp10 I've since changed the bench to the left but It still uses the same method to mount and remove the tools.
Wish the internet had been around when I started, my pile might be much more organized or maybe not.
Good luck with your shooting.

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