Build the Ultimate Reloading Bench
Step-by-step instructions for building a modular, do-it-all reloading bench that's endlessly functional and looks great.
There are classic designs like the National Reloading Manufactures Association plans—the first bench I built with my dad in my parents’ basement—or this heavy-duty 2×4 job I built for under $100 when my wife and I moved into our first house. Neither bench proved ideal for my new office space, so back to Google I went, where I found a better option—a relatively inexpensive, rock-solid bench, that any non-carpenter can build.
The great Terry Wieland published this story in a 2011 issue of Rifle Shooter on his ultimate bench, inspired by the earlier gun writer Wiley Clapp. The presses, trimmers, and other tools attach to a system of plywood inserts that allow the user to move tools around the bench as needed.
It’s fastened to the wall by a 2×4 and to the floor by flange and steel pipe. It’s modular, stable enough to survive an earthquake, and it looks good, too. With some modern updates from InLine Fabrication, there’s no need to make skills-intensive custom plywood inserts—or laminate plywood at all.
My updated version is a basic butcherblock countertop, with universal t-tracks and a quick change press stand for modularity’s sake. Here’s how I did it:
- 1x Butcher Block Countertop, 4- to 8-feet long, depending on space
- 1x 2×4, cut one foot shorter than your benchtop
- ½-pint Minwax Polycrylic
- 3x Threaded Black Pipe, 1.5-inch by 36-inches
- 6x 1.5-inch Floor Flanges
- 4x POWERTEK Universal T-Track
- 1x POWERTEK T-Track Knobs pack
- 1x #6 wood screws, ¾-inch pack
- 2x Desktop Power Grommets
Wieland and Clapp made their benchtops by laminating sheets of plywood. There is no stronger way to go about it, but unless you’re loading .50 BMG with a sledgehammer finish on the press arm, you really don’t need it.
I picked up an 8-foot by 25-inches by 1.75-inch thick birch butcher block countertop at Lowe’s for $209 and treated it with three coats of Polycrylic.
Step 1 – Affix 2×4 to Wall
Find center on the wall where you plan to mount your bench and mark it. Screw the floor flanges on each end of your black pipe and measure their length. My 36-inch pipe with floor flanges attached made for 37.25-inch legs.
Attach the 2×4 to the wall on center at whatever height your black pipe legs measure out at. With the thickness of the benchtop, the 36-inch pipe gave me a total bench height of 39-inches—perfect for standing and loading, or sitting on a shop stool.
Step 2 – Attach Legs to Bench
Unscrew three floor flanges and attach them to the underside of your bench top. I spaced mine 2-inches in from the front of the bench, 10-inches in from the far sides, with the center leg splitting the distance between the outside legs.
With the floor flanges attached to the bench, screw in the black pipe legs.
Step 3 – Level Bench and Attach to Wall
Flip the benchtop with legs attached and rest the back edge of the bench on the wall-mounted 2×4. Level the benchtop and the legs. Depending on how good you are—or aren’t—you may need to screw and unscrew the flanges a bit to get it perfect.
Once level, screw the benchtop to the 2×4 along the back wall and the flanges to the floor.
Step 4 – Install Shelves Under Bench (Optional)
At this point, I installed under-bench shelving for storage with some simple brackets mounted to studs in the wall, and applied another coat of Polycrylic.
Step 5 – Cut Channels for T-Tracks
The next day, I called in the big guns: my carpenter buddy Bo and his handheld router. Matching the schematic for Inline Fabrication’s UltraMount we spaced the t-track router cuts 1.5-inches in from the front of the bench, the two tracks 7.5-inches apart.
We wore out a Shop Vac doing this inside, so if you can cut the channels before mounting the bench, do that.
Step 6 – Install T-Tracks
Four 48-inch universal t-tracks were installed with the #6 screws. This provided end-to-end track coverage in two rows spaced 7.5 inches apart at the front of the bench.
Later, a third single 48-inch track was routed and mounted 3-inches in from the wall. This provides an excellent lock-down spot for powder drops.
Step 7 – Install Power Sources
Finally, at the back of the bench, two 3-inch hole-saw cuts were made and slotted with desktop power supplies. This provides four power outlets and four USB outlets right in the benchtop.
Thin plywood covers were cut to prevent powder and other debris from getting in there when not in use.
Clapp and Wieland inspired this bench, but Internet gun nuts like the maniacs at AR15.com helped take it to the next level with innovative use of t-track. Yet, t-tracks aren’t for everyone. Powder and other debris inevitably fall in the tracks. I hadn’t been reloading on this bench a week and I bought a dedicated dustbuster to keep at the bench.
That said, you cannot beat the modularity and it’s well worth the regular clean-up. With this system, 7 of the 8 available feet in my benchtop open for each stage of the reloading process: brass prep, sizing, powder loading, and seating. No part of the process is cluttered out of space by tools for the other steps.
Also integral to this design is the UltraMount system from InLine Fabrication. The tall mount, which I used, stands 9.75-inches high. With my 39-inch tall bench, those extra inches mean there’s zero bending over at the bottom of the downstroke with a reloading press, whether I’m standing or sitting on a shop stool.
The quick-change press mount also let me switch between my four presses without having the entire bench face covered up. Each press is attached to a quick-mount top plate, that locks into the quick-change mount when it’s time to work. The presses not in use are stored on the ends of the bench in storage dock.
As Wieland put it back in 2011, “At this point, the handloader can modify the design in any number of ways to suit his own requirements. It is infinitely versatile.” The same can be said today.