The Perfect, Cost-Effective Reloading Bench

workbench 4-14At just $165– and even less with your 20% Off Coupon– you would be hard-pressed (see what I just did there?) to find a better reloading bench for a limited space than the Windsor 60-in. 4-Drawer Hardwood Workbench. At over 110 lbs. empty, it’ll stay in place when you lift up the press, and with 60 inches of table surface and four drawers, there’s plenty of room to work and store your supplies. The work bench also includes a bottom shelf for larger tools as well. A wood block vise is included to enhance usability and a clear lacquer finish protects the top of your shop bench from wear and tear.

“ClemBert,” a member of the FiringLine.com forum, came up with this swell mod for his Harbor Freight workbench. First, he modified two of the drawers into one deep drawer.

“I used hurricane framing ties to connect the drawers together leaving the bottom out of the drawer on the top.”

reloading bench drawers #1 

reloading bench drawers #2

He then made a 1.5″ platform for the reloading press, using leftover 3/4″ plywood glued together. A 2×4 was glued and bolted to the bottom of the platform. This allowed him to use the vice that comes with the workbench to hold the platform when in use.

reloading bench press platform #1

relaoding bench press platform #2

reloading bench press platform #3

After the platform was completed, he bolted the reloading press to it.

reloading bench reloading press #1

Harbor Freight workbench with reloading press setup

So when he wasn’t reloading and needed the work space, he had it at his disposal!

Harbor Whether it’s for reloading or other garage & shop hobbies, the Windsor 60″ 4-Drawer Hardwood Workbench from Harbor Freight Tools is a sweet deal!

How To Deal With the Problem Girlfriend: The 60-in. Hardwood Workbench

Most guys have had at least one impractical girlfriend in their lifetime: gorgeous, exotic, passionate, exciting to hold… but at the same time, expensive to buy for and hard to please. I’ve had mine for about a year now, and though my wife of 23 years is aware of her existence, she doesn’t feel threatened. It IS, after all, just a gun– a Remington 788 rifle customized to a .358 Winchester caliber, to be exact– and I love her. Unfortunately, the .358 is a more expensive round than a .30-06 (about $45 for a box of 20) and vastly harder to find, as the number of suppliers continues to dwindle. On the other hand, she feels oh-so sweet to shoot and aims true. Like I said, the impractical girlfriend. I’m telling you this because I’ve resolved to tackle my dilemma with her by taking up reloading. I’ve already got the brass, the dies, a reloading kit and (thank goodness) a buddy who knows how to use it. The only thing I need now is a workbench. Leave it to Harbor Freight Tools to have just the ticket– the Windsor Design 60″ 4-Drawer Hardwood Workbench.

This workbench has a rock-solid lacquered wood top and its four drawers are felt-lined to protect your finer tools. There’s also a bottom shelf for larger tools and containers, and a wood block vise for sanding, drilling, etc. So, lots of work space, lots of storage.

Check out this sweet set-up a customer posted on 1911Forum.com. This is something like what I have in mind:

 

The Windsor Design 60″ Hardwood Workbench (#93454) is fast and easy to assemble (takes about 2 hours, if the consensus of customer reviews is to be believed). As the above picture demonstrates, it offers a certain amount of flexibility, like installing two drawers instead of four. Going through the reviews, I’ve seen guys add lockable casters for mobility– or even a Trailer Jack on one or both sides to completely eliminate any shimmy.

There are so many uses for this workbench, I can only scratch the surface. Whether you’re into woodworking, crafts, electronics, metal projects, jewelry-making, repairing, have an art studio, micro-brewing. etc., it’s the best deal out there.

Thinking Outside of the Box: In my research I was impressed to find people who purchased Harbor Freight’s workbench for other than its obvious purpose. For example, in one of our customer reviews:

“This will sound silly, but a few people might spot this review and love the idea: My wife and I needed a baby changing table. All the ones we found were flimsy, had little storage, and were ridiculously over-priced. Then we spotted this bench on sale. It’s an incredibly perfect changing table, and once the kids are done with diapers I’ll get a nice workbench out of the deal! (An actual changing table would end up being gifted or donated and the investment is lost. This one will be around for years).” Workbench Daddy – Pasadena, CA

Another customer converted their workbench into a kitchen island:

Still another bought TWO hardwood workbenches, mated them end-to-end, and now uses them as an outfeed table for their table saw.

The subject of casters came up several times. Some guys love the mobility that casters give the workbench, but others complained that even locking casters have a little sideway shimmy which can be a pain when you’re doing precision work. Their solution (and I loved this) was to either put two casters on one side of the table with a Trailer Jack mounted on the other… or affix trailer jacks on BOTH sides. Genius!

There’s a wealth of insight: usage ideas, assembly tips and other information in the Windsor Design Workbench product page customer reviews, and through Google searches. Treating the wood with wax from time to time can add to its lifespan and resilience, too.

The 60″ workbench from Harbor Freight is the ideal solution to help solving my girlfriend problem, but I’m sure I’ll be using it for a lot of other things, too. If only all relationship problems were so easy.

Making Your Case

One of my biggest issues when I go shooting is lugging gear from the car to the range. Lately, I’ve been switching between three bags– a cheapie I got at a gun show which is now mostly just used for ammo; a range bag with so many pockets, I keep losing stuff; and a 2-rifle sniper drag bag which, let me tell you, gets a lot of laughs from the guys.

I recently picked up a fourth carrier, though, and this one is perfect for when I’m just taking handguns. The Storehouse 18″ x 12-3/4″ x 6″ Aluminum Case at Harbor Freight was originally made to carry tools, but there are so many other great uses for it. For example, because the rugged case comes with foam inserts, it can be shaped to comfortably custom-fit four full-sized semi handguns…

From TaurusMan on FiringLine.com

…and six pockets in the case lid can snugly fit your mags. Another suggested configuration, fit the case with two guns, ear protection and a spotting scope.

Or, this beautiful orchestration…

From VTB_Gunner on TaurusArmed.net

Or one James Bond gun with plenty of mags…

From nick89302 on AR15.com

Or, a taken-down AR. Very cool!

From popnfresh on AR15.com

You get the point. There are also several other, small pockets for which you can use your imagination, and the case comes with two keyed locks for safe– and, depending where you live… {{cough}}california{{cough}}… legal– transport of your guns.

The Storehouse Aluminum Case provides safe, neat containment for guns, camera equipment, telescope lenses, RC helicopter gear, tattoo equipment, magician’s props (you think I’m kidding? I found these in the customer reviews!)– really, anything you want to custom fit and carry securely. A great investment at only $27.99.*

*The Storehouse 18″ x 12-3/4″ x 6″ Aluminum Case is currently only available at Harbor Freight Tools store locations, and is not available for online purchase.

Cleaning Brass: Tumbler, Ultrasonic, or… Concrete Mixer?

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I like going to the shooting range whenever I have the time. Unfortunately, two of my favorite guns—a .custom 358 Win. rifle and a .327 Ruger single-action revolver—use hard-to-find ammo, and I spend hours online looking for new sources when the others dry up. This usually results in a lot of special ordering, backordering and premium prices. So I’ve recently decided to take up another hobby– reloading.

I knew I’d be going this direction for some time, and have been saving all my spent brass. Now, as I go about assembling my little ammo-making factory, I have to decide how I want to clean it. After initially looking around, I soon realized there are 1,005 different mickey-mouse ways people clean their brass, all of them involving washing and drying (warning: don’t dry your brass in the oven), nasty chemicals, labor-intensive manual putzing, or a combination of these. One approach I found interesting was putting bullet casings in old socks and tossing them in the washer with a little soap. If you and your wife aren’t concerned about getting toxic primer residue in your underwear, then have at it. Also, the idea of feeling “accomplished” by hand-cleaning your own brass gets old real fast. The time, vapors, cleaning up after the chemicals… forget it.

In the end, I narrowed my options down to three of the more endorsed methods: tumbler, ultrasonic washer and cement mixer.

The tumbler actually falls into two categories: rotary & vibrating. Both work well and have strong followings, although there are distinct differences. The rotary tumbler, originally created for polishing rocks, turns a barrel in which the cleaning media (such as walnut shell or corn cob) clean and polish the brass as they tumble together. Because the drum is water-tight, a cleaning solution or polish can also be added. A favorite method of cleaning in a rotary tumbler is throwing the brass in a tumbler with stainless steel media and some dish soap, liquid detergent or a specially-made cleaner. More so than some other methods, with stainless steel the cartridges turn “like-new” bright & shiny, inside and out. Reloaders who have tried this method claim that they’ll never go back to walnut or corn cob media again. The downside is that stainless steel is a lot more expensive, about $50 for 5 lbs. compared to $23 for 25 lbs. It should be noted, though. the stainless steel does last longer, too.

Two examples of rotary tumblers are:

 

 

 

…the Chicago Electric 3 lb. Rotary Rock Tumbler

 

 

 

 

…and the Chicago Electric Dual Drum Rotary Rock Tumbler.

 

Rotary tumblers are generally less expensive and run quieter than the vibrating models. Also, FWIW, they create less dust than the vibrating models. However, they’re vastly slower and there’s also extra time invested in separating the brass from the media.

The vibrating tumbler, as was already mentioned, is a lot faster—even by several hours—so you can get through a lot more brass in the same amount of time Also, it’s a dry-cleaning process, so you don’t have to worry that the brass is thoroughly dry. A downside to consider, though, is the vibratory tumbler doesn’t get the inside of the casings as clean as the rotary. This isn’t really considered a problem; it doesn’t affect the performance of the ammo, or have any adverse affect on the gun, if the inside of the shell isn’t as clean and bright as the outside. Just be aware, that will be the result. Two tumblers you can find at great prices are:

 

 

 

 

the 5 lb. Metal Vibrator/Tumbler and…

 

 

 

 

the 18 lb. Vibratory Bowl with Liquid Drain Hose.

 

The foremost praise given to the ultrasonic cleaner is how fast it works. Plus, it will clean the entire case, inside and out, including the primer pocket, without getting media stuck in the flash holes (as with other methods, when they need to be picked out). You also don’t get the dust all over the casings like with the other methods, and you’re spared having to breathe the lead dust when separating the brass from the cob or walnut media. The downsides are, it cleans but doesn’t polish the brass, you have to dry the cases after you clean them, and the hardware is slightly more expensive. That being said, Harbor Freight has one at a great price.

 

 

 

Chicago Electric 2.5 Liter Ultrasonic Cleaner

 

Which leads me to most out-there, but surprisingly popular method of cleaning brass: the cement mixer. This is the go-to device when you’ve got a lot of brass to clean– like thousands of casings. Indeed, a number of reloaders point to Harbor Freight’s cement mixers as the “ultimate wet or dry tumblers,” not only for their effectiveness, but also their cheap prices and reliability. In order to make their cement mixer work as a “tumbler,” they leave out the paddles when assembling it, leaving the round tub empty. To keep the brass from banging against the steel tub, some spray the interior with a rubber coating, but that’s more for the noise than any concern for the brass getting dinged. All sorts of media can be used in them, but crushed walnut seems to be a favorite, with possibly a brass polish additive. Harbor Freight carries two models made by Central Machinery, both of them used by reloaders:

 

 

 

1-1/4 Cubic Ft. Cement Mixer

 

 

 

 

 

 

3-1/2 Cubic Ft. Cement Mixer

By sharing all these methods, it’s not my intent to try to sway you in any direction. Everyone’s needs and preferences are different. Before you do make a decision, though, google terms like “tumbler vs. ultrasonic cleaner” and “cleaning brass cement mixer,” and see what they’re saying in the blogs and forums– and ask questions! I think you’ll find the methods I’ve listed here are the best.

See you at the range!