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Old November 9, 2018, 11:09 PM   #1
cannonfire
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Wood finish for reloading bench?

I'll keep it quick. I'm building at work/reloading bench (4"x8") in my garage. I'm curious what the best/safest finish to the wood would be. I'm thinking in case of powder spill or anything else. Does it even matter? Just looking for options.

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Old November 10, 2018, 12:33 AM   #2
Aguila Blanca
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What type of surface and what type of wood? Plywood? Boards? Dimension lumber? Species?
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Old November 10, 2018, 05:54 AM   #3
TJB101
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I’d build with dimensional lumber but top it with a piece of luan .... nice and smooth and would afford good powder clean up
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Old November 10, 2018, 07:50 AM   #4
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I would build it out of dimensional lumber and put a store bought top on it. Search on "hard maple workbench top" for options. For my own strictly reloading bench, the top is four layers of glued/screwed 3/4" hardwood plywood finished with Deftoil (had on hand).
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Old November 10, 2018, 08:00 AM   #5
DavidAGO
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I put a piece of masonite over the top of my bench. Nice smooth surface abut not slick.

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Old November 10, 2018, 09:35 AM   #6
GWS
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Doesn't matter that much. Spilled powder can blacken....much like it does on the insides of powder hoppers. If that bothers you, then a polyurethane finish can help.

If you're not afraid of the cost or learning how to apply it, laminated plastic (wilson art, or formica are two brands) is about as tuff as you can get.... I did that, and when I feel the need to clean it, I use an all purpose cleaner. A wet "Magic Eraser" will remove most stains.

Applying "Formica" is straight forward:

1. Apply adhesive with a notched trial to both the top and the formica underside. Let it dry to the touch for a few minutes.
2. I lay alum. or graphite arrow shafts on the surface every 6 inches to make a "standoff". You can use dowels or anything else smooth and dry.
3. Position the formica on the standoffs until it placed where you want it. (once it touches the top it's stuck)
4. remove stand offs starting from the middle one at a time pressing the formica down as you go.
5. Trim edges with a router and or really course file. (use the end of the file pushing from one end, with only downward strokes....cuts very fast)

6. buy and finish a 1.5" X 3/4" wood face trim, and finish nail, set, and fill....or cut formica stips and glue and apply.
(hint.....if face trim is mounted an 1/8" high.....stuff won't roll off.)

Last edited by GWS; November 10, 2018 at 09:41 AM.
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Old November 10, 2018, 09:41 AM   #7
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If you want to finish the wood instead of covering it like GWS recommended (which is a pretty good option), then I would recommend a "wiping poly". Minwax wipe-on poly is about as good as any and is pretty cheap.
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Old November 10, 2018, 10:02 AM   #8
HiBC
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I'm not sure what you want for aesthetics...A sheet of 1/4 in tempered Masonite
makes a pretty good bench top.You can keep it flat and make it hold still with 3M double stick tape .
That would be real easy to renew.
Of course,Formica is another good way to go.
I've seen folks use linoleum or vinyl flooring before.
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Old November 10, 2018, 10:22 AM   #9
BumbleBug
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I've had several reloading/work benches over the years. As others have already suggested, I cover them with a 1/8" tempered masonite. Don't glue it down so it will be easy to replace.

My pet peeve with all my benches has been keeping things from rolling off. A screw, a bullet, a primer, any thing round seems to find its way to the floor. You can't put a lip on the bench because of the way presses mount (I guess you could notch out for them). I'm thinking a slight down hill towards the wall may be in order. On my next bench I might router a "catch-groove" along the edge like the pencil holders we use to have on our school desks & try that. But I'm sure that will catch all kinds of dirt & powder & such.

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Old November 10, 2018, 10:57 AM   #10
pete2
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I used plain old shop grey enamel on mine, top is 3/4" plywood. It ain't about pretty, it's for work. If it had nice wood it would get polyurethane, it wouldn't look so good now with the holes, dents, and other marks that work benches get.
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Old November 10, 2018, 01:03 PM   #11
T. O'Heir
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"...Does it even matter..." Nope. Good one side plywood will be as good as anything. Do not use any kind of particle board.
4" x 8" will be far too small though(snicker). 4' x 8' will be too big. 4' x 3' is good. Big enough for all the kit, but not so big you need a reach extension device.
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Old November 10, 2018, 01:21 PM   #12
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When I rebuilt my bench the last time I used a home grown laminate.

Three pieces of 3/4 MDF and a 1/2 inch piece of hard maple ply were glued together then trimmed to size. To make sure I had a good bond I laid it on the driveway, covered it with a paint tarp and parked my car on it overnight while the glue set. After trimming to size I edged it with red oak. Four layers of water based poly finished it. To further protect I found some clear carpet runner at the hardware store for 5 bucks or so. Overkill by anyone's measure but I was bored and needed a project.

https://imgur.com/a/wCNL8e1
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Old November 10, 2018, 01:33 PM   #13
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I have one bench that has rough finished painted plywood for a top. Powder spills are not a problem and I keep a 4" paint brush on the wall above the bench. Never had a problem cleaning up powder, be it 4064 or WC820. You need to think about what you will be doing on your bench. Will the color of the top be that while will allow you to easily see small parts or primers dropped on it? Will the top allow primers, bullets to easily roll off and fall to the floor? Will the top be shiny and give off glare from above bench lighting? I painted the top on my "not real smooth" bench top a sorta "neutral" pea green, and installed a small piece of molding at the edge to prevent items from rolling off the top and disappearing on the floor. Works for me...

BTW, if you have room, I'd suggest you build your bench as large as possible. Work/reloading benches, like tool and tackle boxes shrink over time and become too small to hold all your stuff...
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Old November 10, 2018, 03:36 PM   #14
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Like two of the other posters, I used Masonite applied with short flat head woodscrews in countersunk holes for a number of years. A friend who was a carpenter advised doing this because benchtops get things dropped on them, scratches and scrapes appear, staining occurs, and the Masonite can be replaced easily to make the bench look new again. The last bench I built, though, I used the white-finished Masonite called whiteboard. This allows me to set my components out on the bench and use a dry-erase marker to write down the load I am working on and to label areas of the surface for set-asides or sorted loads or components and to make quick calculations. I also put whiteboard on the wall behind this bench for keeping records of loads and dates or other information. I actually wind up writing more on that back wall than on the bench, but both are available to me. And again, replacement is easy. The only downside I've found is the white finish is vulnerable to some solvents. Gunzilla, for example, will soften and eventually make it peel if you don't get it off fast. But otherwise, it's a good thing.

If I wanted a rugged solvent-resistant finish, I would use concrete garage floor two-part epoxy finish or marine two-part epoxy finish (to have a wider range of color choices).
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Old November 11, 2018, 09:55 AM   #15
Bob Willman
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My original bench was made with legs of two 2X6 nailed together at 90 degrees, 2X6 sides and ends at the top with 3/4" plywood top covered by tempered masonite.
The second one was a similarly constructed base but the top was a section of bowling lane floor. Solid as all get out but I lost that one in a house fire.
The present one has the same base construction with the legs bolted to the upper frame. This time the top is six 4X6 oak planks 5.5' long. They are doweled together without glue so it can be disassembled if needed. The top is finished with tung oil.

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Old November 11, 2018, 11:05 AM   #16
big al hunter
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If you will be working on anything that could spill liquid on the bench then Formica would be best. Then varnish, urethane and polyurethane would be the next best options. Be sure to sand between coats with fine grit sandpaper. It helps the new coat bond to the last one. If you are going to spray oil or cleaning solvents on or around it use epoxy based coating of some sort. Furniture building specialty stores sell clear epoxy for wood tables. If you will only be loading ammo and never expect to have anything wet on it, then bare wood is fine.
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Old November 11, 2018, 11:50 AM   #17
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I use white Formica, makes it easy to spot things like loose power flakes .
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Old November 11, 2018, 10:31 PM   #18
cannonfire
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Thanks for the responses! To be honest, I was so tired when I wrote this post, I forgot I wrote it and it clearly doesn't have the information needed. I know I put 4"x8"... listen its a long week at work! The top is 4'x8' plywood with 2x4 on the borders, so really it's more like 4'4"X8'4", give or take. It will have 3' 4x4 for legs and also a shelf or two underneath. It's going to be more than just a reloading bench, so I will most likely have CLP or other solvents on the table.

I guess what my biggest worry is solvents or other liquids soaking into the wood and powder spill and cause a potential bad situation. I don't know if that is even something to worry about but I tend to over think things, so I figured it be better to be on the safe side.

Thanks again and happy belated birthday to all you marines out there
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Old November 12, 2018, 08:37 PM   #19
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I got some rubber matting from Home Depot I think that is about 3/8" thick. Cut out places where the presses mount and just fastened it around the edges with finishing nails about every 6-8 inches. The mat will clean easily with a rag or shop vac and surface is just rough enough to keep stuff from rolling around if it drops.
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Old November 12, 2018, 11:45 PM   #20
HiBC
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Regardless of what material you choose,I suggest something easily renewable.

Over time,you will upgrade gear,change layout,etc.Your structural bench top will get swiss cheesed with obsolete holes.

In my experience,prying off a sheet of double stick taped masonite and replacing it is easy and cheap.

I have come to the point of putting steel tooling plates about 6 in wide and 5/8 or so thick along my bench,on top.These have a standard bolt hole pattern,to creat "work station hard points"

You can then mount a case trimmer or a shotgun press or a luber/sizer or a Dillon pocket swager to a standard aluminum plate.

Any of those can be bolted down or removed,with ease as needed.

You CAN do that with just standard hole patterns through the bench top. Attach your tooling to plates,or birch ply with tee-nuts,so they are easily swapped out. You can switch tooling with 1/2-13 wing nuts,no hole drilling.
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Old Yesterday, 11:33 PM   #21
hdwhit
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I built my first reloading bench in 1977 with a 5/8 inch thick plywood top that was part of the structure.

In 1995, I built a reloading bench where the dimensional timber carried all the loads and the 11/32" thick waferboard top was there because I couldn't get reloading components to levitate.

For both, I finished them with a single coat of a quality polyurethane varnish. No static electricity problems, no clean-up problems with either. They're both in service and both approaches to the work surface have worked just about equally well.
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