Bench Rack--A Gunsmithing Must-Have
November 30, 2010
A bench rack is one of those things that once you've had it and used it, you just wonder how the heck you got by without it!
A bench rack is a secure way to hold guns near your workbench and will prevent them from being knocked over or off the bench entirely.
A bench rack is one of those things that once you've had it and used it, you just wonder how the heck you got by without it! It's nothin' more than a simple vertical rack positioned on or near your bench for temporary storage of guns you're actively working on.
Like most folks, I've done without a bench rack for far too many years. In the past I'd just prop a gun up against the wall opposite my bench, or I'd lay it out on the back of the bench as I worked on something else. The problem is sooner or later you'll get in trouble. It's happened to me. Some time back I was working on my Navy Arms replica 1866 Winchester rifle, and partway through the job I had to do some work on a machine in my shop. With the 1866 stood up against the wall behind my bench, I had a part of the machine in my vise and was trying to drive out a bushing. It was pretty tight, and I was flailing away with a heavy hammer and, admittedly, shaking the bench. I saw something move out of the corner of my eye and watched in horror as my 1866 slid off the bench onto the floor. To make a long, painful story short, I busted off the toe of the stock, bent the buttplate, and generally made one heck of a mess. It was a dumb mistake that could easily have been avoided.
A bench rack will hold your guns securely and safely yet have them near the bench when you're ready to work on 'em. You won't have to worry about them getting scratched or damaged by tools or other guns. It'll also help keep your bench clean and more organized. Ideally, I'd place the rack on the wall in the middle of my bench. Unfortunately, I can't do that now. However, if you're just setting up your shop, I'd strongly urge you to put your rack there. It's really the optimal position. For me, I have to locate my rack on the wall off the end of the right side of my bench.
Before permanently putting the major parts together, use small nails to tack them together to make sure your rack will hold the guns you plan to work on.
The specific design of your rack will depend on the space available, the number of guns you work on, and how many projects you tend to have going at the same time. Also, there's the security issue. If your shop area is not secure, and others have access to it, do you really want to have a gun, even in pieces, laying out in the open? Of course, you can build your rack so it's lockable if necessary. Since this is not an issue in my shop, I designed my rack for ease of use, and it has no locking feature.
One of the key features of my rack that causes some comments from friends is the provision for parts trays. One sits on a shelf at the bottom of the rack, and the other rides above it on two integral rails mounted on the inside of the rack. If I have a large item that I need to place in the rack, I can always remove one or even both of the parts trays for more space. This gives me more flexibility in terms of what I can store in the rack.
The back of the rack is solid. This makes the rack sturdier and allows me to rest barrels or stocks in it without danger of them falling out or contacting the cement wall behind my bench. I also placed a lip about 2.75 inches high on the front of the rack to prevent guns from slipping out. Yeah, that's a direct result of the accident with my 1866!
The author designed this bench rack to hold two parts baskets, giving it additional versatility.
How To Build A Bench Rack
Before starting the project I drew out plans for my bench rack. This helped to determine exactly what I would be doing and also ensured that my design would work. I checked the measurements with several firearms while doing this. You sure don't want to build a rack and then find out it won't hold your guns, and it'll help save materials. This entire rack was built with just three pieces of wood.
Construction of the bench rack began with a trip to the lumberyard where I purchased the following items:2 3/4x11x72-in. pine boards
1 1/4x24x48-in. plywood
#6x5/8-in. wood screws
#6x1.5-in. wood screws
#4x1/2-in. pan head sheet metal screws
1 1/16x3/4x36-in. aluminum angle Wood glue (All dimensions are actual measurements.)
It's best to cut out all major horizontal and vertical pieces first. As you do this, make sure the two side pieces and horizontal shelves are as perfect a match as possible. The better the pieces match, the better they'll go together.
The first step in assembly is to cut the aluminum angle into two approximately 11-inch pieces to serve as support rails for the parts tray. The exact length can vary just a tad depending on the width of your side pieces. These should be mounted about an inch below the location of the middle horizontal piece using the #4x1/2-inch screws. And make sure you install them before you join the sides together.
The author used pilot drills in building the bench rack. They made the work easier and helped to avoid damaging the wood.
After that, I tacked the major pieces together with small nails to just make sure everything fit. I then screwed and glued all the components together with the #6x1.5-inch screws. When I installed the major parts, I used a pilot drill before installing the screws. This made installation of the screws easier, and it helped to prevent splintering the wood.
Once the rack was put together, I cut the plywood to fit and installed it as a backer using #6x5/8-inch wood screws. This, more than anything else, gives the rack strength and rigidity. Glue was also used. I then went over the edges with sandpaper to remove any roughness, applied a coat of walnut-tinted Minwax, and mounted the rack near my bench.
The bench rack has proven to be an asset, and goodness knows how
many accidents it'll prevent. Hopefully, I'll never again allow a rifle to slide off my bench as I did with my Navy Arms 1866 Winchester.
Until next time, good luck and good gunsmithing!