Portable Shooting Bench
by M. Dille
There are two ways to build this bench one is with stationary legs and the other is with folding legs which makes it much easier to transport to various locations. Either application results in a very stable shooting platform that allows you to rotate 360 degrees. This bench also allows right and left hand shooters to use the same setup by removing two wing nuts and turning over the bench top and sliding the seat assembly from the left side for right hand shooters to the right side for left hand shooters. This setup is ideal for varmint shooting and target shooting where precision is required.
There are a couple of ways to make the benches depending on how much time and effort the builder wishes to put into the project. There are two ways to build the bench. The first is a solid four leg bench which will break down into four major components. The legs and the center pivot will take up quite a bit of room for transporting and that is why I came up with a way to build a folding unit so it would take less room for storage and transport. It is a much more time consuming project if you make it fold. Which ever method is selected it is important to start with the leg assembly and work your way up to the top while building to allow for variations in materials used and personal preference.
1 - The center pivot mount and legs.
The center pivot mount can be made out of most any pipe material suitable for the load which will be placed on it, while still allowing for the installation of four legs. One key item for the center pivot mount is to try and find a size of piping material that the center pivot will fit into without undo clearance or sloop. This item may have to be machined to obtain a desirable fit for 360 degree rotation.
The material used for the pivot mount was schedule 40 black pipe with an I.D. of 2.5 inches. The material used for the center pivot was some tubing with an O.D. of 2.5 inches. The pivot mount pipe was from Korea and was slightly less than 2.5 inches and it was also not perfectly round, which most pipe is not. This resulted in having to turn the tubing material down to an outside diameter of 2.430 inches. The center pivot pipe will also become distorted as a result of welding the legs or tabs on so each unit will very slightly. An ideal fit is where the center pivot will slide into the pivot mount with about .015 - .025 clearance on all the way around. This will allow the unit to be easily put together and still not wobble around too much.
If you are building a four leg solid mount each leg is 24 inches long and made out of 1 X 2 inch .125 wall tubing. Angles cut on each end of each leg are approximately 15 degrees. You want to end up with the bottom of the center pivot mount approximately 5 inches off of the ground. Each leg is welded 90 degrees from each other on the center mount. Try and weld with one pass to keep distortion down and will make building the center pivot easier. The center mount is 51/2 inches long and the legs are mounted wherever the 15 degree cut matched up to the 2.5 inch material.
If building a folding model you will use three legs and each leg is 31 inches long for stability. Each leg is laid out 120 degrees from each other so you will have room to weld the ¼ inch tabs to the center mount. Each tab is ¼ inch X 2 inch X 3 inches and you will need a total of 6 each. Each tab has a 3/8 inch hole drilled in them at a location of 1 inch X 1 inch. It’s best to make a mock up of a short piece of 1 inch X 2 inch tubing approximately 5 inches long and drill a 3/8 inch at a location 1 inch from the and from the edge closest to the ground of ½ inch. This way you can place a pair of the tabs on the short piece of tubing and clamp it to the center mount while you are wielding and doing it this way will assist you in maintaining the 120 degree layout. Be sure and install a 3/8 inch washer on each side of the leg between the tabs before welding. Once the tabs are welded on you can then fit your legs to the proper location for rotation and use a 3/8 transfer punch to mark the hole location for drilling. You should also use a drill press to make sure you get the holes drilled straight so once the bolts are installed every thing will fit nice and tight! This is also done so the legs will fold and when the bench is set up for shooting and the edge of the tubing will be resting against the center mount and will remain stable. The ends of the legs should have a small piece of light gauge steel welded to the end to keep dirt out of it. You may have to adjust the dimensions to get good contact between the end of the leg and the wall of the center mount.
2 – Center Pivot Assembly
The dimensions of the center pivot can vary somewhat and is driven by the length of the center pivot mount and height from the ground to the bottom of the center pivot mount assembly. Most of applications require a 15 – 16 inch center pivot. If the material needs to be machined to slip into the center mount just turn the material which needs to slip into the center pivot mount plus an additional ¾ inch – 1 inch so a ring that size of the same material used for the center mount can be welded to the center pivot assembly. This ring is used for a bearing surface so the unit will rotate freely. Your weld will be on the top of the ring opposite the area which will be inserted into the center pivot mount.
The top of the center pivot will also have to be machined so that the seat swivel assembly can be installed. This area if it requires machining should only be machined enough so that the seat swivel slides down its full depth plus an additional ¾ inch – 1 inch so a ring that size of the same material used for the center mount can be welded to the center pivot assembly.
Normally the nominal dimension used for machining the portion which slides into the center mount will work for the seat swivel. Be careful when welding the rings to the center pivot and don’t weld solid all the way around as you can distort the tube enough to where it will not freely slide into the center pivot mount and the seat swivel after the weld is complete. The bottom portion of the ring will be welded to the center pivot opposite the area which the seat swivel will rotate. Also make sure all cannon balls are removed from the areas which slide into these two areas prior to attempting to fit them together or there could be a chance of galling which will require additional filing and hand work to make them fit and rotate smoothly.
The top and bottom of the center pivot should also have a piece of steel welded to each end of the pivot tube to close them up. The top one has to be of sufficient thickness to support the vertical pipe which will be welded to it to support the table and table mount. The material welded to the center of the pivot for the table support can be either ½ or ¾ inch black pipe. The length of this piece of pipe will vary depending on the height of the legs, center mount, center pivot and table frame assembly. Ideally from the ground to the top of the bench should be 37 ½ to 38 inches.
3 – Seat Assembly
It’s usually cheaper to order a bar stool seat from the internet than to have one made at an upholstery shop. Something approximately 15 to 18 inches in diameter is more comfortable for a long day of shooting than something smaller. The completed seat height can vary any where from 21 to 24 inches from the top of the seat to the ground. The mount for the bottom of the seat is made from ¼ inch material and 4 inches in diameter is adequate. The piece that slides into the seat pivot is the same diameter as the center pivot after machining. The overall length does not need to be more than 3 inches long. This piece is welded to the 4 inch diameter plate and centered on the plate. The seat mount plate can have three or four holes spaced evenly so sheet rock or wood screws can be used to secure to the seat bottom.
If you choose to make a folding seat assembly the 2 ½ inch material needs to have 2 ea ¼ inch tabs welded to it. Each tab should be ¼ X 2 X 2 ½ inch and have a 3/8 inch hole drilled in it 1 inch from the end and ½ inch up from the bottom of the 1 X 2 inch .125 wall tubing. This material is welded in the same fashion as the leg support mounts. If the bench is not a folding model the 1 X 2 inch tubing is welded directly to the 2 ½ inch center seat pivot. For the folding seat the both ends of the seat support tubing should be cut at a 15 degree angle. One end is welded to the seat swivel and the other has a 3/8 inch hole drilled in it which will allow it to be mounted to the ¼ inch tabs welded to the center seat pivot. The length of the 1 X 2 inch tubing should be 11 ½ inches long.
4 – Table Mount Assembly and Support
If the bench is not a folding model the top support can be made out of 1 inch .125 wall square tubing and angle iron. The front of the table mount tube assembly will require a piece of 1/8 inch to 3/16 inch angle iron 8 inches long. The 1 inch square tubing is welded to the inside of the angle iron centered. Prior to welding you will need to cut a slot in the 1 inch tubing the thickness of the angle iron so that when it’s welded together the top of the angle iron and the tubing will be flat so when the table top is mounted it will be flat. The length of the 1 inch tubing should be approximately 26 inches long form back to front of the two angle iron pieces. The back angle iron is made out of the same size material as the front piece, but it will be 6 inches long and the tubing will once again be welded to the center of the angle iron and the two right angles of the angle iron will be facing each other. The back portion of the tubing will have to be slotted prior to welding the same as was done for the front angle iron. Now you are ready to weld the table mount to the table support piping. (Make sure before you weld the table support to the pipe you install the center seat support pivot assembly on the top of the center pivot assembly and also make sure the table support assembly is at a 90 degree angle to the support pipe) now the 1 inch tubing can be welded to the pipe as close to the back angle iron table support as practical for a complete weld all the way around the support pipe. Next you will need to determine how long the table support will be and it will be easy to do provide the top support is 90 degrees to the support pipe. Ideally you should have the center of your 1 X 2 support tubing centered on the center pivot between the two 1 inch rings welded on earlier and the other end of the tubing should be as close to the end of the 1 inch tubing on the table top support assembly. The table support mount is made of ¼ X 2 X 3 inch flat stock and the end and a 3/8 inch hole should be drilled through both of the mounting tabs prior to welding. The end welded to the center support pivot will be cut at a 45 degree angle on one end. Make sure the table support is at a 90 degree angle to the center support tube and tack weld one of the ¼ inch tabs to the center pivot. Using a transfer punch place the support tubing in position and center punch the
1 X 2 tubing. Drill a 3/8 inch hole at the punch mark and place the support tube back on the tab tack welded to the center pivot. Now place the other ¼ inch tab on the support tube using a 3/8 inch bolt and nut to secure in place. At this time you can weld both of the tabs in place on the center pivot assembly. Once again making sure the table support is at a 90 degree angle make two ¼ X 2 X 2 inch tabs and drill a 3/8 inch hole at a location approximately an inch below the table support assembly and in the middle of the location where the support tube will be located at the front portion of the table support. Clamp one of the tabs in place and using a transfer punch center punch the hole location on the support tube. Drill a 3/8 inch hole through the support tube at the center punched location. Using a 3/8 inch bolt and nut attach the tabs and clamp at the location determined earlier and weld as necessary.
SouthBend K10 Lathe
Various hand tools
Note:Material list is included in the build process
Shooting Bench Material list and Building Instructions
Millermatic 185 Mig welder
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