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How to Set Up Your Workbench: Part 2 Tool Organization

In this three-part series, AGI Gunsmith Gene Kelly walks us through the optimal way to set up a workbench to work on guns. In this article, Gene explains optimal tool organization.

How to Set Up Your Workbench: Part 2 Tool Organization

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on American Gunsmithing Institute. AGI offers comprehensive courses on gunsmithing at every level. To learn more, visit the American Gunsmithing Institute website.

Click Here for Part 3 of the AGI Gunsmith Workbench Setup Series

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed setting up and constructing the efficient Gunsmithing Workbench. When Gunsmithing, we want to be efficient, so we need to have the correct tools handy and not be wasting a lot of time looking for what we need. When you set up your bench, avoid having a lot of clutter in the area in front of you as that can lead to accidental damage to the firearms finish. Extra junk can also provide too many places for that spring or pin that just went shooting out of the gun to hide. If it’s cluttered, you’ll be spending hours looking for a small part that you lost, and that is definitely NOT efficient. Please don’t ask me how I know... I put my Gunsmithing tools into four broad categories: Tools I use constantly, tools that I use somewhat frequently, power tools, and tools I that I seldom use or only occasionally. Because firearms are primarily held together with pins and screws, I put screwdrivers, pin punches and hammers in to “use it constantly” category. So, I rather obviously want those tools close by and easy to reach.  

Screwdrivers

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I have a set of multi-tip screwdrivers bits arranged by size that fit a magnetic handpiece, and I have at least 20 screwdrivers with parallel ground blades held in racks on my metal “Omni Wall.” You could also use a regular peg board. Between the two sets of screwdrivers, I can usually find exactly what I need quickly and efficiently. A poor-fitting screwdriver could bugger up the screw slot, and if it slips, it might gouge the finish on the gun (or your hand!).  So, make sure that the blade properly fits the slot.

That means it should be as wide as the screw slot is long and as thick as the width of the screw slot. The blade should not be tapered but instead fit the bottom of the blade fully engaging the bottom of the screw slot, not the top. This is why we use parallel ground or hollow ground screwdrivers. For convenience, arrange your screwdrivers from the smallest to largest, left to right or right to left, your choice. This will increase the speed of your work by being able to find just that right size quickly.

Pin Punches and Hammers

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My pin punches are held in a block with the punch tip side up so I can quickly select the size I am looking for. My hammers are held on the rack to the right of my screwdrivers and within easy reach. Note: Make sure that they are held securely, you don’t want a hammer accidentally falling down and damaging the finish of a firearm you are working on. I have a 2-ounce, 4-ounce and 8-ounce ball peen hammers, but the one I use the most is the 4 ounce. I also have within easy reach a dead-blow hammer, rubber mallet, and a plastic “no-marr” hammer. These are all pretty much daily use tools.

Other Gunsmithing Tools

For tools that I use frequently such as files and stones, small tools and the like, I have close by or on the bench in a toolbox where they are protected, and it also eliminates some bench clutter. Other tools that are only used once or twice a week are usually stored off the bench in a drawer or hung a step or two away. The tools that are used infrequently get stored out of the way in drawers or hanging on the wall. I keep the main work area clean and clear, but I do have a vice mounted on the left side of the bench because I am right-handed and that seems to work best for me. I use a “Versa Vise” (Which is a Smooth Jaw, Parallel Vise). The same type of vise is available from several sources under different brand names. When clamping in a frame or a part, I often use padded, aluminum, or even plywood jaw inserts to protect the parts.

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A power tool that I consider essential is a Foredom Tool with a foot pedal speed control. It hangs just above and to the side of my primary vise. I am also going to be adding an Real Avid Tools Multi-position vise probably to the right side of my work area. The Real Avid vise has impressed me for being incredibly versatile. It can clamp and hold parts in a variety of positions. However, because it is primarily constructed of plastic, I don’t think it will replace my Versa Vise for holding a part firmly to file on, stretch or bend with a hammer or a punch, or cutting or grinding on with my Foredom tool. I also wouldn’t want to heat a part in it with a torch, or solder on it.

I should also mention that in addition to the no-plush, industry-type carpet that I have covering the bench to make sure I don’t scratch any guns, I use a tight weave carpet sample or scrap piece and to capture pins and parts as I tap the out of the gun. They don’t tend to roll away as much with this. A bench block for holding a frame or parts while you remove pins by tapping them out with a pin punch is also useful. I have models from several different manufacturers, however AGI Gunsmithing Instructor Mark Foster has convinced me that a $1 Hockey Puck with a half-inch hole drilled in the center of it is faster and works better most of the time, but having both makes life easier.

Recommended


I also have small cans of “Gunsmith’s Glue” (Moly Grease or standard grease) handy. This comes in handy when you are reassembling a firearm and you need a “third hand” (small amount of grease) to hold a small pin in position to tap it in or hold a spring in a hole. (Always clean up any excess grease afterwards as you do not what that gathering dirt or grit.) There are a lot of other smaller tools and things that you will want close by, including tweezers, wrenches, a Bearing Scraper (you will be surprised how often this comes in handy), pliers, channel locks, vise grips, parallel jaw pliers, allen wrench sets (both “T” Handle and folding or individual wrenches), thread gauges, small wire brushes, cotton swabs, a Machinist Ruler, Square, Torque Wrench, Socket set, Needle Nose Files, and numerous other small tools that generally fit under the category of Frequently used.

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You can hang some of these and others should be in a drawer or tool chest that is within reach. As for cleaning, this is best handled on a dedicated bench to keep it clean and separate from your general work area, if you have the room. I also recommend getting an Ultrasonic cleaner that is designed for firearms. To become a Certified Professional Gunsmith, working part-time, full-time or as a retirement income, give us a call and speak to an AGI Student Advisor at 1-800-797-0867.

About the Author:

Gene Kelly is a Certified Professional Gunsmith with more than 40 years of Gunsmithing and Manufacturing experience, he holds a 07 Manufacturing FFL with an SOT, and is the Founder and President of the American Gunsmithing Institute – training gunsmiths for more than 30 years!


If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.




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