The other day, I came across some photos on the Varminthunters.com forum that someone had posted of an inexpensive portable shooting bench he had made using a walker and a student's desktop. He had picked up both parts dirt cheap and recycled them into a pretty cool bench. Here's his original design. Although a thrifty design, the arm of the desktop doesn't leave much room for the rifle or the shooter's elbow. Still, I thought this was ingenious. It has the advantage of being very light and portable.
I like how easy it is to disassemble and transport it to the field. His design used two bolts with wing nuts to secure the top to the walker.
Well, I got a bee in my bonnet to build one of these. So I drove over to Goodwill and found a used collapsible aluminum tube walker in near new condition for $15. These things cost $89 new at Walgreens so it was a heck of a deal. They didn't have any student desks so I decided I would make my own top and went over to Home Depot to see what they had. I almost went with 3/4" oak plywood but settled instead on laminated pine that was 1-1/4" thick by 6' long and 23 inches wide. Darn thing cost me $38 but I liked the look and weight of it for stability.I cut my table top to 40" long, then cut a 14" x 10" square out of it for the cut-away. I used a hole saw to make the inside curve. I then drilled 4 holes in the walker handles, set the table top exactly where I wanted it, then used a long nail as a pilot to mark where the holes needed to be drilled. I used four 1/4" x 3" long carriage bolts, cut washers and wingnuts to bolt the table to the walker. I took my time playing around with the balance of the table top because I didn't want it to tip forward or backward when either a bag rest or the shooters' elbow was placed on it. I experimented using the walker crossways under the table top similar to the original design. But I found that since my top was longer and heavier, it tended to teeter-totter a bit. So I turned the walker sideways to run lengthwise with the top and that was much sturdier. I then sanded the top down on all sides with a power sander and a hand block using 100 and 320 grit. Pine is so soft, it's easy to work with. In fact, it's too soft and dents very easily so you have to be careful with it. The table is pretty steady for a portable field bench and is very comfortable. I like the fact that the legs are adjustable in length with a spring loaded ball detent on each leg. So you can set it up to whatever height you find most comfortable. Plus, if you're on a downhill slope, you could adjust the front legs longer than the back and get pretty flat. Here's my table after the top was rough cut and mounted to check the balance. (That's my Savage .17HMR sitting up there.)
The top mounts to the walker with 4 carriage bolts.
This photo shows the relative position of the legs to the top for what I found to be the top's best balance point for rifle, rest and shooter.
The top after finish sanding and two coats of Varathane oil based exterior spar urethane. I used oil based because water based urethanes apparently will cause the grain to swell and rise, requiring lots of extra sanding. The oil based urethane takes longer to cure but won't raise the grain and comes out with a better finish, I'm told. After the second coat cures completely, I'll sand it with 320 grit, wipe it clean and apply another coat. Each coat is very thin to avoid runs and drips and I'm planning 5 coats. Eventually, I'll seal the underside as well so that it's completely sealed against the elements. I debated cutting a slot in the top for a handle but decided I liked it better solid. I'll probably just mount a handle underneath.
Not a bad bench for $60. And a fun weekend project to boot.