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Friday, October 19, 2012

Loading Block

My Dad is a member of the Single Action Shooting Society. If you'd like, you can read more about that great organization here.
He uses something called a loading block, which you see above, during competitions. The one he has somehow has gotten a chunk broken out of one corner of it. So he brought it to me around a year ago to make him another one. I told him too because, from looking at it, I thought it would be simple to make. I forgot something though. Sometimes, the simplest things can turn out to be difficult.
First, I'll show how this works, then I'll explain why it was difficult.
My Dad uses a .45 Long Colt shell. As you can see from this photo, opening the lid exposes the primer end of those shells. The lid protect the primers from getting hit, while also keeping the shells pushed down into the block.
With the lid closed, you can see how the bullet end sticks out the bottom. I know, this in the photo doesn't look like a normal bullet. Actually, it is empty brass. I don't own a .45 Long Colt, so all I had at the time I took these photos to show was some empty brass my Dad left for me to do this project.
With the lid open and the block set down on a flat surface, the shell is pushed upwards, making them easier to grab ahold to.
Now, why was this so hard?
Well, at first I though this was just a block of wood with a bunch of holes in it. All I had to do was use the empty brass and find the right size hole. What I did not take into account though was, with all those holes so close together, the wood would tearout, and sometimes just bust out, when the drill bit exited the bottom of the block.
I tried several different ways to get this done successfully. I tried twist drill bits, brad point drill bits, modified drill bits, forstner bits. I even filed down a router bit hoping for success. Everything produced the same results when exiting the bottom. It didn't matter how tightly I clamped it to a backer board. It was just too many holes in a small amount of space.
Then a few weeks ago, I was watching a wood working video on the internet. This guy drill a bunch of holes. To prevent tearout, he explained, he drilled stopped holes within a quarter inch of the bottom and then cut off the bottom, leaving clean holes. As soon as I seen it I had one of those "duh" moments. Although it was late in the evening, I couldn't wait. I had to get to the shop that instant and try this out.
So, although the block section is only seven eighths an inch thick, I started with a block that was over an inch thick. I drill all the holes, then used my band saw to slice off the bottom. It humbled me to figure this out after all this time.
For a year my Dad has been waiting on my to do this. I imagine at time he may have thought I'd forgotten about it. It took only getting the right idea on how to do it though, and it was an easy project. Look for more of these in the future. Now that I know the trick, I have a couple of ideas on more personalized versions.

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