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Forum topic by Gareth00 posted 01-30-2012 08:43 PM 6172 views 1 time favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Gareth00

19 posts in 1028 days


01-30-2012 08:43 PM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench height design beginner question

As a beginner I recognise that I need to build the best workbench I can afford, taking into account my low skill level. Planning is essential and that’s what I’m doing now, by reading all the stuff on the site and with a couple of books I have. One thing is puzzling me, the height of the bench seems to be a critical factor and I would like to build my bench the same height as my table saw (34”) for outfeed. But I’m a bit of a shortarse, I have to stand on a box to scratch my head. Is there a formula or guide to bench height:user height:comfort? I’d be grateful for any advice or observations.


44 replies so far

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

10056 posts in 1309 days


#1 posted 01-30-2012 08:45 PM

Critical piece of information needed: Your work include significant use of handplanes?

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

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Weetabix

1 post in 1301 days


#2 posted 01-30-2012 08:53 PM

Common rule of thumb, belt height for most hand work but its more convenient to have it be able to double as an outfeed or extension table – hence same height as tablesaw 34-35”

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Grandpa

3190 posts in 1366 days


#3 posted 01-30-2012 09:04 PM

I have a work table (not what I would call a bench but a large table) that is my outfeed table as well as my assembly table. It is the height of my table saw and I do well with it. I am 6 feet tall and my belt is 44 inches from the floor. A standard kitchen cabinet is 36 inches tall in the USA. If the 34 inch table is too tall for you then I might consider a large sturdy box that I could slide up to the side and stand on. An 8 inch lift would be a significant difference but surely you wouldn’t want to work on something 24 inches tall. Even a 2 or 3 inch lift would change things. You really want a table that doesn’t hurt your back from stooping. I think it is all preference.
Welcome to woodworking!

View Bram Couttouw's profile

Bram Couttouw

42 posts in 1007 days


#4 posted 01-30-2012 09:06 PM

The general rule is half of your height + 2” (i’ve learned that at school, so i assume it’s right).

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Gareth00

19 posts in 1028 days


#5 posted 01-30-2012 09:08 PM

@Smitty_Cabinetshop – No sir, I’m a total newbie. I had a No.5 plane as a gift at Christmas….still in the box, can’t even set it up.

@Weetabix – That’s the kind of thing I’m looking for, I’m off to measure my belt height from the floor.

View jmos's profile

jmos

681 posts in 1060 days


#6 posted 01-30-2012 09:22 PM

I’d suggest you design your bench so that you can cut the legs down later if needed – in other words, avoid trestle feet. If you end up using mostly power tools a higher bench is great, and you get an outfeed table. If you get into hand planing, you’ll want it lower. If you get into wooden hand planes you’ll want it lower still. I’m building a bench now; I’m 6’ and I’m aiming for about 32 1/2” height. I’m using a lot more metal hand planes than I thought I would; I’ve caught the bug.

-- John

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canadianchips

1831 posts in 1688 days


#7 posted 01-30-2012 09:33 PM

I am a short person. My bench is 1” lower than my table saw. When I need to use it as an outfeed table I have a reclaimed table top that I put on top to make the height equal. I like a cutting bench to be lower when I use power skill saws ,etc. (28” works for me) Then when I am hand planing I like it higher. I have a portable bench that I mount on TOP of bench to get the height I want.
Like jmos said. be able to adjust the height later if you want to without rebuilding everything. Use it for awhile and find a COMFORTABLE height for YOU !
Best way to learn how to use that #5 is to GET IT OUT OF THE BOX….....then make shavings….you will like it.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

10056 posts in 1309 days


#8 posted 01-30-2012 09:34 PM

Gareth, Welcome to Woodworking!

Then I’d have to say John ^ has it right: Make the workbench the height your thinking, to fill the role of outfeed table, but keep the leg design such that it can be lowered. I say that because you may find your bench being no where near your tablesaw when and if you ever get into hand tool woodworking… For me, the tablesaw gets stuff (raw material) into dimension. Other tools make projects. But your results can (and likely will) vary. So stay flexible, make it the way you want it, rules of thumb are good for that!, and have fun!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

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BTimmons

2142 posts in 1176 days


#9 posted 01-30-2012 10:28 PM

Ok, just figured I’d piggyback on this thread with my own related question.

I’m 5’10” and I got mixed results using different approaches listed here. If I were to make a bench at the height of my belt, I get 40 inches. But If I take the approach of dividing my height in half then adding two inches, I get 37 inches.

And yes, I plan on doing a fair amount of hand work. Using a bench as an outfeed table would be nice, but I can always make a flip-up extension attached to my table saw instead if need be.

What say you folks?

-- Brian Timmons - http://www.BigTWoodworks.com

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

10056 posts in 1309 days


#10 posted 01-30-2012 10:47 PM

I’m just shy of 5’10” and my bench is 34” high. Only do hand tool work on it. Why that height? It’s within an inch of my table saw, radial arm saw and assy bench. And less seemed too short. With legs, it could be cut shorter if needed, but it’s fine for me. For what it’s worth.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

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graywolf

62 posts in 1384 days


#11 posted 01-30-2012 11:01 PM

The general rule of thumb I always used is standing relaxed the work bench for hand tools should be to the hieght of the knuckle of your pinky finger and your hand. Power tools at about the waist. I’m 6’ 4” tall and my hand tool bench is 34”. That puts my knuckles pretty close to the floor. So it really depends on your comfort and what type of work you want to do.
Regards, Richard

-- Richard, North Carolina, http://graywolfwoodworks.wordpress.com/

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Gareth00

19 posts in 1028 days


#12 posted 01-30-2012 11:19 PM

This is all terrific feedback and just the kind of input I was looking for. I now recognise the need to incorporate bench legs that can be shortened later. I’d have never come up with that for myself. Thanks everyone for commenting and for the warm welcome.

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Mainiac Matt

4175 posts in 1019 days


#13 posted 01-30-2012 11:30 PM

How good is your eyesight? :^)

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

10056 posts in 1309 days


#14 posted 01-31-2012 12:00 AM

Gareth: Now get that bench built and get out that #5… You’ve got work to do!

:-)

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

4175 posts in 1019 days


#15 posted 01-31-2012 06:50 PM

I’m a shade over 6’ and I prefer ~34” for hand tool work and ~37” for general work bench / power tool work.

I’ve never cut dovetails by hand, but I believe the general theory is that for chissel work, you want to take advantage of your body weight. by positioning yourself more over the work, with your arms straight, you can transfer gravity forces down onto you workpiece more readilly. The same goes for hand planes.

This kind of hand work benefits from a lower work bench. And guys who do it all day long will tell you that they fatigue less quickly.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

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