Help with workbench height

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Forum topic by WOODGLUE posted 02-24-2012 08:39 AM 1978 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View WOODGLUE's profile


8 posts in 1744 days

02-24-2012 08:39 AM

Topic tags/keywords: shop layout work bench

i am in the process of building (err, having built) a 32×40 garage/workshop, (mostly workshop) and for some time now have looked the internet over trying to find info on the following;

how to setup a shop (tool layout,(table saw, drill press, miter saw, planer, band saw (i’m sure i forgot something, but you get the idea).

i don’t want to have to re-invent the wheel and when i am finished i hope that i don’t say, well i should have done this or should have done that. i hope to have it right or really close to right.

i have someone helping me with the lighting, and i know that i want to have drops (power, from the ceiling) for the table saw, etc. I just don’t want to put a table saw (for example) power drop in one place only to discover that it should have been on the other side of the shop.



PS on another note i have not been able to find a good answer to my question of how to lay out work tables (i want a long table (built in) for the miter saw, i want work benches, etc and how to lay out the shop in general, table saw here, drill press there, etc.

15 replies so far

View Tyrone D's profile

Tyrone D

314 posts in 1753 days

#1 posted 02-24-2012 09:39 AM

Grizzly has a shop planner on their website. Fine Woodworking also has one, but I find it’s very limited.

I have a problem where outlets aren’t where they should be. My father and I did all of the electrical work in my shop. If the outlet layout of my shop was completely flipped, it would be perfect. I didn’t take into account that I’d replace my contractors saw with a 52” rip gigantic cabinet saw.

-- --Tyrone - BC, Canada "Nothing is ever perfect, we just run out of time."

View Don W's profile

Don W

17877 posts in 1988 days

#2 posted 02-24-2012 02:49 PM

its tough because we all work a little different, and we have different tools. I’d take a piece of card board and make a scale mock up of your shop and your tools. Try to determine how you want to work.

I did my own wiring, so I have outlets every 4’ at bench height. I can almost gaurantee no matter how hard you plan you’ll change it, but a good plan is a good place to start.

Most of the time the table saw is some place centered. It really depends on your expectation. To rip a 16’ board, you need 32’, so you get the idea. Most shops don’t have that capacity.

I also used plywood screwed to the walls of my shop. Worse case I can unscrew and move a drop. The plywood also gives me a solid base for hanging stuff.

The rest of the stuff can be moved. I’ve moved my drill press about 4 times. I just can’t seem to get it were I like it.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7699 posts in 1800 days

#3 posted 02-24-2012 03:13 PM

Think about workflow… rough wood comes in, you joint, plane and rip/crosscut. Last thing will be assembly and finishing.


View Mike's profile


66 posts in 1802 days

#4 posted 02-24-2012 03:35 PM

I agree with don, my old shop nothing was perment. i used a french cleat system on the walls and my machines had mobil bases . (I do miss that shop) You should plan your shop with the abilty to change

-- But hon I need this tool.......

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 2728 days

#5 posted 02-24-2012 03:38 PM

I buily my shop about 4 years ago and spent alot of time planning where everythong would be optimally placed for best useage. I also used the shop planner on the grizzly website.
It all works great on paper but I also have moved several tools around after working in the shop for a while and realizing some tools work better in a different spot. I also have added some tools to my shop that were not considered in the initial layout. My shop, like most shops continually evolve and change. I just recently enclosed a 5×8 section of my shop and had to rearrange this section to do so.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2494 days

#6 posted 02-24-2012 03:54 PM

In my 17’ x 22’ foot shop I am much more limited in space than you and that impacted my decision making some. However, I will suggest that I found clustering tools to be a good idea.

My bandsaw is back to back with a mortising machine on one side and a grinder on the other side. In this cluster, everything has ample clearance.

OTOH – There are tools where you benefit from having access all the way around. I like being about to get to all sides of my router table.

Final thought – - Make certain to include an enclosed closet. Despite your best dust control efforts, you will still have some dust in your shop. It is good to be able to store some things in an area that is less dusty. My closet is 2’ x 3.5’ and I wish it were a little bigger.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 2488 days

#7 posted 02-24-2012 04:03 PM

What wormi says. It’s all about what kind of projects you mostly do and how you want the work to “flow” from bringing in material thru assembly and finishing.

For example, almost all of my work is cabinets and furniture, and my shop is my two car garage which is only used for a shop. I’m set up so that I can back the pickup into the driveway and slide sheet goods onto the table saw and lumber either thru the planer or onto my SCMS. IMO, unloading and storing sheet goods then having to move them again to begin breaking them down is the height of absurdity. – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2270 days

#8 posted 02-24-2012 04:37 PM

Workbench height: consider how it feels to work in the kitchen; that’s likely 36 inches high. Go from there. Err on the side of short; it’s real easy to slather a little glue on some blocks and slide them under each leg.

My workbench is 36.5 inches high and my work table, where most of the work gets done, is 32.5. I’m 6’ with Dr. Scholl’s help.

On large tables which are against the wall, I recommend a toe kick so the errant gum ball, ball bearing, final finish brass washer, glue bottle cap, your state’s quarter, pencil eraser, router base plate screw, space balls, valve stem cap, chrome wing nut, small Arkansas slip stone, hose washer, brush spring, air hose fitting, metric barrel nut, step pulley allen head set screw (2 each), the remainder biscuit after a voyage, woodruff key, plastic chisel cap, Chap Stick, yellow wire nut, small tube of Bondo hardener, salted in the shell peanuts, acorn nuts, acorns, corn, candy corn, figs, fig newtons, ferrules, natural rubber strain relief, Titleist #2, brass threaded insert, hockey puck and stuff like that can’t get under there.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Mike DeCarlo's profile

Mike DeCarlo

40 posts in 2178 days

#9 posted 02-24-2012 07:37 PM

Bench height for hand tool work should be the distance from the floor to where your pinky finger meets your hand. Some woodworkers like the bench a little lower and go by where your 1st set of knuckles touch the top.

I’ve have a lot of shops (not by choice) and found there can be many ways to setup shop. A few tools need to be setup to handle long boards or plywood, so their locations pretty much end up in the same or close to the same places.

The table saw almost always ends up in the center or at least 9 feet from 3 walls (in your case this would work). In most shops, its the center of the space. The jointer, if low enough can be placed along side the table saw or centered along the longest wall. Bandsaws and Router tables, best to put these on wheels with locking wheels.
Planer, if its a bench planer, keep it under the bench, you’ll only need it at the start of a project.

Quite frankly, with a 32×40 shop you should have no problems. Just map it out before the electrician finishes.
and make sure you have more than one 220 line. I use 220 for my table saw, lathe and jointer. Luckily, I was able to utilize one outlet by setting up shop around the outlet, more or less.


View WOODGLUE's profile


8 posts in 1744 days

#10 posted 02-24-2012 11:59 PM

guys i appreciate all your postings and gather good information from them all. i really was hoping for the magic bullet that would say, this goes here and that goes there and you’ll be ok. NOT! it would not be good for the electrician to leave before i’m finished as i am the electrican.

i didn’t hear from anyone (or maybe missed it) the idea of having drops (power) from the ceiling to power items like the table saw, any comments? is this a good idea or not? it is my intention to have plenty of outlets and have been working for two weeks on a lighting plan that will give me an abundance of light, but still have not nailed that down.

the concrete was poured and finished yesterday. i had asked that the finish be smooth as a baby’s bottom, i can’t believe the finish. it is so smooth that from a distance it looks like it has water on it.



View hhhopks's profile


645 posts in 1797 days

#11 posted 02-25-2012 12:14 AM

Too bad.
I was going to suggest you to place the pvc conduit on the floor before you poiur the conrete. Maybe even the JB as well. No overhead obstruction. Well, what’s done is done.

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

View WOODGLUE's profile


8 posts in 1744 days

#12 posted 02-25-2012 01:49 AM

i had read somewhere about the ceiling drops, so that’s why i asked about it to see if it was really a good idea. the floor power did cross my mind, but seemed too permanent.

i did think of something that you guys might like, i’ll have a complete bath room in the garage. i’ll have a sink, shower and toilet (did get that in the concrete). i also planned for floor access for my water supply to come up through the floor into the wall(i’ll drop cable, phone in the same ditch as the water line).

i also had a sweeping ninety so that i can run my power underground as well (all my electrical, phone, cable are underground for my house). i also have a drain for a four legged sink for really dirty hands.


View gfadvm's profile


14929 posts in 2110 days

#13 posted 02-25-2012 03:26 AM

I have several power drops from my ceiling and never use them. The overhead cord was always getting snagged by a board and they always seemed to be in my way. I cover my cords running across the floor with those interlocking rubber mats from HF. They stay put and I don’t trip over cords. The best thing I did was add power strips to my workbench and other work surfaces.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 2488 days

#14 posted 02-25-2012 04:17 AM

I have a couple of ceiling drops with the cords zip tied out of the way, but they’re pretty permanent – i.e. the tools are always plugged in. I have them because I could put them in easier than running Romex to receptacle boxes. They’re ok, but I wouldn’t want electrical drops (or air hoses) hanging all over the place.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Don W's profile

Don W

17877 posts in 1988 days

#15 posted 02-25-2012 02:23 PM

I put outlets in my ceiling. In the 24’ width, I have 2 rows of outlets about every 8’. Right now for lighting I just have the temp construction pigtails plugged in with a light bulb in each. Initially that was meant to be temporary, but its worked so well, I may just leave it.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

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