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  1. #1
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    Default YOUR workbench - optimum height?

    Hi all,

    I'm hoping to start a thread where people put their finished projects with a few pictures and, hopefully, dimensions and their own impressions.

    I'm a bit lost on Bench 2, the bigger of two that are being made.

    It is a rubou.


    Does anyone have an opinion on the ideal ergonomic height for a GOOD workbench..... sawing, planing, general buggerising around.


    I've a few plans and seen a few bits and bobs, but was hoping to get a few peoples own experiences. Using your body measurements is good too. I'm 188cm tall (6'2"), the little-finger knuckle is 82cm from the ground.

    Apparently this is supposed to be a good height (the knuckle of the little finger) but it feels low to me... I stoop at this height, my back bends a bit too much for my liking.

    So, How high is yours? and what are your personal feelings on your bench?

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  3. #2
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    May 2010
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    Not far enough away from Melbourne
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    Default

    Evan, my bench is not a Roubo, but since your question relates mainly to height and dimensions I hope what I have learned might help you.

    Mine is a Scandinavian bench built from a combination of three plans all bearing the Frank Klausz name but all slightly different in dimensions. I also made a couple of alterations in the work holding to suit what I wanted to do. I made the vises as per the plans but added holdfast/benchdog holes and left out some popup stops that Frank included.

    I am 6' 1" tall which coincidentally is very close to Frank Klausz's height. That is not why I chose this style of bench. I chose it because it is like my grandfather's bench which I learned on as a schoolboy.

    I did a lot of research before building my bench including the height of course. An interesting article I read was an interview with Frank Klausz when he was no longer a young man. He admitted that as he was getting older his workbenches that he made for himself were becoming progressively taller. I think that is something we should all think about because none of us are getting any younger. A 30 inch high bench might be ok for a 30-year-old to stand at and plane all day in a professional cabinetmaker's shop but is it too low for a man in his sixties doing woodwork as a hobby to fill in his day? I think it is, so I made my bench 36 inches high. I can sustain myself planing for longer and with more comfort at 36 inches than I could at 30 inches and there is a better chance that I will make it out of bed the next day too. (Those who do not have a back injury might disagree, but I am talking about me.)

    Now, 36" suits me for working on the faces and edges of boards but it is a bit low for cutting joinery like dovetails etc in the ends of the workpieces. Here is where bench accessories come in handy. A Moxon vise made to secure temporarily to the top of the bench raises the work by six or seven inches up to where I can see what I am doing and make the cuts comfortably without hunching over.

    There are plenty of other examples of work-raising platforms designed to lift the work to a comfortable height above a benchtop at planing height. I will probably be making a few of these over time.

    I guess what I am saying is that not every task is done best at the same height so the idea is to make the benchtop at the height of the task requiring the lowest height, in my case,planing, and then use appropriate accessories to raise other tasks above the basic bench height for comfort and visibility. I would not be able to stay on task and work to a high standard if I am not comfortable when working. Everyone has different requirements and workstyles as well as their own physical limitations.

    I hope this helps
    Theory and practice are the same in theory, but different in practice.

  4. #3
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    Default

    Doug3030, a perfect response. I love it!

    Forgot to add, I'm 51 this month and have a fair number of repaired-but-niggling injuries due to an adventurous life


    I prefer to work with a straighter back as well. The statement of Getting No Younger is a good one, for hopefully this bench will be dragged along with me for the rest of my journey

  5. #4
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    May 2010
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by woodPixel View Post
    I prefer to work with a straighter back as well. The statement of Getting No Younger is a good one, for hopefully this bench will be dragged along with me for the rest of my journey
    I agree that it is better to be building a bench to suit your future rather than your past. So many articles and opinions on bench height are based on outdated practices. There would not be too many professional woodworkers in 2021 who stand at a bench all day planing and cutting dovetails by hand, yet that is often used as the rationale for the heights of the workbenches around 30 inches.

    It was even the argument used by Klausz when he was younger. That is why I found the interview I mentioned prior when he was older to be so valuable. I have tried to find it on Google but no luck so far. I probably saved a copy somewhere but that was probably three computers ago. If I find it I will post it. Maybe someone else reading this may have it somewhere.

    I have no intention of making another workbench. Mine should outlast me, my children and grandchildren, even a couple more generations.
    Theory and practice are the same in theory, but different in practice.

  6. #5
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    Oct 2014
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    Caroline Springs, VIC
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    Default

    I am about 1710mm tall and equally wide. My wrist height is about 820mm, and my elbow height is about 1060mm. My bench heights are 900mm and I am happy with that. I could be equally happy at 880mm, especially if I was working with 5-6" thick boards constantly. I mostly work with 1"-2" boards because my work is pretty plain jane. I do not want a bench that is higher than 900mm, because 900 is that sweet spot between where my stomach rolls back in towards my body and my old fella. That means, when I need to bend forwards at the bench to reach the other side, I'm not crushing the jewels, and I'm not trying to roll my back around a huge chunk of flab (it ends up stretching the vertibrae open, and then when they close as I stand up straight again, they often pinch something which is really painful).

  7. #6
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    Aug 2008
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    I'm 173cm and started with a standard 900mm bench, but that left me hunching over to see fine detail when sanding or working with hand tools so I jacked it up to 1050mm and my back was much happier

  8. #7
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    Jul 2011
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    Default

    Kuffy, Is that girth measurement at the shoulders or above the hips?

  9. #8
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    Apr 2011
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    McBride BC Canada
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    Default

    I have 4 different benches, different heights and different sizes. They came about as applications for day-long efforts at wood carving.
    I can stand, sit and bend over to work downwards as required for comfort. A lot of 100 x 100 fence post cedars, bolted together and stored out side until needed.

    The original big bench is 3' x 8' and 36" to the top. I have an old draughting stool on casters to sit at that one.
    The island bench is about 60" x 60" and populated with a bandsaw, a miter saw, a drill press and a scroll saw. Strictly walk-around.
    The detail bench is sit-down, desk top 29" height with several swing arm desk lamps/LED.
    The log bench is about 12" x 60", maybe 24" high so I can lean over from a lawn chair to carve larger things that are strapped down.

    They aren't very pretty. I guess because I'm too focussed on the project and perfectly square, flat and level isn't a part of it.

    Last, I drew a grid of black felt pen lines on the top white lid of my deep freeze as the assembly bench.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Victoria
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    Default

    180cm height, bench is 970 high. Works well for me
    You boys like Mexico ?

  11. #10
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    May 2007
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    Sth Gippsland Vic
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    950 mm bench top on mine . Optimum planing height is well below that so I have a board with cleated ends for feet that I lay down to walk along for when I have a lot of planing to do . That raises me up about 60 to 70 mm roughly. Best of both worlds .
    Most of the time I donít bother getting it out though . The talk in the Landis workbench book of bench height being at the wrist for the best planing is probably right theoretically but going from one height back to the other I canít really pick its benefit . I just notice a bit more bending / crouching and leaning forward at the end of stroke . Perhaps it shows up better in the toughest woods when using wider blades . When the going gets tougher I reach for a narrow Number 3 with a good radius which solves the resistance problem ,finished with scraping .

  12. #11
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    Apr 2001
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    Perth
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    Default

    Hi Evan

    I am 1.78m tall (when I am nagged by my wife to stand up straight). My bench height does not really help you, unless you have the same legs/torso/arms proportions at this height.

    What is more helpful is how to gauge the ideal height for yourself. Christ Schwarz came out with "pinky height" (stand against the bench and the top should reach your pinky finger). Well, I did this and discovered the advice was [email protected] It may work for someone planing boards all day with traditional wooden planes (which are tall), but other than that you will end up with a sore back!

    At the other end of the scale is Paul Sellers, whose bench is high. Apparently he likes to push the plane with his nose. Okay, I am being silly, but he actually helped bust the idea of CS.

    My own preference comes from how I like to plane, and this is with a straight, horizontal forearm. The thing is, we drop our body, by bending our knees, to achieve the ideal ergonomic posture. But this starts to work out at around wrist height.

    If you do this, a Moxon vise is essential for raising the work for sawing.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Visit www.inthewoodshop.com for tutorials on constructing handtools, handtool reviews, and my trials and tribulations with furniture builds.

  13. #12
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    Feb 2016
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    Default

    Good advice.

    I'm thinking that something around 970, as others have stated, would work well, plus a Moxon vice, plus a "Prenda mini bench".

    The sit-down work stool is coming along, but the super hot days are ...stifling... me a bit


    What is terribly cool is I'm making all of these from simple cheap panels from Bunnings. $100 each. Makes for quick and simple jobs. Sketchup plans will be posted in my main bench build thread

    Thank you for everyone's advice. It really is a case of perhaps, if, but, maybe, but-thens....

  14. #13
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by woodPixel View Post
    plus a "Prenda mini bench".
    Not sure about that Evan. When I google "Prenda mini bench" I get links to "fairy furniture" on Pinterest.

    I dislike Pinterest with a passion. It seems to be a dead-end link to capture google searches for almost anything, takes you on a never-ending journey but never gives you what you were actually looking for.

    Can you post a link to whatever it is you wish to build please?
    Theory and practice are the same in theory, but different in practice.

  15. #14
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    Apologies, I meant a plain old minibench.



    raised minibench.jpg 522548-438x.jpg extendable minibench.jpg mini work bench.jpg


    edit - on Pinterest, block them. It is spam. 100% spam. Its sole purpose is to pirate your images and jam advertising next to it. It should be illegal under copyright and they deserve to die.

  16. #15
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    Aug 2004
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    Default Bench Height

    Gidday

    I dont listen to any of the conventional wisdom on bench height watch David Charlesworth use a handplane in the later years and you'll see why!........................

    Having worked as a Boiler maker for many years I found I preferred higher than conventional heights for workbenches and is a godsend for your back

    IF you have sharp gear and arn't doing for profit production runs you'll be suprised how easily you can walk through the pass or use your weight

    I do conseed that a lower hight is likely better for speed laughing but ive never been known for that!

    Save ya back I say!

    That said Terry Gordon does a good a primer as you'll ever hear on bench heights...................I give more weight to Terry's Mojo than the swartz n others but each to their own

    Regards Lou
    Just Do The Best You Can With What You HAve At The Time

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