Height and width of workbench

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  • #685325
    Sue McDaniel
    Participant

    I am 5’2″ tall and my arm length is 21 inches. What are recommendations for adjusting Paul’s plywood workbench to suit my small stature? I am also left-handed. Where to I put the vise?

    #685342
    Sven-Olof Jansson
    Participant

    Hej Sue,

    For a general workbench the distance from the floor to the horizontal part of a front pocket of a pair of standard height waist jeans, plus perhaps ½”, would probably feel OK.

    Add a pair of clogs or similar, and more heavy planing becomes more endurable.

    Most left handed will probably have their front vices to the right.

    Without any experience from this particular type of workbench, I should probably not vent any views on the width. Perhaps it can be modified to have the well running along the centre of the bench.

    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Boston, MA

    #685387
    Benoît Van Noten
    Participant

    The following study shows that the best height is about 150 mm below elbow height:
    “the ergonomics and design of an inclusive best-fit workbench”

    https://bura.brunel.ac.uk/bitstream/2438/6303/1/FulltextThesis.pdf
    The first part is about people in wheelchair but the second part is about able bodied people.

    The best height minimise the various pains/discomfort ( upper back, mid back, lower back, shoulder, neck, wrist, and so on …) and takes into account endurance (working multiple hours).
    Unfortunately, it is not clear if the recommended height includes or not the shoe heel height (around 1″).

    For somebody like Paul Sellers (about 1.75 m ?) it gives the height (38″) Paul Sellers recommendation and experience.

    For me (1.75 m + shoes), 150 mm below elbow height correspond to the 38″ recommendation. I am happy with it.

    Anyway, if you plane a tick board with a wooden plane while wearing sleepers (no heel), it will be another experience then planning a thin board with a metal plane while wearing heavy boots.
    Doing boxes, I do a minimum of planning and more joinery.
    If you work in the vise, like Paul does most of the time, the thickness of the board has no influence.

    It is always possible to walk on a duckboard if needed.

    #685415
    deanbecker
    Participant

    Benoit, what a great resourse. Thank you.

    Sue, add boards to your counter top until they are a comfy height. If too high set the boards on the floor. And stand on them. This will give great perspective to your idea of bench height

    #688911
    Brian Barney
    Participant

    No one has yet answered your bench depth question. I have built 3 benches so far (just finished the Roubo 3 months ago and it will be my last), the first was 3’ wide counting the tool well and it was too deep, the second was 23.5” deep counting the tool well which was a great depth but I felt the tool well was a waste of time, and the Roubo is 23” wide with no tool well and it is perfect (for me). Check out Chris Schwartz’ blog about benches at Lost Art Press, he gives a great wealth of information on bench types, heights, and widths. FWIW Paul’s opinion about bench height is more accurate for me than Chris’s.

    #688933
    Benoît Van Noten
    Participant

    workbench top depth
    Will Myers about the Moravian workbench:
    “The 13in wide top works out well too. I kind of had reservations about the narrow work surface but in use I have noticed that 99% of the time I am only working on the
    front six inches; so that concern was really unfounded. ”

    My workbench-top depth is about 12″ (apron thickness included). It has been ok until now. [workbench depth about 24″ with the well]

    Furthermore, You will have noticed Paul does a lot of work in the vise itself and so the top width is not critical (at least for his projects I have done).
    As far as I know Will Meyers doesn’t work mostly in the vise.

    #692392
    david beck
    Participant

    Take into consideration the location of the bench for top depth ideas. If setting in the middle of a room as others say thin is fine but for mine i needed it up against a wall on the rear which meant deeper, i went with 26 inches deep and wish it was 30 to 36 at times. Now i do most the things i need more depth for sideways and am used to that now fairly much.

    #697797
    Debra J
    Participant

    Great discussion here on bench dimensions. I agree with Benoit on how the bench depth isn’t as important as we think. My bench is still not done after several years. BUT I am still using it as a work surface. Lately the front apron has been my benchtop with a little $20 HF vise clamped to it. Surprisingly, I only actively use the square foot nearest the vise most of the time. The whole long remainder of the surface is just to put down tools or wood on.

    So to the OP, if you haven’t decided on bench dimensions, go with the generic bench dimensions recommended by Mr Sellers. As you work building it, you will figure out what is a good working height for you. And believe me, you will learn so much about yourself! I am making mine a little taller because I like working higher.

    - Debra J

    #697810
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    My experience is that mass and stability are more of a consideration. I built a workbench based loosely around the english joiners bench, from spruce. The width and depth is determined by the planks that I bought. They were 3m in length and I cut them in two, so I have a 1.5m long bench. I built the top with two planks, but I ripped them so that I have two slots in the top. This is very versatile for clamping, work holding, cleaning etc. I set the height based purely around the position of my hand and hip, so it suits my particular height.
    I am now having to work out a way to add ballast to the legs to improve the mass, and potentially some bracing to keep it stable. Very pleased with the size and functionality though.

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    #697877
    deanbecker
    Participant

    My bench is 42 inches x24 inches and the vise is on on the right side faceing it. Im only kinda left handed. I can work a six foot board in my space and i mostly just have stuff on the back half of the top. My chisel rack is attached to the back and it is a stretch to reach from the front over a project.
    After five years i think the bench need only to be 12 inches deep but needs an edge further back to rest a table leg or chair leg on. The lowered well could be advantageous in a small space bench. As long as the back is level with the front.
    The only real beat up area on mine is around the vise on either side,and one edge. The other is against the wall.
    I dont stand much as i have a bum leg but when planeing i prefer a little higher bench because i use my shoulders and upper body more than my bad leg.

    #697903
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    A previous bench I used had through holes that would take a 3/4 inch pipe, so I could use pipe clamps as the arms for a set of outriggers that would drop over the pipes as needed. To be fair though, I didn’t really use it that often. I also have a 40cm by 40cm dovetailed L shape that can be clamped to the bench to provide small extension. That bit of kit does get more use.

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    #713596
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    Well, I got the ballast tanks on my bench now. My knockdown bench, although not a P Sellers design, has served me well. It has been known to move around a bit on occasion though. The solution: Ballast tanks. 5litres in each of rainwater, 15kg extra per leg. 30kg in total. And when I need to move it, they have a convenient carry handle, and a lid to keep the water in.

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    #713606
    Benoît Van Noten
    Participant

    Food for thought
    google “American Woodworkers’ obsession with weight” on the blog “A woodworker’s musing” by D.B. Laney

    #713619
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    Interesting read, and I had looked at the Moravian style (admittedly, after I built the bench shown). I think the ballast will help to lower the center of gravity (the vise is the heaviest part of the bench, and being where it is is not helping in that respect, but it does suit the way I work and the way my workshop is laid out) and I will also be adding a cross brace on the rhs as you look at it in the picture. It doesn’t help that the floor is not at all flat in my workshop, so I have a wedge under one leg. It is the small movements that work the wedge loose and then let the bench start to rock and walk across the floor that are the most irritating.
    And yes, my planes are all sharp 🙂

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by Colin Scowen.
    #713730
    Benoît Van Noten
    Participant

    On My Paul Sellers workbench, to stop it rocking, I placed a shim somewhere between the bearer on top of one leg assembly and the workbench top.
    It works because the front apron glued to the top makes a rigid L beam

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