Quieter Woodworking?

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    Hello everyone!

    Currently I have a small corner of my semi-finished basement set aside for use as a workshop. The space works really well, except for the fact that any sounds I make when working on projects seems to reverberate throughout my home, which causes a noisy disturbance for my wife. Even though I am making a sincere effort to work quietly, she finds it difficult to relax in the house at times while I am working wood. Its her home as much as mine, so naturally, I do not want her to feel uncomfortable in her own home. But at the same time, I really do enjoy woodworking and would like to find a solution which works for the both of us.

    Has anyone else had to overcome a similar obstacle as they progress with their woodworking? Does anyone have any tips on ways to reduce the noise of tasks like mortising, chopping dovetails, or anything which causes vibrations of the workbench?

    Any advice or suggestions would be highly appreciated. Thank you in advance!


    With enough money, you could have a dance club in your basement while your wife is asleep. It might be a worthwhile investment to contact someone who works in the noise abatement / sound damping space. They might be able to direct your efforts and expenditures so you’d ultimately spend less money for the greatest reduction in disturbance to your wife.

    I’ve seen a number of people accomplish some amazing things with this stuff:

    And for even broader applications with more professional results when properly applied:


    Larry Geib

    Hmm, you add seems to overwrite what follows is

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 10 months ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 10 months ago by Larry Geib.
    Larry Geib

    To understand what “semifinished”means, a bit more description would help. The best bang for your buck is providing a sound barrier ceiling between your work space and the living area.
    Normally, that would consist of sound deadening insulation in the joist space with sheet rock mounted on single leg isolation chanell to decouple the drywall from the house structure. The heavier the drywall the better. Better yet, and what we used for sound booths in radio stations was two layers of 5/8” drywall also separated by the iisolation channel. Several drywall producers make a sound deadening drywall also.

    For example:


    Don’t have any penetrations in the ceiling ( can lights, junction boxes, ductwork ) if possible, as they will conduct sound. And even caulking the perimeter of the Sheetrock helps. Don’t couple the ceiling to adjacent walls, as they will act as sound boards.

    But you can Do some simple things that will help quite a bit. Try to make your bench not act like a sound board.

    Add weight to your bench and make sure nothing on the bench rattles. Set the legs on anti vibration pads usually available at HVAC supply houses.

    And if your bench sits on leg assemblies, some silicone shelf liner will help.

    Also, if you are chopping dovetails and motrices on the top of the bench, try using a self repairing mat like ones made by Dahle or Alvin. I find they help take the sharpness out of the noise and don’t really seem to cut your efficiency. As a bonus, it will protect the bench.


    I’m not endorsing these particular brands. Shop around for all this stuff. Most is available locally and a bit cheaper at discount box stores.

    If you have concrete floors, put down some anti fatigue foam mats to reduce the sound that bounces off the floor. It’ll be more comfortable, too.


    The others have given great advice, Rob, which you can apply as time and budget allows. Complementary to these, are timing and size. Perhaps there are times of the day or week when noisier activities like chopping mortices have less impact because your wife is out, or in a more distant part of the house, or being noisy herself (playing music, sewing machine, food mixer etc)? You don’t say if you use any machines in woodworking but these generally make a lot of noise, though perhaps for a short time. If you’re completely unplugged it seems to me that woodworking activities are found on a “noise spectrum” – chopping and fitting joints at one end (noisy) and planing, marking, paring etc at the other. Sawing might be in the middle somewhere. And smaller projects, needing smaller tools, will make less noise as you work through them.

    Hope these thoughts help.


    Teach your wife to chop mortises. Addict her to the art. Transform her into a noisemaker herself.

    , since a hammer blow is a chirp or delta function and thus is a flat or balanced mixture of all possible frequencies, does that make sound isolation more challenging for the shop? It seems harder than isolating an audio band.

    Better yet, and what we used for sound booths in radio stations was two layers of 5/8” drywall also separated by the iisolation channel.

    Do both isolation channels attach to the building structure, or does the second channel somehow go onto the floating first panel?

    Larry Geib


    First, it depends a bit on what hammer you use, a plastic head like Paul uses being the better choice at the high end.

    In the sound booth example, the two layers are both decoupled from each other and from the frame of the house. The single leg channel is very flexible and none of the screws or other fasteners form a riuigid connection between the layers of the system. One set of screws connects the rchannnel to the frame, then you use a second set of screws to connect the drywall to the channel. The second isolated layer is the same, except that the second channel connects to the first channel and the second layer of drywall is also free floating with respect to both the frame of the house and to the first layer, so sound isn’t transmitted from layer to layer through the structure.

    That leaves 4 air-mass couplings that have to be driven, each with an efficiency loss.

    Low frequency sounds energy can’t drive through both layers of mass well and high frequency sound energy is mostly absorbed by the mass of drywall because drywall doesn’t have a natural resonance at high frequencies.

    This is particularly so if you use one of the sound deadening drywalls, which is basically two thin layers of rock with an elastomeric isolator between them. That gains you about another 4-6 decibel attenuation, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but remember sound is measured on a log scale.

    There are sound clips you can use for the First layer instead of channel, but I’ve never used them, so I can’t comment on ease of installation.

    Think of it as trying to shout through concrete block or a cement wall. If you don’t actuall hit the wall, it’s going to be hard for the air to energize the mass.

    I can’t emphasize enough that the secret to success to the system is in prevention of paths for sound to travel through cracks. That generally means limiting penetrations through the drywall, separating the penetrations between the layers, and caulking any cracks with a rubberized caulk, including the room perimeter. The goal is to make sure the drywall floats independent of the structure.

    There are also sound baffles for ducts. Rather expensive, but they act like a silencer on a firearm and greatly reduce sound traveling through the heating system.

    With the added sound insulation in the joists, you can achieve a sound attenuation in the 60 decibel range across the spectrum of sound. That turns a 90-100 decibel Sound ( think train horn or jet engine) into something in the 40-50 decibel range, which translates to a quiet room or a room with a hot air heating system.
    That translates to a 80-90% reduction I sound energy, depending on how careful you are in the details.

    There are APps for phones and iPads that can measure sound, and the room I’m sitting in measures in the mid 40’s. My basement shop, nearer the furnace has an ambient noise in the low 50’s with my high efficiency furnace fan running continuously. I. Not sure how accurate the APPs are on an absolute scale, but they do well on a relative basis.

    And I ran a test last night with the app while I was chopping II 1/4”motrices into softwood. The iPad was set up about 3 feet from the bench at the tail vise end. Chopping directly on my bench, the APP measured 95 dB spikes. ( very short duration) Chopping on the cutting pad reduces the spikes about 5 dB. I didn’t take the vibration pads out from under the bench, but that gives additional sound reduction. Weatherstripping heavy doors ( they make fire doors with gypsum cores) helps also.

    Sometime in the 60’s, the Nation Bureau of Standards wrote a tome on all this, which is available online. There are also works by people who build home theaters, that use the quiet board and more modern materials ( the quiet board costs about $50 a 4×8 panel, so it is about 3times what drywall costs. ) we used it as a quantifier you could show to a general partner of the law firm when a discussion on what quiet was came up.

    Rather than go on endlessly, here’s a couple links that give options for different levels of attenuation.

    First, the more modern one that is geared for home theaters.


    And the NBS standards, which is what we used for attourney’s offices and theaters and radio station studios. It used more traditional materials.


    The second is public domain government product, so if I knew how to host it here, it would be perfectly legal.

    I like the idea of making chopping motrices a family affair…

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 10 months ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 10 months ago by Larry Geib.

    Thanks, everyone for all of the suggestions!
    To answer some of the questions posed in your responses —

    – I don’t really use machines due to lack of space, so most of the noise is chopping dovetails & mortises, as well as sawing larger pieces using a handsaw. As long as I keep my planes and chisels sharp, planing, paring and using the smaller tenon/dovetail saws are all very quiet.

    – The hammer I am using is a plastic-head hammer similar to the one Paul often uses in his WWMC videos.

    – My workbench is the same basic design as the one Paul demonstrates on his “building a workbench” Youtube video series, sized to accommodate my space constraints.

    – Perhaps “semi-finished” isn’t the most accurate term to use to describe our home’s basement. The room is finished in that it has a textured drywall ceiling, but it is all one room with wood paneling mounted to the concrete foundation (with furring strips in-between). The floor is linoleum sheet over concrete. Unfortunately, some of the main floor’s plumbing is visible through the drywall. I previously said “semi-finished” because my wife and I have vague plans to refinish the basement so that the workshop area is partitioned off into a separate space from the rest of the basement.

    I think I will start by trying out some of the anti-vibration pads under my workbench legs as well as the cutting mat between the bench top and my work. It seems like the most cost effective option, if it ends up being sufficient. If that ends up not fully resolving the issue, I could look into adding more sound dampening materials as part of a larger re-finishing project on our basement. Unfortunately that’s not a project I have the time (or money) to tackle right now. But it is helpful to hear about what options exist should we ever have the opportunity go that route.

    Thanks again for all of the helpful replies!

    norman jansen

    Haven’t read all other replies so maybe I’m repeating here, but ‘contact noise’ is probably the greatest contributor to the discomfort: vibrations (chopping, sawing) being transmitted through the bench legs to the floor and walls, going all through the house and ending back up as soundwaves when there’s a suitable sound-board around. Bit like the child’s toy of a telephone made from two tin cans with a string in-between, where the structure of the house acts as the string.

    Isolating the benchlegs from the floor (carpet, multiple layers perhaps, under the legs, or rubber pads, or soft particle board, or anything else which dampens and absorbs mechanical energy (vibrations)) is likely to make a huge difference. My guess is 80% reduction in nuisance with only very minor effort invested.


    rubber is a great way to isolate machines and anything that vibrates, to stop flanking in a property done properly costs a lot of money, I know about this because of building my own studio, then there’s airborne noise vs vibrational noise, if you are really serious you have to seal all airgaps, also bear in mind that any windows and especially doors are a major problem if they aren’t sealed.

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