Sizing a work bench
Handplanesandmore made an interesting observation about a new Yankee post on this forum. He said that Norm made it a point to point out that the bench height was more or less the same as the table saw's height so that it could be used as an infeed support for an 8 foot sheet of plywood. 

Having built 4 different benches here is what I found out. The first one was to low and gave me a mediate back ack. The second one overcompensated on the height and wasn't wide enough for how I wanted to use the bench. The third one the height was better and all around its options were better but I wanted more storage because I like to be able to work
on all four sides.

First of all I think that a bench should be sized to fit the area allowed for it.  I have a large area so I thought why not a bench big enough that I could put the top in my truck and still close the tail gate. My truck has a 8 foot box so why not build a bench 8 feet long. More on this a little latter because I didn't quite think it through. Building the frame work let me actually visualize the work area.

So I framed up a rough bench the length I though would work. width was a moot point at this time


And then I started looking for the prefect height. First using a hand plane. I started where I thought a great height  would be and then tried it out and lowered it a little and then a little more. And then  finally I got the height of where my body really liked working at. first using a plane and then a saw.




I like shoulder vises so here is my developing of shoulder vise dimensions


The height that my body liked was 34 inches. Actually I could have went just a little lower.
I like to stand on a rubber mat for my feet and it is about 3/8ths of an inch thick. I knew it could be a little lower and the rubber mate lowered the top by raisig me.  I settled on 34 inches.

After my bench was finished I happened to come accosted a You Tube video by Jim Tolpin. It is well worth watching. He said that the bench should be in proportion to your body and 4 spread hands high. and his went to the top of the wood he was planning. My hand spread is 8 1/2 inches and 4spread hands are are 34 inches  So my bench is about 3/8ths of an inch lower than 34 inches because of the rubber mat. Or 3/8th inch higher than the top of the 3/4 thick wood he is planning. 

Some interesting facts from what I read is that Frank Klausz and I are about the same height, And according to the work bench book by Scott Landis's book Franks bench is 33 inches neigh. So with the mat I am about 5/8ths higher than Frank's

So after all the trial and air I went through to get it right, .Jim Tolpin  got it right with body proportions for my body. And after I wrote  all of this I checked and the table saw height of my Saw Stop table saw is 34 inched neigh.

Also the Uni saw's is 34 inched neigh so Norm got it right for me anyway. And Handplanesandmore made an observation and called attention to it which caused me to write.

If you are planning on building a bench I hope this helps.

I respect Jim Tolpin a lot.  His book on kitchen cabinets helped me a great deal in the planning and building of my kitchen 30 years ago.  But I have to take exception to his idea that 4 x the spread of your outstretched fingers is the correct height for your workbench.  Lots of tall people have small hands and short people have large hands.  I'm average at 5' 11" tall.  My hand spread is 9", which doesn't seem large, but it means my workbench should be 36" high according to JT.  That's too high for me.  I think the better approach is from Frank Klauz, or at least I think I read it in the FWW article he wrote with his bench plans, as it better represents your body positioning.  Your benchtop should be the height of your thumb projecting sideways with your arm at your side.  For me that's about 34-1/2", so I built my bench at 35" because I, too, like to stand on a rubber mat.  

Is there a big difference between 34-1/2" and 36"?  There would be for me.  Go check how your benchtop lines up with your thumb projecting sideways with your arm at your side.  

(01-16-2023, 11:07 AM)jteneyck Wrote:  Your benchtop should be the height of your thumb projecting sideways with your arm at your side.  

This makes the most sense to me. No matter how tall you are, big or small hands, short or long waisted etc. the object is to have a bench at a comfortable height to use with a tool you have in your "hands". Using your arm to determine this dimension seems foolproof.
I am 5-11 and if I spread the hand comfortably I get 8 1/2 inches if I spread it hard I can get 9. And like you it is to high. Make the leg assembly a little high but make it so it can be shortened. It is a great place to start.


Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.