Workbench Height – Calls for Tall or and Short

Hey Paul, I hope you are doing well.
I was responding to your blog about bench height, but I can’t reply from work, so I am doing the email instead. I recently completed my bench that I made from lumber salvaged from shipping crates and pallets. My old bench was 34″ tall, and I was getting a lot of pain in my lower back when I was working there for a while. I am 6′ tall, so with my new bench, I went with 39″ height, knowing I could cut it down an inch at a time if I felt like I needed to. So far, I am very happy and comfortable with the 39″ height. It is also better for my eyes since at 53 I don’t see as well as I used to. I kept with your design, modified the dimensions a bit, and have a new bench that is rock solid that I am very happy with.
S F

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Hello Steve,
I was so glad that you responded to this and also to hear you managed he bench build from pallet wood, shipping crates and other salvaged lumber. I would also like to see how it ended up if you get chance and you want to share it too. I think that it’s interesting to see 39″ works for you. I’d like to hear from others and that way we could put together a survey from people independent of those supply benches and those that sell them and also magazines too. Separating the commerce will give us a more unbiased take on the whole and hopefully make the findings of value to others.
Best regards and I will always be grateful to you and to Dave and Robin who helped build the second bench at The Woodworking Shows this last season. I know two young men who are happy with the giveaway they received and took home.

Let’s hear from others
DSC_0101It would be nice to receive one hundred responses to this. That’s a lot, but it could really help others if it could culminate in a helpful guideline that takes it out of the realm of one individual telling the world it needs this height or that. I think that the important ingredient is what you as the individual user has found. Please give your feedback as to discomforts, age, height, injury. It will help too if you give information as to the tasks you perform. If you are a machine-only woodworker, your information will be very helpful too, but please let us know. Anything that will give others pertinent information will guide us for long term guidance and may shorten the learning curve for your fellow enthusiasts.

11 Comments

  1. BrianJ on 27 May 2013 at 7:27 pm

    I was considering the merits of a Moxon Vise before I got into Paul’s stream of thought – although the idea of a wider area for clamping seems sound (dove tails, etc) – Paul’s method’s as a working craftman cannot be argued with. Paul – any thoughts on a Moxon vise? I think I probably have a good idea of the response ( never needed it) is there a case ‘for’ them?
    Brian



    • Paul Sellers on 27 May 2013 at 9:21 pm

      As you ask. I personally find these vises uncomfortable to use and because I have never found anything that I could not adequately and securely clamp in an iron quick-release vise, I never went back to the old style vises. The last time I used one of that style was two years ago at the North of England Woodworking Show. I found it difficult throughout the two days and so decided not to use one again unless I really had to. I always take my Record or Woden vise mounted in my own bench with me here in the UK. In the US I would say the same or go for the Eclipse from Highland Hardware, which almost mirror the old Records. I would not recommend new Record vises as these are now made in Asia and the quality does not match that of the former Record Company of Sheffield.



  2. Alvaro Villalón on 27 May 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Hi, I’m 5′ 8″ and my bench is 34″. So far it didn’t cause any trouble. I’m going to try laying down a couple of 4×4’s and mount the legs on top of those and see how it feels…



    • Paul Sellers on 27 May 2013 at 9:30 pm

      That does sound a little low for most woodworking practices, and as it will take so little to jack it up and try it for a few days I think it worth experimentation. The relief should be quite dramatic and you can micro-adjust by adding and subtracting 1/2″ either way.



  3. Paul Sellers on 28 May 2013 at 7:12 am

    Thank you Dave. I also use an assembly bench from time to time. I also build podiums for certain work and usually use plywood for this. When I built two pieces for the Cabinet Room of the White House four years ago we built assembly podiums on which we actually built the pieces from the podium up. These we levelled and trued to perfection so that we could use levels and squares registered continually throughout the building process to the datum level of the podiums. They were about 16″ tall as I recall. This saved a lot of back ache, so assembly benches are different to working benches were components are worked by hand.



  4. Joe on 28 May 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Interesting that so many of the replies are from folks in the 5’11″+ range. Thought I’d add my view from down here at 5’7″. I built Paul’s bench, just under 38″, and while it was pretty good, I ended up using a cushioned mat for comfort on the floor (making the effective height 37″), and this ended up making the bench just right for me.



  5. Jason on 29 May 2013 at 9:40 am

    Hello Paul
    First, love the site, blog, videos and book!
    My back will appreciate your advise on the bench height. The difference of a few inches is remarkable. I’m starting on my bench this week (so excited!) and had one question about height. Have you used adjusters on the legs? My garage floor is uneven and sloped. Which means that my bench will be also. My idea is to drill up through the legs with a bolt and square of iron. If you have a better idea, I’d rather not reinvent the wheel.
    Thanks
    Jason



    • Paul Sellers on 29 May 2013 at 10:31 am

      Just wedges works fine enough.



  6. Roger Evans on 16 May 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Keep up the good work, Paul. At the ripe ‘young’ age of 76 I’m still learning a lot about woodworking, tools etc that they didn’t teach me at school (UK) in the 1950s.
    As an apprentice engineer I was taught that the correct working height for the engineers’ vise is such that, when you stand alongside the bench, your elbow should just about touch the top of the vise jaws. This is so that when you are hacksawing or filing, your forearm will be horizontal, making it easier to file flat. But as the engineers’ vise stands on top of the bench, this means the bench top will be lower and better suited to assembly work. This gives my metalwork bench a height of 32″ whereas my woodworking bench is 35″ high. I am 5′ 8″ tall and find these heights to be ideal for me. So I suppose it all depends what the bench is for.
    Thanks again for your fine teaching work.

    Roger.



    • Paul Sellers on 16 May 2016 at 6:14 pm

      You are so right. I am 5′ 10 1/2″ and my benches are 38″; not a whole lot different in height per ratio to yours really. Thanks for sharing.