Higher benches is best?

I think we are making headway
DSC_0466I haven’t definitively concluded findings on the bench height issue yet and I am relying on more contributors over the next few weeks, but it does seem highly likely that we have been misinformed and misled as to bench heights for some long season now. Many have increased bench height since the survey started and experience higher levels of comfort generally and less back pain is the primary benefit. Strain is the main criticism of low bench heights it seems. DSC_0120Strain on the back of course seems to go without saying, and then strain on the eyes, strain on the neck and strain on the wrists. a substantially higher bench seems to resolve this. our online request for information concurs with our in-house questionnaire from years back when we asked people how they felt about the workshop and the workbenches they were working at. Many were surprised to discover the higher benches were so much more comfortable.
I asked five people from this week’s current workshop about bench height in the school: I had one woman at 5’9″, a man at 6’0″, two men at 5’10” and one at 5’6″. Everyone found 38″ very comfortable and practical with only one saying he thought he just might consider adding an extra 1/2″ to the height for him, but he wasn’t sure yet.
How did we get to this bench height?
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAHow we got at the low bench height is beyond me. I know many early woodworkers were short in stature. i worked alongside them, but the benches then were certainly higher than 34″. European makers in some realms were indeed of short, stocky build and this includes the French, Belgians and others. I suppose that heights have increased through the years so that must have a bearing rendering historic heights to be less of an influence in deciding heights.
Matching your personal height, health and need
I admit increasing height from 36″ to 38-40″ took me a a decade to arrive at, but 34″ (and even lower) was never a bench height I found at all comfortable and so I always jacked such benches up to meet my needs with a couple of 2×4’s screwed to the ends of legs. Now this was in my pre ‘older-age’ years in my 40’s, so thousands of my students have worked at 38″ and the only ever complaint has come from those over 6’0″ tall who needed taller benches and never can I recall shorter people wanting anything lower.
Please continue to help with our survey by contributing your personal experiences. I will continue surveying students here and in Europe.
Please continue supplying information through our survey here. This will help us evaluate exactly what we need so we can give more informed advice rather than continue with misinformation from one or two people.

3 Comments

  1. Paul Sellers on 7 July 2013 at 1:23 am

    You are just to kind!!!

    • Max Broome on 24 November 2018 at 2:28 am

      I wonder how many people did as I did and set the bench top to the height of the table saw so it could double as an outfeed table. Worked fairly well until I discovered hand tools. Now the height is much too low and creates back strain. I think I will give 38″ a go and see what I think.

  2. Bill Killian on 17 December 2018 at 6:11 pm

    I was an absolute novice when I built my bench. I built it with no plans and no plan in mind. I just knew I wanted a bench to start “woodworking” at. It is 38″ high and seems to work well for me. I am 6’2″. It is in a constant state of revision and upgrade. One day I will build a proper one.

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