Planning a workbench, any tips?

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Matthew Lau
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Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Hey everyone,

I finally got a used jointer! I'm planning on finally making a decent workbench.
I'm planning to make a 72"x 18"x34" Roubo with hard rock maple.

From an instrument maker's standpoint, is there anything that I should be aware of?

Currently, I plan to just have a leg vise, and use auxillary vises (Lee Valley holdfasts, Parrot vise, etc).

-Matt

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Bob Gramann »

Make sure it’s really the right height for you. I work standing up and 38” is the right height for me (I used to be 6’ 2” before shrinking set in with age). The wrong height hurts your arms and your back.

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Bryan Bear
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Bryan Bear »

What Bob said, with emphasis on right height FOR YOU. I’m shorter than Bob (5’ 11” or 5’ 10” depending on how straight I can stand) but have chronic back issues. His bench would be a bit too low for me but I can happily work at mine at 40”.
PMoMC

Take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you.

Matthew Lau
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Thanks for the feedback!

I've been working off a Blum Benchhorse for a few years now, and find it about perfect for me. It's just about waist height.

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Bryan Bear
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Bryan Bear »

I would guess you have an acute understanding of how high you like your work to be so that you can do it for long periods of time. You have been raising and lowering the dental chair to custom heights so you are in a better position to make the call than most of us are for ourselves. I thought long and hard to figure mine out. I remember standing at every table and counter height I could come by to try and decide.
PMoMC

Take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you.

Ed Gerber
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Ed Gerber »

Bench height is also dependent on the type of job you are doing; if you are using a hand plane with material in a vise a lower height would be better than the height that works for close up, intricate work. I plan to make an auxiliary bench someday that will clamp onto my bench and which raises the work table by about six inches. I also plan to make the auxiliary table with a Moxon type vise with plenty of holes for bench dogs, hold downs etc. When using a hand saw an even lower surface is better, so it really depends on what jobs you do and the tools you are using. I’m 6 feet tall and most of my benches sit at around 36 to 37”.

Another thing I like to do is use the edge of my bench as a platform for glue ups, such as binding and other long items, so having a good overhang helps. Clamping, places to attach jigs and fixtures and places to store often used tools are other considerations.

Ed

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

If you make an "auxiliary bench" make it large enough to stand on. You can set it on the bench to raise the work, or you can put it on the floor and stand on it to "lower" the work.

Alan Carruth
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Alan Carruth »

One rule I saw for setting the bench top height was to make it two finger widths lower than your navel. Not exactly a 'rule of thumb'....

When I was setting up my current shop some of my students offered feedback on this issue, and rather than making all of my benches the same height I varied them a bit. I do find now that different bench heights are handy for various jobs, so I'm glad I did.

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

The Roubo bench is a fine bench for woodworking, and I doubt you would regret having it, but there may be other types better suited for instrument making. "The Workbench book" by Scott Landis ( https://www.amazon.com/Workbench-Book-C ... B0042JU7NU ) might be a good resource for planning what type of bench to build.
My workbenches are a hodge podge of castoffs from other uses - a postal mail sorting table, a section of a bowling ally, a light weight HF work bench I found for $17, and a "china hutch" cabinet I use when working on things in the house. And at times I will even use the top of the tablesaw. Other "out of doors" work benches include the B&D workmate and a plank laid across two saw horses as well as a steel door laid on top of a metal "rack" that once held the Main frame of a computer system.
The postal table I have found to be the most useful - about 30 inches deep and 3 1/2 feet long.

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Bryan Bear
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Bryan Bear »

To add to Clay's point, the various types of traditional woodworking benches may or may not be better suited to instrument making. I do not have a traditional workbench by any means. I haven't even really bothered to examine the types and styles. I had no woodworking experience when I decided to take up this hobby. Early work surfaces were what was available. Eventually, I made my workstation based in equal parts on how I had been working and what I had available. I do almost all my work on a U shaped workbench that used to be a kitchen counter set up with one side being 3'x5' peninsula. I have various vises attached and lots of ways I clamp glue-ups flat to the surface.

I have no real idea of what advantages I am missing out on by not having a Rubo or other style bench. My methods have evolved with my workspace. That is one of the neat things about guitar making. There are so many different ways to do everything. What may work for one person or one workbench or one workshop or one tool set, may not work for another person.
PMoMC

Take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you.

Bob Hammond
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Bob Hammond »

I'm very late to this party, but here's one that works for me.

I built a bench using a variable height mechanic's table that adjusts from 26 to 42 inches. The tool chest has drawers that are accessible from both sides, with drawer slides made from HDPE cutting boards. The slides are beveled like French cleats, and they keep the drawers perfectly aligned in the carcass and also allow opening drawers from both sides. The vertical center drawer has magnetic sheet material to hold rulers and scrapers.

If I were to build a 'standard' woodworker's bench, I don't think I'd build a Roubo. I'd probably build a Moravian or English joiner's bench.
Attachments
bench2.jpg
bench1.jpg

Sylvan Wells
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Sylvan Wells »

Think about what you are working on (guitars). You need to get to all sides. Here is my take on that. 24" square table.
http://www.wellsguitars.com/Articles/Gu ... tation.php

Bob Hammond
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Bob Hammond »

This is more of a sculptor's stand. It's made from the base of a veterinary operating table. It tilts to 85 degrees and rotates 360 degrees, as well as travels vertically on a long-ram hydraulic jack. Currently, the top is 24x24, but I may change it soon.
Attachments
20140424_155344 - Edited.jpg

Matthew Lau
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Hey Bob,

That is beautiful!

FWIW, I'm up to me ears with dealing with this COVID stuff at my dental office. With the Gamma variant, we may have another shutdown...and my associate is getting his own office. He gave his 2 weeks notice on Sunday after church.

Phil DiVuolo
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Phil DiVuolo »

I have always wanted to make a bench using the bases from barber chairs. They would be adjustable in height, and more than stable enough for luthier work. One would probably do the job for a small top, two would be better for a larger top.

Glenn Howland
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Location: Montpelier Vermont

Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Glenn Howland »

I've been building a few benches for my "finally" workshop - After retiring, downsizing and selling our home of 33 years we've landed a nice single floor rental in White River Junction, Vermont. All my guitar stuff is coming out of hiding and I have ONE 11 x 11 foot bedroom in which to shoehorn a workable space to make interesting things out of expensive wood.

Because of the small space, I chose a bench design about 22" wide by 48" long. It's a cross between an English Joiner's Bench and a Roubo; basically a joiner's bench that's designed not to disassemble. I have it supported by milled 4"x4" legs. A deep apron on both sides meets flush with a top that's about 4" thick and everything is half lapped together and secured with titebond and deep fasteners. At this point I'm clamping things with a couple of stayfasts and there's a parrot vise perched on one corner, pending a built in vise. It's very heavy and quite stable for chisel and sawing work. I can get to it from three sides.

Height: This is where I've deviated from many of the other benches. I have a spinal condition that makes long stretches of standing difficult, so I incorporated seating (kitchen chairs) in my work. So my bench is about the same height as a kitchen table: 30" from floor to top surface. I find that using the parrot vise for sawing is helpful as it raises things up a bit, yet I can do a lot of picky work sitting down at that level. I hope that for me the experiment will work.

I've also built two sturdy tables of 2 x 4 construction at the same height and width - 6 and 7 feet long respectively. One is adjacent to the main bench (like a T on the left side) and the other lies across the opposite wall. I'm building a third that will be behind me against a remaining wall and which will connect the other two. It will also be 7' long.

The idea will be to have a carving, bending, assembly and fret working setup with me in the center. So goes the theory. Right now I have more tools than should be allowed; many will turn out to be redundant or unnecessary as I progress. But in the meantime, they're proving a challenge to store - a bit like a jenga puzzle!
"Shut up, Dear" she explained.

Alan Carruth
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Alan Carruth »

Glenn:
You're about 40 minutes from me, in Newport, NH.

I've known several violin makers who basically worked out of a bedroom. Guitars take up a little more space, but not that much. The trick is to minimize power tools.

Matthew Lau
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Hey Al,

Do you have any pictures of a nice bedroom setup?
I'm expecting a little one, but my wife still wants me to build guitars (at least hers...I think she's just enabling me).

-Matt

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Eric Knapp
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Re: Planning a workbench, any tips?

Post by Eric Knapp »

I follow this guy’s blog and he has a lot of idea on having a shop in a small space.

https://theapartmentwoodworker.com/

-Eric

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