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.

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