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Thread: Workbench Stretcher Height

  1. #1

    Workbench Stretcher Height

    I'm in the early stages of building a Moravian/Roubo hybrid workbench. It has the angled legs of a Moravian bench but like a Roubo it's chunky and doesn't knock down. It will have an angled leg vise in the front position.

    What I'm wondering is whether there's any reason not to put all the stretchers all the way at the bottom of the legs, resting on the floor.

    Pros:
    - Maximizes storage space under the bench (leaving room for holdfasts, of course).
    - Allows leg vise parallel guide to be mounted as low as possible for greater clamping pressure. I'm thinking of using Will Myers' ratcheting parallel guide, so no bending over necessary.
    - No need to sweep under the bench if there's a shelf or cabinet on top of the stretchers.

    Possible Cons:
    - Could get in the way of where I want to put my feet when working at the bench.
    - Could be a pain to clean under if stuff does manage to get under it.
    - Thought of another one: Wouldn't be able to get a car jack under it to aid moving it around! This sounds funny but I'm a bit concerned about being able to move a 400 lb bench.
    Last edited by Joshua Lucas; 11-07-2019 at 6:09 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
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    My current is 4" off the floor, too high to hook my toes under. I read somewhere having the bottom face of the stretcher about three inches off the floor lets you hook your toes under it when planing, I will try that next.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Lucas View Post
    I'm in the early stages of building a Moravian/Roubo hybrid workbench. It has the angled legs of a Moravian bench but like a Roubo it's chunky and doesn't knock down. It will have an angled leg vise in the front position.

    What I'm wondering is whether there's any reason not to put all the stretchers all the way at the bottom of the legs, resting on the floor.

    Pros:
    - Maximizes storage space under the bench (leaving room for holdfasts, of course).
    - Allows leg vise parallel guide to be mounted as low as possible for greater clamping pressure. I'm thinking of using Will Myers' ratcheting parallel guide, so no bending over necessary.
    - No need to sweep under the bench if there's a shelf or cabinet on top of the stretchers.

    Possible Cons:
    - Could get in the way of where I want to put my feet when working at the bench.
    - Could be a pain to clean under if stuff does manage to get under it.
    - Thought of another one: Wouldn't be able to get a car jack under it to aid moving it around! This sounds funny but I'm a bit concerned about being able to move a 400 lb bench.
    Trust me you will.
    It will drive you to barking at the moon.

    Question: Why not knock down? You will not gain strength or stability with glue or even pegs. Because of design when you put weight on the bench it locks down tighter. When it comes time to move the bench, and it will, you will be thankful it is knock down. Just one other thing, I've built Moravian's with both Parallel guides and crisscross of the two the crisscross is less work to install, also less critical in fit, and works better.

    ken

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Winners View Post
    My current is 4" off the floor, too high to hook my toes under. I read somewhere having the bottom face of the stretcher about three inches off the floor lets you hook your toes under it when planing, I will try that next.
    Scott,

    Enlighten me, why would you want to hook your toes under the bench when planing? And if you do want to, how would you go about making it work for you?

    ken

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Austin Texas
    Posts
    1,597
    Stretchers located at the floor would not allow for easy bench height shortening if desired. I can't prove it, but I tend to think that the floor level stretchers would bother my feet too. I'd leave room for the car jack if it was my bench. I don't know about hooking my toes under the stretchers while planning Scott, but have never needed to/tried it so who knows, may be a thing. Your bench Joshua, your toes, your stretchers.
    David

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by ken hatch View Post
    Scott,

    Enlighten me, why would you want to hook your toes under the bench when planing? And if you do want to, how would you go about making it work for you?

    ken
    I'd never want that for planing, but find hooking your foot under the bench great for chiseling.
    Another reason to have a stretcher off the ground is for a mobile base.
    I will probably make a Carl Holmgren type of system from steel when I build mine. this needs only a single pedal and works easy for a 200kg tablesaw.
    Having a stretcher so low kinda interferes with the Klausz design though.

    If making a taller stretcher and having it set flush with the top, make sure its not going to touch your knee, as it is a right pain if planing wide boards.

    Tom

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by ken hatch View Post
    Question: Why not knock down? You will not gain strength or stability with glue or even pegs. Because of design when you put weight on the bench it locks down tighter. When it comes time to move the bench, and it will, you will be thankful it is knock down. Just one other thing, I've built Moravian's with both Parallel guides and crisscross of the two the crisscross is less work to install, also less critical in fit, and works better.
    Ken, this design has been evolving for the better part of a year now, and you're not helping with my analysis paralysis! Both your points are very good and I'll have to give them some thought. I should probably just spring for the Crisscross but there's so many other tools I want for that money...

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Lucas View Post
    Ken, this design has been evolving for the better part of a year now, and you're not helping with my analysis paralysis! Both your points are very good and I'll have to give them some thought. I should probably just spring for the Crisscross but there's so many other tools I want for that money...
    Joshua,

    LOL, sorry about that. If you have the screw the 14" crisscross is pretty cheap but then I love to spend other people's money.

    ken

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
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    Indy
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    938
    If the stretchers are at floor level, sweeping shavings will be an annoying task. For me a broom is a quick way to clean up around and under the bench. I personally see no reason to be touching the bench with your feet during any operation, unless you are perhaps seated (I sometimes will sit on my saw bench while marking out dovetails).

  10. #10
    I prefer the stretcher high enough off the floor so it's easy to sweep under. My stretcher supports a single shelf that stores planes and other things I might reach often for. The higher the stretcher, the less stooping.

    Beware of angled legs if you are doing a leg vise. I did it. While it's great for stability, if you ever wish to install a tail vise on the right side, it can be an issue.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Stone Mountain, GA
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken hatch View Post
    Scott,

    Enlighten me, why would you want to hook your toes under the bench when planing? And if you do want to, how would you go about making it work for you?

    ken

    It was never a design consideration, but I sometimes find myself doing this without thinking during really heavy hand planing. I think it can allow you to get a little more force on the plane.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Hazelwood View Post
    It was never a design consideration, but I sometimes find myself doing this without thinking during really heavy hand planing. I think it can allow you to get a little more force on the plane.

    Robert,

    Please don't take this wrong, it is not meant as snark but if I need more force on the plane that just shoe traction I'm taking too heavy a cut and/or the cutter really needs sharpening. Whatever, and maybe because I'm almost as old as dirt I wouldn't last one pass under those conditions. Someone also mentioned using the rail with chisels, if you need more force than a chisel hammer or your body can supply something ain't right. BTW, even mortises are easier, faster and better made with finesse vs. brute force, taps vs.whacks. Of course as with everything wood YMMV.

    ken

  13. #13
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    Apr 2013
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    Taking full width shavings off a wide face with a try plane and a fresh iron, even a 0.002 shaving takes a lot of force. For this kind of work I'm usually trying to work at maybe 80% of the max I can push without stalling. Maybe it's more about balance than getting extra force? I dunno, like I said I just found myself doing it without thinking. I want to say it happens more when I am having to reach over a wide board to plane the far end. Also I'm not really curling my feet, more just jamming a foot under the stretcher.

    I'd be fine if the stretcher didn't allow that, it's more of a curiosity for me than anything that someone else mentioned this. Probably the bigger takeaway is that your feet naturally want to be under the front edge of the work bench sometimes, so the lower stretcher should accommodate that.

  14. #14
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    ^+1......set the stretcher height to just clear the top of the broom used. Also makes things easier....when you drop a small part on the floor....they always seem to roll under the bench..DAMHIKT...and, they usually stop right in the middle, or almost to the back ( if the bench sits against a wall..)

  15. #15
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    My preference is for enough room under the stretcher to keep a step stool or a box or two to act like floor mounted drawers.

    Everyone works differently. We all have our own preferences.

    For me a stretcher at the bottom would be constantly getting kicked by my big clumsy feet. If much of my work was making doors or panels a stretcher might be useful at the bottom to hold large work with a clamp or two.

    There is no right or wrong in the location of a stretcher, only purpose. Sometimes the purpose is as simple as, "it works for me."

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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