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Thread: Workbench Stretcher Height

  1. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    South Coastal Massachusetts
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    5,387
    I would make the stretcher higher enough for a push broom to reach underneath. Much like a kitchen "toe kick" that's high enough that I can get close to the bench (around 4" off the floor).

    Regarding rapid leg vise design - check this out:

    https://youtu.be/aI0sZodYJrI

  2. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Beantown
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    1,887
    With the stretcher right at floor height it’s sure gonna be a pita to keep the bench stable if the floor is not perfectly flat. Shims will work fine but you know four points of contact is a heck of a lot easier to get sitting stable lever and solid.

    I can’t imagine no toe kick. I’m a cabinet maker by trade and share a floor with another shop in a old mill building. That shop made a whole kitchen with no toe kick. I dont know the story on the build but I can’t imagine a whole kitchen with no toe kick. I’d loose my mind bumping my toes.

  3. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    75
    Stretchers on my bench are 5" off floor. I built my bench relatively high at 34". Pinky test puts it at 30-31".

    I figured if need be, I will cut the legs an inch or two if I feel it high - while leaving room for sweeping and space for my foot to go. This allowed enough space above stretcher to build and install a 12" high cabinet to store planes and other tools, while leaving decent space above the cabinet.

    tl;dr;
    I would keep a minimum of 3" space below stretcher for cleaning and foot to go.



    Side note:
    I just checked and I cannot take more than a inch off legs now due to the height at which I installed criss cross leg vise. So be careful around leg vise placement.

  4. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Fairbanks AK
    Posts
    167
    I found the reference I had alluded to earlier. It is Chris Schwarz's _The workbench design book_ (c 2010).

    Only reviewer's of the book are allowed to quote brief passages without written permission. I will take this opportunity to state emphatically that Chris' book is, I think, a must have for anyone planning to build their own workbench. This $25 book is way more helpful than a $20 face vise from the home store.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Schwarz
    while flattening panels for a blanket chest {cross face grain with a scrub plane} I noticed I had my left foot wedged under the stretcher and used that foot to help pull my body back on the return stroke
    He says his stretchers are five inches off the floor. I don't know where I came up with three inches previously. I am going to fool with this some over the next few months by nailing scrap to the underside of my front stretcher and reply back here. It's on pages 247 and 248 in Chris' book.

  5. #20
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Bellevue, WA
    Posts
    241
    One other reason to not put the stretchers at the bottom is that a high spot in the floor could keep you from leveling the bench and allow the bench to rock on that high spot.

    I haven't use the stretchers to help with planning, yet, but I find I often have my toes somewhat under the bench.

  6. #21
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Houston TX
    Posts
    521
    Scott, somewhere too I picked up on 3” for stretchers. My push-broom doesn’t fit, and I have to be careful when wearing my OSHA-non-approved sandals. 5” for my next bench. What that bench will be is TBD. Roubo, Nicholson, and Moravian benches have all had their day, but the simple Benchcrafted Classic is calling the loudest, at least today.

  7. #22
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Fairbanks AK
    Posts
    167
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Vanzant View Post
    Scott, somewhere too I picked up on 3” for stretchers. My push-broom doesn’t fit, and I have to be careful when wearing my OSHA-non-approved sandals. 5” for my next bench. What that bench will be is TBD. Roubo, Nicholson, and Moravian benches have all had their day, but the simple Benchcrafted Classic is calling the loudest, at least today.
    I found it in the same reference as above, on page 43 he calls for three inches. I bet it depends on your foot size and how heavy a boot you wear, but he does mention on pp43 for planing crossgrain again. I have a table for my belt/ disc sander going together now with layout marks to get the stretcher bottoms three inches off the floor.

    FWIW I can get a broom under my 4" off the floor stretchers no problem.

  8. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Winners View Post
    I found it in the same reference as above, on page 43 he calls for three inches. I bet it depends on your foot size and how heavy a boot you wear, but he does mention on pp43 for planing crossgrain again. I have a table for my belt/ disc sander going together now with layout marks to get the stretcher bottoms three inches off the floor.

    FWIW I can get a broom under my 4" off the floor stretchers no problem.
    That settles it, if the Schwartz says 3" then it must be 3", I've been doing it wrong all these years. Where did I put my big crosscut saw I've legs to cut. BTW, I'm not knocking CS, he has done a lot for the hand tool community but some folks take everything he says, especially about workbenches, as if they came down the mountain on Slate Tablets.

    One of my benches ended up with a lower stretcher that was a little under 3" by the time I got it low enough for easy planning. The planning part was good, everything else sucked. It now is a plant stand in the back garden and when MsBubba need to clean under it she get the blower out.

    ken

  9. #24
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
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    20,015
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    BTW, I'm not knocking CS, he has done a lot for the hand tool community but some folks take everything he says, especially about workbenches, as if they came down the mountain on Slate Tablets.
    CS and many other hand tool evangelicals, including myself, tend to 'discover' something then preach it to the community. Oftentimes afterwards we learn something to modify our understanding. With the internet, what was said years ago is still being found by beginners who start preaching it all over again.

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

  10. #25
    Guessing a big factor in the height of the strecher is if its flush with the edge of the bench.

  11. #26
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    918
    A bench with no stretcher gives me a place to sweep the shavings. Bench.jpg

  12. #27
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    Leland, NC
    Posts
    458
    My bench is now 20 years old. The top alone weighs in at 250lbs. It has been moved 5 times in those 20 years.

    The stretchers are at floor level all around. They have not been a problem whatsoever.

    Comparing a workbench to a kitchen without toe kicks is misleading. A kitchen counter top only protrudes an inch or so out from the cabinets (too lazy to go measure it to be precise) so a toe kick is required. My bench has about 4.5 inches of overhang all the way around so there is no need for a toe kick.

    My under bench drawer units sit on the stretchers. There is about 4 inches of clearance between the top of the drawer units and the underside of the benchtop. With 4.5 inches of overhang a drawer in that space would be problematic. But, it is handy for putting things like router pads on.

    Cleaning up has never been an issue. Everytime I have moved there was nothing under the bench. I guess that is because dust and chips do not have legs and cannot run under there. However, stretchers that are off the floor guarantee that all sorts of things will get underneath, screws, nails, you name it.

    My stretchers, legs, and bearers are all 5 inches square. They are joined with bridle joints and each one has a humongous lag bolt thru it. The bench does not move at all.

    Moving a bench like this is actually pretty easy. There is moving, and then there is MOVING. The first moving is just pushing it around the shop. That is done by prying one end up and putting a long round something under it. Like a broom handle. Once it is up on one then more can be added and after that, think Egyptians building a pyramid. The other MOVING is moving from one shop to another. The top comes off easily. All one has to do is find two reasonably strong guys to carry it out to the truck. The leg unit is much simpler.

    My bench is rather large, 80 X 40 X 39 inches tall (I am a tall guy at 6'5, don't do any handplaning except fine tuning) It is a lot deeper at 40 inches than most joiner benches which were used in factories. About ten inches of that is a tool well. I built it with what I call 'deck plates' that cover the tool well. I like that 40 inches because it effectively makes the bench an assembly table when needed.

    Both vises on my bench are wood screw vises that I built myself. They are 2 inch diameter screws. I find them far superior to iron/steel vise screws because wood has a lot of friction which means they do not need to be torqued down as much. I also line one of the jaws on both vises with leather which helps with holding power. Edit: The face vise on the left side opens to a full 24 inches on two 2.5 square maple guide rods.

    All of the dog holes are rectangular in nature. The dogs are L shaped and can be pushed down flush with the top. I made aluminum ones so they are bit more friendly if hit with a plane.

    The basic part of the top is a piece of 3 inch thick rock maple that was laminated in 1975. It was used as an electronics workbench until 1992 when it was going to be thrown out. Can you believe that? It didn't even have any scratches on it! I added 1.5 inch thick rock maple pieces to it to increase the depth and provide aprons around it. The only thing I really had to fix on it was where the meat scrap hole had been but in. Yes, it is a real cutting table for use by a butcher.

    It has served me extremely well.

    Like a few others have said above, we all have different preferences. When building a bench do not get trapped into thinking that you have to build it like others you have seen, build it for yourself and how you will work on it.

    Another edit: I do not sweep my shop. Sweeping puts a ton of dust in the air with each push of the broom. I vacuum.
    Last edited by Ted Reischl; 11-24-2019 at 9:21 PM.

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