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Thread: Workbench height and width

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Mueller View Post
    I find though, that I prefer a bit of a downward slope to my forearm to the plane tote. Plane totes lean down toward the iron and a slight angle to the forearm matches that angle well.
    That should be pretty easy to measure; standing against a wall hold a plane and have someone take a mark.

    Kudos

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Pavlovsky View Post
    I've tried taking my biggest plane (a 26" wooden jointer) and assuming positions similar to the photos in the article Derek had posted earlier, and also described in Steve's post. The plane's bottom was 100 cm (39 3/8")

    About the width (depth)... It was mentioned that the extra width will come in handy for assembly (I only have space for one bench so it has to multi-task). 30" wide shouldn't present problems with regards to reach. Would it have any other drawbacks?
    It's a good starting height.

    If you ski "cross country" that's a comfortable, "athletic" stance to emulate. Depth only matters when you can't reach the back of the bench.

    Caution is warranted in this dimension - empty spaces tend to collect unused tools.

    We're looking forward to see what you build.

  3. #33
    Just a couple or three late thoughts:

    I agree with Derek, C.S. has done a great service for woodworking in general and I find he is a hoot to read, but here comes the "but". His bench building book has led many first time builders to over think, over build and sometimes to build the wrong style/kind of bench. C.S.'s book goes through the build of both the English and the French bench and I can remember coming away from reading his book believing he favored the Roubo bench and I expect that is the major reason for the current Roubo fad. There is nothing wrong with a Roubo/French bench, the same can be said of a German/Scandinavian or English style bench but it may not be the best bench for a first build.

    Here is the problem with a Roubo as a first bench, while it can be a very simple bench it is not an easy build and it can be an expensive bench to build. I've seen reports of folks taking a year or even up to six years to build their benches. A first bench should be cheap and quick to build because there are too many problems to work out that can only be worked out by building a bench, such as the questions the OP had to start this thread. My preferred first bench is well known but any style will work if kept simple and quick to build.

    That said here is my take on height: For most work, sawing, planning, paring, or chopping it is best done with the forearm level. To achieve a level forearm on most operations my bench height needs to be about 250mm (10") lower than my elbow. As others have pointed out for the operations that need to be higher a Moxon is an easy appliance to use. As far as how wide, I stick pretty close to the two foot rule. If I need wider for say glue ups a sheet of 3/4" ply does a great job and can be stored when finished.

    As always, YMMV and likely will ,

    ken

  4. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Winners View Post
    Lots of good advice already. I don't disagree with any of it. I do guess Ken Hatch must be out on the golf course or at the beach this week--- I just got back from Hawaii myself.

    The thing Ken and I see eye to eye on (that he hasn't posted already) is your first bench isn't going to be your last one. Once you get this one built and use it a while you will, via personal experience, cone up with some things to do a little differently on your next build.

    The other part is what are you going to be doing or making at this bench? CS does go into this a bit in his book, at least the second one, about how Americans seem to want one bench to do everything but if you are going to do a lot of dovetailing the perfect bench height is different than if you are going to do a lot of planing with wooden planes. And etcetera ad nauseum.

    I do think it is a good idea to make your height at the top of the reasonable for you range with the stretchers up off the floor some so you could shorten the legs without having to re-engineer the whole bench.

    The other thing is once you have a bench and start working at it you'll either be delighted with it or change something for the next build. I like having four feet (I know, it sounds like a lot) all the way around my bench and I like to be able to get a thing clamped down and get at it form every angle. I personally don't use a tool well, but many may folks use then to advantage.

    Sooner or later you will have to just build it.
    Scott,

    LOL. All good advice. BTW a good time of the year to have been in Hawaii, it has even been cold and wet here in the desert.

    ken

  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken hatch View Post
    Here is the problem with a Roubo as a first bench, while it can be a very simple bench it is not an easy build and it can be an expensive bench to build. I've seen reports of folks taking a year or even up to six years to build their benches. A first bench should be cheap and quick to build because there are too many problems to work out that can only be worked out by building a bench, such as the questions the OP had to start this thread. My preferred first bench is well known but any style will work if kept simple and quick to build.
    This is an important point. I started to type a couple of questions/comments yesterday, but dropped it because I did not want to seem like I was trying to steer you away from what you seem to have thought about a lot and decided you want.

    The Nicholson style can be built without a bench. Mike Siemsen has a video through Lost Art Press where he builds one from scratch, starting with a couple of five gallon buckets. The Roubos I see posted are glorious, but I think I would need a bench to build one of them. The old chicken or egg thing. How do you get the parts dimensioned properly without something to hold them?

    If you want to get a look at the Nicholson in action, search for his youtube video "Workholding on a viseless bench." It is cheap and easy to build (here anyway, not sure about prices of 2 x 12s in Europe), works well, and would let you get some experience and answer questions like how high you want it to be without spending thousands of dollars and years of your free time first.

    Or you could look through Ken's posts and see the ridiculous number of Moravians he has built. That one I think needs a vise, but I could be wrong because he has not taken me up on my invitation to park his RV in my driveway so I can test it out.

  6. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by Nicholas Lawrence View Post
    This is an important point. I started to type a couple of questions/comments yesterday, but dropped it because I did not want to seem like I was trying to steer you away from what you seem to have thought about a lot and decided you want.

    The Nicholson style can be built without a bench. Mike Siemsen has a video through Lost Art Press where he builds one from scratch, starting with a couple of five gallon buckets. The Roubos I see posted are glorious, but I think I would need a bench to build one of them. The old chicken or egg thing. How do you get the parts dimensioned properly without something to hold them?

    If you want to get a look at the Nicholson in action, search for his youtube video "Workholding on a viseless bench." It is cheap and easy to build (here anyway, not sure about prices of 2 x 12s in Europe), works well, and would let you get some experience and answer questions like how high you want it to be without spending thousands of dollars and years of your free time first.

    Or you could look through Ken's posts and see the ridiculous number of Moravians he has built. That one I think needs a vise, but I could be wrong because he has not taken me up on my invitation to park his RV in my driveway so I can test it out.
    Nicholas,

    +1 on the Siemsen build and video.

    Be careful what you ask, I expect to retire sometime around the end of the year and I will be looking for a cheap place to park the motorhome .

    ken

  7. #37
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    Nicholas: Just an added comment. While it is right it is easier to build a bench when you already have one it does not exclude one from building a roubo without having a bench to start with.

    When I built mine I had no bench. I got the stretchers and leg stock cut by a friend with a table saw, but joining, glueing and dimensioning the top I did on a couple of horses. And all joinery as well.

  8. #38
    Thanks everyone for very thoughtful advice. Yes I also got the impression that Schwarz prefers the Roubo bench (and I guess that's why he started with the Nicholsons and left Roubos "for dessert" in his book). I think the Nicholson style does have it's own advantages, and is a nice bench. I watched Mike Siemsen's video and it looks very functional. I still have my aim set at a Roubo, though.

    As for the chicken-and-egg problem, I thought a lot about it I have a B&D Workmate and will first build a couple of sawhorses. It's pretty scary to hear some people spent years building a workbench. I'm guessing too many fancy features, desire for perfection, and not enough shop time available? I want to have a bench by this summer, so I will try to avoid the first two, and luckily I have two days a week when I don't work (and my daughter's at school). My current plan is to start with a leg vise, no end vise. I will use a couple of holdfasts and a doe's foot for workholding. I'll plan to add a crochet hook later. If later I feel like I'd like an end vise, I will probably make and retrofit a simple wedge-powered wagon vise (V8 wagon vise by Paul Miller aka shipwright). A Moxon vise sounds like a useful thing to build later.

    I'll try to start with 40" or 100 cm (39.4") height, and somewhere between 24" and 30" wide, still have to think about it.

    Now some off-topic question, if I may?
    For the bench top, I'm going to use affordable 40 mm (1 1/2") thick laminated beech panels sold at a local constructions material store (they cut them to size and it costs about 90 EUR per square meter / 10.8 square feet). My plan is to glue two panels face-to-face for a total thickness of 80 mm (3 1/8"). How would I go about this glue-up, and what sort of clamping would I need? I have only a few clamps at the moment and will have to stock up on clamps at some point, I just don't know which kinds and in which sizes I would need, so I keep postponing it until I really need them. I've heard some advice to drill holes in the panel(s) and screw them together with glue, then remove the screws when the glue is dry. That would be a cheap solution, I guess but will result in a top which has a bunch of screw holes in it. I have also heard about split-top roubo benches, not sure if they have meaningful advantages in usage, but perhaps if it would be easier to glue up two half-tops? Or you may try to talk me out of this plan altogether

  9. #39
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    Screws from the underside so the holes don’t show?

    I think in my shop I would use a combination of clamps to get things aligned and then and random heavy objects (granite surface plate, barbell plates, etc.)

    Good luck with the build and be sure to let us know how it works out for you. Guys around here drool over bench pictures like a bunch of women with baby pictures.

  10. #40
    I have a dirty little secret for you, Gene. Andre Roubo didn't use any glue on his benches. And no clamps. His bench tops were 20 to 22 inches wide. I think 22 is ideal. He used a single plank for the top, beech or elm, pith facing up.

    It sounds like you are thinking of spending over 200 Euros on timber just for the top. I think that kind of money might buy you a pretty nice plank at a sawmill.

  11. #41
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    My workbench is way too wide, building it again I would likely be much closer to Warren's number at 20-22". I made the mistake of making my bench an assembly table in addition to a bench because my workshop is small. A workbench makes a lousy assembly table and vice-versa. Better yet one can use a pair of sawhorses as an assembly table and retain full use of their workbench for joinery and material prep.

    I think one workbench is good enough, I can imagine in a very efficient workshop you might have multiple benches but in my case I think it unnecessary for a small one-man shop to have multiple benches.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  12. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Holcombe View Post
    My workbench is way too wide, building it again I would likely be much closer to Warren's number at 20-22"..
    How wide is it, and how tall are you?

  13. #43
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    My bench is 7' long - that's as long as I could manage in my shop. It works well enough - I have never wanted longer. It is 22" wide. I can reach across and retrieve tools on the wall behind. I have never wanted wider.

    I do not have an assembly table. I use my bench and, when needed, my table saw is alongside (for this reason).

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  14. #44
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    For those with enough room, here's the ideal set up:

    Capture.JPG

    Lovely Federal sideboard in the background.
    Last edited by Charles Guest; 01-22-2020 at 10:47 AM.

  15. #45
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    For the bench top, I'm going to use affordable 40 mm (1 1/2") thick laminated beech panels sold at a local constructions material store (they cut them to size and it costs about 90 EUR per square meter / 10.8 square feet).
    Another option you may want to consider is 'engineered beams.' These are often used here in the states by builders when they need a large beam for appearance or for strength. Here they are made by laminating 2X4s together. My last check on these at one supplier set the price at ~$25 (US dollars) a foot for a 21" wide beam.

    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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