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Thread: Talk me out of building an eight foot bench please.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Fairbanks AK

    Talk me out of building an eight foot bench please.

    I think I can make it work in my space. I am going to leave enough overhang past the legs to maybe install a tail vise on the distaff end in the future, or whack a little length off and not have a tail vise.

    My current bench coming out of the old more cramped shop space is all Doug Fir, 24x48 top. The old bench meets my needs in every way except it only weighs about 135#. I am sick and tired of chasing my workpieces around the shop floor. I want to hit at least 300# and don't mind going over a little bit. The one time I had a stable workpiece on the old bench, I had 135# of bench, about 50# of crap on the shelf, and 8 feet of 8x8 timber clamped down to the bench top. That piece I could work on, hard and fast, with both hands.

    My tentative plan is local birch top, 8/4 by 6" nominal, with homestore DF 4x6 for the long stretchers. I have the four legs already seasoning, 4x7 nominal for the leg vise end, 4x6 nominal for the distaff end, all FOHC Doug Fir, between the 4 legs there is one knot too many to grade them select structural as a single plank. I want to find some 6x6 for the short stretchers, but I don't want to use spruce because it loses length as it seasons, and I don't want to use local birch because at that size there will inevitably be pith on center.

    The main conflict for me is do I build a 6 foot top or an 8 foot top. I like being able to hook the toe of my work boot under the long stretcher to sort of clamp myself to the bench when planing long boards. I like being able to get the ball of my foot on the long stretcher and my knee under the benchtop to sort of clamp myself to the bench for little fussy things that require a moderate to large hammer. I like having having the benchtop at a comfortable working height.

    I am 5' 10" and buy my clothes off the rack. With a six foot bench and my ergonomic parameters I am not confident I can hit the 300# bench mass goal. With an 8 foot bench I should have no trouble bringing it home in all four parameters.

    Does anyone with an 8 foot bench, anything over 90" long really, regret building that big? The only thing I will have to change to my scale model shop layout to make this work is move the sharpening stones to where I can just turn around to use them without having to walk around the end of the bench. To reestablish a hollow grind, I will have to walk around the end of the bench to get to the grinder.

    I am going to start reading up on the various US aircraft carriers. Wasp kinda sounds like a good nickname for a bench. So does Essex. I wonder if it would make someone twitch were I to carve shallow little lines in my bench top to represent steam catapults.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2023
    Baltimore, MD USA
    Do you want to be able to move your bench or move it in the future? I'm currently building a 72" Moravian workbench because it is the largest I can fit in the room I rent. But I do know that if I could add a foot or two I absolutely would.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Scott, I built my recent bench build at 73” long and left more overhand on the right side for a sliding tail vise, and I put a leg vise on the left. It worked out very well without having the size of an 8’ bench. In my case, 8’ was just too big to easily fit. So far I haven’t found anything that would necessitate the extra length. However, I don’t typically build much with material longer than 6’ anyway. Mine is probably somewhere between 250 to 300 pound range as it sits with the vises installed. And, the foot print is large enough that it simply doesn’t move, even with aggressive pushing or pulling while working on the top. I do have weight sitting on the bottom shelf which helps also. Anyway, just sharing so that you see an option for a 6 footer that still has room for a tail vise. I followed the Woodwhisperer Guild Hybrid bench plans but modified to my current setup.

    Last edited by Greg Parrish; 08-28-2023 at 8:54 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Connecticut Shoreline
    Here's a vote for the 6-foot length. I regularly work at the ends of the bench so a tight fitting bench without 4 feet of space at either end would be an encumbrance. If the major factor is the weight of the bench, it's easy enough to add weight. I had a long bench where I used to live and I found I used the same 4 feet all the time, the rest collected tools and debris that inevitably had to be moved in order to do something or other for the rare times when I did require more of the bench.

    Of course, people work in different ways, but the largest piece of furniture that I ever built was a wardrobe that measured just over 6 feet tall. Unless you are planning to regularly build pieces this large, or running long lengths of molding, the excess length isn't really necessary (in my opinion).

    I do think it's human nature to build big and strong, "just because," or "just in case," But I do think that 6-feet is the optimal length for most things and for the rare occasions when you need a longer top, using a portable stand or tall sawhorse to support the overhanging board works fine.

    These days I have downsized to a 4-foot hobbyists bench that I bought decades ago. It does 90% of what I need it to do. It's light, so I store tools and other heavy things in the base cabinet. It moves when I plane vigorously, so I have blocks screwed into the floor so it can't move. I have moved 4 times in the past 5 years, I appreciate its portability. I take the top off and I can carry it myself, the base, when it is empty is manageable by one person and a breeze to move by two.

    In my opinion the requirement for a massive, heavy bench is overblown. What is important is that it is sturdily-built and stiff. The rest can be worked around.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Tokyo, Japan
    Talk you out of building an eight foot bench?
    Why, that's easy, sir!
    I like tall benches too, but unless you're a 16ft giant, 8ft might be a bit tall to work comfortably.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Blog Entries
    My last bench was built shorter than my previous bench despite nearly doubling my shop size. Extra work surface come with a larger footprint that robs you of valuable shop rel estate IMHO. A bench should be as big as you need and no larger. Extra surface just takes up space that could be better used, collects tools, parts, and spoil that should otherwise be put away, stored, or tossed. I do like my bench deeper than most at about 30" since it is often used for dry assembly. Your mileage will most certainly vary. Current bench is about 30" by 75" including the vise chop.

    TNNW End Vise (22).jpg
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 08-28-2023 at 10:27 AM.
    "A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg".

    – Samuel Butler

  7. #7
    Larry Williams once argued that historically a cabinetmaker only needed a five or six foot bench. I pointed out that a large chest has mouldings that are seven feet long or so, and would be difficult to make on such a bench. I don't think he had done much hand work.

    Stuff like doors and door frames can also be very awkward on a short bench.

    I would not want a grinder in the vicinity or even the same room as a bench.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Dayton Ohio
    To keep a bench moving you can use rubber pads to increase the friction. You can also lag it to the floor. As for length, if the bench has all sides accessible, the longer it is the more you have to walk to get around it. My bench is in the middle and is seven foot long. I have a twin screw vice on the end and sometimes extent it for added length. Overhang helps if you do a lot of casework.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Brown View Post
    To keep a bench moving you can use rubber pads to increase the friction. You can also lag it to the floor. As for length, if the bench has all sides accessible, the longer it is the more you have to walk to get around it. My bench is in the middle and is seven foot long. I have a twin screw vice on the end and sometimes extent it for added length. Overhang helps if you do a lot of casework.

    I agree with this approach. Make the length of the bench whatever length works best. Don't make it bigger just to make it heavier. If you want to make it heavier, either consider lag bolts, build some shelves to store heavy stuff in, or just attach some weight to it (concrete bags or even weightlifting weights that can always be found cheaply on the used market, locally). Making the bench bigger than you need in order to make it heavier could be introducing a new problem in order to solve an old one. It would be better to address the primary problem directly. Plus, putting more weight lower on the bench will make it more stable than concentrating more weight higher up.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Longview WA
    Blog Entries
    I am sick and tired of chasing my workpieces around the shop floor.
    That used to be a problem with my lightweight bench. A bucket with about 80 lbs of concrete fixed that.

    Cement Filled Bucket Stabilizer Long Board.jpg

    There is a notch cut in the bottom of the bucket to fit over the lower rail. There was also a rope added to hold the bucket to the legs.

    As far as figuring if an 8' bench will work for you, try clamping a couple of 8' 2X4s to the bench to see how it works for moving around in the shop. If it works, great. If it doesn't work, then you saved some lumber.

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

  11. #11
    Well, if you have room for it, why not? I would say that making sure you have room to move around the bench for any and all phases of what you are going to build, then, if it still fits, go ahead and make it. My shop always looks like a hurricane went through it. I can stack way more stuff on an 8 foot bench than I can on a 6 foot bench. Planning to add one already, and the infeed/table/bench behind my table saw is 4 by 8.

    robo hippy

  12. #12
    My bench is 7' long & that's good although the far end is generally piled with stuff. Longer stock prep tends to happen on the assembly/outfeed table.

    If your plan is for an 8/4 thick benchtop, make it thicker. That will make a big difference in stability. Mine is a 3"x24" glue-lam, and it is not even fastened to the base- it just sits there and doesn't move. Probably about #500 as it sits.


  13. #13
    When I built my "new" bench about 15 years ago I bought and used 8-foot lengths of white ash. After putting it in place I discovered it was just a hair too long for me to comfortably access all 4 sides. Enter the Bosch electric circular saw and presto the bench became 90" long. Here is a picture of it when brand new. It no longer is either clean nor pristine in any way, shape, or manner.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Dave Anderson

    Chester, NH

  14. #14
    Nice Vise, Dave “They don’t come no better !” When I made my bench I fell for the old books advise to make them out of beech.
    I had a hard time finding the stuff. Then I read beech was used mainly ‘cuz it was cheap and plentiful. The old books are a lot more
    frugal than the new books ! I have no doubt that at least one Brazilian Rosewood bench exists !

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    twomiles from the "peak of Ohio
    Workshop Tour, The Work Bench.JPG
    5' long x 16" wide x 34" the best fit for MY shop....YMMV, of course....and, it suits the work I do..from working small boxes and stands
    Working Thursday, glue-up.JPG
    to chest of drawers, and Garden Benches. And even the computer desk I am sitting at right now.

    Besides...these arms of mine can only reach so far while I am holding a tool....

    IF you all want to use up that much shop space on just a work bench...fine....much like my tools....I tend to size the tools I use to the tasks I do. Which includes the Bench.
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

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