Popular Woodworking 2007-06 № 162, страница 31

Popular Woodworking 2007-06 № 162, страница 31

of us, a 24"-deep bench is a powerful and right-sized tool.

On the issue of workbench height: Many bench builders worry about it and there are a wide variety of rules and advice. The bottom line is the bench must fit you and your work. And in the end, there are no hard-and-fast rules. I wish there were. Some people like low benches; some like them high.

So consider the following as a good place to start. After taking in my crackpot theories, your next stop should be a friend's house or a woodworking supply store to use their benches and get a feel for what is right (it could be as simple as having a bad back that requires you to have a high bench, or a love for wooden handplanes that dictates a low bench).

Here is my experience with bench height: I started with a bench that was 36" high, which seemed right for someone who is 6' 35/8" tall. And for machine woodworking I was right. The high bench brought the work close to my eyes. I loved it. And then my passion for handwork reared its ugly head.

If you get into hand tools, a high bench becomes less attractive. I started with a jack plane and a few smoothing

planes. They worked OK with a high bench, but I became fatigued quickly.

After reading the screed on bench heights, I lowered the height of my 36" bench. It seemed radical, but one day I got the nerve up and sawed 2" off the legs. Those two inches changed my attitude toward planing.

The 34"-bench height allowed me to use my long leg muscles to propel the plane forward instead of my arms.

Now, before you build your next bench at 34" high, stop for a minute. That might not be right for you. Do you use wooden stock planes? If so, you need to consider that the wooden body planes can hold your arms about 3" to 4" higher off the workbench than a metal plane can. As a result, a wooden plane user's workbench should be lower.

This is as good reason as ever to get to know someone who has a good shop you can visit and discuss your ideas with. It is better not to make this decision on paper alone.

But there are other factors you must consider when settling on the bench's height. How tall are you? If you are over 6' tall, you should scale your bench a bit higher. Start high and cut it down if it's

This early 20th-century airplane factory had the right idea when it came to workbench length. With a long bench, you can work on one end and assemble at the other - no need for an assembly bench. Thus, a big bench actually saves floorspace.

Here is how high my workbench is compared to my hand, which is hanging loosely by my side. I use hand and power tools in my work, and I've found this height is ideal.

too high. And prop it up on some blocks of wood if it's too low. Experiment. It's not a highboy; it's a workbench.

Here are other things to consider: Do you work with machinery? If so, a bench that's 34" from the floor - or a bit lower - can be good. The top of a table saw is typically 34" from the floor, so a workbench could be (at most) a great outfeed table or (at least) not in the way of your crosscutting and ripping.

Of course, everyone wants a ballpark idea for where to start. So here it is: Stand up straight and drop your arms against your sides in a relaxed manner. Measure from the floor to the place where your pinky joins your hand. That has been the sweet spot for me.

■ Rule No. 6: Benches Must Hold the Work in Three Ways

All benches should be able to grip the wood so you can easily work on the faces, the ends and the edges. Many commercial benches fail on this point.

Submit your bench to what I call the Kitchen Cabinet Door Test. Imagine a typical kitchen door that is 3/4" thick, 15" wide and 23" long. How would you affix that door flat on your bench to level its joints and then sand (or plane) it flat? How would you clamp the door so you could work on the ends to trim the top rail and tops of the stiles so the door will fit its opening? And how will you secure that door on edge so you can rout its hinge mortise and plane off the saw-blade marks without the door flopping around? Does your bench pass this test? OK, now ask the same questions

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