What is the best height for a workbench?
This is a question I get asked weekly. If you’re planning on building a workbench for your woodworking, then it’s worth giving some thought to your height before jumping in with the tools.
Getting your bench height completely wrong will cause you some discomfort and inconvenience while you work, but I always like to make it clear that it isn’t worth fretting about searching for a formula for the perfect height; an inch here or there isn’t going to make a lot of difference.
A perfect bench height can’t really exist unless you carry out only one single activity all of the time; the most practical height changes depending on the what you are doing, the tool you’re using and size & thickness of work piece.
As a general rule a lower working height is best for heavy tiring work, whilst a taller bench can save your back from stooping, when things get small and detailed. Like with many things in life a compromise is in order, and to offer some guideline, I like to suggest the following:
Your Personalised Bench Height
Stand (with your usual workshop shoes on) and keep your arms straight down the sides of your body but palms flexed up so they are parallel with the floor. Ask someone to take the measurement between the floor and underside of your palm.
This palm measurement will give you a great workbench height for most hand tool woodworking, but it can feel rather low for joinery and detailed work.
I recommend adding a couple of inches to your palm measurement, to give a nice comfortable height for a mixture of activities. If you do mainly delicate close up work, or suffer with your back, then a further inch or two would be a good idea.
If you’re unsure about your chosen bench height, try to get a feel for the height before starting to build your workbench. You could compare it to your present bench, a table or even just mark a line on the wall.
Bare in mind that a comfortable working height for woodworking, will likely look low when you just stand next to it. You’ll change your stance as you work, and when you require the most strength, you’re body will naturally lower as you spread your foot print and bend your knees ready for action.
Workbench Height Summary:
29″ – 30″ (74cm – 76cm) makes a practical, low workbench height for woodworking.
A low workbench is good for hand work, especially hand thicknessing, as you’re able to get your body weight over the bench.
38″ – 39″ (97cm – 99cm) makes a practical, tall workbench height.
A tall workbench is good for detailed work, cutting joinery, and for power tool use.
34″ – 36″ (86cm – 91cm) tend to be the most common workbench height for woodworking.
A height in between these two extremes tends to be the most popular, particular if you do a range of activities at your workbench.
If you’re building your own workbench, we’ve got many more resources for helping you bring together your perfect bench plans.
Have a read through these links and learn how to build a bench that’s right for you.
– Make The Most Of Holdfasts – Use your workbench without a vice, by learning nifty ways for using holdfasts.
– Plan your Face Vice – Woodworking vices are often plagued by racking. Here we discuss how to avoid the problem of rack through correct use.
And don’t forget!
Our English Workbench Video Series takes you step by step, showing how to build your own traditional workbench.
Watch online right away, and download the PDF workbench plans.