Hand planing better

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Now that I have a small collection of handplanes, I need to make my bench a little more planing friendly. Currently I use my vise and benchdogs to hold a piece of wood to be planed. However, because I built the bench before I fell in love with handtools, the benchdog holes are not in the right place and I find my self not tall enough a lot.
Anyway I thought I might add a mechanism to clamp a wood stop across it lengthways. Not too difficult.
Then someone told me about Japanese trestle beams. A search of rec.woodworking didn't reveal any pictures. It did reveal that there's a chapter in Landis' "The Workbench Book" but I'm not going to buy a book just for 13 pages I may not even build.
I also learned that Fine Woodworking issue #54 (9/01/1985) has an article "Body Mechanics and the Japanese Beams" by Drew Langston. I go to the FWW home page and try to get that issue (for $3.50) but they don't seem to archive back that far.
Popular Woodworking also had an article in issue #35 (2/1/1987).
Bob Bench Page shows one but somehow I don't think master Japanese woodworkers use something like that.... http://www.terraclavis.com/bws/benches.htm fourth picture down.
So does anyone in this group have a picture, plans, etc.? Does anyone have opinions about these beams/benches?
My intuition says that a bench about knee high with someway to hold planks down would be perfect for planing and not take up a lot of room. Perfect to complement my current imperfect bench.
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The more I think about this the better I like it: a bench about 18 or 20 inches high, about 10 inches wide, and maybe 6 feet long, with a complement of vises (although the true Japanese beams do not have vises).
I think one could get creative and use pipe clamps or even a bench vise turned vertically for really strong hold-down clamps.
One could also _not_ go for the super heavy bench top so it's easily moved - since you'd be sitting on the darn thing while planing, your own body mass counts....
[snip]
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I think the bench book was worth the $15 I paid for it. years ago. You can go to Amazon and still get it for $15. It is not just about benches. (Amazon.com product link shortened)95516017/sr=ka-1/ref=pd_ka_1/103-5755167-9601445
snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Never Enough Money) wrote:

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I'm having a hard time seeing how having a bench "knee high" would do anything but screw up your back and quickly wear you out from using it. I do agree that for hand planing, you need a slightly different approach to bench height than if you're planning to use it in other ways. The rule of thumb I've always heard (and followed when I built my bench) is to stand with your hands at your sides, and then turn your hands out at the wrists with the palms down. The bench height should be at this height, so you would be able to put your palms flat on the surface.
Keep in mind (as I've discovered), that there are several hand tool operations that this height seems less than ideal for. Namely, when I cut dovetails by hand, I almost constantly wish I had a taller bench. That's when I discovered that some people have so-called "dovetailing benches". It never ends.
So, to reiterate, I'm still a little confused as to how exactly a knee high bench would do you any good for hand planing purposes.
Mike
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Re read the thread. The short bench under discussion was a take off of a Japanese bench. They typically sit on it.

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Thanks for the reply, Mike. I checked my bench height against your rule of thumb. It seems to be about 3 inches too high.
Regarding :knee high": it seems right to me because when I've built decks I often find a place where I can lay a board about knee high, then I can put my weight on the board to hold it...
I see myself sitting on it or kneeling on it, kinda above the wood.
BTW, Garrett Hack says in "The Handplane Book" in Chapter Five in the section called "bench height":
"When woodworking was done by entirely by hand, workbenches were lower than most today. Planing on a low bench puts more power into the stroke, through the natural gravity of more of the body driving the plane..... a bench a few centuries ago would have been less than 30 inches high."
Two (probably irrelavant) points: I'm old but not a few centuries old. Second, my knees are 20 inches from the floor.
Garrett Hack goes on to say that tools today are less demanding physically so the lower benches are not needed. The high bench is also good for chiseling, routing, etc.

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Never Enough Money wrote:

It's worthwile remembering that 2 centuries ago, people were averaging about 5' tall. They hit 5'8" average with our parents' generation. If you're like many of us, you're well over 6', so the difference is about 1' in height between us and the guys 2 centuries ago. That means the bench has to be a fair amount higher. The bottom of my knees are 20" off the floor, barefoot, so I suspect that we're close to the same height.
Dave in Fairfax
--
Dave Leader
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FWIW, Woodworkers Journal, Oct 2004, the current issue, has a bit in in it. The ultimate workbench issue.
Never Enough Money wrote:

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Thanks, Pete. I'll go get a copy.

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A japanese planing beam is not knee high, nor do they sit on it. It has a sawhorse-like brace on one end called a trestle (waist high) and the other end is braced against the wall (knee high). It is used with a pull motion plane, moving from the higher end to the lower end. The worker is standing or leaning during the planing motion.
I think your idea of a knee high bench and planing while sitting is not a good idea. I've seen pictures of Japanese man sitting on the floor and planing but its with a very small hand plane doing some trim work. He is using a pull style plane.
Bob
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Thanks. I'll have to find a picture of the bench your describing. Is it attached to the wall on one end or just leaning on it?
My idea may be bad, like most of my other ideas....but in this case it will be easy to experiment. I'll just get a few boards, lay them across some concrete blocks, clamp a board to be planed to the boards and try planing it. I'll post my results later....

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On Sat, 18 Sep 2004 17:28:19 -0700, Never Enough Money wrote:

You really need to read the workbench book. If you're too cheap to buy it (I am), try interlibrary loan (I did).
Anyway, the trestle bottom end sits on a chunk of log, which stands in the corner. The top end is held up by a pair of legs, a simple x-brace.
--
"Keep your ass behind you"


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Ok. The low beam-like bench experiment is done. I used two chairs (18 inches high). I suppose these are analagous to trestles. Then I put a 1 inch thick board across them - the beam. The total height was about 19 inches. I then C-clamped a board to be planed to the board and went to planing....seemed perfect to me. Am I wierd? (A rhetorical question not a solicitation for additional postings.)
[snip]
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Rathr than cut and paste various responses, I'll just answer a few.
One poster said two centuries ago people (men?) averaged five feet high. Acctually it was closer to 5'6.
Then there is the old rule of thumb that the top of the bench should be at your palms. I'm 5'8 and prefer a bench of around 34" high, at least for planing.
what is really useful is a stout stop, not dogs for holding both ends. It' smuch faster with only the stop, and after a little practice, it does not need to be held at both ends.
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Never Enough Money wrote:

Does America still have anything as pinko as libaries?
BugBear
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Good point. I'll check today. The library in my little town is unlikely to have anything though.....
DArlyRos also made a good point: people were shorter a few centuries ago. As I learn more and more about benches (including several Fine Woodworking (FWW) articles and the latest one in Woodworkers Journal), I think there's plenty of variations and personal tastes involved.
My general conclusion is that the flat palm height (see posting by Mike in Mystic) is a the optimum height for "everything", but lower is best for planing. Although one person said "use a step to get higher."
Thanks for all the feedback!

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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Never Enough Money) wrote in

Just when I was considering RAISING my workbench, router table and assembly stands. Better viewing angles, better light, better working angles, less back strain.
Oh, well. Whatever works.
Patriarch
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patriarch < wrote:

Hand planing involves quite a lot of downward pressure; this is more easily done on a (slightly) lower bench. Detail work is easier if closer to you eyes; modellers tend to use very high benches.
Hand sawing need the work so low that most people use a completely separate workpiece support, either saw horses (duh!) or a 2 level workmutt in "low" mode.
Ideal height varies with individual AND task.
BugBear
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bugbear wrote:

Exactly. I built my bench for planing, and it works nicely for that. However, when I'm doing carving, I wish it was much higher. I've even been thinking about building a small carving benchtop that I can place on top of my regular bench to ease back and eyestrain.
For sawing (especially ripping), it's best to have a sawhorse that's low enough so you can stand above it and bend one knee and have it rest on the horse. That way you are above the work and can get your weight behind it, as well as using gravity to your advantage. (Just be careful you don't make it so low that your saw hits the floor on your follow-through.)
BTW, welcome back, Paul. Where've you been? :-)
Chuck Vance
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Conan the Librarian wrote:

Why, thank you.
OLDTOOLS, Badger Pond, and its successor, WoodCentral.
Not sure how long I'll be here; the power:hand ratio ain't good (from my POV)
BugBear
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