1. Typical counter height is 30 inches.
- If you are tall or short and primary/only user you might want to
- The only reason to go much lower than 30" is for a final assembly
or finishing table and only if that is primary or only use.
2. I think wider is better if there is no space issue. You can squeeze
by at 18" deep, do fine with 24" and 36" deep is starting to get too
deep for practical need for an up against the wall setup. 30" might be
ideal if space is no issue.
All opinions coming from experience of at least a dozen variations
I've built and used over the years at differnt locations.
Lee's Golden Rules of Workbench Design
1) Size is determined by how much space you have. Ideally, you can walk
around it. If you have to put it against a wall, you need a side or two of
access to the bench. You should be able to easily reach across the bench.
2) It must have a solid top. It must be able to withstand cuts, holes and
other general abuse. Any bench that is used to any degree has a distressed
top. If it is too pretty, it means it was not used for anything. I have
used various laminated wood tops, layers of plywood and covered tops with
hardboard. They all served their purpose. Remember, no matter how ugly
your bench top gets, you can always refresh or renew it in some fashion.
3) It must be solid and sturdy. If it wobbles or sways, it ain't a bench.
Benches, by definition, are solid, substantial work platforms.
4) It should have some kind of storage underneath. Whether it is drawers,
shelves, cabinets or whatever, under bench real estate is valuable. Put it
to good use.
5) Any woodworking bench should have a vise and bench stop holes. Make sure
the vice has some way of anchoring the wood on one end when using the bench
6) And bench or work area should have easy access to electricity. I have
screwed a surge protector to benches before. I like outlets wired just
above bench height to plug in tools right at the work surface area. I have
had a couple benches that had electrical outlets installed in the benches
7) Lighting is essential. This is an extension of the above rule. One
thing I do is to have some clamp on lights and some elbow lamps. I will
stick the elbow lamps into the bench stop holes. This puts light directly
where I want it. As you get older, your tolerance (or ability) to working
in low light situations decrease.
8) The height should be determined by both your height and your intended
uses. Or perhaps the best height is just what is most comfortable to you.
I have cut the legs off of benches before. I have also put blocks under
benches as well. Find something that works for you. I think in terms of
sanding, drill and planeing wood. An inch or two under my waist height
works for me.
9) Leave a space underneath the top. I saw this idea on a fancy commercial
model and instantly incorporated in into everything I built since. Just
leave a space of about eight inches or so directly underneath the top of the
bench. You can stash all kinds of tool underneath there when working. This
leaves the top free. This actually increases your available workspace.
10) Make the bench fit the space. Both in terms of size and function. We
all do different things in our shops. Make it fit your needs. some people
make the bench the same height as their table saw. I have seen various
stands and tool carts around the bench. This frees up bench top space. A
bench covered with crap is just a junk pile. It ain't a bench. (Wives hate
any kind of clean, horizontal space. They will take any workspace and
convert it into a junk pile.) Make the bench functional. Make it your own.
Remember, nobody can make anything to fit you better than you.
Happy bench building,
If you are going to do a lot of hand tool work - planing, chiseling, etc,
consider making just a bit higher than the height of the palm of your hand
parallel to the floor with your arm at rest by your side. For planing in
particular that height allows you to "get your back into it".
Height: standing? sitting? For standing, sufficient to work at without
bending more than minimally
Depth: as deep as possible and still let you reach stuff. The higher the
counter, the less depth; for example, if a bench/counter were chest high the
depth couldn't be much more than the length of your arm from armpit to
kitchen counter, 36" high, 25" wide
lavatory, 30-32" high, 16-24" wide
desk, 28-30" high, 24-36" wide
I find 36" too low for kitchen counters, made all of ours 37 1/2. I'm
5'8", wife is 5'2" and that height is good for both of us.
Lavatories of 30-32" high are an abomination IMO, made ours 37 1/2 too.
We no longer have to bend but the bowl needs to be as far forward as
All my shop work tables/benches are also 37 1/2. Like you, I have a
table against a wall; it is 24" deep, 72" wide and has 3 tiers of drawers;
all drawers on the same level are the same height so I can pull out drawers
and stash stuff on them temporarily...freshly painted boards, for example.
I also have two tables that are 37 1/2 x 48 x 12. Each has provision
for storing clamps. I do most of my work on them, all my assembly. Each is
on casters so I can move them to have a 12 x 96 or 48 x 48 contiguous
surface. I can also move them to use them in conjunction with other
Next time I make a pair, I'm going to rig a way to vary the height of the
working surface...perhaps just by flopping the table 90 degrees, perhaps by
having the tops adjustable vertically. Probably the latter. In either
case, I'll have to build something else for clamps, been meaning to do it
I have a couple of pieces of low loop commercial carpet that I put on the
tables when sanding; helps keep stuff from slipping and also from being
dented by a wood chip or any other way. The next tables will also
incorporate a roller under the top to store the pieces of carpet. There
will also be rollers for pieces of visqueen so I can cover the laminate tops
My workbench is based on an idea in Popular Science or maybe Popular
Mechanics from the early 60s. It is 37" high, and 48 inches square, unusual
I know, but it gives me 4 sides that I can work on, and a lot of bench room
for bulky stuff. Under it are 2 banks of drawers and 2 cupboards with 4 sets
of shelves between the drawers and cupboards. There is also 4 electric
outlets, one on each side. It has worked well for me for 35 years. It knocks
down for moving so it will fit through a door.
In "Record's" book on planes etc., (I wish I had the original but it was
borrowed from the library and bits photocopied) it recomends a height of
2'6" to 2'8" depending on the worker. It really depends on what you find
comfortable. I am 5'8" and my bench is 2'8", I find it a comfortable
Front to back they recomend 2' minimum, 2'9" a "useful" width.
The front board of the top should be of 2 to 2.1/2" well seasoned Birch or
Beech, 12" or so wide. The back part of the top, which forms the well, can
be of red deal 1" thick.
Huh! I've heard the term before, once or twice, but never found out
what it is until now. Thanks.
Pineywood is pineywood to me.
Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace.
-- Robert J. Sawyer
I've found my table saw height to be quite effective for a bench (it's
really an infeed table that gets used as a bench...)
Reach in distance should be no more than 30". If you've got an old door
available, you could mock up a bench using that.
I'll tell you what I have. Free standing bench, access from all
sides, can walk completely around it. 2 feet and one half inch wide.
7 feet and two inches long. 38 inches high. Bit high for hand
planing. Good for power tool work since the work is up in the air.
Haven't put the drawers underneath yet.
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