The height of a workbench seems to be one of the first things people ask about when building a bench. The fact is, there’s really no one height that works best for everyone. And that’s because whatever distance you put between the floor and your workbench top should be custom tailored to fit your particular body height and the type of work you plan to do there. More on that later. But first let’s take a look at why you should even care about such things.
Does Bench Height Really Make a Difference?
Any kind of manual work puts stress on the body. Nothing wrong with that, really, if it includes a healthy mix of moving, stretching, pulling, and pushing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen while standing in front of a workbench, where we can easily spend hours going through the same motions over and over. Of course, the most common hazard from this kind of repetition is lower back pain, which usually comes from working on a bench that is too low. So what’s the solution?
The best way to avoid back problems working at your bench is to design your bench to fit your body height and the type of work you plan to do there. First, let’s talk about body height.
Match Workbench Height to Your Body Height
The basic rule of thumb is that for most basic types of woodworking you might do at a bench (like joinery, construction, etc.) it’s best to set the top of your bench to be even with the bottom edge of your shirt cuff. This will give you nice, workable surface for most of the jobs you’ll bring to a bench.
Setting Workbench Height to Specific Jobs
While the shirt-cuff rule of thumb works great for most work I bring to my bench, there are some jobs that are better suited for a higher (or lower) bench top. For example, when I’m sanding project, I like the top of my bench to be a little lower. This lets me use the weight of my arms and shoulders to help do the work. I’ve found that dropping the height just 6” below my cuff makes a big difference with these types of jobs.
On the other hand, if I’m using a bench primarily assembling a project or making repairs, I like the bench top be a little higher. Setting my bench top just 6″ above my shirt cuff keeps me from having to bend over my work, and just make it easier to see what I’m doing.
If you’re looking for workbench plans, I have a nice downloadable guidebook at my website that will take you through all the steps we’ve talked about here, plus show you a very easy way to build a bench for the garage or basement using simple 2x4s and plywood.
This is one of the strongest and most durable bench designs I’ve seen, and the best part is that it doesn’t require a lot of building skills or expensive tools to bring it together.