A comfortable and supportive workbench height is the dream of every woodworker. It makes your work easier, reduces the risk of accidents, and helps you complete projects without joint pains.
Unfortunately, setting your own workbench height is often difficult because you may need a different worktable height for hand tools, like planers, and power tools, like table saws and grinders.
Also, you must consider your height. We’ve prepared this guide so you know the best workbench height for you.
How Tall Should a Workbench Be?
The standard workbench height is 34 inches to 36 inches (86 cm to 91 cm). Any height within this range provides a comfortable and safe bench for the average person (5 feet 7.5 inches/171 cm for men). However, the ideal workbench height varies, depending on the individual’s physique and the type of work.
Benefits of Setting the Right Workbench Height
The workshop bench height is one of those things you only remember when you’re suffering on the job. Indeed, many woodworkers only remember it after they’re diagnosed with back and joint aches.
The following are two reasons you must take it seriously from the onset;
1. Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)
Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are the biggest danger of an inappropriate workbench height.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), work-related MSDs are injuries of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, ligaments, cartilage, and spinal discs, which the work environment and job type contribute to significantly.
Why are WSDs important? The following are a few reasons to take them seriously;
- MSDs are the biggest contributor to lost-time injuries and illnesses in nearly every industry, including woodworking.
- MSDs are among the most costly occupational health and safety problems.
- MSDs may cause a great deal of pain and discomfort among the affected worker.
- They reduce worker productivity. Also, they reduce the quality of work and services rendered.
- MSDs can lead to worse medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and renal disease.
Fortunately, many government-sponsored health and wellness programs have put more emphasis on the issue to avert potential risks.
For instance, the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOHS) requires employers to proactively keep an eye on employees for signs of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs).
2. The impact on worker performance
A comfortable workplace design is a powerful tool for supporting and enhancing employee performance. If you’re in doubt, consider the popular workplace performance equation. It states as follows;
Performance = Ability x Motivation x Opportunity
Unsurprisingly, workbench height affects all three parameters.
The desk or workbench height directly impacts worker ability as the right height provides a comfortable and ambient working environment. According to various studies, a comfortable work environment increases worker performance by 14% to 25%.
The increased performance is also the result of a greater sense of control.
Few things are more important than motivation in the workplace. A motivated employee is willing to do anything to help the company succeed. They are even willing to put in more hours.
That’s exactly what a comfortable work environment does- it boosts worker morale. Therefore, the employee might be willing to work a few extra hours per week.
Finally, desk height directly affects opportunity. For instance, the right workbench height makes tool access easier.
Therefore, the worker spends less time reaching for tools and more time doing impactful work. Similarly, by removing safety risks and reassuring users of their health and well-being, you increase the project’s appeal.
How to Determine the Perfect Workbench Height for Yourself
Unfortunately, choosing the right workbench height isn’t as straightforward as you’d wish. The following considerations should help you choose the ideal height.
Determine the most common woodworking projects you work on
Not all woodworking projects are the same. For instance, some carpenters make doors and door frames, while others specialize in tiny musical instruments.
Also, while others work on kids’ toys, others work on high-end wooden bangles. You need different workbench heights for each project type.
Generally, a higher bench height will serve you better if you work on fine projects, such as musical instruments. A taller bench brings the project closer to your eyes for closer inspection and greater accuracy.
On the other hand, a lower workbench is ideal for heavy woodworking projects with multiple joints and thickness adjustments. Why? Because you must exert upper body weight on the project to get the best results.
What if you do both types of work? In that case, consider a height-adjustable bench so you can set a different bench height for each project. Alternatively, get two workbenches with different heights.
Your projects will also determine the material to use in your workbench. For me, wooden workbench tops work perfectly well.
Measure your physical height
Besides the type of work, you must consider your physical stature. This often gives a comfortable bench height that allows you to work without straining.
Consider the following three approaches;
- Option A: Stand straight on the floor and allow your arms to hang on your sides. Then ask a buddy to measure the distance from the floor to the crease of your wrist. This method gives the perfect bench height for regular projects.
- Option B: Stand straight on the workshop floor, with your arms on your sides, and your fingers pointed downward. Then measure the distance from the floor to the tip of your middle finger. This method gives the best height for a short workshop bench.
- Option C: Stand straight on the workshop floor with your hands on your sides and bend your arms at the elbows at 90 degrees. Then let a friend measure the distance from the floor to where your hands sit in this position. This method gives the perfect height for a tall workbench.
Consider adjustable-height workbenches
Height-adjustable workbenches, also known as adjustable workbenches, are workshop benches that allow the user to increase or lower the work surface height for a safer, more ergonomic, and comfortable working position.
You have several options to pick from, including the following;
- Hand-crank adjustable workbenches: These benches come in many forms. However, they share a common feature – a hand crank that allows the user to adjust the height of the working surface manually. The best part is that most hand-crank workbenches can cover the most common workbench heights, from low to tall settings. So, you don’t need to worry about your physical height or the type of project when purchasing one.
- Plain adjustable workbenches: Plain adjustable workbenches are slightly different from hand-crank systems. Each of the legs is attached to a leg rest via two pins. But more importantly, you can slide the legs up or down the leg rests to change the table height. Affix the attaching pins after adjusting the bench height to create a stable working surface.
- Optional/adjustable legs: A few workbenches feature removable legs for height adjustment. The type, shape, and material of the legs vary. But the working mechanism is the same – the average-sized bench attaches to optional wheels to raise the bench height. Most wheel systems can raise the bench height by 3-4 inches.
Follow industry best practices
Finally, if it’s your first time grappling with the bench height issue, stick with industry guidelines.
For instance, according to Wood Magazine, the standard height of 34 inches matches most table saw heights, allowing woodworkers to use the workbench as an outfeed support.
Meanwhile, hand tools users prefer 1-2-inch lower workbenches to provide more leverage for hand planning and chiselling. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that “workbenches should be set at a level at which the worker remains in a comfortable, upright position.
Finally, Lowe’s, which carries many prefabricated workbenches designed in line with federal and internal health and safety standards, says that “most garage and table workbenches range from 28 inches to 38 inches tall. However, it clarifies that “everyone’s measurements vary.”
Standard Workbench Heights for Medium-Sized Workbench
Now we know how to determine the right-height woodworking bench height. But what if you’re in a hurry, with no time to measure your height or read industry standards?
In that case, follow the below basic guideline.
The Best Workbench Height for an Average Sized Workbench is 34-37 Inches
The average-height workbench is 34-36 inches. This is the standard choice for regular woodworkers.
The height works for all types of woodworking projects and all physiques. For instance, the average human can use hand planers and chisels on a 34-36-inch tall workbench without any joint pains.
Similarly, you can handle precision projects on the bench without straining or compromising on quality. Standard-size workbench heights are very popular where space is limited.
Also, they are the way to go if you cannot accommodate more than one workbench in the workshop. Finally, many woodworkers prefer to have one main workbench for greater organization. In such cases, standard-height benches are the practical choice.
However, this workbench height isn’t without drawbacks. For instance, suppose you need to apply a bit more pressure on your project.
The average-height workbench may limit your abilities. Therefore, you may need to stand a bit taller (on your toes) or find a raised platform to boost your height.
Similarly, standard-size workbenches often feel too low for detailed work. Strangely, even a one-inch difference makes a big impact. You may feel a little uncomfortable and may even experience a few back pains.
The Best Low Workbench Height is 29-30 Inches
A few woodworkers prefer a lower workbench. This is especially true among woodworkers who love to lean over on the workbench with their legs apart.
Moreover, this posture allows you to exert extra pressure on the woodworking project. Therefore, it’s perfect if your work involves lots of joints or thick lumber. Consider a bench height between 29 and 30 inches.
You should also consider a lower bench if you’re a little shorter. This can make a big difference because a standard-size bench may be too tall for you. A tall bench makes it impossible to handle jobs requiring a bit of arm strength.
In this case, you may want to speak with the supplier to determine the right bench height for your stature. Although 29-30 inches is the “standard” low height, you may need a lower height depending on your stature.
But remember that an extremely low bench height poses various challenges. For example, a short bench is the main cause of MSDs.
Why? Because it forces you to bend a lot during work.
Bending too much during work can cause hip and neck pains. It can also cause back pains. Unfortunately, these problems tend to worsen with time.
The Best Workbench Height for Tall Workbench is 37-39 Inches
A 37-39-inch height is sufficient for a tall workbench height. However, you may need a taller bench, depending on your height.
In addition, you should consider a taller workbench for detailed projects, such as dovetail joints and etching projects. A taller bench brings the project closer to your eyes for greater accuracy.
Otherwise, you may be forced to bend too much, increasing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. You’ll also want a tall workbench if you use power tools for finishing touches.
For instance, suppose you use power drills to join various pieces. A slightly taller workbench allows you to complete such projects without bending.
More importantly, you can stand upright and rest your arms on the working surface for maximum comfort.
Best Workbench Heights for Various Woodworking Projects
Let’s now look at the best workbench heights for various woodworking projects, including hand-tool jobs and detailed woodworking.
Best workbench height for hand tools
The best workbench height for hand tools is 30-34 inches. This is lower than the average bench height. However, it works perfectly for hand tools because we naturally lean into the bench when using hand tools.
Moreover, a slightly lower height allows you to use your upper body to put extra weight on the tool for faster performance.
But be warned that an extremely low workbench increases the risk of work-related musculoskeletal injuries, including spinal cord damage. Therefore, you should consider your height. An adjustable bench is a good option if you use power and hand tools.
Best workbench height for precision work
The best workbench height for precision or detailed work is 36-39 inches. Again, this is way too tall for standard projects. You would seriously strain to reach the project, let alone put weight on joints.
However, it’s the perfect height for detailed projects because it allows you to use your tools easily while maintaining a comfortable posture.
Productivity is another major problem when handling precision projects on a low bench. You may concentrate for the first several minutes.
However, the body eventually gives in to the continued bending, affecting your concentration. As a result, you may work less than usual or make more mistakes.
Best workbench height for light vs heavy work
The best workbench height for light woodworking projects is 36 inches, equivalent to 90 cm. These include assembling and processing workpieces.
For instance, if your work mainly involves resizing boards using a circular saw or mitre saw, you should consider a 36-inch workshop bench. Meanwhile, the best bench height for heavy work is 31 inches, equivalent to 80 cm.
Heavy tasks include assembling door frames and planing rough cut boards from the sawmill. A lower bench height allows you to exert more weight on the project to handle heavier projects more easily.
Comparing Adjustable, Certified, and Custom Workbenches
Adjustable, certified, and custom models are the three best options when shopping for a good-height workbench today. But what’s the difference, and which one is the best option?
Benefits of certified workbenches and tables
Certified workshop benches are approved by at least one recognized organization. For instance, a few workbenches feature a certification plate from the top brands.
The main advantage of certified benches is ergonomics. These benches are designed in line with workplace health and wellness guidelines to ensure efficiency, comfort, and productivity.
They also increase flexibility, allowing the user to reach tools easily. Additionally, certified workbenches often come with valuable guarantees and warranties.
For instance, the manufacturer may guarantee complete comfort and even accept exchanges if the first bench doesn’t suit your needs. Also, the manufacturer may offer repairs or parts replacements if something fails during the covered period.
Benefits of adjustable workbenches
An adjustable workbench features mechanisms to raise or lower the workbench height without too much effort. For instance, some feature a switch that automatically raises the bench height.
You can also raise or lower the height as little or as much as you wish. The main benefit of here is convenience. You can set the perfect working height without breaking a sweat.
Also, an adjustable workbench allows you to tackle any project, from fine woodworking jobs to heavy joinery work. So, they’re a great choice if you’re not a specialist.
However, beware that adjustable-height benches are not necessarily ergonomic. For instance, whereas ergonomic workbench accounts for your weight, age, and height, adjustable benches are universal sizes designed to fit everyone.
The benefits of custom workbench table designs
A custom bench is arguably the best option because it is designed to suit your physical stature and daily routines. It may include handy storage mechanisms to increase flexibility and productivity.
But more importantly, you can request an ergonomic bench for maximum comfort. For instance, if you already have back pains, the designer can include features to ensure a more comfortable day at work.
Similarly, the manufacturer can design the workbench to fit in with the rest of the equipment in your workshop for greater space utilization and safety.
Unfortunately, custom workbenches are the most expensive on this list. You may pay up to twice the price of a standardized workbench.
Also read: How to Finish a Workbench Top.
What is the best height for a workbench?
The most common workbench height in professional and DIY circles is 34 inches to 36 inches, translating to 86 cm to 91 cm. This explains why standard table saws are 34 inches tall. Alternatively, an adjustable-height workbench allows you to lower or raise the bench height to match your project needs.
What is the average height of a shop bench?
The standard height for shop benches is 34 inches, though any height between 34 and 36 inches is acceptable. A customized bench height is a good alternative. However, avoid overly short or tall benches as they are uncomfortable, increase project inefficiencies, and pose various safety and health risks.
Does my workbench need to be level?
Yes, it’s critical to have a level workbench, so your tools and materials don’t roll to the ground. Contrastingly, a wobbly or sloping workbench will send your expensive power and hand tools clattering on the floor, costing you hundreds or a few thousand dollars in losses. Worse still, falling tools can cause severe injuries.
Quick question: Do you know the feet and inches symbol for woodworking?
A standard workshop bench is 34 inches to 36 inches tall. This is the optimal height for the average-sized human and the perfect setting for regular woodworking projects.
However, you may benefit from a shorter or taller workbench, depending on the project type and your physique. Alternatively, consider a customized or adjustable bench.