A common question that arises is what is the best height for a garage workbench.
The answer to this question largely depends on your individual circumstances and needs.
For instance, if you are taller or have more experience working with tools, you may prefer an elevated work surface where you can stand up while working.
However, if you are shorter or less experienced, then the best height for a garage workbench might be lower so that it matches your eye level and arm’s length when standing next to it.
What is the best height for a garage workbench?
When it comes to garage workbenches, the bigger the better. Remember that a garage workbench is not just a place to store your tools when they are not in use. It’s also a platform for performing maintenance and repair tasks on your car, truck, or motorcycle. So if you want a high-quality work surface with plenty of storage space you need to make sure that you have enough room.
Standard kitchen countertops sit at 36 inches above the floor while standard desktops are 28-30 inches tall.
The typical dining table sits at 30-32 inches which is about right for most people seated on a barstool or dining chair.
As a general rule, you want to select a workbench height that will allow your arms to hang comfortably at your side when reaching out towards the bench.
You should also make sure that there is enough room between the underside of the work surface and the ground as well as between your legs and any drawers or shelves below to accommodate for tasks such as storing tools, oil jugs, and other items.
In addition to considering these factors before purchasing a garage workbench.
You may need to clear out some space in order to accommodate a larger unit depending on the amount of available floor space in your garage.
Always remember that it’s better to have too much storage space than not enough so if you have some extra money left over after upgrading for a home for car projects, don’t be afraid to invest in a bigger garage workbench.
Other factors that you should consider are the width of your unit which makes it easier to move tools between drawers and shelves as well as the weight capacity of your garage workbench.
Keep in mind that different people have different needs so the workbench height may not always be adjustable.
But even if it is, changing it yourself can sometimes be difficult depending on what you have underneath, whether you’re installing over an existing surface or working with limited tools at home. It’s often easier to buy one that fits correctly from the beginning rather than swap it out after everything else has been completed.
What Is The Best Height For a Garage Workbench?
FAQs: What is a good size for a garage workbench?
1. How thick should the top of a workbench be? How wide should the aprons be? How many vises does a workbench require?
The top of a woodworker’s workbench is usually made of laminated hardwood; beech, maple, oak or ash. You may want to start with a three-inch thick top that can cost $1,000 and go up.
In my last article, I showed how to build a traditional Roubo-style bench from rough lumber. I left out most of the details, but with the plans in that article you can build your own bench very cheaply, and with just a little more time and effort you can have a bench that will serve you for years and years without requiring any maintenance at all.
But if you want to take your hand-tool woodworking skills to the next level, then there are two things that must be done:
The first is up to me. You’ll have to wait until I finish writing my book on workbenches. It is coming along nicely but is taking more time than I expected.
I hope to finish it within a few weeks and then I can get back to workbench articles, videos, and seminars.
The second thing you must do is build the ultimate tail vise for your new bench.
2. How much overhang should a workbench top have??
Though this benchtop has a maximum overhang of 2-1/2″ (64mm), the legs are made to overhang the benchtop by an additional 4-3/4″ (121mm).
In this case, it would have been a simple matter to have extended these legs even farther so that they could support a much larger overhanging top.
This bench has a maximum overhang of 4″ (102mm).
The dog holes extend up through the top and into the leg tenons. I’m not sure if you noticed but the front vise chop is actually 3/8″ past flush with the front edge of the leg. I’ll talk more about this later.
In this case, as in many benches found at flea markets or for sale on Craigslist, the maximum overhang of a benchtop is determined by the length of the vises used to hold it down. In this case, I’d personally be looking for a different kind of bench.
What Is The Best Height For a Garage Workbench?
3. Does a workbench need aprons??
Every workbench needs an apron around the top, to provide something for you to clamp your work against. If your bench does not have one built-in, it is an easy task to add one.
Having aprons means you can utilize clamps anywhere on your work surface and not be restricted to the ends only.
Also having a strip of wood running down the front edge gives greater stability and prevents any movement in the bench when sawing or planning.
When attached along both sides and at both front corners, thick hardwood aprons will prevent unintentional lateral movement when planing or sawing. The tongue & groove joint provides maximum strength; no other joints that I know of will provide this type of strength in a woodworking application.
When installed at the front and rear corners, an apron will prevent racking of the bench’s top even when using heavy vises or lots of clamps.
The presence of an apron allows you to use your bench as a workbench rather than just another shelf. If you get tired of looking at it, aprons provide endless opportunities for customization and creative expression. Just look at some of these examples we’ve created on our Facebook Page
How To Wear Aprons Effectively:
There are several ways to wear aprons depending on their length and how they’re attached to the bench. If you have relatively short aprons (i.e. 18″ or less), they should be attached only around the front and rear corners of your benchtop, as shown below:
If you’re working on a very large bench (i.e. 36″ wide) that has three aprons, then an additional angle brace can be added at the midpoint between the two middle aprons, as shown below:
The use of angle braces like this is an industry-standard method for preventing racking and provides much greater support than having short aprons alone; however, it does take up space along your workbench’s width and therefore reduces its utility somewhat.
I would recommend using them if you have exceptionally long aprons on a very deep bench – but if not, it probably isn’t worth the effort.
How To Attach Aprons:
There are 3 main methods commonly used for apron attachment to a workbench top, as shown below:
Method #1 – Through tenons inserted into mortises cut in the benchtop.
As you can see from the picture above, this method allows for maximum material strength and provides greater rigidity than most other options.
However, it does require very careful attention to detail when cutting your mortise-and-tenon joints because if they’re too loose, movement will occur during usage. There is no margin for error here – either your joints fit perfectly or they don’t – choose wisely!
Method #2 – Tongue & groove joint drilled into bench top’s front surface.
This method is the least usual and provides moderate strength in comparison to the other methods. However, it does have a distinct advantage in that it allows two aprons to remain attached in a vertical position, generating a much greater work surface when clamping larger objects.
There are several ways to drill the tongue & groove joint – here’s one example:
Method #3 – Through mortise and tenons at the ends only.
This method is very popular with do-it-yourselfers because you can purchase “pre-made” rails from any hardware store to suit your bench width, then simply screw them into place using butt joints that provide an adequate amount of support when clamped between opposite through tenons or angle braces.
When installing this type of apron, it’s important to ensure the ends are seated firmly in place and that they extend far enough front-to-back (at least 4″ in my opinion) in order to prevent unwanted movement during usage.
Although this method is quick and easy to install, its support strength is not nearly as high as when permanent mortise & tenon joints are used throughout the entire length of the aprons.
This method works best on workbenches that have very short aprons with no mid-apron brace such as those found on Roubo benches
What Is The Best Height For a Garage Workbench? (Cre: woodmagazine)
3. How flat should a workbench be??
I was recently asked that question by a student, and it got me thinking about the folklore surrounding this topic. For some reason, many woodworkers believe our benches should be dead flat. But is this really true? And what does ‘flat’ mean anyway?
Perhaps it’s significant that no one knows who first said: “measure twice, cut once.”
The quote has become famous because it gets at the heart of what separates successful woodworkers from those who struggle.
They’re willing to think through problems before acting; they don’t let their desire for immediate gratification get in the way of making smart decisions; they don’t panic when things go wrong or go off track.
It’s not just about safety (though there are fewer serious injuries in woodworking than you might expect), it’s more about the fact that thoughtfulness and a willingness to plan translates into better work.
Without a doubt, a massive bench on a massive bench is a luxury for those who have the space and budget for it. But from another point of view, this style of bench is just as limiting as having no workbench at all.
Sometimes you need to move around your tools, freely position your body relative to your bench, or simply get up from your bench without worrying about bonking your forehead on something overhead (I’ve done that).
And if someone else needs to use the room where you’re working (and believe me, they will), then not only do they benefit from having some elbow room but they won’t be left wondering whether you’re all the way under your bench until after they’ve already walked into it.
I used to think that bench height was more important than bench shape, but I now see that both are crucial. A workbench should be high enough so that you don’t have to stoop over to hold your tools, yet low enough so that your face isn’t far above the bench when you’re planing upwards (a common cause of planners neck).
It should not be so short as to tempt you into hunching forward or reach-arounds; nor should it be taller than necessary for good work.
And I think the same is true of flatness….not just ‘dead flat’ which can sound like ‘completely flat,’ but you really should aim for ‘dead flat.’ Of course, your bench should be dead flat.
It’s also important to have a good tail vise because it will help keep the work on your bench when you’re planing boards diagonally or otherwise at an angle that might tend to tip them off the front edge of the top. That means that your tail vise needs to reach down far enough beyond the base of the legs so that you have room to clamp across both faces of aboard.
But even if you do get yourself a workbench with this feature, don’t expect miracles right away. The hardware is only part of what makes this happen; equally important are proper positioning and clamping techniques.
What Is The Best Height For a Garage Workbench? (cre: ronaldphillipsantiques)
4. What is the difference between a bench plane and a smoothing plane??
A bench plane is a general-purpose tool that can be used to smooth the surface of aboard. A smoothing plane is specifically designed for producing surfaces that are as free from blemishes as possible.
The cutting angle on most bench planes is 45 degrees, which will leave behind a coarse finish.
Smoothing planes have lower cutting angles, generally around 30 degrees, making them better at producing fine finishes.
There are also smoothers with even lower cutting angles, down to 20° or so, but these are extremely specialized tools and not often found in the average woodworker’s arsenal.
Additionally, some types of bench planes (like shoulder planes) can be used for surfacing work while others (like chisels) cannot because they lack the required flat sole.
As always, there are exceptions to this rule (such as the Veritas line of planes that includes both a scrub plane and a smoother with angles closer to 45 degrees), but this is generally how these tools are classified. For more information on the bench, planes consult any of the references listed in our suggested reading section below.
You can also download our free woodworking app if you want access to over 200 articles like this one without having to come here to look them up!
What Is The Best Height For a Garage Workbench? (cre: theenglishwoodworker)
5. Is plywood good for workbench top??
Plywood is not ideal for workbench tops because…it’s plywood 🙂 If you’re short on funds and need some flat sturdy surfaces, then by all means use something that’s cheap and readily available. But don’t expect the workbench to last for more than a few months…maybe even weeks if you’re really hard on your gear.
Let’s take plywood apart first.
Plywood is basically sheets of wood glued together with alternating layers running perpendicularly (90 degrees) to each other.
If you look at that Venn diagram (see image below), you can see why plywood cannot be trusted as structural support for your bench – the tension and compression forces are not directed through the length of the wood but rather in their tangential, or perpendicular direction.
Thus, when combined with wooden posts/legs/stretchers, there is very little strength against lateral shear force.
Vertical load however is no problem because it’s a solid piece of wood running through the center.
At a workbench, you need a sturdy top so you can pound on it with tools and not have to worry about it deflecting under load.
Plywood will deflect pretty easily, which means one day you’ll go to put your vise grip on your bench somewhere along its length and hit nothing but air because your vise has fallen off the back edge of the bench!
In fact, I’ve seen this happen before to my own workbench when I was just using plywood for its flat surface. My bench now has 2x4s as rails instead for lateral stability – no more “chop falling off the edge of the table” experiences 🙂
If it’s for a temporary work surface then by all means go ahead and use plywood. It’s cheap, has a nice flat top, and is easy to work with. But don’t expect your bench to look anything like the pictures you’re looking at.
In fact, I wonder why some people bother showing diagrams of their workbench made from plywood where one would have more strength and stability by simply using 2x4s construction framing lumber?
What Is The Best Height For a Garage Workbench?
6. Does MDF make a good workbench top??
Using medium-density fibreboard (MDF) as the top surface of a workbench sounds like a good idea at first blush, but there are quite a few things to consider before jumping into this option.
Workbench tops made from MDF tend to be heavy and susceptible to warping under high humidity conditions. In addition, standard thicknesses for MDF board material are 3/4″ (~7/8″) and 1 5/8″ (~1-3/4″). Both thicknesses have their pros and cons depending upon the types of work you will be performing on your bench.
The thicker 1 5/8″ (~1-3/4″) boards can span greater distances without sagging while the thinner 3/4″ (~7/8″) material is easier to handle and less cumbersome.
Using the thicker board top on a cabinet-style workbench with legs can solve some of the sagging problems, but this design does not allow for use of the end vise which traditionally mounts between the legs.
An alternative to consider would be construction grade or select pine boards that are available at most home centers, building supply retailers, or lumber yards.
They are inexpensive–ranging from under $1.00 per linear foot for 2×3’s up to about $2.50/linear foot for 4×8’s–and look great after being planed smooth with a thickness planer. You can glue up several pieces if needed for longer spans.
The downside of this option is the availability. It can be a headache trying to find a straight, knot-free board at a building supply retailer or lumber yard that will meet your dimensions. You may have to cut the larger stock into smaller boards and you’ll end up with more waste material this way.
Another consideration when working with pine is its strength which is lower than MDF–pine tops are susceptible to denting under heavy loads.
Other materials such as white oak, maple, birch, and hardwoods like cherry and walnut can provide an attractive alternative to MDF for workbench tops.
These options will present their own challenges, however: cost (oak and maple tend to be expensive), availability (cherry and walnut are not readily available in thicknesses greater than 1/2″), and appearance (oak, maple, birch, and cherry tend to have pronounced grain patterns).
If you are considering building a garage workbench, it’s important to know what height will be most comfortable for your body. It is recommended that the bench should have a sitting surface so you can sit on it while working and this height should be about 20 inches from the ground.
A standing bench would also provide more space underneath but may not fit into some garages or storage spaces as well as a seated one would.
You’ll need to take measurements of your available space before deciding which type of design will work best for you!
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