Discussions about the proper height for a workbench always crack me up because they are usually myopic in the extreme.
When you look at workbenches across long periods of time and across cultures, there is a lot more diversity. Roman workbenches, for example, were about knee high. And lest you think that bench went out of style with togas and public baths, think again.
These sorts of benches have never gone away. Check out the 20th-century benches in A. Viires’ “Woodworking in Estonia” or the Mexican bench (above) that reader Lloyd Parker sent me this week from his visit to a coffee plantation.
These benches do all the things that your skyscraper-y bench does. You can work on faces, edges and ends of boards. There are stops. Vises. The only major difference is that you are the holdfast.
And don’t assume these benches were for only crude or green woodworking. A quick survey of the book “Roman Woodworking” by Roger B. Ulrich will change your mind about what is possible on a very low bench.
And don’t even get me started on Chinese workbenches.
— Christopher Schwarz
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