Comfort Zone - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Comfort Zone

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

Riding to work on my motorcycle this morning got me thinking about comfort in the shop. My commute is only a half-hour long, but that is plenty of time to really get a feel for my bike and what I would need to change to make my body position more comfortable. I was thinking about this because, for the majority of my commute, the foot pegs on my bike are just a little too high – I’d say an inch or so. That may not seem like a lot, but after a long ride, my knees will let me know when I have been riding too long.

The pegs were designed to fit well for the majority of riders and riding styles. If I lowered the pegs, then they would be too low for having fun on the roads where I can’t see around the next corner. On those, you want the pegs to be high so that you can switch your weight quickly from side to side and not have the pegs scrape the road. But the majority of the roads that I travel are straight-ish and leg comfort comes into play. After a quick search on an online forum for my bike, a number of guys have come up with some clever solutions, so I know that other riders have the same concern.

The same goes for tools in the shop. The best alteration I’ve made to my large tools was adding 6″ wood blocks under my lathe. I cut an recess in the bottom to form two feet on each side and bolted the legs to the wood. Consequently, instead of bending my neck while I turned work, which could be for hours,  I now had the work at a much more comfortable position. Of course, having the work closer also makes it a lot easier to see.

But higher doesn’t necessarily mean better. Earlier, I was sanding another prototype for a foot for my bench. It was a variation of a cabriole leg. Our portable oscillating sander was on top of a router table and I only needed it for a couple of minutes. While it was great to have the work really close, if I had to do a lot of sanding, the height would not have worked. My forearms hit the table and I would have been lifting my arms unnecessarily high, eventually producing shoulder and neck strain.

– Ajax Alexandre

If you are interested in making cabriole legs, click here for the great DVD “Cabriole Legs Simplified with Charles Bender” at

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Showing 7 comments
  • donwilliams

    The point comfortability is no small consideration, and of course it varies widely between folks. For example, the conventional wisdom for bench height is somewhere around the bottom of a closed fist with your arms hanging loose at your sides. That height eventually (actually rapidly) results in agony for me. instead I prefer a working height almost a foot higher.

    that’s what makes skilled artisanry so fun. sure you must learn the fundamental vocabulary, but after that the poetry is all up to you.

  • Pkorman1

    I ride a 450 KTM and in the dirt bike world we use a taller seat. Strap on a thick foam pad for commuting and remove it for sport riding. Is this a woodworking blog? I’m not surprised that many of us ride too! Another individual pastime whose strong suit is hand eye coordination.

  • archangel

    Honda makes some amazing bikes. VFR is crazy fast. I ride an ’00 BMW r1200C cruiser.
    Beautiful bike, but can’t transport much lumber though 🙁

    • Ajax Alexandre

      Yeah, that’s the only drawback of a bike. I need to plan my week accordingly. I’ll try to drop off lumber to the shop on a Sunday. I have some nice side cases mounted to my bike, though, so at least I can carry some small items.

  • Andrew Yang

    I had a great RZ350 for a couple years. Blue smoke and leather are my mental associations with riding. Unfortunately, it was stolen while parked next to my car. Now 3 kids, no bike.

  • archangel

    What kind of bike do you ride?

    • Ajax Alexandre

      02 VFR. How about you?

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