Simple Blocks Let You Work at a Comfortable Height - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Simple Blocks Let You Work at a Comfortable Height

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

1kblocks0247There is one question in woodworking that has no correct answer. The question? How high should the top of my bench be? Any answer will only be right for certain tasks. Optimize the height for planing and it’s too low for dovetailing. Make it a comfortable height for running a router and you’ll need stilts to put furniture together.

One solution is a set of bench blocks. Mine were cobbled together from plywood about 8 or 9 years ago and I use them all the time. At left I have one stuck to the benchtop behind the board held vertically in my vise. That prevents the board from flopping back and forth and I can saw without bending and making my back hurt.

1kblocks0266It’s just a box with one open end. The exact dimensions aren’t important. If you make two or more, make sure they are all the same size. Used in pairs you can elevate an assembly a few inches above the bench. That will give you room to place clamps and can keep you from cutting into the benchtop. If you’re careful when you cut the parts, you can use them to clamp pieces together and hold them square to each other as I’m doing in the photo to the right while I mark my dovetails from my pin board.

1kblocks0259I screwed a scrap of pine to the top of one before trimming out the waste between the pins with a router. I raised the board in the vise to meet the top of the block to provide a stable platform for the router. The scrap keeps me from chewing up the edge of the block as the router exits the cut.  If I remember right, the top and bottom are about 8″ x 12″, the short side pieces are about 3″ wide and the cap on the closed end overlaps the other parts.

1kblocks_2239The open end also makes it easy to hold one or more blocks to the bench. In the photo below one clamp is able to hold both blocks to the bench with one “F-style” clamp. I screwed my miter block to the upper bench block so I could cut these little moldings at a comfortable height.

1Kblocks_2262When I put the molding around the top of the Voysey mantle clock I made for the cover of the August 2013 issue, I had just enough room behind the miter block to set the work piece. That allowed me to mark, cut and check the fit of things without stooping over or wandering all over the shop.

If you have a few minutes and a little bit of plywood, you’ll find the time spent in making a set of these blocks to be a good investment.

– Robert W. Lang

If you like what I do, and want to snap up a bargain, check out the “Building Furniture with Bob Lang” collection in our store.

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Showing 14 comments
  • Window Guy

    Thanks for sharing, this looks to be very handy and versatile shop accessory.


  • Roccocal

    When looking through the enlarged five pictures in this article I saw two other pictures of a workbench with an adjustable height top. This appears to be an all wood adjustable bench. Can you tell me more about it?

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      The only adjustable-height one I can recall of which we;ve posted pictures is the Noden Adjust-A-Bench ( Each end ratchets up and down, and can be adjusted by one person alone.

    • Robert W. Lang

      Megan beat me to it. All the pictures in this post are my “21st Century Workbench”. We have had an Adjust-A-Bench for the last 9 years or so, and it appears in articles from time to time.

      It may have confused you because I’m squatting down in one of the photos and standing in the others. That would make me an adjustable height woodworker.

      Bob Lang

  • bsrlee

    Something similar is used a lot in the film industry, if you ever on a set you will see the crew dragging crates of little box-like things – round here they are usually a flat side with 4 battens round the edges – in carefully graduated sets. They get used to chock all sorts of gear level where ‘apple boxes’ are too big.

  • Tumblewood

    Great advice, Bob! Simple enough and easy to store out of the way. I always love the most simple of remedies.

  • Dave in Ohio

    This seems to follow the logic you demonstrated a few years ago with the “Shop Box” setup. Simplicity meets versatility. Thanks for showing this.


  • Hoakie

    Looks very handy. On a side note, where did you get that long flexible neck work light in the last photo?

  • geovincent

    This is what the Moxon vise was designed to overcome.


    • Robert W. Lang

      I believe this serves the same purpose, and is a bit more versatile.

  • aschaffter

    I would build one of those if I didn’t have an adjustable height woodworking bench. It adjusts so I can work any where from a sitting to a full-upright standing position.



    • Barquester

      When my oil well comes in for sure! Till then , Lang’s box is pretty good.

  • Sawduster

    SUPER UTILITY ! Great idea and thoroughly explained and discussed. It’ll be most useful for me. Many Thanks.

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