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Adjustable Height WorkBench - EXACTLY HOW IT WORKS

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Blog entry by CharlieK posted 12-31-2017 12:10 AM 2461 reads 3 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

An Adjustable Height Odyssey – Why I built this workbench, and HOW IT WORKS
Charlie Kocourek

How it All Started
I had a few problems with my first workbench. It was too low for carving or for detail work, it was too high for assembly, it was also too high to sit behind my table saw, and it was difficult to move around. It was anything but ergonomic!

After some thought, I concluded that an Adjustable Height Workbench could solve all of these problems. I then searched the internet to find one. The only option I found was unacceptable to me because it was slow and difficult to actually adjust the height. I decided to design and build one myself, and so my journey began.

The first thing I did was to set some criteria; the things that this new bench must have to make it worth the effort.

Here is what I came up with:
  • Bulleted list
    • First and foremost, it must be a REAL workbench. I wanted an end vise, dog holes, and a nice quick release face vise.
    • It would have to have at least 12” of height adjustability to make it worthwhile.
    • It had to be as solid as possible. I would no longer tolerate a bench that moved around while I was working
    • It had to be EASY TO USE! I know myself enough to know that if it took more than a few seconds to adjust the height that I would just continue to work in an awkward position until my back gave out. Others might say it’s because I am too lazy, I prefer to think of it as efficiency, as in “I can’t waste the time…”.
    • It had to be mobile. My shop is small and I have to be able to move things around. And, moving it had to be easy! (see above about laziness, um, I mean efficiency!)

The Design

I had no idea what the bench would look like, but I was determined to meet all of my criteria. I gave this a LOT of thought, in fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. My mind went from one idea to another and it kept me up at night, literally. I researched workbenches, I read books and asked other woodworkers what they thought the perfect workbench would look like.

I read books by Scott Landis, Lon Schelling, and Christopher Schwarz. Chris Schwarz’s book is quite good, but it had too narrow of a focus for what I wanted. The Lon Schelling and Scott Landis books are quite similar, but my favorite of the three was The Workbench Book by Scott Landis. The reason I liked this one the best is because he was not stuck on any one particular design. He did not try to say that any one work bench design was best for everyone. What he did instead was to show all sorts of different workbenches and explain their benefits.

After all the research and all the time working on it I finally got a design in my head, but I had to make a cardboard model to see how it would actually go together.

I worked with the model and developed the design until it perfectly met all of my criteria; solid, functional, mobile, ergonomic, easy to operate, and plenty of adjust-ability! What I came up with is a bench with rectangular legs that slide past each other. Some people would describe the legs as “telescoping”. These two sets of legs are held in place with some ordinary pipe clamps. I simply loosen the clamps and adjust the jack to change the bench height. When the bench top is where I want it, I snug up the clamps and the bench is as solid as a rock!

You will notice in the drawing below that there are two scissors jacks. The primary jack adjusts the height of the bench top and the other one lifts the entire bench up on to a cart that is nested below the bench.

I removed a few parts from this drawing to show how it works

Actually, if you look closely you will notice that the design in the drawings is slightly different than the design of the bench in the photo. The difference is that the first design, the one in the photo above, has one stretcher and the upper set of pipe clamps go through the inside of the base. On the second, improved design, there are four stretchers and the pipe clamps are concealed inside of them. The revised design is much easier to build than the original one.

I am proud to say that over the years I have sold over 1000 sets of plans for my bench design. Below is a photo of the Jack Bench that Serge Lachapelle built from a set of my workbench plans. You can see many more photos of completed Adjustable Height Benches at the Photo Gallery on my website.

The bench top includes everything I wanted, a quick release face vise, bench dogs, and a twin screw vise that doubles as an end vise for the bench dogs

I am thrilled with how the design turned out, but I would like to hear what you think about it.

Thanks,
Charlie

-- Adjustable Height Workbench Plans http://www.Jack-Bench.com



7 comments so far

View doubleDD's profile

doubleDD

7648 posts in 2163 days


#1 posted 12-31-2017 01:36 PM

The adjustability on this is sweet. Makes for a very versatile bench. Most of us will keep with our standard bench and suffer. This is the way to go.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View stefang's profile

stefang

15881 posts in 3454 days


#2 posted 01-01-2018 06:49 PM

While I don’t feel the need for an adjustable height workbench myself, I’m sure many others would benefit from having one. I think your design is ingenious and straight forward, which would allow most anyone with basic woodworking skills to build one. Five out of five stars for this one Charlie!

I noted that you had read several workbench books. I have ‘The Workbench Book’ by Langdon and I have built several accessory fixtures for my own shop-made bench taken from that book. I still like to read it occasionally. My son kids me about finding such a book interesting, but in fact it certainly is, even just for the historical content, not to mention all the great bench designs and ideas one finds in there. I found it surprisingly entertaining.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View a1Jim's profile (online now)

a1Jim

117203 posts in 3697 days


#3 posted 01-01-2018 07:38 PM

That’s amazing amount of planning and design elements you worked out Charlie your bench looks very functional and sturdy and the adjustable aspect I’m sure helps your kind of work out immensely.
I’ve never had a dedicated woodworking bench only a work table with vices so I miss out on having bench dogs to help clamp things down. Congrats on a very fine build.

-- https://www.artisticwoodstudio.com/videos wood crafting & woodworking classes

View CharlieK's profile

CharlieK

556 posts in 3913 days


#4 posted 01-01-2018 08:39 PM



The adjustability on this is sweet. Makes for a very versatile bench. Most of us will keep with our standard bench and suffer. This is the way to go.

- doubleDD

Thanks Dave!

-- Adjustable Height Workbench Plans http://www.Jack-Bench.com

View CharlieK's profile

CharlieK

556 posts in 3913 days


#5 posted 01-01-2018 08:41 PM



While I don t feel the need for an adjustable height workbench myself, I m sure many others would benefit from having one. I think your design is ingenious and straight forward, which would allow most anyone with basic woodworking skills to build one. Five out of five stars for this one Charlie!

I noted that you had read several workbench books. I have The Workbench Book by Langdon and I have built several accessory fixtures for my own shop-made bench taken from that book. I still like to read it occasionally. My son kids me about finding such a book interesting, but in fact it certainly is, even just for the historical content, not to mention all the great bench designs and ideas one finds in there. I found it surprisingly entertaining.

- stefang

Thanks Mike! Some people kid me about being obsessed with workbenches; apparently not everyone shares our interest in design and functionality!

-- Adjustable Height Workbench Plans http://www.Jack-Bench.com

View CharlieK's profile

CharlieK

556 posts in 3913 days


#6 posted 01-01-2018 08:43 PM



That s amazing amount of planning and design elements you worked out Charlie your bench looks very functional and sturdy and the adjustable aspect I m sure helps your kind of work out immensely.
I ve never had a dedicated woodworking bench only a work table with vices so I miss out on having bench dogs to help clamp things down. Congrats on a very fine build.

- a1Jim

Thanks Jim! I find the adjust-ability very handy and I use it more often than even I would have expected.

-- Adjustable Height Workbench Plans http://www.Jack-Bench.com

View NormG's profile

NormG

6234 posts in 3124 days


#7 posted 01-03-2018 11:47 PM

Well done, well thought out, sure does have the ease of use you wanted and you did a great job on this project. Congrats

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

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