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Thread: Sizing Workbenches According to Jim Tolpin

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006

    Sizing Workbenches According to Jim Tolpin

    A video by Jim Tolpin on how to size your workbench based on your body, specifically your hand span. It was a good opportunity to view his new workshop again. If you remember, I was able to view it in person last summer.

    “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” - John Ruskin
    “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” - Oscar Wilde

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Very cool approach, Bill.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Not sure I am buying the coolaid Bill. Each of those hands never ended at the right point. Example bench height, but also length. Length was said to be twice height , which was half body height yet suddenly it turned out to 9 hand lengths.

    It's when we get into one "GURUS" view of woodworking equipment versus another that I start to lose interest. Better for me is just getting on with what happens on the bench.

    Sorry I think I have had my fill of all these "celebrity" woodworkers.

    I mean let's get seriously real, we have book after book on workbench design styles sizes then comes the must have vices of all sorts and types and then someone posts a video of a disabled totally handicapped person using a basic chisel and mallet and churning out woodworking with their feet.

    To me demonstrating that rather than analysis paralysis on the tools and benches we use or make we should just get to the bench and make something.

    I want my shoulders to work when I do woodworking, I want my wrists to
    move heck I want it to be a form of physical effort more so as I get older.

    Sorry for the rant but I cannot imagine a guy showing up to work in the days of guru Roubo would be told to make his own bench to suite his body dimensions. He was more likely shown to a bench and told to get stuck in and make x parts by lunchtime. And if he did not like the bench tough.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Escondido, CA
    Gees, Rob. You need a new brand of coffee! Of course you are entitled to your opinion, just as Jim is entitled to his. And me to mine. The point is there are people out there who want to read/watch his opinion and may even be willing to spend money doing it. Truth told, I'd rather be working on something on the bench rather than on the bench, but ya gotta get a bench first! And that is very subjective. I only have a particular height requirement, being vertically challenged as I am. Standing straight, I have someone measure from my elbow to the floor. I subtract 4" and that is my bench height. I can get my body into the work, like planing, without making my shoulders and neck hurt. Works for me. YMMV!

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    Carol Reed

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Good video and discussion. I guess I always look at things like Carol and building things to my height. Though I remember something about golf clubs and how most are the same length for most men, same for most women as our arm lengths usually are about the same height from the ground in proportion to our bodies. It would be interesting to experiment and see what the differences would be, but not sure I personally would be doing much of the same repetitive tasks like hand planing to ever know.

    I personally would like an adjustable height bench and be able to experiment or change on-demand the height needed.

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
    Using your body as a measure is an old boy scout trick. I still use it today, for rough measurements. My pace is 2½', my elbow to my finger tips is 18", my handspan is 9", my fist with thumb out is 6", my fist is 4", and my thumb is 2½" from the web, and 1" across. This last is where "rule of thumb" comes from, not that story about a stick for beating your wife. I use a much thicker stick.

    These are all good for rough measure, of course.
    Last edited by Roger Tulk; 04-14-2016 at 04:47 PM.

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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
    Thanks for a cool video Bill. My "Next, Next" bench was made to my proportions. My bench is deeper than some but, I either have small hands or long arms as my arm are nearly 4 hand spans measuring from the points Jim shows in the video. Who am I kidding? I've been a knuckle dragger since I about 6 years old.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

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