Howdy Folks,I may attempt to build a small worksurface on an old
wheeled microfiche reader stand I have and i’d like to know ,say-in
relation to your elbow or eyes, at what height to try to place the
surface. The stand I have is lower than a ‘regular table’. Also, most
jewelers benches have a circular section cutout and I was wondering
what size/radius this should be. I realize a ‘real’ bench may be
more practical for most but this stand has drop-down and slide-out
’leaves’ and would be easier for me to store/move aside between
projects but still allow storage of many tools and hanging a
flexshaft. I’d appreciate a little feedback if you could just sit
upright at your bench and measure straight up from the surface to eye
level. tia Carl 1 Lucky Texan
Howdy Folks,I may attempt to build a small worksurface on an old
This was a recent reminder to me so I’m going to pass it along. You
should start by fitting your chair height to your leg length and
seated posture and then adjusting your bench to the chair. We should
be either trimming bench legs down or heightening them rather than
adjusting our chairs to accomodate. There are enough physical problems
we have to deal with…
When I took my jewelry training (at Highline Community College, Des
Moines, WA) we were taught that the bench surface height and bench
pin should be even to one’s arm pit area while seated in the chair.
This allows you to sit upright while working, easing strain on the
back. My ‘cut out’ is 18" across but only about 6 1/2" deep, I don’t
recall any ‘standard’ being mentioned, just what is comfortable. Be
sure your ‘catch tray/shelf’ is low enough to allow you to use the
saw easily, but lets your knees pass comfortable. You really want
this area to be comfortable. Good luck.
Hi Carl, I should preface this by saying I’ve never worked in a
high-volume commercial environment, but I find that I am most
comfortable with my bench pin at about my solar plexus (middle of
chest). That way the work is close enough to my face that I don’t have
to bend over too much to get a good look, yet my arms can work
comfortably without a lot of stress.
Rio Grande (and other vendors) sell a wonderful, fully functional
bench for about $230. These also feature pull-out arm rests (for
stability, more than rest), sweeps drawer, etc. A really good value,
especially if you don’t have a nifty microfiche cart to start with.
As far as the semi-circular cutout at the front of the bench: You’ll
find some with really deep cutouts, and some that are more shallow…
almost straight across, about 3-4" deep. I prefer a shallower cutout
as it doesn’t make the work feel as though it’s out of reach.
I also highly recommend the GRS Benchmate system, available from a
number of vendors. Bench pin, ring clamp and it’s holder, inside ring
clamp, soldering station, etc. All mounts to a universal piece of
hardware that you install where the standalone bench pin would
normally be. Very stable, high quality and well made. If you start
using it, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without one.
All the best,
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)
Carl, A typical jewelers bench such as a John Frei custom bench
may have the dimensions of 49"wide X 26"deep X 38" tall. What
matters is your size and comfort and an adjustable chair so that you
can decide how high you need to be depending on the project you are
Marta in sweltering Sacramento
Thank you, Leda. Before you decide on your bench height, decide on the
height of your chair. Find a height that allows your back to be
straight, with your knees level or slightly lower than your hips.
This will help alleviate the chronic back pain that most jewelers
suffer due to long hours spent in one position. Get your spine
straight, and you can avoid years of pain and discomfort.
Now, consider the bench. If you do a lot of stonesetting or detailed
close-up work, having a bench top that is just below armpit height is
ideal. If you do a lot of chasing, engraving, or hammering, you may
prefer a bench top that is just above the navel. If you are setting
stones under a microscope, as many of us do, you will need to lower
your bench height to accommodate the focal length of the scope.
The radius of the cut-out also depends on what you do at the bench.
The purpose of the cut-out is to allow the end of the bench pin to be
on the same plane as the front of the bench. So, how long is your
bench pin? The GRS Benchmate pin is longer than the pin that you
insert into a slot on the front of your bench top. Also, a taller
bench may require a longer cut-out, so your hands don’t bump the top
as you work. Are you drilling a hole in the edge of the top for a
ring mandrel? If so, consider the angle that that the mandrel will be
held at, so you will not always have to adjust your body to work on a
ring. The cut-out on my bench is not an arch, but has a flat back. I
can attach 2 bench pins…
There is really NO correct height that will work for every one and
every job. My advise to someone just starting out is to not get too
attached to your first bench. Don’t rush out to purchase the
beautiful oak bench of your dreams. Start with a good quality, sturdy
bench with a decent lap tray. Make it stable, even if you have to
bolt it to the wall. Try making it taller, or shorter. Notice how
your back and neck feel. A commercially made bench, like the one you
see in the catalogs for around $200-$250, is a good place to start.
After a few years, you can always upgrade to a Frei Custom Oak bench,
or a U-shaped,custom-made high-tech Command Center.
And get a new chair, while you’re at it…
Hi, Years ago I had major neck/ shoulder pain and TMJ. The doctor
wanted me to see a chiropractor before considering surgery. The
chiropractor wanted to sign me up for 3 visits a week. The day I saw
the chiropractor, a friend who works for a large Workman’s
Compensation Insurance firm stopped by. Her job is going to work
sites where there are many claims and helping them reduce injuries.
Her advice helped me immensely. Within a week of making her suggested
adjustments 1 &1/2 years of serious pain were gone without any
chiropractic help. She said: Chair height is extremely important. Your
feet should be flat on the floor and 90=B0 to your calves, your calve=
90=B0 to your thighs, your thighs 90=B0 to your back. You don’t want y=
butt higher or lower than your knees. Now, our heads weigh 10-12
pounds, if our bench pin is too low we have all this weight
cantilevered off our spine, and this can cause major strain and
sometimes permanent damage. If our bench pin is too high we’ll be
working with our elbows above our shoulders and that is equally bad.
With her suggestions in mind, I got a good chair (what a blessing!)
and set the height of this chair properly. Then I figured my bench
pin height (I like mine to hit 1 inch below my collar bone). I raised
my bench height 4 inches. It made an outrageous difference. Before you
go out and raise your benches, consider this. For those of you using
the Benchmate System, buy the adjustable height bracket and use that
to raise or lower the bench pin. Or- get a piece of hard wood (I use
a 2 1/2 x 3/4 x 6" piece of oak) and attach it to the front of your
bench and mount your bench pin on that to get the right height. The
bench height isn’t as important as the bench pin height. Her other
suggestions helped with hand fatigue. I now mount my custom carving
tools in fatter dowels and put foam pencil grips that you buy in a
stationary store on them. I got a foam grip for my flex shaft. Got
handles for the needle files I use the most and handles for my large
files. Before working I rub my hands together briskly to warm them
up. I vary the tasks I am doing often. Now I don’t have hand fatigue
and can be more productive. Breathe!!! Many of us have the tendency
to hold our breath when we concentrate. That starves our muscles of
oxygen and causes muscle soreness and stiffness. Breathe deep and
often. There’s my 2 cents. I hope this helps someone. (Thanks again
Carol Romano for your help!). Kate Wolf in spectacular Portland, Maine
- come take a workshop sometime! http://www.katewolfdesigns.com
kate wolf and other people gave some helpful tips about bench
ergonometrics. my question is where did you guys find good chairs?
and not the ones that cost $1000…
i spent several hundred dollars for a chair from a local place and i
hate it. i’m 5’3" and lots of chairs don’t allow my feet to touch the
ground. if i get one that allows my feet to touch the ground, then it
doesn’t have other attributes i want.
another question for curiosity’s sake: why are drafting tables built
so high off the ground that the person has to perch on the seat with
his feet on rails?
thanks in advance,
Hi Kate, this is pretty amazing, what you have described here is the
Perfect Dressage seat…If anyone doesn’t understand this they can
check out “Balance in Movement the Seat of the Rider” by Suzanne von
Dietze…she is a Dressage Rider and a Physio Therapist …by the way
there isn’t much difference in sitting in the saddle or on a jewelers
stool…also described in the book are pictures showing the correct
seat, knee, shoulder, foot and head positions there are also exercises
done from the stool to strengthen the back, neck, shoulders and
balance…and breathing Susan Chastain… (usual disclaimers
I have no affiliation with the book or Suzanne von Dietze)…just
like to ride and make jewelry with no back problems. By the way I have
In addition to the excellent detailed ergonomic Kate Wolf
provided, I’ll add something I learned from Blaine Lewis last month
that is already paying off huge dividends. One of those things I never
realized… but I was fighting the flex-shaft and causing myself a lot
of undue hand and arm fatigue.
I don’t want to steal his thunder (take the class…) but I always
kept my work in the Benchmate parallel with the benchtop. The holder
shaft was perpendicular to the benchtop. I think most people probably
do this by default. This forced me to come straight down, like a drill
press, into the work. That meant I was having to crank the flex shaft
cable through two 90 degree angles which took little strength, but
over time the stress accumulates. The mechanics of the wrist and hand
are not optimal in this position. Also, I didn’t realize it has a
detrimental impact on burr control.
By tilting the Benchmate 45 degrees, or so, to the right (I’m right
handed) and raising my flex shaft motor, the ergonomics are much
better. I’m more pointing and directing the handpiece, rather than
muscling it. This may be an exaggeration, but it’s like driving a car
without power steering versus steering a car with power steering with
one finger. The control is dramatically better, and I can work for
hours without hand fatigue becoming an issue.
Try it… even if you’ve been flex-shafting for years!
All the best,
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)
i’ve seen lots of nice chairs at office supply stores, and also at
some hardware stores…a wide variety (all wood, some plastic,
leather backed, etc) all under a few hundred bucks
canadian…currently, i use either a plain wooden chair (which is
quite comfortable), or a secretary’s kneeling stool (you have to try
really hard to slouch) which i got used for 10 dollars at a garage
the reason i wager for the height of drafting tables is to
accommodate the tilt often used (the tilt assists in ergonomics as
well…easier to write in a straight line, less wrist/neck
strain)…also, another good ergonomic position to sit in (especially
for writing/typing/drawing for long periods of time) is to sit with
feet positioned beneath you, and to keep your back erect (head
up)…hope this helps, erhard.
Jean I just bought a new chair at office max (I replace my chair
every 3or4 years) for $180 something. What I look for is a pnumatic
shock absorber for when you sit down. A height adjustment (Don’t know
if this one goes short enough for you I’m 5’11") and the most
important a tilt adjustment on the seat so I can change the angle of
the seat for different work stations as I move around the shop. I also
look for closed cell foam as it holds up better than regular rubber
foam. Arms are also on the list of things I like in a chair. Last is
I check to see if the back can be adjusted up and down and in and out
in relation to the seat. The new one I have is the best I have found
in several years and the tilt option on the seat is the real key
point. Frank Goss
Dave here is something else that helps the same kind of stress. I
posted it several years ago so maybe it is time again. I use the
springs from old architect style bench lights and attach them to the
flex shaft hanger and then to the shaft itself. I use electrical wire
for the connection. When I am working on a piece I need really tight
control I set the length of the wire and wrap it around the shaft so
it supports the weight of the shaft and leaves the hand piece more or
less floating at the proper level for the work. I learned this trick
from a friend who sets Pave diamonds for a living. He uses heavy
rubber bands for the support. I preffer the spring. Frank Goss
Construct or find (e.g., a box) a foot stand/shelf/riser (not sure
what to call it). I have two of them, one in my studio and the other
at my computer. They allow me to adjust the chairs to whatever height
I want and still keep my feet flat on the “ground.”
Jean, I too am shorter than average and have always placed a stack of
books, a shoe box or even my tool kit on the floor in front of me when
working in my studio. I just find having something to prop my feet on
makes me so much more comfortable, because my feet NEVER reach the
ground, in anything but those office chairs that have the levels to
adjust seat height! Riva
Jean, I too am shorter than average and have always placed a stack of books, a shoe box or even my tool kit on the floor in front of me when working in my studio.
G’day. I am a shorty too; my height is 5’2". I built my bench
myself long ago and after some trials with a piece of suitable wood to
get a comfortable height (fibreboard) I set it at 28=BD inches with my
bench pin at 34 inches. I bought a comfortable swivel chair with gas
springing, adjustable as to height, and with padded arms. As my
computer sits on the same bench top, but separated from the jewellery
section by a 14 inch high partition or upstand, I can slide my wheeled
chair across very easily. I also made a simple footrest from
fibreboard; just a sturdy box 5" high and 12" square. I am thus able
to adjust my position at the computer so that I look directly at the
screen with my arms almost at right angles to my body when using the
keyboard; my thighs are also at right angles to my body with my feet
on the footrest.
When working with jewellery, I adjust my chair height according to
whether I am sawing, forging, soldering or setting. I have used the
bench for about 16 years, with the computer for the last 6 years, and
see no reason to change. I do, by the way, normally wear bifocal
glasses; amplify my close vision with binocular magnifiers, and had a
pair of glasses made to be used solely for when I am using the
When I designed my bench it was with the idea that I would be using a
microscope where the computer now stands. My room is small,(8’x12’)
but seemingly large. considering what I have crammed into it; it is
also a miniature laboratory, home brew centre and design area. It is
surrounded with cupboards and drawers in all conceivable places. In
fact I first made a scale model of cardboard complete with movable
units and even a little occupant to see how to fit everything in, yet
allowing easy movement. It is known to my family as ‘Dad’s Bughutch’ =
spend many happy hours in it. – Cheers now, John Burgess;
@John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ; Where all the lambs have been born,
the daffodils are fading out and the blossom trees are coming in.
And I sing ancient songs for the joy of it when driving the car
through the fresh green countryside.(‘There was a lover and his lass,
with a hey and a ho and a hey nonny no’)etc, ad nauseum. Spring
fever at 80?
thanks to everyone who has given me ideas about bench height and the
adaptations i can build.
my problem with my chair is that my feet don’t touch the ground even
when i have the office chair all the way down!!! i had wanted my
bench chair to serve as my pc chair, but again, it won’t go down far
enough. i should have looked around longer to find a chair that would
go low enough and have the adjustments i wanted.
i do have a wooden “stage” or box that i put my feet on (and so that
i can use the flex shaft foot control), but my main concern is getting
my chair down low enough that my eyes are close enough to the pin (my
eyes are bad so i use optivisors). recently i had trouble seeing with
the #7 lens when i was piercing. i had to get my eyes so close to my
work that my saw frame would bump the optivisor frame on the upstroke!
i’m beginning to think i will have to wear a dust mask while piercing
because my nose is so close to the work. of course, that is one way
to get the swarf off your line so you can see: just snort it up!
this conversation has gotten me back around to thinking about
magnifiers/binocular loupes. because i think that is part of my
solution. then i wouldn’t have to get my eyes so close to my work.
because i am just learning and will probably only be a hobbyist, it
is hard to justify the expense of the zeiss loupes, but they certainly
sound attractive. of course, if you can’t see well, you can’t do
by the way john, i have wondered this for some time, but your comment
about making a cardboard model of your work room makes me ask: do
you ever sleep? given all the things you have done and do, you must
have boundless energy.
green jean adkins
Hello Orchidians, I was thinking about the posting, copied below:
kate wolf and other people gave some helpful tips about bench ergonometrics. my question is where did you guys find good chairs? and not the ones that cost $1000... i spent several hundred dollars for a chair from a local place and i hate it. i'm 5'3" and lots of chairs don't allow my feet to touch the ground. if i get one that allows my feet to touch the ground, then it doesn't have other attributes i want. another question for curiosity's sake: why are drafting tables built so high off the ground that the person has to perch on the seat with his feet on rails? thanks in advance, jean adkins
and, here’s my thought. Wheelchairs have adjustable foot rests.
Does anyone know of a movable chair (like most of us use) that has
adjustable foot rests so that a person can maintain that “ideal
angle” at the hip and knee? I’ve seen old secretary’s chairs with a
foot bar mounted over the casters, but those weren’t adjustable.
With all the interest in ergonomically correct equipment, I’d think
someone would have created seating with this concept - or perhaps, an
accessory chair attachment. For now, I think having a properly sized
box at each work station to “pull up to and rest your feet” is
probably the best option. This has been an interesting discussion.
Thanks Hanuman/Dr. Aspler for your dedication to Orchid! Judy in
Kansas, where the smell of Fall is in the air and the sound of
marching bands and football announcers can be heard on Friday
evenings and Saturdays. Go Cats!
Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan KS 66506
Spring fever at 80 sounds good to me.
I’m short too, 5’1’ is all. I decided that I would like to be 5’9’
when I was in grade school. Had I looked at my mother and grandmother,
I would have realized that there was little hope of that.
I move my inexpensive task chair up and down as I need it. The chair
is now held together with wire but it was a great improvement over the
wood stool that I started with. My bench is commercial made and
therefore a standard height. I have my stakes and anvils on lower
stumps and my soldering bench is actually a child’s wooden work bench
that my father made for my brother. It’s still painted red. I have the
computer in a different room but arranged for the screen to be level
with my eyes. I need to point out that I don’t do this for a living. I
teach a little and have fun with what I do. I am very careful of a bad
back and so heights are very important to me. I have been using one
contact lens for a number of years instead of bifocals. I’m very
pleased with the way it works for me. I have reading glasses for
various magnifications for different purposes and also an Opitviser. I
don’t mind at all having to pick them up as needed. With bifocals, I
was always jerking them off and on.
Marilyn Smith -
Dear Green Jean
But my main concern is getting my chair down low enough that my eyes are close enough to the pin (my eyes are bad so i use optivisors). recently i had trouble seeing with the #7 lens when i was piercing.
I also use # 5, 7, & 10 lens in differient optivisors for differing
operations. I can not use anything more powerfull than the # 5 for
sawing. The saw frame hits my optivisor frame.
i had to get my eyes so close to my work that my saw frame would bump the optivisor frame on the upstroke!
But try this - get a small incandesent light source ( I use an
old tensor lamp ) so that you can dirrect the light so you have the
light where You need it and the reflection is directed away from You.
Then use a magic marker to color the metal ( blue works well ) so that
your lighter scribe marks are visable . If you need to move your
little lamp, then it is easly done.
i'm beginning to think i will have to wear a dust mask while piercing because my nose is so close to the work. of course, that is one way to get the swarf off your line so you can see:
I usr a old drinking straw, or sometimes an old ballpoint pen tube
without the inner part in it, to place between my lips and blow away
the swarf . If I am using an old ballpoint pen tube, I also use a
foam cushion to keep my teeth from griping so hard when I consentrate.
ROBB - Retired Old Baby Boomer