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Managing bench noise

I’m currently in a position of being ready to quit my other job and smith full time, but the other member of my household works from home- and home is currently an apartment in a triplex. We’re going to be moving soon and the dream scenario is a garage or basement I can take over, but that’s rare and extremely expensive around here. In the meantime (and going forward if we wind up in another apartment), I need to do as much soundproofing/noise reduction as possible.

Has anyone done any noise mitigation in/around your bench area? Any recommendations, or warnings of stuff that didn’t work? I realize it’s not going to be possible to completely silence my sawing and hammering without opening up walls (not an option), but at this point any improvement will help.

Noise in my shop has never been an issue for me personally. I have a 90% hearing loss in one ear and 70% in the other. We have a corn field on one side of us and a vacant building lot on the other three sides. Botherng the neighbors has never been a concern, but my wife has 20/10 hearing and I am regularly told that I am making too much noise. I make big pieces and with them goes big pieces of equipment. I try to keep my noisy work to the daytime hours, sound proof what I can without causng a heat rejection problem, close the door to the cellar and keep a piece of equipment running that is fairly constant and disappears into the background of ambient noise. In our case it is the radon system. I don’t run a radio or any source of music or other type of sound that can be a problem. You can sound proof the floor joists if you are in a cellar, hang insulation bats if you are in either a cellar or garage and offer the neighbors a tour of your shop so that they at least know the source of the noise. Who knows, they may become a good customer. That’s about all I have. I wish you well. My shop has always been in a cellar regardless of where we have lived. I would love to get up on the first floor where I could see the light of day once in a while. Good luck…Rob

Armstrong makes wall and ceiling acoustic tiles in a variety of sizes and rating for noise. They’re lightweight, so easy to mount. If the backs will be exposed you’ll need to cover them against shedding of mineral material.

Keep in mind that noise is one thing, vibration another. Vibration is harder to mitigate than noise, though materials like cork often work well. Dr. google will be your friend on this topic.


  • Lorraine

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
-Theodore Parker

Ensolite is a high density closed-cell foam that I used when backpacking in archaic times (when I was young…) to prevent losing body heat when sleeping on cold ground. It can be placed under things like a buffing machine to dampen noise.

It will greatly reuduce sound / vibrations that are conducted through the wood of your bench to the floor. It won’t reduce sound that goes through the air, of course. It also will not work, or at least not nearly as well, if the tool in question is bolted to the bench. So it isn’t a cure-all, but it is a partial solution that can work
very well in specific applications.

If you search on Ensolite at Amazon you will see all kinds of similar products, but they may be open-cell foam or in other ways be inferior to Ensolite, so I’d stick with the real thing found here:

Here are a few quotes from that site, the first one probably has some missing words:

“Ensolite PVC-NBR-CR is an energy absorbing foam originally developed by NASA to protect pressure from damage. It has virtually 100% memory and is waterproof.”

“It also can be used dampen noise and vibrations in automotive and industrial capacities.”

You would not need a lot of it, and you would not need thick material. 1/2 inch would be thick enough under a buffing machine, and perhaps 1/4" might work. For smaller surface areas, say under the legs of your workbench, 1/4" might be best.

Since you wouldn’t want bouncing, 1/8" would probably be best under a bench block.

Ensolite would be far superior to a rubber pad of same thickness.

Neil A

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Sandbags and a stump will both greatly reduce the noise from hammering. I use sandbags under my small bench block and my chasing bowl and I attached my anvil directly to the stump. Don’t expect to eliminate all of the noise, but they will dampen the excess noise substantially. Urethane pads also work well.

When I first started teaching, we didn’t have sandbags to go under the bench blocks. The first time I taught a forged wire cuff, the noise was so awful that I thought I’d damaged my hearing for good, not to mention that we angered everyone else in the building! Before I taught that lesson a second time, I made some sandbags from scrap leather and construction sand. The difference was amazing—you could actually hold a conversation in the same room while the students were forging away.

Invest in a good sandbag and you won’t regret it!