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What's your work bench like?

2/15/2000 2:21 PM
Lew Collins
What's your work bench like?
Hi guys! I'm building an amp shop in the sunniest part of my large finished basement so I can start building the Mission Amps Bruce and I have designed. I'm remodeling 1/2 of my finished basement and a back bedroom. What's your bench space like?  
How high is your work surface and do you sit on a 18" chair, 24" stool or what? Obviously I want to be as comfortable as possible. Any other tips or suggestions? I have plenty of power, both 110 and 220 v. I'm going to put in a ceiling vent too...any suggestions there? I'm sure soldering fumes are not to good for us!Thanks! Lew Collins  
2/15/2000 5:26 PM
Eric H

My experience is primarily woodworking, but a lot of the needs are similar. Don't forget the sun goes down, ideally you should be able to stand a dowel on end and not get any shadows. At least get SEVERAL of those cheap adjustable-arm  
lights. You never have enough power outlets :>) .  
Make the bench at least waist-height, you won't always be sitting, and not having to bed over much makes a BIG difference.  
hope this helps  
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2/15/2000 8:50 PM

I set my electronic service bench height about waist-high, like any other workbench I guess. I can work comfortably standing up (you'll prefer this when working on, or in, a cabinet, removing chassis or speaker, etc.). I solder better when sitting down. For sitting, I'll use a plain wooden stool or one of those kitchen stool-chairs (legs may need trimming if it's a tall barstool). The bench is too high to use a regular kitchen chair, for instance. The high stool is kind of convenient anyway, because it's easy to break off of into a standing position.  
I was fortunate to come across a nicely finished thick, perfectly flat, solid wood benchtop, probably from a school lab or shop. It was 5'wide x 30"deep, and about 1.5"thick. I had a benchtop, now needed to build a suitable bench around it. I built a solid frame from 2x4's, and mounted the slab on top. The frame has a lower storage shelf about 10" off the floor. (I can keep spools of wire, etc. down there.) A 1-ft deep shelf is held about 15" above the bench, and a backboard encloses the area above & below the shelf (to keep things from rolling behind, etc.) The backboard and sidewalls support the shelf. The shelf is used for holding test instruments about eye level. Shelves are 3/4" plywood material.  
I also mounted one of those long "wiremold-type" multi-outlet strips along the front of the bench, just below the overhanging table top edge. A pair of 4-outlet electrical boxes are mounted in the corner areas under the instrument shelf, to connect instrument AC cords. The bench's electrical system terminates in a heavy duty rubber power cord, and plugs into a dedicated line outlet mounted overhead on the basement ceiling joist. I wired it that way for a quick disconnect, and to be able to move it if necessary.  
I later found a kind of shelf & drawer unit with a formica top that was the same height as my bench, and located that at right angles to the one bench end. It comes in handy to hold a cabinet or large chassis, leaving my benchtop clear for finer soldering & assembly stuff. The shelves & small drawers are good for tools & supplies. I have an overhead lamp on a pullchain, but also found one of those high intensity lamps on cantilevered arm to be useful to ward off shadows.  
Since I started with a fixed top size, the rest of the design was just sketched out on graph paper, starting with the big picture, then broken down into the various views, followed by connection details & cut lengths. Buy extra 2x4's. Some will be bowed in places you can't use them. If you're like the rest of us, you'll need extra because you accidentally cut a few pieces too short. I used mostly deck screws and some machine bolts for final assembly. Painted everything but the benchtop a netral gray color, so it wouldn't get on my nerves.  
Hope there might be a few helpful ideas buried in the above ramble.
2/18/2000 9:25 AM

I have my bench higher; I like standing. I never sit (good for your back).  
2/15/2000 7:17 PM
Joe L

Mine is just a corner in the bedroom. But I have two 2A3 P-P amps driving some homemade cabinets positioned perfectly to each side of the bench and there is nothing like passing a few hours smelling solder fumes with the purple glow of those 2A3s bouncing to some Pink Floyd.  
..Joe L
2/16/2000 1:36 AM

I inherited my bench (sorta.. it was in the house from the prev owner!) Wood bench top, a bit more than waist high. One shelf below where I keep DC bench supply, Variac and HP Sig gen. Set of seperate shelves on the RH side house scope, HP VTVM and sub-boxes. I mounted one of those outlet strips (the long metal ones) under the lip of the bench - you can never have too many outlets!! Also mounted a Fender-spec rvb tank (w/cables) and resistive load behind the bench for easy access. Parts bins are mounted on the wall behind the bench. I have a shop light over the bench along with a "desk" light, one of those lights on an "arm" thing. Cheap and cheerfull, and quick to work with. The key is to be comfortable IMHO, and for the space to reflect the way you like to work. I don't like to move around (I guess..) I have caps, wire, solder, resistors, sockets etc at arms length, as well as all test gear. I like soldering and working standing up. Just personal preference. I have a stool to lean on or sit on when the mood strikes. (or when it's time to sit down and jam a bit!)  
Hope that helps a little (if only as a warning of what not to do! ;-)  
2/16/2000 4:32 AM
Tim C.

I picked up two kitchen base cabinets at a garage sale and put a 5 foot section of kitchen countertop on top of the cabinets. There is about a 25" area between the two base cabinets in the middle allowing me to sit on a bar stool in the middle of the bench. The base cabinets have doors on them allowing me to store extra supplies in them. I got a matching wall cabinet that I mounted on the wall to the right side of the bench. I keep tubes and transformers as well as other supplies in it.  
I have my old scope sitting on the right side of the bench.  
I mounted a plastic tool holder on the wall right in front of where I work giving me quick access to screwdrivers, etc. My DVM is mounted on the wall right above the tool holder so it is at eye level.  
I also use one of those swing arm lamps on the bench and it seems to work well.  
I use the area underneath the bench between the two base cabinets to store supplies. I keep a test speaker in a box to the left side of the bench.  
You can buy heavy duty metal benches from specialty supply houses but I don't know how expensive they are. Our radio techs and engineers in Des Moines have the heavy duty metal ones I mentioned above. I always drool over their benches when I see them because they also have all the best equipment to go with them.  
Good Luck,  
Tim C.
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