The title above is a joke about workbench height. I think workbenches can be almost any height – even 38” – depending on what you are doing at the bench and your tool set.
Here’s a confession: My back sucks. My dad’s back isn’t so good, either. But one of the most important and vibrant memories from my childhood is of my father. He was confined to bed so his back would heal, but yet he built, painted and finished an end table while in bed. That table is one of my most prized possessions.
In other words, don’t let your back alone dictate your work. You can work while flat on your back if necessary.
I like a low-ish workbench (28” to 34”). I find that it makes planing easier. When sawing, I use a Moxon/Felebien vise to raise the work to a comfortable level (a 17th-century trick). And whenever possible, I sit on a shop stool to work. I have an old Chinese stool that I sit on when I am chopping stuff that requires precision. Also when carving. Or when doing close-up work.
If you think this is a modern idea, then maybe you are a caveman. Early workbenches showed Romans working while sitting on shop stools. Why stand and bend over when you can sit?
— Christopher Schwarz