Ergonomics question

B. Newman

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Sep 5, 2001
Kodak, Tn. USA
For you "multi-person" shops - what do you do when one (or more) of you are of average height, and one is (ahem) "vertically-challenged"?

I have all my work tables 30" high - which is perfect for my "5'and almost 2" tall with short arms" self, but now I've got someone starting who is, taller than I am and has a longer reach.

Anyone else have this problem? I don't want him to break his back, but I don't want to have to use a stepstool either!
Betty - that is a tough question - when I worked in a multi-person shop many years ago we hired a really tall teenager who mostly joined frames. He finally had to quit after a couple of weeks because our 36" benches were way to short for him and he was going home with back-aches every night. He had to twist himself into a pretzel to drill and nail the frames using the old furniture vise (where you had to hold one rail in the air to drill and nail it!).

Any chance of raising just one of the benches and making it a dedicated space for your new employee?

Or you could raise all of the becnhes and start working in high heels! I'd like to see that - flannel shirts and high heels! LOL!
I used to work for a framer that was 4'1". She was a real whizbang framer and amazing at design.

We shared a single fitting table. Her side had a walkway, mine did not. The table was at her husbands belt buckle, and a great height for me.

Gert had noticed that the trends in that day were for larger pieces reaching extravigant largesses of 24x30 and 36... so she hired a "large" person. I never handled a single 8x10. I almost stayed there in Boulder, but then one day she got short with me and I hit the road. :D
We're having the same problem in our shop. I'm 5'3", he's a foot-and-some taller and the other guy is somewhere in-between!! Tall guy already has back problems, and the existing tables are too tall for me, but too short for him.

I like Baer's idea of one side with a platform for me, and raise the bench a tad for him, we've been discussing that lately, and will soon have to build a new table altogether to accomodate our soon-coming new 60" mat cutter. So maybe the mat table can be more for me and Mr. Medium-tall, and just dedicate one entire table to Mr Tall Guy.

Who was it on here once that talked about going to invent a pneumatically raised/lowered workbench? Any progress with that yet??? Come on, let's get on it! Our backs would all thank you for it!
You know... we have an electric drafting table base for sale. You could get one of those. When we were alternating between Talls and Shorts depending on the day of the week, we had a really sturdy cardboard box from somewhere, that we used as a Tall Guys Fitting Table. Then the Short One moved and we made the table height permanant. We do keep a stepstool though, for when the granddaughter occasionally fits.
Had the same problem. Me 6' employee 5'
Built a 4' x 8'x 30" table my end has a 4x4x8" removable riser that we can remove when needed.
We don't do to much over 32x40 also gives us about 7" of storage.

You're our little country framing angel!!

You'll figure out what to do.

To calculate the ideal height (apparently) for your workbench - bend over until your back is parallel to the floor and measure the distance from your shoulder to the ground.

Works for me, 5'9" - bench 34" high, but then came along Ivan, my full-time framer - 6'2".

Poor lad, must do something - good ideas above.

What about the Morso though?

Poor lad cut 20 ready-mades yesterday - 80 sides at one sitting!

Back complaints are the biggest reasons for days off sick - so the bench height (etc) problem is well worth some work.
This has always been a problem in my world. I am 6' 3" and everyone who has every worked with me was much shorter.

So far the only solution I have found is to have multiple tables. One really high for me, and one shorter for the more vertically challenged.

Put your Morso Chopper up on a platform for him.

My tables are 39" tall. I am only 5'2" and I use a platform to stand on to cut mats. If I had a tall person in, I would just take the platform away. I made mine tall, so I would not have back problems when fitting up. It does make it hard to reach across the table sonetimes, but my back never hurts.

(My feet do though, Concrete floors under the carpet)
The platform idea works, as does a stepstool on wheels.

If you have short benches now, you can add a new top spaced above the present top. The space in between may be fitted with drawers for things like hand tools, fitting hardware, and rolls of tapes.

If you like the double-top idea, here are two related suggestions:

1. Be sure to use sturdy spacers (2x4's on edge, perhaps 12" apart?) and something like 3/4" particle board or 1/2" plywood.

2. Make the new top larger than the base of the table. Having a 2" or 3" overhang creates handy "toe room", but more overhang than that may inhibit use of the space below.
That's a wonderful idea Jim! We built an extra top on the "building" table when we put the v-nailer on the corner, but never thought about it for the fitting and matting tables.

We're going to do something about the undersides of the tables as well - changing from having a shelf run the length of the table, we're going to see about vertical spaces for incoming and outgoing work.

Thanks for the ideas. Whew, I thought I was gonna have to get stilts! :eek:
Originally posted by B. Newman:
That's a wonderful idea Jim! We built an extra top on the "building" table when we put the v-nailer on the corner, but never thought about it for the fitting and matting tables.

I SUNK mine into the corner of the bench, so's the whole bench would support larger frames - causes all sorts of problems - bah!
I inherited a worktable that is 41" high. I am 5'5". I thought it was too high. It's not. I LOVE not having to bend over. We all fought over that table. So I had my handy dad build a platform over the other (lower) worktable raising it to 38". The space underneath is now storage for awkward rolls of fabric. AND it overhangs by a few inches and does not interfere with the storage underneath.
Raise your tables, Betty, it is easy enough for you to work on a stool. Or maybe you will actually LIKE the height.

edie the achybacknomore goddess
I bolted "C" channels under my Jyden chopper to raise it up. Also bolted them to the cement floor with vibration dampeners around each bolt. Cut the noise down a lot too. The back was fine, the knee is shot though.

We had a 8 inch high platform at the end of the work table for the mat cutter.

Table height is critical to back health and attitude.