We’ve all read countless articles about the importance of lighting your work area properly, but articles covering ergonomy are few and far between.
How often have you had a strained neck, tired shoulders or a back that aches after a session of modelmaking or painting?
Or maybe you’ve found it more comfortable to pick up the piece you’re working on from the table surface and lean back a bit while working?
Only to have that tiny, glue laden bit slip out of your hands and feed the carpet monster, never to be seen again.
I’m sure all of us can relate to these things to some degree. Our workspaces are often computer desks, kitchen tables or even the living room table, thinking they’re comfortable enough or plainly just what you have access to.
Basic ergonomy articles mostly cover ergonomy regarding desk work in relation to computers where images like this are commonplace:
While great for computer work where your focus is mainly at eye level, work tables like this are not so great for model work where your focus is mainly at desk level and you naturally end up working in a position that’s akin to this:
The basic point of of ergonomy teachings is to make sure your back and joints are exposed to as little stress as possible to make sure that you don’t wear them out ahead of time when doing static, repetitive tasks. After all, we don’t want to ruin our bodies and ultimately make ourselves unable to comfortably do that very thing we all love due to unnecessary pain.
When we work with models, be it painting, building kits or scratch building, we’re all faced with the same issues, we need to get up close and personal with our work, and this causes strain on our bodies, even if we don’t notice it at first.
To counter this we should look at how these issues are being solved in lines of work where the issues are similar to ours, like jewellery making or watchmaking rather than how it’s done in offices where monitors are the center of attention.
A normal computer desk has a standard height of about 70-75cm, where watchmakers and jewellers more often have worktables that have a height of around 100-120cm, making the tabletop line up with their chests and armpits so they can rest their lower arms on the desk and have their workpiece up close without needing to arch their backs.
Now, watchmaker and jeweller workstations don’t come cheap. If you’re lucky you might find a second hand one for a decent price, or you could do it the way I have ( in the image in the beginning of the article), make a raised shelf for your worktable.
I made mine through buying a pair of table mounted legs for a raised desktop at Ikea and attached a small board to them and bolted the contraption to my workbench.
Another solution, cheap in comparison to getting a jeweller’s workbench, would be to find your nearest Ikea and get a pair of Alex with nine drawers and a suitable tabletop, which coincidentally adds up to roughly 120cm in height.
Should sit great together with that Detolf you’ve been eyeing!
About here is probably where most of you still reading would go ”But I don’t have a dedicated workstation, nor a room to put it in! I’m painting at the dinner table remember?”
Well, don’t worry, you can easily make yourself a small raised work surface using short furniture legs and a shelf, this is quite easy to stash away when you’re not using it as well.
Another cheap and quick solution would be piling a couple books on the table and putting a cutting board on top.
Just make sure that you can keep your shoulders comfortably lowered when working. If you feel like you need to raise your shoulders, your work surface is too high and you’ll trade the benefits of having a straight back with the strain from having raised shoulders instead.
You’ll want the raised work area to be just under your armpits so you can raise your elbows while working without raising your shoulders, raised shoulders will inevitably lead to neck and shoulder pain.
But in the end, whatever you choose to work with, and however you work, make sure to have micro pauses and get up, walk around and stretch out.
You’ll find that not only will your muscles and joints thank you in the long run, you will have an easier time focusing on your project when your body isn’t fatigued from being too static.