The following is excerpted from “Ingenious Mechanicks,” by Christopher Schwarz.
Many operations on low workbenches seem difficult or a lower-back nightmare until you overcome two obstacles.
The first is that many operations are much easier when you are sitting down. Not just sitting on the bench but sitting on a sawbench or stool that is next to the low workbench. Dovetailing while sitting isn’t difficult as long as you allow your sawing arm to swing freely – just like when you are standing while dovetailing.
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Likewise, traversing a board with the side stops (detailed below) is fairly easy. The worker remains stationary in front of the side stops and the board is moved from right to left. So, before you dismiss an operation as impossible with a low workbench, sit on it for a while before you pass final judgment.
The other obstacle to consider is your smooth, modern floor. Many low benches will move quite a bit because they lack the mass of many taller workbenches. Many early shops had dirt floors, or the work was performed outside (the book “Woodworking in Estonia” made this clear to me).
So, take your bench into the yard or find a way to immobilize the legs, especially for traversing. A quick solution is to purchase some adhesive anti-skid pads at the hardware store. Those help for all but the heaviest work.