Height Adjustable Worktable

Combining an old dentist's chair with a worktop has its ups and downs!

SHOP OWNER: Ray Haggerty
LOCATION: Bethlehem, PA

    About 20 years ago, while reading Scott Landis's Workbench Book, I noted that Wendell Castle suggested the use of a hydraulic dental chair base for making a strong, easily height-adjustable worktable, carving table, or infeed/outfeed support table.
    I asked my local dental supply repairman what he did with the old chairs and his terse reply was, " We junk 'em!" So about a year ago I put in my request for an electric, hydraulic base from an old dental chair and pretty much forgot about it. Then a month ago, in the middle of a workday at the office, what to my wondering eyes should appear but my trusty repairman, his son, and the chair base. It turned out to be a gift from a dental classmate of mine. It seems he had a long-term hygienist who was trained in standup dentistry retire and since all of today’s hygienists are taught to work sitting down, he had to get a new chair.
Electric Hydrolic Chair Mechanism

    These chairs are really well built. This Ritter chair was probably made in the 1940's. The first thing I did was to use nylon straps to jack it up with the hoist to an overhead beam, which allowed me to get to the drain plug underneath. The hydraulic oil that came out was like molasses and probably hadn't been changed in 60 years. After cleaning the strainer and filter, I added two quarts of fresh hydraulic fluid, bled the air out, and enjoyed how well the chair raised and lowered.
New Support Base

    Since the original chair base mounted directly to the pedestal with four machine bolts, I had to fabricate a new support base to for my table. I cut out a ten-inch square of 3/8-inch steel plate, drilled four holes for bolting to the pedestal, and then welded four steel box supports diagonally to the topside of the plate. This allowed for good support for the wood top, which was then fastened with just four 2-inch lag bolts.
New Mobile Base

    To make the whole thing mobile, I built a dolly with four locking casters out of some 1 ½-inch-thick red oak. My adjustable height, mobile table is already "at work in the shop".

. . . Ray Haggerty



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