Is there a universal standard height that people try to go for when building workbenches? Should DIY tabletops be tailor made to the height of the user and how does the ideal height of the tabletop correlate to the person?
There is a large body of information about what size furniture and tools should be. The field concerning sizing furniture to individuals and populations is called Anthropometrics and information about safety and ease of use is called Ergonomics.
If you are building your own workbench for your own use, then you should size it to yourself unless you expect others to use it. Why buy off the rack if you can get tailored for less?
Most furniture is optimized for the middle of the height distribution curve which is roughly 5'8". I got into woodworking in the first place because I am 6'4" tall and absolutely nothing fits. It's all literally 6" too short.
I used the "fall drop" rule to size my generic workshop surfaces. Just stand relaxed and let your hands fall down as if resting comfortably on a surface in front of you. It's the position you hands will just fall or drop to if you try to rest them on an imaginary surface. It gives a higher bench than the using the wrist line method above.
I suggest creating a mock-up first using whatever is available and easily resized. I used a chair, a sturdy box and books of various thicknesses. I swapped books and fiddled with the height of the mock-up until I found the most comfortable height. In my case, it was exactly 39".
You'll know it when you find your own ideal height because it just feels right.
However, shuffler is correct that different work requires different heights. The "fall drop" rule sizes a bench for use with modern power tools and precision hand tools but if you use other tools you might want a higher or lower bench e.g. heavy handsaws, chisels and planes usually require something like saw bench which is usually just under knee height.
I use a mini-bench on top of my main 39" surface if I have fiddling work like soldering.
Oh, and build yourself a custom stool and work supports at the same time. You'll be glad you did.
I don't think there is specific universal height as people aren't manufactured in a specific universal height.
Googling for "workbench height" returns many results asking the same thing: what is the best height for a workbench.
This page suggests the following method:
A good rule of thumb is to make the workbench table the same height as the distance from the floor to your wrist when letting your arms hang down. So if you stand next to your table, the height would be exactly where your hands would be touching it if you put your palms on the table.
The page goes on to say that you should consider the type of work you'll be doing. If you're doing lots of detail work, you may want to sit (so the bench shouldn't be too low or too high to accommodate a chair). If you're standing and decide to put those foam mats down to make it more comfortable, you might want to add a half inch or so. The final suggestion is if you have the space for it, have more than one workbench.
There's no real answer to this - it depends on how tall you are, what you are using the bench for and if you are standing or sitting (and then, are you using a chair or stool?). The use for it might also play a role. Things like electrical soldering work require you to be a lot closer to the project then wood working.
The simple solution to this is to find a bench with adjustable legs. Mine is adjustable by about 16" - I started with it as high as it could go (I'm 6'), but eventually brought it down a couple inches; it's still pretty high which means I don't need to bend over to work on things. I find it comfortable like this, but you might hate it.
I am a Jack of All Trades. I think it is important to think about what projects you will be working on. Some benches I have are made to match up with my table saw height( to provide more surface). I am 5-10 and the saw height is 34 inches. I feel comfortable being over my work a little bit, I feel I have more control of my tools, etc.
I also have a bench 18 inches tall for upholstery work, this allows me to reach the upper and lower parts of a project. This bench is covered in carpet to protect my project.
Another reason I like a lower bench than most is to accommodate various jigs. Jigs for clamping steamed wood, Joining, & gluing can easily add a few inches to your work height.
It all seems to be personal in nature. Very important to look at all your tools and think about what you will be doing on your workbench. All my benches are on locking casters, this helps in utilizing my space.
There are two different types of work benches: sitting and standing.
A sitting work bench for machine work, according to Browne & Sharpe, should be 31" high. Note that height of the chair is important and should be adjusted so the worker's knees are at a right angle when the soles of the feet are flat on the floor. Below is a design Brown & Sharpe made for work bench in a railroad shop (31" to table surface):
For a standing bench, the usual height is 40" which is the same as a standard kitchen countertop. This corresponds to the height of the waist of a person about 5' 9" tall. For a taller or shorter worker, the table should be adjusted by half. For example, a person 6'3" would add 2" to the height and use a 42" work bench.