Hey all, thanks for the advice everyone came out to give. I decided to build my workbench myself after all. I intend to use pine to reduce costs and make the work easier. My intention is to use the plans mentioned in my first post, since they're very simple.
In the opposite direction of reducing costs, I'm looking for a vise that will mount flush with the face of the bench. So far I've seen a few different options. Sjobergs and Rockler have vises that screw into the bottom of the bench and use the bench face as one of the clamping surfaces. They seem pretty decent, and probably the easiest options from an installation perspective. The Veritas twin screw requires a tall skirt on the bench, which I think I don't want. The Lie Nielsen twin screw looks the prettiest to me. However, it seems to want a 4" thick bench top, and seems to have the most challenging installation of the three.
I think my plan right now is to start with the Rockler, and someday once I'm more confident in my skills, install the Lie Nielsen instead. Thoughts?
Firstly, I commend your sensibilities here, as IMO the bench is the single most important and most used tool in the shop (a pencil and measuring stick come close). Plus, like you, while I have a lot of power tools, I am moving to more and more hand tools because the feel in the hands is very satisfying and hand tools are much quieter and don't produce hazardous dust. FYI, dust control is its own expensive specialty. Many people don't realize that big stationary power tools came to us retail/hobbyist users from the furniture manufacturing world, and those tools take a lot of setup and jigging steps, in exchange for great repeatability in large production runs; in other words, those tools are often not a good choice for one-offs and limited runs, whereas hand tools can be at least as productive.
There have been a number of really excellent insights made by prior posters in this thread, including your father's excellent guidance:
- Workmates (the original version) are super as noted, because they can be used singlely or in pairs. To clarify a previous Workmate suggestion, the plywood top(s) can have a 2x4 or 2x6 screwed to the backside of the plywood as "strong-backs" that get clamped by the Workmates' clamping action, and this very effectively holds the big work surface in place against heavy activity. The Workmates solution is superb because A) They are cost effect, B) they are immediate, C) they fold flat for storage/transport, D) they are multi-functional
- The Ron Paulk bench and its variations are very nice for small shops, but these will require the use of certain power tools for fabrication.
- The torsion-box work surface is fantastic and easy to fabricate with limited tools and/or means. These tops are quite good for the Workmates IF you build in reinforced areas that can accept the screws for the strong-backs.
Two suggested resources for your journey: Christopher Schwartz's seminal book on workbenches (https://www.amazon.com/Workbenches-R...s%2C184&sr=8-1
), and Fine Woodworking's very fine, and perhaps more practical, book on workbenches (https://www.amazon.com/Fine-Woodwork...2625047&sr=8-7
). Incidentally, the FWW book has a "New Fangled Workbench" article that I recall may strike a good balance for someone in your shoes who is starting from zero, although certain of Schwartz's benches are of ancient enough roots that they too are excellent for a zero start point.
So your thoughts about which vise are important, but understand that designing your way into this bench allows you to eliminate mistakes while working on paper instead of with your wood, and this is why one or both of those books should be your starting point. To whit, a thick top is pretty essential for a solid vise mount and this should therefore guide your design decisions. Likewise, Schwartz discusses a variety of holdfast options that sidestep the vise question and why that may be a good idea -- this can be a huge cost savings which allows you to spend those dollars on better wood or additional quality tools for your kit.
Vises: Like most things in life, quality costs. Less costly vises can be very frustrating to use and can adversely impact your work product. This happens at such a fundamental level that I have found other places to cut corners -- Schwartz has very enlightening commentary on all this. The Lee Valley, LieNielsen, and Benchcraft (costly DIY components) produce vises that are what I target in the new/retail arena. There are excellent Craigslist options, but more research is required as some of the older traditional brands have sold-out to cheaper lords. BTW, Benchcraft has a great free or inexpensive plan for a wonderful Roubo style workbench available for download.
There are some relatively inexpensive composite means to get a bench, which utilize construction grade materials. One that I am considering is to use LVL members laid flat on a sturdy base, which I get the lumber yard to accurately cut to length for me, and then top these with a sheet of melamine covered MDF. These are not Home Depot items or tasks, for this you'll need a high quality lumber yard. The LVL top is thick, heavy, forever flat and straight, and can be tooled like solid wood (with power tools (don't kill yourself or your nice hand tools on this material)), and the melamine surface is sacrificial and renders the LVL's perfectly flat.
An important thought: Like everything in woodworking, do not be afraid to do things over. In other words, woodworking is an iterative process that benefits from its own mistakes -- plan on having to redo things. Your workbench is no exception to this reality, so plan on this first one being a dry-run for a better one, and so on; you'll probably have a couple of iterations as your skills and work style evolve. At this starting point, more economy could be a good thing.
Have fun with this great project!