You may even want to put yourself in the picture. If your workshop space already exists, find a large piece of cardboard, wallboard, or plywood that’s about the size of the workbench top you envision. Find a couple of stools or chairs, perhaps a few books, and turn them into stanchions to support the “benchtop.” Is it too big for the space? Is it large enough for the tasks you envision will be performed upon it?
When the shelf was full, we called the list done. The results of that debate is the list of books that follows (publishers listed are for the editions we own). It’s by no means a perfect list. It is a list that would probably change a bit if we had the debate again in a couple months. Some of these are classics, some are contemporary. But these are the books that are first in our hearts.
1. Cabinet Making and Millwork by John L. Feirer. I read this book cover to cover when I first got into woodworking, and its still my number one reference book when researching a project or technique. I believe it was intended as a textbook for a high school shop class, so it's laid out in great 101 style. It includes descriptions of everything from how sandpaper is made to best practices for shop math, and provides details for both hand and power tools.
There are a number of tricks to using a router. First, the bit spins in a clockwise direction, as you look down at the router from the top. This means that when you cut with the router from left to right, the bit will tend to pull the router away from you, and when you route from right to left, the router will pull towards you. So, if you're hooking the edge guide along the near side of the board, route from left to right, and when you're hooking it along the far side of the board, route from right to left. Second, always test the position of your bit on scrap material. Your odds of getting it exactly right by eye are nil. Third, don't cut more than 1/4" deep on a single pass. We want a 3/8" deep grove, so make your first pass at 3/16", or thereabouts, and make a second pass to reach the full depth.
This instructable shows how to build, with basic tools and readily-available lumber, a bench that provides most of the function of a traditional woodworker's workbench. I began with a design by Asa Christiana that was featured in the second season of finewoodworking.com's video series Getting Started in Woodworking. The project plans are available on their website.
The jaw for the front vise needed to be 10" long - to span the distance from the leg to the end of the top, 1-1/2" thick - to allow for benchdog holes to be drilled in it, and 5" tall. The end vise was mounted 3/4" lower than the front vise, and the screw and guide rods were thicker, so its jaws needed to be at least 6-1/2" tall. Again, they needed to be 1-1/2" thick to allow for benchdog holes, and 23" long to span the width of the bench.
Another aspect that might irk some buyers is the fact that the capacity of this bench is less than great outside of weight. The top’s surface area is a bit on the smaller end, though its length is more in line with larger models. The width though is less than two feet which can limit some projects. Similarly, the vice capacity is the second smallest on our list at 4 ½”, though this too can be modded with optional additions.