I'm building the Roubo-style workbench from Chris Schwarz's Workbenches. This is a great book, because it goes through in detail why the two included workbenches have the features they have, and how to accomplish various hand-tool operations on them.
The book calls for 8/4 Southern Yellow Pine, or whatever dense species is cheap and plentiful in your area. What do you do when all you can find is 5/4 and 4/4 stock? Buy more glue! This stack is 290 linear feet of 4" and 6" width, $501.72 at The Woodery in Lunenburg, MA.
The Roubo workbench is based on illustrations in Jacques-Andre Roubo's L'art du Menuisier (The Art of the Woodworker, 1769-1775). I love it's clean simple lines that belie enormous versatility.
It's massive. That mass makes it a stable work platform. It won't move when you're planing or chopping a mortise.
The top slab glued up and trimmed on one end. At 7'x24"x3.5", it probably weighs close to 200lbs.
And it's low; that's my biggest leap of faith in following this design, since it will just come up to the base of my pinky.
Roy Underhill describes a variation in his book The Woodwright's Guide. You can see it in this video. He describes the ideal height as just brushing your knuckles. Unlike modern workbenches meant for power tools, these are low to allow you to get over a handplane. Chris describes this as the secret to longer endurance handplaning.
Since I'm building this for hand-tool woodworking, I'm building it with hand tools. The only machines I'm using are my portable 10" planer to face all the stock, and my Shopsmith 4" jointer to joint the 6 top slab sections prior to final glue up. It's an ideal project for practicing and refining my skills. A minor mistakes here or there won't affect it's functionality; it's just sitting in my shop, not out for show.
Trimming the other end of the top. Under it is the sad excuse for a home-made bench I've been using. Started life as the kids' bench from Woodworking for Kids. Fine for the kids to beat on, but not for handplaning, even with added MDF top. Racks like mad. You can also see why my new bench will not have a bottom shelf.
Finishing off. The scrap end has already fallen off at a glue joint that failed due to planer snipe.
Continue to part 2.