Firstly, what do I want in this bench? Normal people work out what they want to do with it and then pick a design accordingly. In this case, obviously, things are a bit different. The raison d'être for this workbench is the Emmert vice, and that is my primary consideration. Thus, criterion numero uno:
1. It's a bench for The Vice.
That narrows it down more than you might think, but we'll get to that.
Secondly, I only have working room for about 5ft, or 1.5m or thereabouts, of bench length. I could make it shorter and a dedicated Emmert Station, but see point four. Or I could make it longer, but then I wouldn't have room round it to be able to use it. Plus experience shows that walking into the corner of a bench every time you step through the door of your w'shop tends to result in falling very much out of love with said bench quite quickly. It's also got to be next to a wall, so the classic 2ft or 600mm width is also pretty much set. With my height and the pinkie test, it'll also be around 32-33" high.
2. It's overall dimensions will be 5ft x 2 ft x 2ft 8in.
Thirdly, it occurred to me that having a smaller bench could also result in some benefit in the future. At some point I will inevitably be down-sizing and it could be that, despite the best will in the world, the Behemoth Bench just won't be able to fit into a bedsitter... So it makes sense to make this bench usable for actual woodworking purposes. But more importantly, it makes sense to make it moveable out of the workshop. Thus, a knock-down design would be desirable. It'd also make the construction a little more feasible for just me, rather than having to call in the troops to help me lift the thing.
3. Knock-down design.
4. Workbench suitable for general hand tool woodworking tasks.
At the moment these seem to be the main points. Just for kicks I'd like to make it different from the Behemoth too; round dogs, not a traditional tail vice, etc, but none of these are worthy of a particular point. Anyway...
#4 clashes with #1 more than you might think. Current workbench thinking has it that you should have the legs of your bench in line with the front of your bench to provide more clamping surface. It makes sense, it's not something my current bench has, and it's very of-the-moment. Or very-of-the-18thC, depending on your view. I'd like to do it. But notice in this sketch how, in order to accommodate the rear jaw without hitting the legs you need an overhang of around 18" (450mm).
Now I suppose I could put the vice inside the left leg, but I fear two things. One, that access to the tilt lever under the bench, on the lefthand side of the vice, will be restricted and it'll become a knuckle-skinning operation. Two, that some of the advantage of the vice being able to hold things at extraordinary angles will be lost if said workpiece is restricted by hitting the leg. So, for preference, I'd like to remain outside the leg and stretcher area.
However, if we disregard ancient/modern thinking and have inset legs like wot I'm familiar with, it seems to me you can drastically reduce that overhang - thus increasing the base size and therefore the stability:
I'm currently torn between the two. Naturally the excellent suggestions of having another vice on the other end to balance it up a little is quite appealing, but two problems. One, because of #3 (knock-down design) there'll be a top stretcher on the end leg assemblies, rather complicating fitting a face vice as a tail vice. At least without bringing in further complications of some overhang at that end too. Secondly, there's one thing worse than walking into the end of a wooden workbench top every time you step into the w'shop. Yup. It's walking into a chunk of metal vice every time you step into the w'shop. Tail vice duties are likely to be taken up by a Wonder Dog or other cunning gizmo dreamt up by the Veritas Elves. Something that doesn't jut out much anyway.
On the other hand, I could see if I can at least find that vice that's knocking about somewhere...
So where was I? Oh, yeah. Undecided.
Then there's the top. Now my plan is to laminate up strips and aim for something as close to 3" (75mm) thick as possible. But how in hell am I going to lift that? So then I was wondering about the two-part top variety. Bob Lang makes a pretty good case for same with his 21stC workbench. But then again, I could make it two parts without a gap maybe? Or make the front bit heavy and laminated, and use the old trick of having a thinner rear section. Or...
See what I mean? The angst, folks. The angst.
Then there's that nagging option to fit the darn thing to the Behemoth after all, and just hope it'll fit in the bedsit. No-one seems to like that idea. If I said I'd then use the SYP to build a bench anyway, would it get any votes then? ;)