I made a low table out of a couple of step-stools, my hollow-core door, and one of the MDF panels that would eventually form part of my top. I was concerned that any oil that dripped on the door might interfere with its glue adhesion, when I finally get around to the project for which I'd purchased it. The top side of the top sheet of MDF, though, I planned to oil, anyway. (Ditto for the bottom side of the bottom sheet.
Drill a pair of 3/8" holes in each end of the short stretchers, just over half of the depth of the dowels, using a brad-pointed bit. These stretchers already have a groove running their length, centered on the bottom edge. Precise placement isn't necessary, but keeping track of which part is which is. We need a hole in each end of each stretcher. Take care to keep these holes square, you don't want them running at angles.
The end vise will have both jaws made out of 1-1/2" thick oak. The front vise has its moving jaw made of 1-1/2" oak, but uses the edge of the bench as its stationary jaw. So while for the end vise, if we mount it lower, we can make both the jaws deeper to compensate, for the front vise we cannot, so we want it mounted as close to the edge of the bench as possible.
While $115 may seem expensive, try accurately boring a grid of 20mm holes on 96mm centers in 3/4 MDF. I have for a table for our retirement community shop - - its a pita. Plus the MFT material seems denser and more water resistant than garden-variety MDF. And the single-thickness has proven sufficient the last several years on my original 1080s. Still dead flat.
In the "Getting Started with Woodworking" video, the holes through the 4x4's were drilled from the back. That is, they start on the side opposite the precisely-positioned mark, and drill through to hit it. If they can do this, more power to them, but I can't drill through 3-1/2" of wood to emerge at a precise mark without a drill press - and not always then.
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I don't see anywhere you mentioned the over all length of the bench top. A piece of 1 1/2" x 25" x 8' glued edge oak at Lumber Liquidators costs $192 including tax. Two piece is almost $400! Would that be better if I use two IKEA 1 1/4" x 25" x 74" solid Beech ($99 each plus tax) on top of a layer of 3/4" Birch plywood. That would be 3 1/4" over all.
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My name is Takami Kawai and I'm a traditional Japanese carpenter and architect with over 16 years of experience in sustainable design and construction. As much as conditions allow, I enjoy using traditional Japanese techniques. My experience includes working for the world renown, Ise Jingu Grand Shrine. I have also hosted numerous presentations on traditional Japanese woodworking. Now, I run a small construction firm, Suikoushya, which specializes in the restoration of traditional Japanese houses.
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.
I agree that I might quickly outgrow a 12x8 shed. Lowes also offers a 12x10 Rancher (same style, but more room), but the 12x10 is 9 feet, 4 inches high, and my community only allows a maximum height of 9 feet. The 12x8 is exactly 9 feet high. I'm afraid of getting "out of spec" if I exceed the height limit and then getting in trouble with the Home Owner's Association. Having said that, 12x10 would be about the biggest size I could get for the available area in my back yard, so even if I hire a shed contractor to do this, the shed would have to be 12x10 or smaller.