We have more than sixty years of excellence (1956-present) with an annual enrollment of more than 1,000 students in over 35 different classes. The Palomar College Cabinet and Furniture Technology program offers the most comprehensive woodworking career curriculum in the nation. Utilizing three fully-equipped shops, our 2 full-time and 20 part-time instructors provide a breadth of courses and depth of expertise impossible to obtain in smaller programs.
They immediately tried 2 of the projects, and first found that the instructions were a little vague (so many similar sized/shaped pieces - it was difficult to sort them!). The glue included in the kit had separated, and was not usable - but basic wood glue, which we had on hand, worked just fine. The projects turned out great, and, the time spent working on them was priceless!
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.