I received an email question today the I thought I would share. Anytime I receive a question like this I feel compelled to share it online so that others may contribute to the conversation, and maybe it will answer some questions of their own.
So, below is the original email that I received from Jesper concerning bench size, bench placement, and the dreaded paralysis by analysis.
I will try to answer to the best of my ability, but again, if anyone has input please share it.
Well, let me first thank Jesper for the email. There are some good questions here, so lets take them one at a time.
Paralysis by Analysis : Sorry, I myself have that issue. Welcome to woodworking.
My only advise is just draw up a plan, get the wood, and jump right in. No matter what happens you will learn something and wood can almost always be fixed.
My first suggestion would be to place the bench in line with the length of the shop, like you said above. When using hand planes you are going to need both an approach and a follow through with your planes. With smaller boards that area will be within the bench, but on longer stock you will need the extra room on both ends. Think of it like a table saw. Now, this is even more important with a wagon vise, because all of your planing will start off the tail end of the bench. With that in mind, I will also tell you, in general you need more room on the approach side than you do on the follow through.
I also wouldn't get hung up on having the bench in the center of the room vs. having it against a wall. I would do both, and actually that is what I do often. There are always going to be projects that require more floor space in the shop, so you have to remain flexible is such a small area. I prefer working with my bench off the wall, but historically many shops had their benches built into the wall and unmovable. One example would be the Dominy Shop pictured below. And really it makes the most sense, they didn't have indoor lighting like we have today, they needed to use the natural light from the window.
Overall bench length
Pictured to the left is the "Little John" workbench, built and sold by Richard Maguire (Maguire Workbenches) aka. The English Woodworker. Though this is not a Roubo bench, Richard uses this bench on his YouTube videos and really shows what you can do with a 5' workbench. Now, knowing that the length of your room is 10' I would suggest a 5' workbench. My reasoning is that you will need the room at the ends for hand planing, but also for walking around if placed in the center of the room. Furthermore, I would imagine that you will have some things placed on the walls, so you might want that little extra clearance. And the bonus is, if you find yourself in a difficult situation, you could always turn the bench sideways and open up more space.
Lets touch on the Wagon Vise real quick
I know that you may end up using the Veritas Inset vise, however, here are some ways of having a wagon vise on a shorter bench. First, on the bench to the right they just offset the front leg to allow room for the vise. Second, you could splay the legs out, opening room below the top while keeping a wide stable base. Or Third, make your own wagon vise. It isn't as hard as you may think and it doesn't need to move more than 5-6 inches. More than enough room on almost any bench.
As far as my installation of the Veritas Inset Vise, I plan on using a shim system like Richard used in his video. And yes, I am using a parallel guide on the leg vise, but I might retro fit with a cross when Richard starts selling his new one.
Hint hint Richard.
As a side note: With a small bench I would also suggest maybe making the top just a little wider. It doesn't need to be much, maybe just out to 22" or 23". My worry is that it will be to easy to tip, or at the very least rock easier while planing across the grain. Of course the heavier the base the better.
I hope this answers your questions Jesper. I don't have all the answers and in the end it is your decision. And if anyone out there has other options or suggestions please don't hesitate to leave a comment below.
Thanks for stopping in.