I think most people have an unhealthy addiction to tradition, old is not always best. I really like your “best tool for the job” approach, I always want to work that way. Recently I’ve been trying to trim every project down to absolute functionality, both in production and use. I’ve tried to let the use of each piece dictate everything about it (size, shape, material, finish), while also finding the quickest and cheapest way to produce whatever that thing may be (so long as all functionality is retained). The first thing I tried with this method is my latest workbench, I’ll briefly highlight the main advantages over traditional bench making methods and materials.
Cost – this bench cost me about $80 altogether.
Time – No glue ups, no material surfacing, altogether it took me around 8 hours.
Tools – No jointer, no planer, this bench can easily be made with a minimal tool set.
The top is flat and stable, never needs to be flattened. This design is extremely rigid, no chance of racking. The leg-vise chop is also a torsion box, lending the same benefits. 8/4 lumber is expensive and all solid lumber warps over time, not a torsion box. I made the chop from scrap 1/2″ and 3/8″ ply, its light and flat. I have a nice solid bench (modeled after the 21st century workbench by Bob Lang) and I can’t think of a single reason why I’d rather use it than the torsion bench. There are no drawbacks. This bench is cheaper, faster, easier, more stable, and every bit as functional.
So what do you think? Blasphemy or brilliance? Is there still a reason to labor over a solid wood bench? I think with the addition of a sacrificial/replaceable top, Bud’s bench has a lot of appeal for me, personally. And that’s the key isn’t it? A workbench is a very personal piece of functional furniture, so to each his own. But I would love to hear your opinions on this concept.