Unlike Don, if I had only 1 vise it'd be on the end of the bench. The reasoning is that you can't easily hold a board for planing on a side-mounted vise (at least not one that's very long), but you can hold a board upright in an end vise for cutting dovetails. But there are a lot of different ways to work and hold wood. I've always found it surprising that Paul Sellers (on youtube) works without an end vise and without benchdogs (with only a vise on the side).
I think about 2 feet wide (+/-) works pretty well. Length will depend on the type of projects you do. 5-6 feet may be a good starting point for thinking about it.
Brett - most craftsmen have a varied skill level.
woodworking is not always the only project in the shop.
often times you will need a steel metal working vice or other
tool to help with your projects that are not appropriate for the wood vice.
you can get an assortment of small bench tools as you go along
and fabricate a base that can be held in the wood vice.
In an "ideal" world, there would be both. One on the face of your bench toward one end (left if you are right handed, right if your left handed) and one on the end. This arrangement maximizes your ability to hold work in various positions.
There are a lot of choices for which style of vise you add to the face of your bench, each having their reported pros and cons. It's really a matter of what you like and what works for you.
My own personal prejudice is against the shoulder vise. Ain't having one of those things in the shop. If one DID manage to creep in, it would only stay in place long enough for me to get out the Sawzall. But that's just my own personal hang up……
Plus one on the 24" +/- This is a very comfortable and convenient size for most woodworking.
Interesting question. The first bench I worked on had the vise on the left front corner. I have built several through the years, and changed things, but never my vises position. Interesting reading about what others think on this. On the size question I do know each bench I make is smaller than the last one. Now about to make another, and I'm thinking 4' wide, 2' across, and about the same height as my TS, which is 36 something, but I'd have to measure to be sure on the fraction.
I've taken to making all benches, and tables the height of the tool nearest to it, just wonderful to have same height support.
But most importantly your bench, your rules. Make it comfortable. I think size is a relationship with what you make.
I won't say end or face. What I will suggest you consider is how heavy/stable your bench is.
Will it move/rock when you push/plane/saw across the short direction of the bench? Of course if it rocks when sawing, you're doing it wrong anyway, but a light weight bench can easily be rocked when planing across the short direction. This can be quite frustrating, or at least very annoying.
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