I've been in this catch-22 trying to get setup for solid handwork...that being that I need to build a nice bench. The problem was described by Deirdre as a bootstrap problem, which I love to use as an analogy being that I'm a software engineer by trade.
In preperation to build a nice bench, I had an old beatup bench in my garage that the previous owner had built. It turned out to have some serious problems, so I had to cut the top square (a story in itself, the previous owner skewed 8' 2x4s as he built it on the inside of studs which are 8' on center). One end was skewed and distored, and I never could understand why, but when I really looked at it I figured out what had happened. Got that all fixed and all nails replaced with decking screws (I hate nails, especially in this use).
I created an apron out of hickory and purple heart. I had a bunch of purple heart flooring left over from a previous project, so took the stock down to remove the grooves from the bottom and finish from the top, and laminated 4 pieces (2x2) to form 6/4 pieces for the ends.
This is not complete yet, but here's some pics after I got it glued up last night. I haven't cleaned it up at all, it still needs to be hand planed, but the ends and front are also splined with the same 3/16" hardboard that will go on the top. I have a LV quick release vise to put on here, with a 3" hickory jaw.
This will act as a cap and fit over the top of the old bench to clean it up, you can see how much grease the previous owner left me on the bench...
These joints were hand cut with a pair of small joinery saws I got from Mike Wenzloff.
Not the best of joints, but I'm getting a little better at dovetails. I was originally planning to use a half blind rather than a through, but due to the size of the 6/4 stock, there wasn't enough room to have 3 tiers easily. As this was, it was fairly difficult to get in between the pins, but it was doable with my smallest 1/8" chisel.
Thanks for looking!