My (unsanded, unfinished, unvarnished) version of

Bob and Dave's Good, Fast, and Cheap Bench

The "Bob and Dave" bench seems to have become something of a standard in the woodworking community.  I built mine in the summer of 2001 and have gotten good use from it.  Since Bob Key's woodworking site is no longer up (except in archived form here), I'd like to do my part to ensure that the basic concept remains available to others looking to build something similar.  Bob was right when he said that handtools are almost useless without a proper bench.  This bench isn't beautiful, but it works beautifully.

The basic layout is straight from Bob's plan:  top made of 2x4's face-glued together, the legs and stretchers from glued up dimensional stock, with everything held together by mortise and tenon.  I over-built a bit, using 2x6's rather than 2x4's on the short stretchers and 2x8's rather than 2x6's on the long ones.  It really wasn't necessary, but the extra weight doesn't hurt.


Bob and Dave's Bench, originally conceived by Bob Key, links and pics provided by Embry McKee of Legacy Crests, maker of family crests, corporate logos, heirloom quality wood carvings, heraldry, sports logos, and personal gifts


I opted for the tool tray, and I don't regret it.  There seem to be two schools of opinion on this, with one side arguing that you need a safe place to set tools, and the other side pointing out that tool trays just collect tools and wood shavings till they're full, then obstruct work.  I think both sides are right.  Tools and shavings (and screws, and washers, and wood chips, and scraps, and papers, and everything else) do collect there.  But they're going to collect somewhere, and at least a tool tray keeps them from falling off the back.


Bob and Dave's Bench, originally conceived by Bob Key, links and pics provided by Embry McKee of Legacy Crests, maker of family crests, corporate logos, heirloom quality wood carvings, heraldry, sports logos, and personal gifts

Bob never specified a way to attach the top to the frame.  I made the front legs 1 1/2 inches taller than the back legs and sank them into the benchtop.  This was simple, free, and made the resulting arrangement strong enough to use a leg vise (see below) without worrying about a bracket pulling loose.


Bob and Dave's Bench, originally conceived by Bob Key, links and pics provided by Embry McKee of Legacy Crests, maker of family crests, corporate logos, heirloom quality wood carvings, heraldry, sports logos, and personal gifts
I went with Bob's recommended square dog holes, which are easy to make if you cut them before gluing up the top. Square dogs can be made from any piece of scrap. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to making the end vise that would really put these to good use, so I plane using variations on the Roubou methods (or so I like to think).  The blue-tinted hole in the middle is for a holdfast.


Bob and Dave's Bench, originally conceived by Bob Key, links and pics provided by Embry McKee of Legacy Crests, maker of family crests, corporate logos, heirloom quality wood carvings, heraldry, sports logos, and personal gifts
Bob had a page that listed types of vises, and the simplicity of the leg vise appealed to me. As I got into the nuts and bolts of it though, certain drawbacks became apparent:  an uneven floor could raise the jaw above the edge of the benchtop;  it would not have an integral dog;  and it seemed prone to rack.  To address those concerns, I made it a half-leg, included a section in the jaw that can be raised for use as a dog, and attached the screw to a separate piece of wood with a curved back that the jaw can pivot against, rather than attaching it to the jaw itself (the horizontal beam at the bottom pivots too, rather than being solidly attached - though come to think of it, a simpler solution might have been to make the mortise in the bench leg overlarge to allow for some slop). I built it of oak for strength, and reinforced the bench leg with oak front and back.


Bob and Dave's Bench, originally conceived by Bob Key, links and pics provided by Embry McKee of Legacy Crests, maker of family crests, corporate logos, heirloom quality wood carvings, heraldry, sports logos, and personal gifts
The "dog" in the jaw raised to its highest point.

Bob and Dave's Bench, originally conceived by Bob Key, links and pics provided by Embry McKee of Legacy Crests, maker of family crests, corporate logos, heirloom quality wood carvings, heraldry, sports logos, and personal gifts
The "dog" from the bench side.

Bob and Dave's Bench, originally conceived by Bob Key, links and pics provided by Embry McKee of Legacy Crests, maker of family crests, corporate logos, heirloom quality wood carvings, heraldry, sports logos, and personal gifts
I use this bench just aboutevery day, and I'm always glad for it.  There's really nothing I would change about it, though I do look forward to having an end vise (too busy making things to make one...).  I'll probably make a shelf to go below, between the stretchers, or perhaps a series of removeable trays to keep the space below them accessible.  I really should put some kind of finish on it.

The gorgeous woodworking benches you see made of exotic hardwood, decorated with fine joinery, and finished like a dining room table, are as impressive to me as to anyone. But every time I gouge a chunk out of my benchtop I'm relieved to be working on my pine behemoth rather than on a work of art.

Thanks, Bob.  All the best.