Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Bench Finishing Options

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    54

    Question Bench Finishing Options

    All,
    I am nearing the point of completion on my Paul Sellers-based bench and I am beginning to think about my options for finishing the wood prior to use. To that end, I wanted to solicit options for finishing the bench from the hive-mind.

    The bench is made of Doug Fir/Hem Fir and I have no interest in staining it. If there is a color inherent in the finishing method (via shellac or something) that is fine, but I see no reason to make the bench attempt to look like something other than SPF.

    I am interested primarily in two things: simplicity of initial application and ease of refinish/maintenance; durability is also appreciated, but this is a bench and will get damaged. (My main aim for durability would be its ability to withstand spills, whether of coffee/tea, water, and possibly oils - this is my only bench so I will be doing occasional metalworking on it, too.)

    Also, I am in the US so if you are going to recommend a product, it must be available in the US; I very much admire the woodworking of our non-US-based members, but if I can't get the stuff you use ...

    Bonus points if your finishing suggestions could accommodate sealing and protecting the artistic 'stylings' of my five-year old! (I don't know what it would be over, but could be pencil, pen, marker, crayon, or paint. I know that the wax of the crayon might present problems.)

    And ... GO!


    Patrick

  2. #2
    Patrick,

    Just slop a little drying oil like Tung or BLO on it and then enjoy working on it. It's not a work bench until it has scars and stains.

    ken

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Perth, Australia
    Posts
    6,396
    Patrick, I finish my European Oak bench top by first using a toothing blade to roughen the surface slightly. Then I rub in a single coat of Danish Oil. That’s it.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  4. #4
    I also vote for any oil-varnish if you want to buy something.

    For my own bench what works best is this:

    After periodic flattening of the bench every couple years, I reach for whatever half finished oilbased finish or shellac I have on hand. I thin it and then wipe it on quick, one or two coats.

    Whenever i am subsequently finishing a project, if it involves the use of a wiping rag (shellac or oil or varnish or Danish oil) I polish the bench with the spent rag.

  5. #5
    I just applied some boiled linseed oil. Mainly just in case some glue gets on there I can get it off. If I wasn't concerned about glue I don't think I would put any finish on it at all.

    One word of warning though: At one point I re-flattened my bench top and since it was all new wood again I applied BLO again. Some got into the dog holes I use for holdfasts and my holdfasts would not hold anymore even after waiting weeks for curing. Ultimately I had to counter-bore those holes to make them shallower and now they work fine, although not with the 17 tons of holding power they used to have, but enough for work. So just bear that in mind. On my next bench there will be no finish within a inch of hold fast holes!

  6. #6
    My preference is to NOT finish a bench top. Yes, it will get stained, but an unfinished top grips better than a finished top. I sort of consider the stains on my bench points of pride.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    South West Ontario
    Posts
    852
    Patrick, I don’t know what your humidity changes annually are but mine go from 7% in the winter to 97% in the summer. I applied 3 coats of BLO smoking hot with tongs and wire wool all over every square inch including the dog and hold fast holes.
    My aim was to seal it against humidity swings as much as possible as well as coffee stains and glue. The result is a grippy surface that I like. The hold fast holes work just fine when I back drilled them to 3.5” from the original 4”.

    BLO is cheap and you do apply quite a lot. The work is the same hot or cold but the hot result has far better penetration, just keep a bucket of cold water right next to you for immediate relief if needed. Leave a couple of days between coats.

    Subsequently I use Tung oil as a touch up when the top starts to look a little scarred.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Fairbanks AK
    Posts
    109
    The dilemma I see is going to be keeping metal bits out of your wood projects. If you don't have Chris Schwarz's book I highly recommend it. In the very back he has a chapter on bench accessories, one of those is a sheet of plywood with cleats around the perimeter - for metal work put the plywood on the benchtop and the cleats grip the sides of the bench top to keep it from sliding around.

    Mine is glued up 2x4 spf on edge, 3.5" thick top nominal. I started with a 1-1-1 mix of BLO, varnish and paint thinner as Chris suggested in his book. It was pretty OK. I built the bench and put two coats of that on in January. Over the summer my top developed a bit of crown from the higher humidity. I planed it down some, I don't want it to have a reverse crown next winter; but I am finding I prefer unfinished top to lightly finished top. It seems grippier to me as bare wood, but it might depend on what operations you are doing up there.

    Good luck, and please do add a review to your bench build thread once it has been in service for six months or so.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Okotoks AB
    Posts
    1,108
    I sanded my bench top to 60 or 80 grit & than applied 1 coat of danish oil. It looks & feels unfinished, except for a bit of an amber cast. The surface is not slick, but glue is still easily popped off.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Lafayette, Indiana
    Posts
    1,094
    I went with three coats of thinned satin poly wiped on on all surfaces. First coat was more like a sanding sealer - thinned 50/50 (thinned with mineral spirits). This is A reasonably durable finish. Light sanding between coats. We enjoy swings in humidity so I wanted to inhibit wood movement. I sanded the top after the final coat to rough it up a bit. Between dogs, battens and hold fasts, things stay put well enough when they need to.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    54
    All,
    Thank you for your suggestions - I very much appreciate the gathered knowledge displayed here.

    After reading up a bit on the suggestions in this thread, I have decided that I will try Tung Oil. I will be busy the next few weekends, but hopefully I can start applying the finish shortly. I will report back with my progress!

    Scott - I agree about keeping the metal detritus contained - the plywood top with cleats is a great idea - thanks!


    Patrick

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Pueblo, CO
    Posts
    275
    I use shellac. Easy to renew, glue drips pop off easily, and easy to apply. Also a great way to use up the leftovers. It is the finish used on the pattern makers bench that I got from a closing GM foundry many years ago.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Whitehorn View Post
    All,
    Thank you for your suggestions - I very much appreciate the gathered knowledge displayed here.

    After reading up a bit on the suggestions in this thread, I have decided that I will try Tung Oil. I will be busy the next few weekends, but hopefully I can start applying the finish shortly. I will report back with my progress!

    Scott - I agree about keeping the metal detritus contained - the plywood top with cleats is a great idea - thanks!


    Patrick
    Patrick,

    Tung oil is a good pick, a little slower drying but better protection than BLO and still not slippery.

    ken

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    twomiles from the "peak of Ohio
    Posts
    7,586
    Whatever is at hand...
    Computer desk top, cleaned bench.JPG
    It is, after all, a WORK bench...

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •