Need advice on cleaning and preserving inherited workbench - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 10 Old 06-18-2016, 12:02 PM Thread Starter
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Need advice on cleaning and preserving inherited workbench

I recently inherited a workbench that my dad made for his own use 35 years ago. It was owned by my mom for years, and she applied a linoleum-type sheeting to the bench top which she secured to the bench sides using strapping tape. (She did this to protect the workbench top.) Iíd like to (1) clean the workbench, (2) remove the abundant and well-adhered strapping tape residue, and (3) give the workbench a coating of an appropriate type. Iím not looking to make the workbench look new; Iíd just like to protect it and rejuvenate the finish a bit. I like seeing the age in the bench and knowing it was my dadís hands that caused it.

My knowledge of woods and finishes is limited, so I wanted to ask for advice. Iím unaware of what finish was originally used on the workbench and donít know the wood type. Iíd appreciate all takes on what I might do to clean and recoat the bench. I was thinking perhaps tung oil or some type of wax or maybe both.

Thanks for all advice.
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post #2 of 10 Old 06-18-2016, 02:32 PM
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Always great to inherit a home-made item from another generation. Your Dad's bench design looks like he knew something about carpentry and is probably made from a hardwood - which means the wood fibers are close together which is a good thing for strength. As for "cleaning it", IMO you need to remove as much of the tape and other debris from the top work surface. You may have to power sand the top with a wire brush or orbital sander, but do not push to hard on the that surface, just enough to remove whatever to get to a smoother/cleaner top finish. When the top is satisfactory to you, add a few coats of poly varnish - let dry completely, and consider adding a hardboard surface with wood screws to be removed/replaced when damaged, rather than taping the hardboard down. Be safe.
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post #3 of 10 Old 06-18-2016, 03:24 PM
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35 years ago . . . could be any number of "modern" type finishes - my bet would be a polyurethane.

a bench is a build of love for the woodworking. it is meant to be used. cared for, but every project will leave its mark. that's why I would not cover it with anything. when I rebuilt my shop, I went with a (new) mega-maple top. the first question from my son was: "did you save the old boards?" they have memories for him; every ding, every paint over spray, all the splochs and nail holes . . .

I'd sand it with an orbital - try something on the 100 - 120 grit for starters. just clean it up a bit, wipe down with alcohol and recoat with a satin poly.
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post #4 of 10 Old 06-18-2016, 04:44 PM
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If it was my dad's, I would first clean it using a clean cloth and a mild solvent such as mineral spirits. Hopefully that would remove the strapping tape residue. If it didn't, I would try acetone and if that didn't work, lacquer thinner. The last thing I would try is sanding. After it is clean, you can decide if it needs more finish. I would bet it won't need it.

Good luck!
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post #5 of 10 Old 06-19-2016, 01:45 AM
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The strapping tape residue can be removed with a laboratory trick called : "solvent partition." You have to dissolve the tape residue crud in something. Then you have to dissolve that mess in something else that washes off. OK?
Slop on some cooking oil, peanut or even peanut butter! Go away. Come back tomorrow. Wipe off as much as you can then clean/wash with hot soapy water.

I do this even to clean the grease crap off the back of my kitchen stove = wipe the whole thing down with cooking oil. Slop it on. Wait 30 minutes. Paper towel for the bulk mess. Hot, wet, soapy dishcloth to finish and I can to magic!

I have no desire to stand there with some hyped-up pseudo cleaner from the TV when I can do the job with ease.
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post #6 of 10 Old 06-25-2016, 11:04 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you to everyone for the good, helpful information. The strapping tape had been in place for twenty years, I would guess, and it just broke when I grabbed a loose end and tried to peel it off. I discovered that a hair dryer would soften the tape without harming the finish and allow me to pull the tape (and those damn fibers) off, leaving only some sticky residue. Once the tape was removed, I could re-heat the residue and ball it up with my finger.

I will try cleaning the surface with mineral spirits after I have the tape removed.

My dad did a lot of projects, I believe, with some type of hand-rubbed finish. I don't believe he used a brushed on finish ever. This amounts to guesswork, but what type of hand-rubbed finish would typically be applied to a hardwood such as maple? (The workbench looks like maple to me.)

Thanks for your help.
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post #7 of 10 Old 06-25-2016, 05:11 PM
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any number of oil finishes -

Danish oil (more modern)
tung oil
linseed oil
teak oil
mineral oil

or just plain ole' beeswax in an (oil/solvent)

pretty hard to tell - did you find any cans/containers in his shop?
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post #8 of 10 Old 06-26-2016, 09:10 AM
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Clean first. Don't even THINK about using a wire brush. I don't know where that came from, but it is a great way to ruin a bench top.
Once clean, use boiled linseed oil (BLO). Wipe on, wait 30 min. or so, wipe off. Repeat for about 3 days. One coat per day. Wax, done.
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post #9 of 10 Old 06-27-2016, 03:14 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks again. What type of wax would you recommend?
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post #10 of 10 Old 06-27-2016, 05:21 PM
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I've never heard of this technique before. I plan to try it on something.
High school shops used to clean the workbenches and coat heavily in Linseed Oil.
It seemed very little of the oil soaked into the wood before it was wiped down.
It did give the old tables a cleaner, shinier look as they were prepared to sit through the summer for the next school year.
Few workbenches take more abuse than in the old school shops.

If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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