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post #1 of 11 Old 06-03-2014, 10:12 PM Thread Starter
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What finish for bench

I have a work bench which is made of half (2' x 8') a sheet of 1/2" plywood. It is by far NOT what I would like to have but is what I could afford to build at the time. I want to prolong the wood by finishing it in something other than paint.

My question is, what type of finish is going to last the longest and is most durable? I am thinking polyurethane but don't really know. I'd like to keep the natural finish but something with a tint can be tolerated.

Thanks.
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post #2 of 11 Old 06-03-2014, 10:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigone5500 View Post
I have a work bench which is made of half (2' x 8') a sheet of 1/2" plywood. It is by far NOT what I would like to have but is what I could afford to build at the time. I want to prolong the wood by finishing it in something other than paint.

My question is, what type of finish is going to last the longest and is most durable? I am thinking polyurethane but don't really know. I'd like to keep the natural finish but something with a tint can be tolerated.

Thanks.
Polyurethane is a pretty crummy finish for a work bench. I know because I did it on one. Once it gets scratched glue sticks to it nearly as well as bare wood. From now on if there is to be any finish at all I'm just going to use paste wax. All you really need is something to keep glue from sticking.
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post #3 of 11 Old 06-04-2014, 10:54 AM
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Here's the answer.

A film finish (lacquer, shellac, varnish, poly varnish) is not the way to finish a workbench top. A workbench is going to get dinged and film finishes will crack or craze or be otherwise damaged. Once a film finish is penetrated, it looses its effectiveness and adjacent areas begin to fail. No treatment is going to make a soft wood benchtop harder. I much favor an "in the wood finish". Here are two that lots of folks find effective.

First, is an boiled linseed oil and wax finish. Sand the surface to 180 grit. Mix paraffin or bees wax into heated boiled linseed oil. USE A DOUBLE BOILER TO HEAT THE OIL. The ratio is not critical but about 5-6 parts of boiled linseed oil in a double boiler with one part paraffin or beeswax shaved in. Take it off the stove. Thin this mixture about 50/50 with mineral spirits to make a heavy cream like liquid. Apply this mixture to the benchtop liberally and allow to set overnight. Do it again the next day and again the following day if the top continues to absorb it. After a final overnight, lightly scrape off any excess wax and buff. This finish will minimize the absorbsion of any water and you can use a damp rag to wipe up any glue excess. Dried glue will pop right off the surface. Renewal or repair is easy. Just use a scraper to remove and hardened stuff, wipe down with mineral spirits using a 3/0 steel wool pad (a non-woven green or gray abrasive pad is better), wipe off the gunk and apply another coat of boiled linseed oil/wax mixture.

My personal preference is for an oil/varnish mixture treatment. Either use Minwax Tung Oil Finish, Minwax Antique oil or a homebrew of equal parts of boiled linseed oil, your favorite varnish or poly varnish and mineral spirits. Sand the benchtop up to 180 grit. Apply the mixture heavily and keep it wet for 15-30 minutes. Wipe off any excess completely. Let it dry overnight and the next day, apply another coat using a gray non-woven abrasive pad. Let it set and then wipe off any excess. Let this dry 48-72 hours. To prevent glue from sticking apply a coat of furniture paste wax and you're done. This treatment is somewhat more protective than the wax and mineral oil as the varnish component adds some protection from not only water both some other chemicals also. The waxing makes the surface a little more impervious to water so you can wipe up any liquid adhesive. It also allows hardened adhesive to be scraped off. Repair and renewal is easy. Just go through the same scraping, wiping down with mineral spirits and reapplication of the BLO/varnish/mineral spirits mixture and an application of paste wax.

Both of the above treatments are quite protective but are easy to maintain and renew. They do not fail when the surface takes a ding.

Howie..........
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post #4 of 11 Old 06-04-2014, 11:07 AM
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An easy way to protect a 2'x8' plywood top would be to top it with a 2'x8' sheet of tempered Masonite. It's cheap and harder than the plywood. When it gets to the point of being trashed, use the other half of the Masonite.

Personally, I wouldn't use a wax (paraffin) or an oil, as there is the possibility those could contaminate bare wood projects.






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post #5 of 11 Old 06-14-2014, 01:37 AM
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Minwax antique oil finish will cure and not be a problem for contamination or transfer to tools or projects. It can also be used to freshen up the bench if /when it gets dinged.
If you use the Masonite, it will be a tough surface but it is pretty important to apply it to both sides to keep the surface flat. If you use a lot of screws or nails to hold it flat you will probably get away with one side.
I'd use the oil finish---several wiped on coats applied every 6-24 hours until you get the build/ appearance that you like.
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post #6 of 11 Old 06-14-2014, 08:45 AM
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Wax used on a work bench or machinery if applied and the excess wiped off would have such a slight amount transfer to the wood it wouldn't affect any finish in the least and is nothing to worry about. Even silicone in aerosol polishes takes a pretty good concentration to cause problems.
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post #7 of 11 Old 06-14-2014, 10:52 AM
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If you don't do any finishing whatsoever in the area that any product that contains silicone was used, you should not have a problem. If you have doubts about the extent of silicone contamination in the shop, or in conjunction with finishing, do some simple searches.






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post #8 of 11 Old 06-14-2014, 06:11 PM
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+1 for BLO. I used it on mine and i have to say that although now after two years its dented and scratched in more than one place it still has a nice look and i know its protected.

I also put a coat of minwax on the top and didnt like it at all. Yea glue pops off with easy but i didnt like how work pieces were sliding all over. I opted to later plane down the BLO and wax down to bare wood i like how it naturally grips the wood. Being as ur using a plywood top better consider that before you make your decision.
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post #9 of 11 Old 07-02-2014, 09:04 PM
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I'm also building a plywood-top based workbench, and have a couple follow-up questions. I'm probably going to be using the tung/antique oil + paste wax combo on the benchtop.

1. With the oil/paste wax finish, is it easy to fill voids after finishing? I'm going to be doing a decent amount of work with electronics and small models, and I've found that the superglue I use tends to take some material with it if it dries onto whatever temporary bench I've used.

2. The rest of the workbench will be made with 2x4s of pine or whitewood. Should I finish those the same way?

Thanks!
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post #10 of 11 Old 10-17-2014, 06:08 AM
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I've decided to go with a BLO, turpentine and vinegar mixture on a benchtop I'm building out of Ash. Since it soaks in rather than seals, should I worry about putting on both sides to equalize how it takes on humidity? And if so, will it be necessary to periodically re apply it to both sides?

Thank you
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post #11 of 11 Old 10-17-2014, 05:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bastien View Post
I've decided to go with a BLO, turpentine and vinegar mixture on a benchtop I'm building out of Ash. Since it soaks in rather than seals, should I worry about putting on both sides to equalize how it takes on humidity? And if so, will it be necessary to periodically re apply it to both sides?

Thank you
I would definitely put a coat or 2 on the bottom as well to hold out as much moisture as possible. Not goona hurt anything anyway.

I would finish the work bench with an oil of your choice, something like a Danish oil that will not build up a film finish. Film finishes are easily damaged on a workbench and start to look bad in short time…whereas they must be stripped. Oils are easily replenished. Top with a good wax to provide some good moisture/chemical protection.....satin look.....but thats me.

I was lucky enough to obtain a 100% solids UV coated top which is solid oak, 8 foot long by 3 1/2 foot wide, from a furniture factory 15 years ago. Still going strong and still looks great after years of punishment.
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