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#1
Old 11-23-2015, 09:39 AM
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Workbench Finish suggestions.

So I finally of tired of half-assed sawhorses, and wobbly work surfaces, and ordered myself a decent workbench for Christmas. Splurged on one with a butcher-block top. I have never had a good one before, I'm wondering if there are recommendations or warnings for sealer or anything.

I'm not trying to keep it a show piece obviously, but keeping grease from soaking and and spreading to the next thing seems like a good idea. But I'm wondering If I am forgetting about some factor.
It's for general usage; sawing, drilling, car pieces etc.
#2
Old 11-23-2015, 10:05 AM
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I like a rub on finish like tung oil or true oil. Boiled linseed oil would probably be good also and cheaper. I haven't used much linseed oil so am not that familiar with it. Rub on oil finishes are easy to touch up and pretty durable. Slow drying though.
#3
Old 11-23-2015, 10:08 AM
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It's going to take a beating no matter what you do, but that just adds character. I would definitely oil it. Mineral oil is cheap and easy to apply, and keeps moisture out. If you want something a little tougher, perhaps Danish oil would work well, but I wouldn't go with a poly finish.
#4
Old 11-23-2015, 10:27 AM
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Work benches that I have built have a top of two pieces of 1/2 inch plywood. If the top gets so bad that you think you need to replace it, just replace the top 1/2 inch piece of plywood. Good as new.

So screw (don't glue) a half inch of plywood on top, and replace as needed.

Never oil them or anything (except by accident).

OP - Do you have a link to what you are buying? I think I may be talking apples and oranges here.
#5
Old 11-23-2015, 10:30 AM
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Tung or Tru oil would be good candidates for a butcher block top.
#6
Old 11-23-2015, 10:33 AM
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Something I have thought about but never got around to trying is a bees wax finish. I don't worry so much about oil stains but I do a lot of glueing and I spill glue on my bench surface. Really aggravates me when I want a level surface. I think the wax might release the glue better.
#7
Old 11-23-2015, 12:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HoneyBadgerDC View Post
Something I have thought about but never got around to trying is a bees wax finish. I don't worry so much about oil stains but I do a lot of glueing and I spill glue on my bench surface. Really aggravates me when I want a level surface. I think the wax might release the glue better.
Glue globs are easy to remove. I use an old plane blade that I've filed a hook onto (basically creating a very aggressive card scraper edge). It works great for getting excessive squeeze-out off your work, or for the mentioned globs on your workbench. An oiled bench top would only help with glue removal.

I also like the plywood layer that was mentioned.

Last edited by Chefguy; 11-23-2015 at 12:56 PM.
#8
Old 11-23-2015, 01:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
Glue globs are easy to remove. I use an old plane blade that I've filed a hook onto (basically creating a very aggressive card scraper edge). It works great for getting excessive squeeze-out off your work, or for the mentioned globs on your workbench. An oiled bench top would only help with glue removal.

I also like the plywood layer that was mentioned.
In the past I have never finished mine beyond a couple coats of latex house paint to clean them up if I want things to look neat for some reason.
#9
Old 11-23-2015, 01:26 PM
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I would definitely oil it. You could cut a piece of plywood or maybe get a piece of 1/4" or thicker steel plate to put on top, or if you are gluing or working with greasy parts you could just put a piece of cardboard on top to help keep it clean.
#10
Old 11-23-2015, 01:30 PM
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Tung oil was my first thought. The sheet of plywood on top sounds like a good idea also. You can certainly do both.
#11
Old 11-23-2015, 02:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murf View Post
I would definitely oil it. You could cut a piece of plywood or maybe get a piece of 1/4" or thicker steel plate to put on top, or if you are gluing or working with greasy parts you could just put a piece of cardboard on top to help keep it clean.
Steel plate? There go your chisel edges and saw teeth whenever you slip.
#12
Old 11-23-2015, 02:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swampspruce View Post
Tung or Tru oil would be good candidates for a butcher block top.
Tru oil is my new favorite finish after I used it on a mahogany cross for my church (it took a dozen very thin coats, but it is a beautiful finish). These days I think I would avoid tung oil altogether even for a butcher block--it never really dries out, and the finish is not durable.

On the "sacrificial surface" front, I often put down a layer of 1/4" Masonite. It looks better than plywood and has a much smoother finish, but doesn't cost much.

Last edited by minor7flat5; 11-23-2015 at 02:32 PM.
#13
Old 11-23-2015, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by minor7flat5 View Post
Tru oil is my new favorite finish after I used it on a mahogany cross for my church (it took a dozen very thin coats, but it is a beautiful finish). These days I think I would avoid tung oil altogether even for a butcher block--it never really dries out, and the finish is not durable.

On the "sacrificial surface" front, I often put down a layer of 1/4" Masonite. It looks better than plywood and has a much smoother finish, but doesn't cost much.
I build all wood archery bows. Tru oil has been my finish of choice for many years. I will usually use about 4 thin coats unless I want a super deep finish. As maintenance I will lightly sand and wipe on additional coats
#14
Old 11-23-2015, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by HoneyBadgerDC View Post
I build all wood archery bows. Tru oil has been my finish of choice for many years. I will usually use about 4 thin coats unless I want a super deep finish. As maintenance I will lightly sand and wipe on additional coats
The stuff is amazing.

It's intended to be used for gun stocks (which you undoubtedly know, as a sportsman), but that makes it not so accessible to other woodworkers.

Anyone who has not tried the stuff, go grab a bottle in the sporting goods section of Wal-Mart or at Cabelas or some other similar place. You won't find it at Home Depot or Lowes.

It will give you a beautiful hard oil-rubbed finish with no special tools, just a few rags, light sanding, and patience. The ease of use of tung oil combined with the durability of urethane finishes.
#15
Old 11-23-2015, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by minor7flat5 View Post
The stuff is amazing.

It's intended to be used for gun stocks (which you undoubtedly know, as a sportsman), but that makes it not so accessible to other woodworkers.

Anyone who has not tried the stuff, go grab a bottle in the sporting goods section of Wal-Mart or at Cabelas or some other similar place. You won't find it at Home Depot or Lowes.

It will give you a beautiful hard oil-rubbed finish with no special tools, just a few rags, light sanding, and patience. The ease of use of tung oil combined with the durability of urethane finishes.
I don't have a large surface area on a bow so I will usually just sprinkle on a few drops and use one finger to rub it in. I let the 2nd coat dry real well then just take the gloss off with some fine sandpaper. Then add more coats re sanding when needed.
#16
Old 11-23-2015, 04:48 PM
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I use it on guitar necks. Slick, easy to touch up when it gets worn, and looks fantastic.
#17
Old 11-23-2015, 05:15 PM
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There's another product that you all may or may not know about, called Osmo. It's a German-made product that is designed for floor finishes, but woodworkers have glommed onto it as a durable and attractive finish. I used it recently on a chair that I refurbished, and earlier on an end table I built.
#18
Old 11-23-2015, 05:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HoneyBadgerDC View Post
I build all wood archery bows. Tru oil has been my finish of choice for many years. I will usually use about 4 thin coats unless I want a super deep finish. As maintenance I will lightly sand and wipe on additional coats
I know that's much more than a simple hobby. It's very cool though.

Had an arrow skip once in Denver, ended up in the neighbors fence. He was good about it, and returned the arrow. That was the end of that though. Young and dumb, what can I say.

I just might get my Hunter re-curve back in business.

Still wonder about butcher block workbenches. And what the OP ordered.
#19
Old 11-23-2015, 08:10 PM
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I'll have to look into that Osmo, Chefguy. Always looking for a better finish.

Here's the finished cross, with a hard gloss coating of Tru Oil.

Before doing that project I watched this guy's video where he compared a few different oil finishes side by side in a relatively controlled way. He shows boiled linseed oil, tung oil, some German oil with a fancy name, Danish oil, and Tru oil.
#20
Old 11-23-2015, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by minor7flat5 View Post
I'll have to look into that Osmo, Chefguy. Always looking for a better finish.

Here's the finished cross, with a hard gloss coating of Tru Oil.

Before doing that project I watched this guy's video where he compared a few different oil finishes side by side in a relatively controlled way. He shows boiled linseed oil, tung oil, some German oil with a fancy name, Danish oil, and Tru oil.
Hell of a gloss on that, and I can see where that would be preferred for many finishes, including guitars. I use Danish oil quite a lot, as it gives a nice sheen without being too shiny, and goes on easily. I usually apply it with a piece of 400 grit, which polishes as you apply the finish.

The Osmo is a poly finish (although it says it's non-toxic), but has wax in the mix. When the product dries, the wax floats on top and can be rubbed to a nice finish. Don't care much for tung oil, and would rather use walnut or even mineral oil instead. I've been using Clark's Cutting Board Oil as a finish recently. Smells great, takes about two days or so to get two coats on it and to dry. Clark's Cutting Board Wax is also very nice, with a combination of citrus oils and carnauba.
#21
Old 11-25-2015, 06:03 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions, and the video, that was helpful. It turned out to be a moot point. I was under the impression it would come unfinished, but when it showed up today it is already sealed with a hard finish(not sure exactly what yet). So I'll be using that for a while at least, if something is not working about it (not sure exactly what that would be) I can always sand it down and try something else.
#22
Old 11-26-2015, 11:19 PM
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Wow, this thread came along at a convenient time. I just brought home a sheet of 5/8th inch Douglas fir plywood to re do the top of my bench. That's my project for this weekend, putting on the appropriate finish.

Btw, Douglas fir is far superior to a spruce or pine plywood in that it is much harder. The other two are pretty soft woods.
#23
Old 11-26-2015, 11:46 PM
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Originally Posted by bb49 View Post
Wow, this thread came along at a convenient time. I just brought home a sheet of 5/8th inch Douglas fir plywood to re do the top of my bench. That's my project for this weekend, putting on the appropriate finish.

Btw, Douglas fir is far superior to a spruce or pine plywood in that it is much harder. The other two are pretty soft woods.
Soft wood isn't a big problem for a temporary bench top. In fact, it may even be preferable, as it won't dull your chisels as quickly. But it will get chewed up more easily. I figure at some point I'll take a belt sander to mine, although I don't mind the oil spots and such. My biggest problem is that my bench vise blocks don't sit exactly level with the bench top. They're off by about a 16th, which is enough to cause problems.
#24
Old 11-27-2015, 12:12 AM
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My workbench was given to me, and it has about half of it covered with thick steel.

Mine is for lots of mechanic style work, as well as metal work, welding, etc.

But I couldn't see having a bench without a truly durable surface for at least a portion of it.
#25
Old 11-27-2015, 12:22 PM
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Sacrificial top surface

I concur with many of the posters with regard to a sacrificial top. I cut a 4x8 sheet of 3/4 plywood in half. Glued up the 2 pieces (for a 1.5 inch 4'x4' table) the screwed down a half sheet (again, cut a 4x8) fiber board for the top. It's hard enough to pound on, etc, yet soft enough so as to not dent soft wood. Also, when I drill into it, intentionally or otherwise, the shavings are paper, not wood..again, soft. I flip then replace when the surface get too shot.
#26
Old 11-27-2015, 01:25 PM
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Agree with all those who say oil. A sacrificial top is not a bad idea either. A good workbench is made to take a beating, occasionally you'll sand and/or plane the top, but a nice piece of plywood or MDF to take the beating instead will simplify all that.
#27
Old 11-27-2015, 05:17 PM
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As long as you put the sacrificial top on before you mount your woodworking vice, it should be fine.
#28
Old 11-27-2015, 07:28 PM
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I've got 3 of those, ordered from Grainger. I put a sacrificial top of 1/2 cheap plywood on top. Unless you are using it daily, you might never have to replace it. I don't screw it down or fasten it. The back and sides contain the plywood, the open side is on the front, and I have never had to reposition it.
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