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Best Finish for Workbench?


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#1 kbrunco

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 11:26 AM

Hi all, I am new to woodworking. I am currently on project #4, which is a hand built Roubo style workbench (decided I needed a good bench if I am going to get into this hobby). What is a good finish for workbenches? Do I want to go with some sort of poly coat? Or stay with a more natural oil/wax finish?

Thanks,

Quin

#2 HoboMonk

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 12:02 PM

SSDD:
1. What kind of wood?
2. What finishing products do you already know?
3. What finishing techniques do already know?

#3 kbrunco

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 02:04 PM

1) Douglas Fir.
2) I have stained wood once or twice before, but not sure if that counts for much experience.
3) I just kind of painted it on, then wiped it off. Then painted a glossy poly coat over it.

#4 Rapid Roger

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 02:05 PM

Depends on what you are going to do with it. Do you want it to look real good in the show space of your shop to impress people? Or do you want to use it for doing wood working and take a chance of getting dents, saw cuts, holes from a drill and glue and finish spilled on it? :rolleyes:
I made mine from old growth, quarter sawn, MDF because I use it to build things on. :P I applied two coats of polyurethane to fill the pores (I really don't remember if it was gloss, semi gloss or flat) and then waxed the Bejesus out of it with Johnson's paste wax for 3 or 4 coats. It does not stain or hold paint but then again it doesn't hold up too well against drill bits and saw cuts either. :( I scrape the glue off (very easy to do) and re wax it once or twice a year whether it needs it or not. <_< It is flat and strong and doesn't crack or split with weather changes or hard hits from a mallet and chisel. :)
Now if you are looking for a fine piece of furniture to lay a few things on, you will have to get that information from someone else. :D

Rog :) :D :P
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#5 MikeD

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 05:49 AM

Did he just say old growth, quarter sawn mdf?
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#6 higtron

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 07:25 AM

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I just used Watco Danish OIL Natural and it's holding up nicely, and not slippery at all.
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#7 Darnell Hagen

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 08:43 AM

The base should be something easily repaired, Watco is an excellent choice. Put on a few coats and build the finish.
The top is best left raw. There is no finish that will hold up to shop use and still look good, and bare wood will prevent your stock from slipping. For the same reason I'd avoid wax, you don't want to put a lubricant on your work surface.

#8 Rob Horton

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 05:12 PM

Did he just say old growth, quarter sawn mdf?

It's a lesser-known secret that the mini ice age in the 17th and 18th centuries produced some of the finest MDF ever known and these have yet to be matched today.

Benches don't really need a finish. I did an oil-varnish blend on a previous bench and, while it didn't make things slippery, it was time that could certainly have been better spent. If you have some leftover finish that needs using up or if you want to use part of your bench to experiment with a finishing technique, go for it. Otherwise, just build the bench and then get on to making furniture.

#9 Rick LoDico

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Posted 18 September 2011 - 08:04 AM

I put a coat of butchers wax on the top of mine every once in a while. Glue doesn't stick to it and pops right off with a scraper or chisel.

#10 Arookar

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 10:32 AM

I agree, Watco Danish Oil...... I made a bench with top made of
Hemlock and the Watco works great. It looks good till you gouge, drilll and saw it by accident. But thats what a bench is for....keeping you from gouging, drilling, and sawing your lap, right?


#11 CessnaPilotBarry

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 09:05 AM

I like natural Watco, boiled linseed oil (BLO), or thinned varnishes, like Waterlox, on a bench. Why?

- It's NOT slippery. Traction helps hand tools, planing stops, bench hooks, hold downs, etc... work.
- Glue usually flakes off
- Easy to renew, just wipe more on...
- Inexpensive
- Foolproof application
- No film build, no chipping or peeling due to usage damage.

A bench is NOT a dining table. It's going to get scratched, cut, and hammered on. You may need to plane or sand it flat in the future.

#12 Onboard

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 10:05 AM

Here are Andy Margeson’s choices for a workbench finish, and the one he chose for his recently built Nicholson workbench. His workbench was made with Douglas Fir.

Here is his completed workbench (sans vise) with the finish on it. Click picture to enlarge.

#13 tdale51

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Posted 25 December 2011 - 08:29 PM

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My finish of choice is EXTREMELY labor intensive but I'll try to condense it into a few sentences short of a novel. Step one; build your bench out of whatever material you can get a hold of in sufficient quantities without breaking your budget. Now for the labor intensive part. Spend the rest of your life distressing the benchtop by randomly cutting into it with planes, chisels, saws and anything else you find laying around that's harder than wood. Sprinkle with random holes of varying sizes from errant drill and router bits. Dabble glue drips liberally and randomly across the entire surface. Finally add several coats, drips, runs whatever you want to call them of every finish you ever use. As an option you can also randomly scribble measurements, quick project sketches and notes to yourself that you won't understand later. In the end what ever you put on your bench to finish it is not near as important as what ever you finish on your bench to take off.
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#14 Mark Reuten

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 08:56 PM

I recommend an oil finish of any type followed by regular waxings. Every varnished bench I've used has been awful.
I use a shop made wax which is a little stickier than typical furniture wax. My recipe is simple. Shave a pile of bees wax into a can and add enough turpentine to cover. Stir it up once in a while and in a few days it will have dissolved into a paste. Adjust consistency by adding more turps or by evaporation. Good for waxing screws too. Crap for waxing furniture (other than workbenches). Consider yourself warned.

#15 Wood Shaver

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 10:33 AM

It's a lesser-known secret that the mini ice age in the 17th and 18th centuries produced some of the finest MDF ever known and these have yet to be matched today.

Benches don't really need a finish. I did an oil-varnish blend on a previous bench and, while it didn't make things slippery, it was time that could certainly have been better spent. If you have some leftover finish that needs using up or if you want to use part of your bench to experiment with a finishing technique, go for it. Otherwise, just build the bench and then get on to making furniture.

Rob I wonder if those MDF's from the 17th and 18th century will succumb to a blight similar to the one attacking the black walnut species.  



#16 TimWood

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Posted 07 May 2014 - 02:11 PM

If you have a separate assembly table where stain and glue gets dropped, no finish on your bench is fine.  If you're going to use your bench for working - sawing, planing, holding, etc AND for assembly, you need some type of finish on it.  Leaving it as bare wood is bad advice because inevitably, you will drop glue and other things on it that will bond and be hard to remove.  Barry (and others) gave you some good direction where you can protect it from glue but still have it kind of 'grippy'.  Heck, when I build another one, I want it all....I want to put some different woods in it and make it functional AND pretty....pretty in the beginning.... but ultimately, I'm not going to obsess over dents and dings.  To me, it's a part of the bench evolving with you.  I'm with tdale51, use it, write on it, drill an extra dog hole to fit a particular need but always remember, it ain't a church bench to kneel at and pray.....it's a WORK bench. ;)

Tim

ps.....it can be prayed at too....even with dents and writing on it. Probably a good idea. :)



#17 Byrdie

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Posted 07 May 2014 - 08:05 PM

I do a lot of praying at my bench - "Oh God, don't let me eff this up!"







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