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Workbench Top Finish

Koldsteel's picture

I am completing a work bench with a laminated Southern Yellow Pine top. I'm a grad student so the Beechwood and Maple will have to wait. However, I wish my effort to not be in vain so I'm inquiring about a good hard finish for the top. I've been considering using the Tried and True Varnish Oil or a mix that Garrett Hack uses (Tung Oil, Varnish, turpentine). Anyone got a good idea ?

jeffno's picture

(post #108422, reply #1 of 26)

Waterlox is a good finish for benchtops

BobSmalser's picture

(post #108422, reply #3 of 26)

See my Special Sauce recipe at the Linseed thread.

“Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’  And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who are not scared to use hand tools, who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze:  there are still some who know that a little healthy exercise will not do them any lasting harm.  To be sure, most of these honest men live and work in rather out of the way places, but that is lucky, for in most cases they can acquire the provided boatbuilding materials for perhaps one third of city prices.  But, best of all, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff ,  The Common Sense of Yacht Design


TomMGTC's picture

(post #108422, reply #2 of 26)

I second the waterlox. Esay to apply, easy to renew, and glue don't stick to it.

Tom


Douglasville, GA

Tom

Douglasville, GA

rrpm1's picture

(post #108422, reply #4 of 26)

Big Daddy,


I'm not sure why you want such a hard finish...more important to apply a finish that is easy to refinish.  Most appear to use oil based finishes ..there are several...with or without tung oil and with or without varnish.  Waterlox is great but a bit pricey. I used shellac..


 

 

HowardAcheson's picture

(post #108422, reply #5 of 26)

I think Big Daddy is a little confused. The finishes he suggest are all, in fact, soft finishes. So is Waterlox. But, an oil, or an oil/varnish are good choices as they are soft, flexible penetrating finishes. For a workbench you want a finish that is flexible so it maintains its integrity when it gets dinged and dented. Shellac, lacquer or an interior poly varnish are much harder film finishes but they are also more brittle.

Howie.........
Koldsteel's picture

(post #108422, reply #6 of 26)

Thanks Howie - thats what I meant.

VeniciaL's picture

(post #108422, reply #7 of 26)

Big Daddy,


What will you gain by finishing the top? Finish will not seal it. Finish will not prevent it from moving with the seasons, or other ambient conditions. Finish will bring out figure in the wood. But it's a work bench. It's meant to be used for actions that are constant mechanical abrasion. Not abuse, but hard use.


Plane it, scrape it flat. Use it. Don't admire it. That only promotes hesitation to really use it. Work on it but not in it. Flatten it again when necessary.


If you insist, use the tung, turps, varnish mixture.  (It couldn't hoit!) But there's no real need.


Have fun.


VL

TomMGTC's picture

(post #108422, reply #8 of 26)

The most important thing to me about having finish on the top is that glue won't stick to it. I had an unfinished bench top and much prefer my benches to have a coat of waterlox. Most people think my bench was built as a showpeice but the truth is I use it all the time and it is usually covered in dust. Having a bench that is beautiful to look at can inspire you to do better work as well as showcase your skills to potential clients. I have garnered a couple of good commisions from my bench alone.


Tom


Douglasville, GA

Tom

Douglasville, GA

Koldsteel's picture

(post #108422, reply #9 of 26)

You have a good point. I built it for work. I just wanted to do the best I could to prevent the Louisiana humidity from moving the wood too much and prevent glue from sticking as well.

VeniciaL's picture

(post #108422, reply #11 of 26)

Brent,

No finish in the world will prevent wood movement. As for glue sticking, after the surface wore off one of my benches, I started using paste wax. Works just fine. I apply it every once in a while. It's a rather pleasant thing to do. And no, the wax film does NOT get onto work pieces.

VL

VeniciaL's picture

(post #108422, reply #10 of 26)

" I have garnered a couple of good commisions from my bench alone."

Yup. That's a good reason to have a good-loooking bench. My clients never see my workplace. Only my work.

VL

RANGERP75R's picture

(post #108422, reply #12 of 26)

VL


   I have seen Tom W's bench. It is a show-piece even if it does get a tremendous amount of use. People were mesmerized at the Atlanta WW show last spring where it got first place with the Ga. WW Guild. I have never seen a piece there exhibited that got that much attention. And that statement goes back for years regarding the show.


  BTW, I believe Frank Klauz uses his personal bench as a draw for clients also. Even to the point that he signs contracts with the clients on it's surface.


Regards...


sarge..jt

Proud member of the :  "I Rocked With ToolDoc Club" .... :>) 

VeniciaL's picture

(post #108422, reply #14 of 26)

Sarge,

Since I think Frank Klaus is a god, I have to agree that anyone who practices similar methods is to be respected.

Then again, since that work bench design and execution is his most famous work, what else is he going to show off with?

VL

RANGERP75R's picture

(post #108422, reply #24 of 26)

VL


  "What else is he going to show off with?"


  Got behind yesterday and stayed that way. He could possibly cut a few dove-tails in the presence of the client. I have seen Klaus twice in seminar. His personality is a little dry for my taste, but his skills don't suffer from it. He will talk to an audience with his eye's focused on them. While he is doing so he will have cut about 20 perfect dove-tails by hand. I have never seen anyone cut dove-tails so quickly with what appears to be no concentration on what he's doing.


  If you know of how he got started, you will know how he does it. Basically producing thousands of dove-tails a day in his fathers shop as an apprentice. The apprentice-ship payed off in the case of dove-tails. ha..ha..


sarge..jt

Proud member of the :  "I Rocked With ToolDoc Club" .... :>) 

VeniciaL's picture

(post #108422, reply #25 of 26)

Sarge,

I have read a description about his duties as a boy, in his father's business, cutting the dovetails for packing crates. Supposedly he did it by eye, with a thin, flexible blade - no chisel. The crates fit together perfectly, every time.

I don't know how much of that was hype, but the fact that he is a marvelous craftsman is undeniable.

Unfortunately, I believe it was not a very happy period of his life due to his relationship with his father,

VL

RANGERP75R's picture

(post #108422, reply #26 of 26)

VL


   I have heard the same as with the relaionship with his father. The dry personality I mentioned may be an off-shoot of that. He is an excellent craftsman, but not a Sam Maloof with people skills. IMO, anyway. Someone else may see the picture in a different shade of light and interpret differently.


Regards...


sarge..jt

Proud member of the :  "I Rocked With ToolDoc Club" .... :>) 

jonsherryl's picture

(post #108422, reply #15 of 26)

Now Sarge, I've got as much respect for pure beauty as anyone...but when it comes to designer work benches, I think they rank right up there with pattern printed toilet paper, mink door mats and gold plated smart bombs.


A work bench is essentially a tool. Its role is to assist the woodworker in creating beautiful things...and nothing else. In fact, ugly is a virtue, if it is the result of enhanced function.  

BobSmalser's picture

(post #108422, reply #16 of 26)

This old-growth DF shaving horse is finished as I do my benches....hot linseed, turps, pine tar and beeswax.


Cheap, repels water and glue and easily renewed.


http://pic3.picturetrail.com/VOL12/1104763/2594266/32745994.jpg

“Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’  And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who are not scared to use hand tools, who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze:  there are still some who know that a little healthy exercise will not do them any lasting harm.  To be sure, most of these honest men live and work in rather out of the way places, but that is lucky, for in most cases they can acquire the provided boatbuilding materials for perhaps one third of city prices.  But, best of all, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff ,  The Common Sense of Yacht Design


rrpm1's picture

(post #108422, reply #18 of 26)

Bob,


Can you add a bit of Information to that mixture...portions or ratios?  thanks


love you tools


 

 

BobSmalser's picture

(post #108422, reply #19 of 26)

I'm not particular....I fill half a gallon paint can with BLO, add turps til close to the top and throw in a quarter cup of pine tar and a half cup of beeswax, plus a dollop of Japan Drier.


Hubert's Shoe Grease is a good substitute for tar and wax if you can't find those.


Set that can in a bucket of water on the shop stove, mix and apply when too hot to touch but not boiling.  I like to apply in summer when the wood's at it's driest and in the sun, too...as much as needed til the wood won't take any more, and that includes any plywood.  Won't hurt resorcinol or epoxy...although I prefer to bolt my worktops together with allthread.


On raw wood, if I have none already mixed, I slop the first coat on sans tar and wax, adding those for the second coat.


And when the workbench top gets so cruddy I can't stand it anymore, I hit it with 36 grit on the belt sander and start all over again.


Works for me....and several generations of boatbuilders before me.


The downside is it blackens in UV....but that's why God gave us belt sanders.


Edited 10/29/2003 9:04:15 PM ET by Bob


Edited 10/30/2003 12:31:37 AM ET by Bob

“Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’  And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who are not scared to use hand tools, who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze:  there are still some who know that a little healthy exercise will not do them any lasting harm.  To be sure, most of these honest men live and work in rather out of the way places, but that is lucky, for in most cases they can acquire the provided boatbuilding materials for perhaps one third of city prices.  But, best of all, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff ,  The Common Sense of Yacht Design


rrpm1's picture

(post #108422, reply #20 of 26)

Bob,


Thanks...sounds good.  Is the pine tar for color or a varnish component..or both?


 

 

BobSmalser's picture

(post #108422, reply #21 of 26)

Water resistance

“Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’  And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who are not scared to use hand tools, who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze:  there are still some who know that a little healthy exercise will not do them any lasting harm.  To be sure, most of these honest men live and work in rather out of the way places, but that is lucky, for in most cases they can acquire the provided boatbuilding materials for perhaps one third of city prices.  But, best of all, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff ,  The Common Sense of Yacht Design


TomMGTC's picture

(post #108422, reply #22 of 26)

I am always amazed by the different witches brews people use for finishes. Not that there is anything wrong with them but just about any of the commercial tung oil blends available will provide the same protection and to me seem a whole lot simpler to apply.

Tom


Douglasville, GA

Tom

Douglasville, GA

BobSmalser's picture

(post #108422, reply #23 of 26)

Yup...and a whole lot more expensive.


Practical for a workbench perhaps but not a 50' fishing vessel, where my brews come from.

“Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’  And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who are not scared to use hand tools, who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze:  there are still some who know that a little healthy exercise will not do them any lasting harm.  To be sure, most of these honest men live and work in rather out of the way places, but that is lucky, for in most cases they can acquire the provided boatbuilding materials for perhaps one third of city prices.  But, best of all, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff ,  The Common Sense of Yacht Design


RANGERP75R's picture

(post #108422, reply #17 of 26)

Jon


   And with all going on elsewhere in other threads, you still have time to set out a trot-line.... ha..ha..


   Some are prone to create beauty. And if you can create beauty that can still "kick some major *ss in the work-place" you have created a double-edged sword that is capable of striking dual blows. That requires a warrior. ha..ha.. .....ha.. ha...


I'm going to work.. Take care Jon...


sarge..jt 


Edited 10/29/2003 11:00:30 AM ET by SARGE

Proud member of the :  "I Rocked With ToolDoc Club" .... :>) 

jonsherryl's picture

(post #108422, reply #13 of 26)

Big Daddy, I think you've got a special problem in using Southern Yellow Pine for a bench top. The value of the finish with respect to its ability to retard moisture absorption pretty much solves a non existant problem in this case, because SYP is actually a much more stable and less distortion-prone wood than are many of the hardwood species used for this purpose (such as hard maple and especially beech).


The bigger problem with SYP is the density differential between its very soft earlywood tissue and its very hard latewood tissue. The earlywood is as soft as basswood, while the latewood is even denser than hickory. The point here is that it wears extremely unevenly and the bench top will tend to develop a corrugated surface very quickly. You might be able to compensate for this problem to some degree by giving the top a thorough coat of one of the penetrating plastic treatments typically used to restore partially decayed wood...such as the one marketed by Minwax ( I think they call it wood Hardener)...PEG (polyethylene Glycol) used primarily as a wood stabilizer, might also do the trick. Once this stuff soaks in and hardens it imbeds the wood tissue in plastic and toughens up the earlywood. Then you can give it a top coat of varnish or whatever, if you like.


I think the next best option, though, is probably the one offered by Venicia. Just accept the fact that it's not the ideal species for a bench top, leave it raw and scrape it or sand it flat when it starts to get too bumpy. There's some merit to the glue repellant value of putting a finish on it, but the downside is a penetrating oil won't harden it appreciably and a topical, film type finish isn't going to do much to prevent the earlywood from collapsing and/or chewing out...unless you really bury the surface under many, m-a-n-y coats...which becomes a real removal problem when you do get around to needing to relevel it.