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View Llarian's profile

Finish for MDF benchtop?

by Llarian
posted 09-28-2009 05:35 PM


42 replies so far

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

3443 posts in 1860 days


#1 posted 09-28-2009 06:04 PM

I have a couple of suggestions for you: I built one of my workbenches with a 3” MDF top. I hand-rubbed 3 coats of Danish oil on first, letting each coat dry for about an hour. But you can brush it on if you like. When it was dry, I brushed on 4 coats of a fast-drying poly, letting each coat dry good between for a couple of hours, and the last coat over-night. Don’t worry about slick—it won’t be bad, and will protect the top pretty good from scratches, too. I done this(except the Danish oil) to my t.s. outfeed table and to 2 assembly tables(these were birch ply). Any protection you can put on is good. My 2 cents. Good luck, and happy w.w. It’s fun!!!

-- " I started with nothing, and I've still got most of it left".......

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1397 posts in 2130 days


#2 posted 09-28-2009 06:23 PM

i wouldnt spare danish oil on it – use whatever is cheapest really. I used some cheap poly. It will soak in like crazy and really boost its hardness and durability – you dont need to resort to danish oil to get the finish to soak in since it’s so absorbent anyway. I basically dumped it on and wiped it around. a squeegee would be more appropriate for all but the final coat.

View Llarian's profile

Llarian

128 posts in 2273 days


#3 posted 09-28-2009 07:03 PM

That’s a good point about the absorbing capabilities of MDF, didn’t think about that. I figure some cheap Minwax poly would work well enough then. Would you even bother thinning it if it were wiped on by rag or squeegee? Or just use it full thickness and wipe off the excess after a few?

-- Dylan Vanderhoof - General hobbiest and reluctant penmaker. http://llarian.etsy.com

View AKWoody's profile

AKWoody

55 posts in 1828 days


#4 posted 09-28-2009 07:20 PM

I have been thinking about how to treat the MDF on my bench, I will be using poly as recommended

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1397 posts in 2130 days


#5 posted 09-28-2009 07:22 PM

nah – wouldnt bother thinning it at all. You’ll see how fast it gets absorbed – especially on the edges. sucks it right up. So i’m not sure how much excess you’ll be wiping away!

View Moron's profile

Moron

4666 posts in 2559 days


#6 posted 09-28-2009 07:35 PM

just a suggestion or an idea

why bother putting anything on it ?..........its inexspenive and readily available. I put an MDF on top of the solid maple top on my bench and I can, and do write on it, I screw into it, drill into it, bang it bump it and who cares what it looks like….........Its a work bench…........then I sand off the writing, stain, glue etc and its brand new again

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

3443 posts in 1860 days


#7 posted 09-28-2009 08:05 PM

Hey AaronK, now I remember why I suggested using the oil before poly. I had some oil left over from a previous project and wanted to use it up, cause it was getting old. Sorry ‘bout that, Llarian. Aaron is right—no need for the oil. But I found out one thing—the oil sure made the first coat of poly “glide” on smoother. Didn’t have that drag on the brush on the first coat of poly—went on a lot easier.

roman: it’s your bench—do whatever you want to do to it. Not me—mines 3” thick, glued and screwed, and bound with Douglas fir. Do you draw plans on it also—that might work.

-- " I started with nothing, and I've still got most of it left".......

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2314 days


#8 posted 09-28-2009 08:14 PM

I think roman was just suggesting that since it’s a relatively cheap material, and easily replaced in most cases – then the extra work/money you’d invest in finishing it up is actually more than it would take to replace the top of the bench. he has a valid point. may not be suitable for all situations, but for most I think it does. OR you could always top the bench with a replaceable layer of Masonite.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1397 posts in 2130 days


#9 posted 09-28-2009 08:19 PM

rick – oh yeah – definitely. Whenever i’ve got a bunch of finish-soaked rags left over I always wipe the top of my bvench with them. It soaks up the excess, which helps the benchtop and makes them safer to dispose of as well.

purplev – yeah, i agree with the masonite. I wouldnt loved to do that, but my borg wasnt carrying it at the time (Wtf!?).

In general i definitely think spilling on a bit of cheap poly is the way to go – even if MDF is cheap, it’s still a PIA to cut some new stock to size and attach it. and I hate working with mdf… ugh.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

3443 posts in 1860 days


#10 posted 09-28-2009 08:36 PM

roman: My mistake again on your suggestion/idea. I didn’t read the line where you have a solid maple top on your w.b. You would most certainly want to cover up a nice top like that and get no damage to it. I’m gonna have to learn to read slower, or get some glasses.

PurpLev and Aaron: 2nd the masonite: I have one work bench that has masonite to cover the bench top. When it gets banged up, take it off, throw it away, and get a new piece, start over. It’s cheap insurance.

-- " I started with nothing, and I've still got most of it left".......

View Mark's profile

Mark

1787 posts in 1939 days


#11 posted 09-28-2009 08:39 PM

anylight oil is even fine…hell go in your kitchen n use veggie oil and put a very light coat on it

-- My purpose in life: Making sawdust

View Mark's profile

Mark

1787 posts in 1939 days


#12 posted 09-28-2009 08:40 PM

whatever water resists to..thompsons watersealer on the edges will work

-- My purpose in life: Making sawdust

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 2980 days


#13 posted 09-28-2009 09:07 PM

Sawdust!

View Kindlingmaker's profile

Kindlingmaker

2654 posts in 2192 days


#14 posted 09-28-2009 10:11 PM

...and if the top gets too battered just sand and put another layer of MDF on…

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View Moron's profile

Moron

4666 posts in 2559 days


#15 posted 09-29-2009 12:52 PM

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.

It’s far less important of what goes into your bench and far more important of what comes “off” your bench…...ie., ...projects

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2390 posts in 2103 days


#16 posted 09-29-2009 01:54 PM

put on a 1/4” sheet of hardboard, shiny side up. poly it if you want. Glue it lightly or finish nail it in. In a few years lift it off and replace it. I have a standard workbench against the wall, not my woodworking bench but the one with the metal vice. The bench that catches all the other grinding and pounding I do. Hardboard is a great, durable way to go.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View eddy's profile

eddy

928 posts in 2030 days


#17 posted 09-29-2009 03:53 PM

try sanding sealer (shellac ) my mdf top is a year old i have only resealed 1 time since new for my 8 foot by 3 foot bench took less than 1 qt. glue dose not stick and surface is not too slippery or too shinny. i have lights over the top of my bench and poly was to reflective would cause a glair if looking at it gust right

-- self proclaimed copycat

View sIKE's profile

sIKE

1271 posts in 2419 days


#18 posted 09-29-2009 05:55 PM

Why not a coat of light gray paint?

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View RobFisher's profile

RobFisher

16 posts in 1862 days


#19 posted 09-29-2009 06:06 PM

I would not use veggy oil on any wood as a finsh. In theory it never hardens and if enough is applied it could build up and go rancid. In reality that would probably take a lot of oil but I would still recommend against it.

Rob

-- Lancaster, PA

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1397 posts in 2130 days


#20 posted 09-29-2009 07:20 PM

one thing to note about MDF (well, anything with thickness >= 3/4” or so) is that it will form a really nice flat surface. 1/4” masonite will be more conformal to its substrate and will buckle more easily. Not necessarily an issue for you, but worth considering. its the one thing i like about MDF.

View Moron's profile

Moron

4666 posts in 2559 days


#21 posted 09-29-2009 07:43 PM

I just fail to see why woodworkers are so afraid to damage/bang/stain/scratch a workbench….....it IS called a “workbench” not a kitchen dining table?

Mines maple and its rich with history. If you could read its hyroglphics it would tell a tale 5 million dollars long

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Llarian's profile

Llarian

128 posts in 2273 days


#22 posted 09-29-2009 07:45 PM

This thread is cracking me up. =)

I fail to see how wanting some degree of protection for an MDF (prone to fragmenting if dinged too badly) top equates to being afraid to bang it up at all?

Don’t get me wrong, its cheap to replace, but I prefer to spend time working wood rather than building benchtops or making jigs. If a $10 can of satin poly can buy me a longer life for my benchtop, then why not use it?

Were it a solid maple top, I might be thinking differently, that’s in an entirely different league really. If I spill a glass of water on unprotected maple, the worst that’ll happen is the grain raises a little. On unprotected MDF, I could destroy the whole top if I don’t catch it fast enough.

-- Dylan Vanderhoof - General hobbiest and reluctant penmaker. http://llarian.etsy.com

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1397 posts in 2130 days


#23 posted 09-29-2009 07:46 PM

cant speak for everyone, but for me, i dont have a lot of space. at one time my workbench can have rough stock on it as well as pieces ready to finish. So anything really nasty in there – any crud or sharp things could potentially harm nice smooth surfaces of work pieces. also, the more it is mistreated, the farther away from flat and level it becomes.

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1397 posts in 2130 days


#24 posted 09-29-2009 07:48 PM

lol yes.

you’ll see. it’s ridiculously easy and cheap to finish that MDF. it will be the easiest finishing job ever. you couldnt even do it faster with spray paint.

View rickf16's profile

rickf16

376 posts in 2247 days


#25 posted 09-29-2009 09:33 PM

Ditto what craftsman said. I use hardboard. When one side wears out, flip that sucker over and it’s brand new all over again. Mine is screwed in at the corners. Works for me. Just my 2. Reminds me, I need to get some more:)

-- Rick

View davidroberts's profile

davidroberts

1003 posts in 2151 days


#26 posted 09-29-2009 09:36 PM

I just built a throw together plate joiner jig last night, made of MDF, and I too, was wonder whether to spread some old leftover whatever on it. I have an old partial can of poly I would consider but the point of this post is…I want to finish it all over, top, bottom and sides, else it may warp, and that would not be good.

-- God is great, wood is good. Let us thank Him for wood......and old hand tools.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3666 posts in 1830 days


#27 posted 09-30-2009 01:27 AM

Just to add to the fray, I built a radial arm saw table out of MDF. Put sanding sealer on it, and that resulted in a nice smooth surface with a blotchy effect…not nice looking, but might have worked out well.

But then I had to make it “a little better”. Actually it was part of a plan. Put on Watco Danish Oil, it took a quart for a 49 by 27 total surface, two coats on top, one on the bottom, but looks nice except for the edges. It may have removed the sanding sealer, in any case it really soaked in. I may edge it with hardwood, but it looks good, and I suspect it will protect it some as the oil hardens over the months. I am tempted to use some wipe on poly or something over in a couple of days, but probably won’t.

I wonder how a few coats of sanding sealer would do all by itself. I read somewhere here a member put 5 coats on a MDF table placed out in the elements and it is holding well.

Just thought you needed a little more confusion…......

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View CharlesNeil's profile

CharlesNeil

1128 posts in 2536 days


#28 posted 09-30-2009 01:31 AM

mine is coated in glue, stain, finish, knicks chips and several nice hammer marks when things didnt go so well , with what was on it….I usually protect it with another sheet of MDF when i cant stand it anymore…just me..a fun thread

View CanadaJeff's profile

CanadaJeff

207 posts in 2275 days


#29 posted 09-30-2009 01:49 AM

Isn’t finishing MDF kinda like pimping out a 1986 Hyundai Pony. Sure you can do it if you really want, but honestly what’s the point!

View davidroberts's profile

davidroberts

1003 posts in 2151 days


#30 posted 09-30-2009 05:01 AM

Just one more item. I have use diluted yellow glue to make a sealer. I believe I diluted one part glue to 10 parts water. Now that’s cheap!

-- God is great, wood is good. Let us thank Him for wood......and old hand tools.

View Moron's profile

Moron

4666 posts in 2559 days


#31 posted 09-30-2009 05:05 AM

the only reason I have a slab of cheap easily replaced MDF that is generally kicking around the shop, often a “mistake” and now scrap, or maybe a pice of melamine or PT plywood or whatever works, on top of my solid maple top bolted down to a frame constructed with housed mortise and tenons, bed bolts to keep it rigid is that I have used/abused the solid maple top for so long that it is no longer really flat….............

if I was so bored as to use up some old can of paint, some soiled batch of vegatable oil or lumpy can of Poly then perhaps its time for some one to just “shoot me”.................what ever happened to a sharp block plane, #4, a smothing plane to take the top right back down to its original state…..........RAW. Nice thing about “RAW” wood on “Raw” wood ie.,......unfinsihed project on top of unfinished bench…...no finish reactions…....less problems…......time better spent doing things that matter.

to me

workbenches are highly over rated…..........a pair of stackable saw horses are often more productive and just as handy

Cheers

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3666 posts in 1830 days


#32 posted 09-30-2009 06:54 AM

davidroberts:

As I watch everything I put on a piece of wood soak in, protect, perhaps beautify, maybe bring out the grain, provide a hard surface, shine some, provide color, add something a little bit wonderful to my projects …..EXCEPT

...where a spot of wayward, damnable, totally unwelcome and unaskedfor, wretched spittle, mist, froth, spray, seepage, ooze…....of the DAMNABLE YELLOW GOOD lands….....there, nothing, NOTHING, works, and the damnable GLUE SPOT rears its ugly head covered in my latest wonder-finish, fiendishly laughing at my feeble efforts to effect beauty.

Someone must harness this evil…and I think David has it. Lets put it to work at hard labor…..on top of the workbench.

Excuse me, thanks guys for listening, I had to get that off of my chest. Sorry.

So, I think someone with a lot of time on his hands, and a scientific talent, or perhaps a a bent for searching the forums could devine the optimum constitution of the evil mix. Should it be 10 parts or 5, should it be only water that partners to shackle the yellow phlegm to our bidding, or other odious items that need be subjugated to our will.

Wheww…....I feel better now. Have a good night.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View tooldad's profile

tooldad

657 posts in 2380 days


#33 posted 09-30-2009 07:11 AM

On the school workbenches, we use the Poly that is comes in a 5gal bucket and is for hardwood floors. It is not the minwax brand, but the other major brand that HD sells. My rep told me that brand is not selling it’s name, it is selling a durable hardwood floor finish. For a while when I was using poly, that is the type I would get.

Use a paint tray and regular tight nap roller. No brush marks, give lots of coats.

This year I was in a hurry and have a new earlex sprayer. Decided to use the lacquer that I now use on furntiure. 4-6 coats per table, dried in 30min to an hour per coat, 6 weeks into school, no problems. However we have been doing the drafting/print reading and safety units so far. Starting next week is the true test. Anyways, pencil wipes right off and so does glue.

For those asking, why put finish on MDF? It is alot easier to wipe off glue drips on a finished surface than an unfinished surface. As if I didn’t already know it, but I was reminded while in the process of sanding all of the 12 24”x64” tops. At a point where some were sanded completely and others were still in the process of sanding, it was more difficult to remove glue squeezeout on the unfinished ones. Now that they are all finished again, no problems.

View BeeJay's profile

BeeJay

71 posts in 1853 days


#34 posted 10-01-2009 01:10 PM

Just let whatever you spill and gather do the job for you. Too much time on the bench takes up too much time you could be spending on the bench(making stuff). Just flat does me.

-- If you try to fail and succeed, what have you done?

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2390 posts in 2103 days


#35 posted 10-01-2009 01:35 PM

It’s really nice to just let it go and see what happens. But, with a little extra effort you can fix it so you can easily replace the top after a few years and have it look a lot nicer. Hence, my recommendation for thin hardboard tacked to the top. Inexpensive, easy to handle, quick to install, and very, very tough stuff.

For a really purty look but not as tough, pick up a cheap thin sheet of luan plywood. It Looks like oak or mahogany. Install, splash on some poly as it’s porous. Again, easily replaceable.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View KB1's profile

KB1

28 posts in 1819 days


#36 posted 10-11-2009 01:54 AM

boy howdy this was an entertaining read. thanks all kb1

-- KB1KnoB

View blackcherry's profile

blackcherry

3164 posts in 2488 days


#37 posted 10-11-2009 04:11 AM

Sand & Sealer followed by a coat of paste wax…Blkcherry

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5385 posts in 1897 days


#38 posted 10-11-2009 04:32 AM

FWIW, my router fence is laminated MDF / hardboard. I used sanding sealer and paste wax. (4 coats) I basically kept waxing it until it seemed like it wasn’t taking any more wax in…

Been putting up with Houston humidity fine so far…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3666 posts in 1830 days


#39 posted 10-11-2009 04:51 AM

Bet the sanding sealer and wax was cheaper than my sanding sealer and a quart of Watco on my RAS table. Have to admit it looks good, feels good, makes a great markup and design surface at the right height…....but kinda spendie. Don’t think I’ll do that again…......

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jimi_C's profile

Jimi_C

507 posts in 1900 days


#40 posted 10-12-2009 09:53 PM

I used MDF on my bench, and despite getting water all over it’s held up pretty well. One or two spots got raised up by the water, but I just took a #4 to it to knock them down again. I’ve read about the glue sealing trick too, but not bothered to try anything. I suppose if it ever gets really bad I may put some poly on it, but for now I have too many other projects to do.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View Llarian's profile

Llarian

128 posts in 2273 days


#41 posted 10-13-2009 04:42 AM

haha. I ended up throwing on some cheap poly. It built up in a couple sections, but I knocked it down with a card scraper before it fully cured.

The finish is great. Still lots of friction, but it repels water nicely. I’m very happy with how it turned out. It also seems a little more resistant to nicks and dings as well.

-- Dylan Vanderhoof - General hobbiest and reluctant penmaker. http://llarian.etsy.com

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 2980 days


#42 posted 10-20-2009 12:32 AM

Sawdust

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