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What is best to seal my Ash woodworking bench I'm making?

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Forum topic by loiblb posted 08-30-2015 03:05 PM 976 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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loiblb

109 posts in 522 days


08-30-2015 03:05 PM

I have laminated Ash for my bench top for my woodworking bench. Ash was what I had most of on hand at the time. Not the best choice, but hope it can service well with the correct finish. I would like to put a tough finish on it to keep it from splintering and absorbing stains. I will be hand planning mostly with this bench and not want too slick a top.
Thanks


19 replies so far

View patcollins's profile

patcollins

1420 posts in 2331 days


#1 posted 08-30-2015 03:10 PM

Toughest would be polyurethane for floors.

View RogerBean's profile

RogerBean

1602 posts in 2420 days


#2 posted 08-30-2015 03:32 PM

There are many reasons for not adding any finish at all. You mention one: not making it slick. If it’s properly glued up, there’s no real reason why it should split or splinter. It is a tool, it will get marked up and stained in the course of working on it. If you must add something a simple coat of linseed oil is a good choice, and won’t make it slippery. Another reason, if you’re concerned about appearance, is that a shiny finish will show every little scratch and imperfection. My beech Roubo bench has no finish, and while I’m reasonably careful with it, I’m not paranoid about using it.
Roger

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

4036 posts in 1817 days


#3 posted 08-30-2015 03:45 PM

My work bench top is ash and poplar. All I used was a simple mix of BLO/Spar varnish/MS in equal amounts. I wanted a finish that was not slick and could easily be re applied as needed with out having to strip off the old finish. So far going on 3 years and it is still holding up.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3947 posts in 1959 days


#4 posted 08-30-2015 03:53 PM

A film finish on a workbench will likely be a problem over time. The one I’ve adopted (about 15 years ago) is a mixture of beeswax, BLO, and a solvent…I used turpentine (really has a strong smell for about 3 days) but you could also use MS. The advantage of this is that glue and most finishes pop right off, it gives the3 wood a good look, and it’s easily repaired. It will not help with any splintering…though I’m doubtful any finish will. If you're interested, here's more info.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View loiblb's profile

loiblb

109 posts in 522 days


#5 posted 08-30-2015 04:16 PM

Wow, good amount of been there done that on this forum.

A little off topic

I have a 10” and a 7” wood vice to mount on the bench. Any thoughts on the one best used for the tail vice?

View BuckeyeAl's profile

BuckeyeAl

1 post in 467 days


#6 posted 08-30-2015 04:18 PM

It’s a workbench and if you do any significant amount of woodworking, the bench is going to take a beating. That is what it is designed to do. Personally, I wouldn’t put a finish on the bench top surface. Part of the reason is because I wouldn’t want a slick surface, and the second reason comes when flattening the surface again. I don’t want anything on the top that will cause issues with dulling the plane irons prematurely. If you are worried about getting finish and glue on the bench top, you can purchase a piece of cheap wall paneling from the box store, and lay that on top of your bench when doing glue-ups and finishing. Doing this has protected my bench top from spills and glue for a very long time.

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

5765 posts in 952 days


#7 posted 08-30-2015 04:24 PM

BLO and wax here

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View loiblb's profile

loiblb

109 posts in 522 days


#8 posted 10-29-2015 11:31 AM

Be careful of BLO. I found that BLO cut down with turpentine made my bench a mess. I’m now in the process of removing as much as possible. It had a month to dry but never did. I may have to make a new top. Or run it through the planner. The first project off the new bench would not take stain in places the BLO got into the grain.

View Tedstor's profile

Tedstor

1625 posts in 2099 days


#9 posted 10-29-2015 12:27 PM

Nothing wrong with Ash. With all the Ash trees they’ve been culling, I’m seeing it sell for pine prices.

If you’re worried about messing up your bench…...build a couple of sawhorses and a grab a used solid core door from a restore. Do all your ‘dirty work’ on that and only use your real workbench for finer work.

Me personally, I love my nicked-up, paint splattered, tool gouged, coffee stained workbench. It actually looks like I’ve used the thing and that I know what I’m doing with it (in most cases).

If you decide to use BLO (good choice IMO), be sure to properly dispose of the rags. (go ahead, ask me why :) ).

View Tedstor's profile

Tedstor

1625 posts in 2099 days


#10 posted 10-29-2015 12:30 PM



Wow, good amount of been there done that on this forum.

A little off topic

I have a 10” and a 7” wood vice to mount on the bench. Any thoughts on the one best used for the tail vice?

- loiblb

If you have two rows of dog holes on the bench, then I’d use the longer vice for the tail. If you only have one row of dogs, then I’d use the smaller one on the tail, centered on the holes (if possible).

View BinghamtonEd's profile

BinghamtonEd

2281 posts in 1836 days


#11 posted 10-29-2015 12:34 PM

BLO and wax here, too. Every few months I’ll wipe a quick coat of wax on it. Doesn’t make it too slick, but any errant drips of glue/finish pop off pretty easily.

I think having a new workbench, for me, was like buying a new truck. After you get over the initial disappointment of getting that first scratch on it, you get into a mentality where you try to keep it looking nice, but if it doesn’t its not the end of the world.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Billy E's profile

Billy E

162 posts in 1546 days


#12 posted 10-29-2015 02:46 PM

Ash is great choice for a workbench top. As for finish, I’d either use nothing at all (probably first choice) or something that could be wiped completely off so as not to leave a film. I was actually considering Japan Dryer on my SYP bench, as I have read this will help cure the resins that are already in the wood.

-- Billy, Florence SC

View fuigb's profile

fuigb

404 posts in 2424 days


#13 posted 10-29-2015 04:36 PM

So I’ll break with the orthodoxy: the laminated fir top on my go-to bench is stained and poly-ed. I do agree with the sentiment that a bench is intended for abuse, so babying it is a sure path to frustration. Mine got wood stain because (a) I had a lot on hand and (b) the color appealed to me. But the poly (four coats) was added to provide protection against spills: glue overflows and spatters of stain wipe right off and make for a cleaner, uncluttered work space.

Re: poly being slippery… honestly, I’ve never noticed. A lot of my work gets clamped or is worked against a dog, but a lot does’t too, the point being that I don’t expect one gives up a lot by having a top treated with poly. Sparing plane blades the extra abuse when resurfacing in the future is a legitimate concern, but then re-honing blades doesn’t bother me.

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View SignWave's profile

SignWave

321 posts in 2501 days


#14 posted 10-29-2015 10:23 PM


I think having a new workbench, for me, was like buying a new truck. After you get over the initial disappointment of getting that first scratch on it, you get into a mentality where you try to keep it looking nice, but if it doesn t its not the end of the world.

- BinghamtonEd


I agree with this sentiment. When you first start using the workbench, you think of all the work that went into getting it perfect, but it isn’t destined to stay that way. Later, as it needs to be trued up, you’ll just grab your plane and remove the high spots, then get back to making projects. The pristine surface won’t last, but neither will the dings and stains. This is why I don’t think it matters too much.

Having said that, from a workflow perspective, I can see having a separate surface for stains and finishes than for hand tool work, which will help keep the stain off the bench.

-- Barry, http://BarrysWorkshop.com/

View dhazelton's profile

dhazelton

2326 posts in 1763 days


#15 posted 10-29-2015 11:31 PM

Linseed oil and paste wax is all it needs.

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