Finish for douglas fir workbench?

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Forum topic by ctjim posted 04-08-2016 02:27 PM 958 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 806 days

04-08-2016 02:27 PM

Hi all -

I recently build a workbench following the Fine Woodworking plans here:

I used douglas fir for the 2×4 stretchers and 4×4 legs, and I have 2 sheets of 3/4” doug fir plywood I will laminate together for the top (instead of MDF they used in the original plan)

I’d like to finish the bench with something…I don’t care too much about how it looks (I’d prefer if it wasn’t plain unfinished wood, but it is a workbench so I don’t want to get crazy). I would prefer a bit of moisture protection since my basement can get a little wet when we have a lot of rain.

Seems like a lot of people lean towards either Watco Danish Oil or a polyurethane (like Minwax fast-drying poly). Any pros/cons for either one? For what it’s worth, this is going to be more of a general workbench (not dedicated to woodworking) so there is potential for it to be exposed to a bit of abuse :)

I’m leaning towards the poly since it seems like it would provide more liquid protection, would that work well with the plywood top?


7 replies so far

View johnstoneb's profile


2938 posts in 2196 days

#1 posted 04-08-2016 02:31 PM

I would use an oil finish. It is easy to reapply when you desire. Any finish is going to be damages thru use. And an oil finish you simply wipe down and reapply.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View ctjim's profile


4 posts in 806 days

#2 posted 04-08-2016 02:48 PM

I would use an oil finish. It is easy to reapply when you desire. Any finish is going to be damages thru use. And an oil finish you simply wipe down and reapply.

- johnstoneb

Bruce, would you recommend the Watco Danish or is there another oil finish that might work better?

View chrisstef's profile


17423 posts in 3030 days

#3 posted 04-08-2016 03:11 PM

boiled linseed oil would be another option.

Also – welcome, from another ct jock.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View OSU55's profile


1697 posts in 2013 days

#4 posted 04-08-2016 03:48 PM

MW ob poly thinned 1:1 with ms. Apply it the same as oil – get it on there, keep it wet for as long as you want ( 15-20 min), wipe off. And just like oil, apply as many coats as you want. With no real film thickness its easy to repair. Good water/liquid absorption protection.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2393 days

#5 posted 04-08-2016 04:24 PM

I have a laminated DF bench top, I used BLO. Occasionally, I give it a waxing with johnsons paste wax. I’ve not had a problem with things slipping, and it does a good job of keeping errant glue drips from sticking. I’ve never applied BLO to plywood though, but it seems like it wouldn’t cause problems.

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

View Woodknack's profile


11774 posts in 2404 days

#6 posted 04-08-2016 04:34 PM

You don’t actually need a finish. I’ve never had any finish on mine except for a coat of BLO which essentially does nothing but turn the wood a little yellow. If you want to protect from stains then a polyurethane or varnish is your best bet. Watco is a mixture of varnish, thinner, and oil.

-- Rick M,

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2554 days

#7 posted 04-09-2016 06:07 AM

FWIW, I have fir plywood on the floor of my shop. I put down 2 coats of a Varathane oil-based polyurethane to seal/protect it. After 3 years of daily abuse, the plywood shows little wear. I don’t think there’s anything special about that specific brand – pretty sure the Minwax oil-based polyurethane would work very similar. And I’m also pretty sure a workbench would take less abuse than my shop floor.

That being said, when I get around to finishing my workbench top, I’ll probably use Waterlox.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

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