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Newbie question on finishes for a workbench

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Forum topic by Brett posted 646 days ago 1308 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Brett

620 posts in 1281 days


646 days ago

I’m nearing completion of a workbench made from southern yellow pine. I plan to rag on a finish of some sort. The workbench has a shelf made of ship-lapped ash boards where I will place tools, wood, etc.. Should I use the same finish on the shelf, or should I leave it natural? If I use finish on the shelf, should I put the finish on the boards before I nail them in place, or should I do it afterwards?

(Sorry if this question is too basic; I’m still a beginner at most aspects of woodworking.)

-- More tools, fewer machines.


17 replies so far

View Cosmicsniper's profile

Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1757 days


#1 posted 646 days ago

Brett:

I would finish the bench, shelf and all, with an oil of your choice, something like a Danish oil that will not build up a film finish and might give the yellow pine a more satisfying color (at least for me). Film finishes are easily damaged on a workbench and start to look bad in short time…whereas they must be stripped. Oils are easily replenished. Top with a good wax to provide some good moisture/chemical protection, satin look, and feel.

Pre-finish the shelf if you can’t cover the surfaces well, such as with spraying in nooks & crannies. If you pre-finish, do not apply it to glue areas.

Grats on the new bench!

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View RussellAP's profile

RussellAP

2938 posts in 885 days


#2 posted 646 days ago

Danish oil for sure.
I would really consider using some other wood than yellow pine, it’s primarily a construction wood. It gums up tools an rarely takes a finish well. It’s okay for a bench, but I’d use some other wood for anything I wanted to look nice.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

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a1Jim

111999 posts in 2175 days


#3 posted 646 days ago

Here’s a good finish. http://www.generalfinishes.com/retail-products/oil-base-top-coats/arm-r-seal-urethane-topcoat
It will be much easier to prefinsh the the shelf before installing it.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1757 days


#4 posted 646 days ago

Russell:

Chris Schwarz recommends southern yellow pine because it IS a construction wood. It is cheap, found at the big boxes, and you can get a really thick laminated surface by milling and gluing up the bigger 2×6s, 2×8s, or larger.

I’m with you with regard to looks, but it a solid, cheap way to get a really heavy, durable top. It’s certainly not the easiest wood to work with or to finish, but for hand plane guys it’s a smart choice, especially if you can’t afford the traditional, rough cut sized maples, beeches, ashes, or even oaks.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

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Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1757 days


#5 posted 646 days ago

BTW, the pine really appeals to me. As much as I want to build my own heirloom hard maple bench out of 8/4 stock, it’s not truly a necessity, IMO.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2247 days


#6 posted 646 days ago

I’d just finish it all (top, base, and shelf) with BLO (which I did on mine). the finish will protect your workbench from moisture and other elements and give it a warmer tone without creating a plasticy film on top that will be hard to refinish in the future. wipe it on heavily, wait 15 minutes, wipe off excess… done deal.

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

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

936 posts in 1992 days


#7 posted 646 days ago

oils are the best way to go. Once dry, just apply wax periodically. Tung oil worked 4 me.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View Gshepherd's profile

Gshepherd

1436 posts in 800 days


#8 posted 646 days ago

Ditto on the Danish oil…......I always use the GF brand natural not the tinted stuff.

-- What we do in life will Echo through Eternity........

View HorizontalMike's profile

HorizontalMike

6915 posts in 1512 days


#9 posted 646 days ago

After an oil “Johnson’s Paste Wax”. Cheap and very good.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

3777 posts in 978 days


#10 posted 646 days ago

I would use Danish oil or a thinned coat of shellac. I used BLO on my yellow pine workbench and over the years it attracted dust and became gummy; eventually I scraped it off and just left it plain. Maybe the problem was I used too much or maybe it’s the combination with pine but I wouldn’t use it again. Over time I’ve become a shellacophile, it’s easy, fast drying, durable, and repairs (if needed) are simple but I would stick with maybe two light coats to seal the wood a bit so dust and dirt don’t become embedded in the wood. Danish Oil is fine, it’s just that every time I use it I end up wishing I’d used something else.

Also, ditto on the wax.

-- |Statistics show that 100% of people bitten by a snake were close to it.|

View RussellAP's profile

RussellAP

2938 posts in 885 days


#11 posted 646 days ago

Cosmicsniper, I just hate the way it gums every tool I have up. Around here we have more white pine than anything else at BB stores. A little bit of douglas fir and lots of cedar. I don’t even want to think about what yellow pine would do to my ORS’s.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View RussellAP's profile

RussellAP

2938 posts in 885 days


#12 posted 646 days ago

I think that out of all the oils, danish natural gives you the best bang for your buck as far as making grain pop. I’d likely leave my workbench natural though, no need to use any thing on it because it’s going to take mucho abuse anyway. I usually spill enough oil from other projects to cover most of it anyway, :)

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

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Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1757 days


#13 posted 646 days ago

No, I get that, Russell. It’s a trade-off to be sure. But it should be mentioned that southern yellow pine is substantially harder than white pine, with almost twice the Janka scale rating. I would be afraid of durability with the white pine, as well as the weight for handplane guys.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

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Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1757 days


#14 posted 646 days ago

BTW, we are talking about ideals here. I’m not a workbench snob in this regard. MDF and plywood make for excellent workbenches as well. My father, while not a hand plane guy, has had his plywood benches for as long as I can remember.

There’s something equally appealing about a top of two laminated 3/4” or 1” MDF boards with a thin, replaceable hardboard atop of it. Heck, that’s only one sheet of MDF ripped down the middle. If you need it deeper, you could incorporate a tool tray.

I might do something like that for an TS outfeed/assembly table.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

13258 posts in 936 days


#15 posted 646 days ago

Anytime you can finish it is preferred. You’ll get a much more natural look to the project. Danish oil for the bench.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it. - It's not ability that we often lack, but the patience to use our ability

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