What kind of finish for work bench?

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Forum topic by Spacehog posted 04-28-2014 07:18 AM 1584 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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65 posts in 945 days

04-28-2014 07:18 AM

Topic tags/keywords: work bench finish thompsons water seal

Ahoy there! I am just getting back into woodworking after a long time away and I have a question about wood finish for my current project. i was told by my shop teacher that you should always use some sort of finish on any wood project. But I don’t remember much about it, so I’ve ordered some books on the topic. In the mean time, I am finishing up a work bench for my garage. I would like to finish it so that it will last longer and such, but I’m not really sure what to use. Although the bench is kind of outside (garage), I don’t really plan to have it out in the rain or sun. I’m not concerned as much about looks either. My main concern is durability and longevity of the finish. Well, I suppose saving a bit of money couldn’t hurt either.

I have a lot of finishes that I could potentially use from a friend, but I’m just not sure why I should use one over the other. A lot of the work I’ve done up until this point has needed food safe finishes which is not the case here. I’ve also worked a fair amount on the lathe and used some finishes that seem to be unique for lathe work (Hut crystal coat, CA wood finish, etc.). I’ve used stuff like Thompson’s Water Seal for outdoor stuff that is in the sun/rain. I suppose a product like Thompson’s might be appropriate for my work bench, but I just don’t know.

A little information about the bench itself: It’s made from pine 2×4s, 2×6s, 4×4s for most of the structure. The top is pine plywood with hardboard as the very top surface.

Any input is welcomed! Thanks in advance!

-- Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...

13 replies so far

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


1140 posts in 1055 days

#1 posted 04-28-2014 12:40 PM

Boiled linseed oil… you can repair it later down the road after.

For a workbench I would avoid any hard finish.

-- Jeff NJ

View Spacehog's profile


65 posts in 945 days

#2 posted 04-28-2014 12:45 PM

Yeah, I don’t want a hard finish as you say. I’ll check the linseed oil out, thanks!

-- Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 1782 days

#3 posted 04-28-2014 02:04 PM

Finish? You don’t need no stinkin’ finish. It serves no purpose. And BLO ain’t a finish; it’s a fire starter.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View JayT's profile


4680 posts in 1632 days

#4 posted 04-28-2014 02:15 PM

Using some kind of oil finish is nice on a bench just for cleanup purposes. I agree that you do not want a hard finish. I used diluted BLO for my bench, but if doing it again would probably just use a couple coats of Watco Danish oil.

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1720 posts in 1390 days

#5 posted 04-28-2014 02:51 PM

I left mine unfinished. Of course mine was made from pallet wood so I didn’t care about a finish on that

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7701 posts in 1801 days

#6 posted 04-28-2014 04:49 PM

Oil is primarily for appearance and doesn’t stop moisture, sun, or offer any abrasion resistance; none of which matter on an indoor bench but an outdoor bench will degrade much quicker unless made of rot resistant wood. If not rot resistant I’d use a varnish with UV inhibitors, seal the end grain with extra coats and keep the bottom off the ground. Even better would be to put a moisture barrier below the bench. Whatever you use, apply it evenly to all sides or you’ll encourage warping.

edit; I misread the OP and was under the impression it was an outdoor bench. Disregard.


View RandyinFlorida's profile


172 posts in 1488 days

#7 posted 04-28-2014 05:17 PM

Leave the work surface raw. Any finish could transfer to a project you’re working on.

BTW taking from Rick M. “Statucs show that 100% of people that succeed tried.” Think about it.

-- Randy in Crestview Florida, Wood Rocks!

View Spacehog's profile


65 posts in 945 days

#8 posted 04-28-2014 06:10 PM

I had heard somewhere that leaving wood unfinished can lead to problems down the road. I saw this diagram that showed the range of moisture absorption for wood that has been finished vs. unfinished. It was pretty surprising how much more stable the finished wood was with regard to moisture content. The article I was reading also showed how untreated wood was far more prone to cracking, warping, etc. I’m not looking to make the thing look like a piece of art, but I don’t want it to warp or crack either.

-- Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7701 posts in 1801 days

#9 posted 04-28-2014 10:15 PM

Things that cause the most deterioration: moisture gain & loss (the constant expansion and contraction will loosen joints and mechanical fasteners like nails and screws, and warp the wood), bugs, sunlight (UV), and excess moisture which can lead to rot, mold, mildew, etc. How much protection you need is going to depend on the conditions in your garage.


View bondogaposis's profile


3969 posts in 1772 days

#10 posted 04-28-2014 10:19 PM

I like BLO, Spar varnish and mineral spirits, mixed 1/3 of each.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Don W's profile

Don W

17877 posts in 1988 days

#11 posted 04-28-2014 11:07 PM

I used blo for everything but the very top. That I used blo-mineral spirits-varnish mixed with an additional coats of blo as needed every now and then.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View Spacehog's profile


65 posts in 945 days

#12 posted 04-28-2014 11:19 PM

Thanks for the additional info Bondogaposis and Don W. I think I will be doing basically what you describe for the sides and top. I already put BLO on the underside/bottom of the table. I still have the sides and top to do though.

-- Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 2214 days

#13 posted 04-29-2014 12:06 AM

I put 1 coat of tung oil on mine. It does make cleanup easier. I think it was Minwax. I occasionally apply Johnson’s paste wax. Makes it easy to clean glue drops, etc.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

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