Restoring an old bench

  • Advertise with us

« back to Hand Tools forum

Forum topic by MikeUT posted 03-22-2015 10:57 PM 1192 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View MikeUT's profile


170 posts in 1359 days

03-22-2015 10:57 PM

I visited my grandfather yesterday. He is getting up there in age and wanted to pass some tools along. He said he would much rather give them to me knowing that I would enjoy them instead of coming up and rummaging through after he’s gone.

I’m very glad that he decided to do it this way, now I know the history behind what he gave me. The best thing I found was leaning against the wall in the corner. It was an old benchtop with three old vises attached. At first I only wanted the vises until he told me the story behind it. The benchtop was built and owned by his grandfather, or my great-great-grandfather. My grandfather got it when he was my age around 60 years ago. He used it for a while but took it down for some reason more than 20 years ago and never ended up putting it back in to use.

It has three nice old vises. Two are identical, made by the Desmond Stephan Manufacturing Company out of Urbana OH. The third is green, the only markings on it are ‘2437’ in two different locations and ‘Made in the USA.’ The ones made by Desmond Stephan have a cool quick release mechanism. I’ll probably do a separate blog to show them off.

The benchtop is solid oak. It is held together by three threaded rods with square nuts. It is solid as a rock and is in very good shape for how old it is. It is sowing a little age and has a lot of grease spots.

I want to bring the surface back to working use but am not sure how to go about cleaning and refinishing it. I was thinking about scrubbing it down with mineral spirits then refinishing with some BLO and paste wax. Before doing it I wanted to reach out to all my fellow LJ’s and see if there is a better way. All suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

8 replies so far

View ElChe's profile


630 posts in 1336 days

#1 posted 03-22-2015 11:55 PM

If it is flat I’d card scrape it and finish with blo/beeswax/turpentine or no finish. Those vises are massive. And excellent family story. Congrats.

-- Tom - Measure twice cut once. Then measure again. Curse. Fudge.

View Tim's profile


3807 posts in 1961 days

#2 posted 03-23-2015 12:55 AM

Depends how much cleaning you want to do. The more you clean it the less of the wear shows. But at it’s age you could clean it quite a bit and when you add the finish again it should look pretty sweet. There was a conversation on one of the threads about getting oil spills out of wood and I forgot to save the details. But I remember oven cleaner being pretty effective and Gojo or other citrus pumice hand cleaners can work well too.

Oh and that’s definitely a nice way to pass on tools and to get something from even farther back.

View ruddhess's profile


117 posts in 1210 days

#3 posted 03-23-2015 04:24 AM

Very cool! Love that old stuff!

-- Rodney, Arkansas

View TheFridge's profile


9482 posts in 1486 days

#4 posted 03-23-2015 04:54 AM

I’d pretty much do what you already said.

Edit: forgot, awesome work bench and vises.

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

View Andre's profile (online now)


1837 posts in 1806 days

#5 posted 03-23-2015 05:11 AM

Think I would try a cabinet scrapper for a quick clean and flatten and put it to work!
With all that character she don’t need no coddling! IMHO.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View rwe2156's profile


2926 posts in 1481 days

#6 posted 03-23-2015 10:47 AM

If you’re planning on doing joinery work it needs to be dead flat (should be anyway IMO).

I used a router, a planer bit, and a rail/sled guide system to flatten mine ala The WoodWhisperer

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

18717 posts in 2568 days

#7 posted 03-23-2015 11:26 AM

Excellent addition to your shop. I’d do the scraper (lightly leaving the patina, just removing the grime) and give it a coat of finish. I typically finish my benchtop with whatever I have, BLO, poly, oil. and then wax. Just something so the glue doesn’t stick.

It looks like your grandfather used his bench like I use mine. For everything that’s needed.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2997 days

#8 posted 03-23-2015 12:15 PM

Card scraper, make the benchtop flat, you will get plenty of good use from this bench. Make sure you say “thanks grandpa”

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics