Building a workbench is a considerable investment in time and money So youll want to make sure to choose the right finish for the job

Selecting the proper finish for a project is always a challenge. And finishing a workbench is no exception. You might think that because a workbench spends its life in the shop rather than the living room, the type of finish you use doesn't really matter all that much.

The truth is, the finish you put on your workbench is just as important as how tall to make the bench, what kind of vises to install, and whether or not to include a tool tray.

when you get right down to it, you're really only looking for three things in a workbench finish. First, you want something that will protect the bench. You also want a finish that looks good, not only when you first apply it, but also down the road.

And finally, since most workbenches get a lot of abuse, you want a finish that is easy to repair if it gets damaged. With these objectives in mind, here's a look at a few different types of finishes commonly used on workbenches.

FILM FINISHES. At first thought, it may seem that a traditional, built-up film finish, like a varnish or lacquer, would offer the best protection for a workbench. And in many respects, this is true.

A film finish will offer the greatest resistance to drips and spills, as well as provide a protective surface against minor dings and abrasions. And a film finish definitely looks nice, which is a plus, especially if you're building a "showpiece" workbench.

But there are a couple of downsides to film finishes. For one, most of them tend to dry fairly hard and smooth. So they can make the top of your bench a bit slick. This in turn can make it difficult to hold pieces securely on your bench while working on them.

Even more important, however, is the fact that a film finish can be difficult to maintain. Sooner or later, your bench is going to get cut, nicked, dented, or scratched. And when that happens, your only options are to live with the damage, or sand down the bench-top and refinish it.

There is one case where a film finish is fine though. And that's when it comes to the base of the bench. Since this part of the bench won't get subjected to the same kind of abuse as the top, a film finish makes sense here.

OIL FINISH. One of the oldest and easiest ways to finish a workbench is to simply wipe on several coats of either boiled linseed oil or tung oil. This type of finish has the benefit of being inexpensive and extremely easy to apply.

A wiping varnish will offer maximum protection for your bench, but will require more

Add Turpentine. Next, add an equivalent amount of turpentine and let the jar sit overnight or until the beeswax dissolves.

Add Linseed Oil. Once the wax is dissolved, you can add the boiled linseed oil. The finish is now ready to use.

Start with Beeswax. To make your own finish, start by shaving some beeswax and placing the shavings in a glass jar.

Linseed Oil Varnish Finish

All you do is brush on a heavy coat of oil, let it soak in for several minutes, and then wipe off the excess. Unlike a film finish, the oil soaks into the pores of the wood, rather than sitting on top of the surface. The oil creates a barrier against any spills that may occur while you're using the bench.

But the biggest advantage of an oil finish is that it's easy to rejuvenate. All you have to do is add another coat of oil periodically to keep the top looking good. You may want to give the top a light scraping or sanding to remove any dirt or grime before applying the oil, but even that isn't absolutely necessary.

But like the film finishes, oil finishes have their drawbacks as well. For one thing, oil finishes take a long time to dry. If you use boiled linseed oil, you may have to wait several days for your benchtop to dry. And the linseed oil leaves behind an odor that some people don't really care for.

More importantly, oil finishes don't offer much protection to the surface of the bench. Although they resist spills, they don't offer much protection against dirt or abrasion. In fact, the thing that I don't like about oil finishes is that they leave a bench looking and feeling like it doesn't have any finish at all on it.

OIL & BEESWAX FINISH. There's another "traditional" type of workbench finish that's almost as easy as an oil finish to apply, but offers a bit more protection. And that's an oil and beeswax mixture.

In many ways, this finish gives you the best of all options. It offers a reasonable amount of protection, and since it's easy to renew, it will keep your bench looking great too. That's why it's my first choice for a workbench finish. (And it's not just for workbenches — it works great on furniture projects as well.)

You can easily make your own oil and beeswax finish. The recipe consists of nothing more than equal amounts of beeswax, turpentine, and boiled linseed oil. The box below outlines the steps involved.

The finish is applied in the same manner as an oil finish. On a brand new bench, you'll have to apply two or three coats so that it seals the wood. Once it dries, you can buff the wax with a soft cloth. After that, you can simply apply a rejuvenating coat whenever necessary

The oil seals the wood against spills and the beeswax prevents glue squeezeout from sticking to the bench. Plus, it adds an extra level of protection against dirt and minor abrasions that you don't get with a straight oil finish. And again, like an oil finish, you can touch up any damaged areas without having to refinish the entire top.

AU NATURAL Finally, there's one other option that's worth a passing mention, and that is to skip the finishing altogether. Granted, this sounds a bit odd at first. But if your bench is going to be used for rough work, or in a garage or barn where a finish won't last very long anyway, there's not much point in putting in a lot of effort applying a finish. Over time, the wood will age in color and develop its own patina. And you won't ever have to worry about refinishing.

When it comes to choosing a workbench finish, clearly there's no single right answer. But armed with the proper information, you can choose the type of finish that works for you. E9

How-To: Make an Oil & Beeswax Finish

You can make your own finish by combining equal amounts of beeswax, turpentine, and boiled linseed oil

Add Turpentine. Next, add an equivalent amount of turpentine and let the jar sit overnight or until the beeswax dissolves.

Add Linseed Oil. Once the wax is dissolved, you can add the boiled linseed oil. The finish is now ready to use.

Start with Beeswax. To make your own finish, start by shaving some beeswax and placing the shavings in a glass jar.

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Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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Responses

  • innes craig
    What type of finish to put on a workbench?
    6 years ago
  • zewdi robel
    What finish do you use to protect your workbench?
    6 years ago

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