Bench Top Finish

My bench is about 50 years old. I like that it has history. But its
time to build a new top. From what I see in the archives maple is the
favored material. But varnish and shellac just don’t cut it as a
finish. I was wondering about oiling the wood. Anyone have experience
with how this holds up against the various chemicals we use? Would
the oil weep out under heat? Or if you know of some other tough, hard


If you just want a good seal coat, I’ve used tung oil on a lot of my
wooden tool cases and handles. It doesn’t dry slick or oily, even in
our local humidity. If you are looking for something tougher, you
might consider that 2-part epoxy sealer, Envirotex, that’s often used
on bar tops and restaurant table tops.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR

Wax! Paraffin(kero) wax or candle wax softened with white spirit or
turps, just like they put on chemical lab benches in the old days.
Wash your bench top using a cloth dampened with detergent, scrape it
to remove dried up splotches, let it dry, and wax it. It will be gap
filling, self-healing, non-stick, preserves the patina, and improves
with age. It needs re-doing once or twice per year depending on how
beautiful you want your bench to look.

If it is made of good wood I would just use the other side.

In New York City we have a ton of shops closing and one can pick up
benches (right place at the right time) for about $25.00. If the top
is very beat up (holes and burns) you can use the other side. In some
cases you can take it to a wood shop and have it run through a

If the Bench Pin slot is shot you can use the back end and put a new

A Light coat of natual wood Shellac is a better sealer than Oils.

Kenneth Singh
46 Jewelry Supply.

Hello Neil,

My Bench is also 50 years plus. I love it!

During my apprenticeship in Germany I was taught to clean my bench
every week and wax it every month. Though I don’t clean it every
week,I wax it with Johnson past wax every time I do clean it. It’s
easy to use and seals the cracks. Tschuess,


The toughest finish I have found is on my dining room table. No
rings from water, wine or anything. The only damage I can speak of
was when I was getting my hair done at home (now not just my
hairdresser knows for sure) and the bleach got dripped on the table.
It left a lightened spot which is now fading away. The finish on the
table is equal parts of Linseed Oil, Turpentine and Varnish. Hand
rubbed in with sandpaper, (Use gloves), and wiped down after an hour
or so. Repeat after 24 hours. The more treatments the more durable
the finish. I think my table has 3 finishes on it. It is over 13
years old and still looks good. Now it isn’t a workbench but it has
been used and abused for all these years surviving tools, hot glue
and the like. If you would like more info just let me know.

Cande Toner

Au contraire’, if your bench is over 50 it is well seasoned it should
not" weep", and most people i know have polyurethane sealant,if not
shellac on their bench tops - personal preference is the factor here
.As for oil-, food grade cutting board oil block oil or any fairly
light penetrating oil is good for some applications,i am always
trying to avoid oil on things ( i.e.-anything that has to be soldered
or pickled) and i like shellac or polyurethane as a sealant and since
everyone has an opinion; …I would suggest a good sanding of the
surface with a palm type sander, or if it’s fairly level, a not
overly obsessive hand sanding may do nicely using progressively finer
grits - starting about 80 if not 60 if it’s really marred, and dented
( don’t worry about taking it all the way down to the deepest point,
you’re just going to re-dent it anyway if you use, for example, a
metal bench block on the surface ), then up/down to about a 200 - 400
grit if you;re going to seal with polyurethane or shellac (my
personal favorite for the dark woods and hard finish i like over a
stain (because i can’t afford a top of purple heart wood - yet ! so
minwax jacobean over cochineal on walnut work for me, and my beet
juice trial was an error!) .This is all provided the top is fairly
thick and sturdy to begin with…otherwise, perhaps get a sheet of
good exterior grade plywood - particularly if your bench is in a
non-climate controlled room in a high humidity environment…and cut
to your needs perhaps extending the top to accomodate newer benchtop
equipment, a few inches on either side…don’t over do the extension
because you want to retain the tensegrity of the benchtop and
frame…i’m thinking more than 4- 6 inches on either side would be
the max. look through the gallery of other people’s work areas on
ganoksin if you need some inspiration…but a 50 yr. old seems like it
would be worthy of a refinishing if it’s large enough to accomodate
you and your tools etc, and as for oiling,a bit of stain seems a
better choice to me over something like watco or danish oil finishes
for reasons that would take too long to jot here, and poly type
finishes are easily refreshed from time to time with a little
sanding, then tack cloth, then reapplication when needed…i would
avoid formica type tops all together,If a new top must be added
maple,walnut,oak, chestnut,chesnut oak and hickory, are good choices
when well seasoned. If you don’t get enough suggestions write off
orchid and i can put a woodworker at the keyboard and you can get
some expert from her…hope there is something here that