Workbench finish?

General Discussions: ASK John: Workbench finish?

By taylor6400 on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 - 11:28 am: Edit Post

John, I recently built a workbench with a 2" thick laminated oak top. I have been researching whether to finish or not to finish and there are opions on each and multiple opinions on types of finish. What is your take on it? The bench is just a garage bench for typical homeowner use. Thanks for the input!!

By admin on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 - 11:50 am: Edit Post


I guess to determine if you want to finish it or not would depend on two factors. 1) How you want it to look and 2) How long you want it to last. Finishing it will both keep it looking good and allow it to last longer for you. I really do not see a downside to putting a finish on it, other than the cost and time involved.

If you do finish it, I would go with either a water based polyurathane or a two part epoxy bar top finish. Both are pretty bullet proof when it somes to holding up to abuse from water or chemicals. They both will scratch over time. The waterbased poly will be easier to apply and will be safe for using indoors with limited off gassing of unhealthy fumes. I would put at least 3 coats on and any more than 5 would be overkill. The epoxy bar top finish will be harder to find and also harder to use as it needs some special attention while using which will be covered with the product. It will give you a thicker finish in it's single coat and will be more durable.

Hope these tips help. If it were me, I would use the water based poly, 3-4 coats.


By favoritos on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 - 12:18 pm: Edit Post

I did the water based poly. Three coats. It does scratch, but what does not?

Interesting side note. I was building a sewing counter for her. I had just covered half of it with 3rd coat when bro stopped by. I stopped halfway through . . . There was no way I could make that end spot go away with one coat, so I sanded and applied three more coats. I lightly sanded the transition point and the entire piece each coat. That sewing counter is smoother than a, ah, well you know. It turned out very nice.

By taylor6400 on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 - 12:28 pm: Edit Post

I guess i was also concerned with a hard finish cracking and be less easier to repair than an oil finish, and also being too slick. Any thoughts on an oil finish and then waxed on top of that?

By admin on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 - 12:44 pm: Edit Post

The water based will not crack. You could use an oil based finish, but will not gain anything by it, other than the clarity they provide vs. a slightly milky finish from the water based. Water based finishes have really come a long way in the past 5-10 years and really are just as durable as oil based, even more when it comes to resistance against solvents. An oil based finish will be impacted by any spilled gasoline or oil, while a water based would not be impacted to much degree at all.

If you were going to be using it outside, then I might suggest a spar varnish, because of it's flexability and thus ability to withstand the movement of the wood due to the outside elements, but since this will be an indoor piece, then a poly is fine.

Wax would only make the top more slippery and would not add any protection or other value.


By taylor6400 on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 - 12:51 pm: Edit Post

Thanks for the info!! Thats what i needed to hear.

By asmski on Wednesday, October 29, 2008 - 12:14 pm: Edit Post

I have spar poly on top of my work bench. Worked good. I put down 3 coats initially, sanding with 220 grit between each coat. I usually put another coat on each year. I probably have 6 total coats on it now.

It wears when you slide metal and tools around on it, so puttin a new coat on it each year makes it look nice again and fills in the scratches.

By yamahauler on Friday, October 31, 2008 - 10:01 am: Edit Post

I used a piece of hardboard which is like peg board but with no holes in it. One side is smooth, the other a little rough. I just screwed it on and if I ever wreck it, you just have to unscrew it and put a new piece on.

By t660redrocket on Friday, November 21, 2008 - 12:42 am: Edit Post

I built my bench out of a bowling alley. Super nice heavy duty finish it. Darn thing is 7 or 8 inches thick.

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