This will only be a quick post covering the finish that I applied to the workbench.
I had toyed with several ideas. Boiled Linseed Oil, a satin varnish, leave the bench unfinished. There are a myriad of options out there to woodworkers and no matter what finish you are considering, you can find a blog post or forum entry to support any of them.
After reading and researching for quite a while, I had narrowed my options down to two.
The first was a custom made finish that was posted by Chris Schwarz a few years ago and seemed really appealing to me. To see Chris’ post, please click Here.
Basically, mix Boiled Linseed Oil, Mineral Spirits (White Spirit here in the UK) and non-polyurethane satin varnish in equal parts and apply with a rag. This sounded interesting as it was obviously a finish Chris has worked with for some time and one that worked for him.
So I went to my local B&Q to buy my ingredients. Only to discover that trying to establish whether or not a Varnish has Polyurethane in it or not is not as easy as one would hope. At least to me it seems not to be as easy as looking on the tin to see the ingredients. Most varnishes seemed to omit any details of ingredients whatsoever.
After standing in the shop and “googling” on my phone for around 45 minutes, I decided to run with option 2.
Option 2 was Danish Oil. I remembered from reading Chris’ Workbench book that he recommended using Danish Oil for finishing workbenches. I had also read an article/blog post by Paul Sellers where he advocated Danish Oil as it is easy to apply and gives a tactile finish that is both hardy and water resistant.
So, armed with a can of Colron Danish Oil and some lint free cloths, I went home to get started on applying a finish to the bench.
Note: I would advise, that if you are looking at buying lint free cloths, then if you are in the finishing isle at B&Q, you will see some lint free cloths in this section. These will be priced at around £10.00 or so ($15.00 lets say). Instead, take a wander over to the car wash isle, there will be a generic pack of lint-free cloths there for around £3.00 ($5). Utterly insane!
I wanted to sand the bench top, aprons and legs so that I had the most suitable surface to apply the finish to. This would also allow me to get rid of any left over pencil marks (trust me there were lots!).
First I went at it with P60 sandpaper. This was a roll that I have had in the garage for some time and thought it would be a good start.
I knew I wanted to sand the top and aprons with progressively finer grits (maybe 2 or 3 steps) and the legs about the same. After sanding the entire bench top and aprons by hand with the P60 paper, I decided that if I was going to have 3 steps in sanding the top, I would only use two for the legs. Sanding by hand is a workout indeed!
Stage two consisted of sanding the tops, aprons and legs using P180 sandpaper. Slightly less arduous than the P60, but still it took around 30-45 minutes and left me breathing a little heavy.
After giving the bench a once over with the P180 sandpaper, I then took a K240 grit wet and dry and gave the bench top and aprons a very light and quick sand, just to go that extra bit.
I had an off cut that I used as a tester for the Danish Oil and I was happy with the results. I left the bench on it’s own for the evening, to let any dust settle, so that I could just wipe any off the next day.
I liked the way that the Danish Oil brought out the grain in the wood and gave it a bit more protection than just Boiled Linseed Oil alone would have. After all, Danish Oil is an oil and satin varnish mix.
Over the next 3 days I applied a coat each night. Using a lint-free cloth to apply generous amounts of the oil, leaving it to stand for 20 minutes, then wiping off the excess. Then leave it to dry for about 24 hours and repeat.
After the third coat of Danish Oil, I rubbed the surface down with some 0000 Wire wool. This was because the bench top felt like some dust had settled on it and it was rougher than I liked.
After rubbing the surface with wire wool, it was much smoother yet still tactile. So at this point I decided to apply one last coat of Dansih Oil for good measure. After letting it dry overnight, I was really pleased with the result.
The next step was vice installation.