I’ve read about a few woodworkers who cherish their benches to a degree that almost prevents them from working on it. There are no nicks, chisel marks or paint droppings allowed on their workbenches – paint droppings, to some of these woodworkers, are damn near as bad as bird or rat droppings.
Because I spent time as a professional woodworker (I know some will dispute this wholeheartedly), I find this funny. I’ve always thought that my workbench is no different from a handsaw, router or table saw. They are tools to be used in your craft. If you feel the way I do then my next statement will not surprise you at all.
I like to finish some of my projects on my bench. I’ve painted on it, spread shellac on it and have completed more than a couple of oil/varnish finishes on it. In fact, as I wrapped up building my Shaker-style workbench many moons ago, I added a couple of coats of an oil/varnish mixture as a finish and sealer.
This week I’m wrapping up the finish on a contemporary project for 360 Woodworking – I’ve built in modular storage, and it has a veneered set of doors, too. (Look for the article to be released on Friday 4/29.) The finish is a shop-mixed concoction of oil, varnish and turpentine; yes, I like the smell of turpentine.
What I like as well is the fresh coat of oil/varnish spread over my bench top. It’s impossible to not get the finish on the bench. Drips, drops and runs leak onto the surface and I’m OK with that. After the project is wiped and set aside to dry, I wipe off the workbench. (In the above photo you can see a slight line of demarcation where the new finish is, and is not.) After the next two coats on the project, I’ll make sure the entire bench top has received a new layer of finish. I believe in applying a finish to your bench top, and I believe that renewing that finish every once in a while is the way to go.
Is there finish on your workbench? Do you try to keep the bench in a pristine and untouched condition?