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Dad's Workbench

The workbench my dad has used to be his dad's- who passed away a few years ago. Rather than replacing the bench, my sister and I were thinking of refinishing it. I think his dad built it in the fifties or sixties. The wood is well-worn and VERY dirty/stained! Does it sound like sanding and refinishing would be possible on a bench this old? We were thinking it wouldn't be bad to still have some wear and tear show through... It adds character and holds memories! I'm just worried about the age of the wood and making sure I use the right tools/process. Thanks!
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Posted 2012-05-01T21:56:28+0000  by Trishls Trishls

Welcome to our community Trishls, 


My name is Christine and I work in the paint department at The Home Depot in Atlanta. I'm so glad that you have decided to keep your dad's workbench. The process is fun and you will be really happy with the final outcome.  :smileyhappy:


The first thing we need to discuss is getting the dirt off of your piece. Since it is a delicate piece, using sandpaper that you control by hand (as opposed to a electric sander) is going to be best. Start with either a 60 or 80 grit sandpaper and work your way up to 180 or 220 grit. The rough sandpaper will remove dirt and the smooth sandpaper will smooth out the wood and prepare it for staining.    


After the dirt is gone and your piece is clean you can refinish your piece. Minwax Antique Refinisher is a great product to use. It will slightly change the color, but not by a lot. It will brighten it up without getting rid of the character that makes your piece unique.   


Good luck with your project! 


Let us know if we can help with anything else!


Christine :smileyhappy:



Posted 2012-05-02T15:51:38+0000  by Christine_HD_ATL

A lot of workbenches are just oiled or at most shellac'd. The typical clear finishes aren't used. If this is a working bench, you may want to consider a simple tung oil or boiled linseed oil finish. If you think you need to put some sort of clear finish on it, consider using a "danish oil." Just mix equal parts of mineral spirits or turpentine, varnish and boiled linseed oil and start rubbing.

Posted 2012-05-04T02:16:52+0000  by Paul

Another thing I forgot to mention about your bench. Whether this is a show piece or just an occasional use bench, keeping all your hard work looking good and lasting longer can be summed up in two words: sacrificial top.


A lot of woodworkers who build their own benches will plan for a sacrificial top in their design. What this means is this: they have an extra layer of material on the top of the bench for use while gluing, staining, etc. Usually this is a piece of hardboard, sometimes referred to by the brand name Masonite. This is usually cut out to the same shape as the top and use some construction adhesive, double sided tape and/or counter sunk brass screws to hold in place. As the sacrificial top shows some wear and tear, it is easily replaced by a new piece. I've also read about creating a lip around the perimeter of the bench and just having the sacrificial top lay loose, held in place by the lip (which looks to be the case below).


Here's a great example:


In the above picture, you can plainly see the dark brown hardboard place on top of the workbench. The builder of this bench has even accomodated his dog holes for use with the end vise.

Posted 2012-05-06T05:30:24+0000  by Paul
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