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Best worktable finish Options
MMcGuire
Posted: Sunday, July 01, 2012 9:25:51 PM
Rank: Newbie
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Joined: 6/4/2012
Posts: 0
Location: Smithtown, NY
I am looking to refinish my workbench table tops in my classroom as I have been told it has been several years since it has been done and they are fairly beat. A previous teacher told me they used to rent floor sanders with a course grit (around 40!) to sand the table tops down real quick then refinish.

I was wondering what everyone thinks the most durable type of finish would be for the tables?
I believe the tables are maple. It is a middle school classroom where the students use wood burners and hot glue guns which has lead to the majority of damage to the table tops.

Thanks
-Matt
klandin
Posted: Monday, July 02, 2012 8:16:58 AM
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Joined: 6/1/2006
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Location: Connecticut
I've used plain old gloss polyurethane for years, no particular brand. Poly is not quite bullet proof, but its close. Just be sure to do it now during summer break so that your new finish will have plenty of time to fully cure before the abusers arrive. After the finish is cured I always follow up with a liberal coat of paste wax (which I have my students renew once or twice a year). The paste wax is very effective at preventing glue (both hot and yellow) from sticking. In most cases dried glue will just slide off with a putty knife. I don't know about that floor sander thing though. That sounds to me a bit like going butterfly hunting with a shotgun. I just use my shop's belt sander. 60 or 80 grit works great for the initial stripping. Then belt sand again with 100 grit to remove the course marks. Finish up by running the grits with a standard palm sander or R/O sander.

Keith Landin
Woodshop instructor, Woodstock Academy
"Mens tua sit implementum acerrium in fabrica"
MMcGuire
Posted: Sunday, July 08, 2012 11:10:26 AM
Rank: Newbie
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Joined: 6/4/2012
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Location: Smithtown, NY
I was planning on doing it over the summer. I hope to have everything all freshened up by the beggining of the school year (my dreams also include making all the lockers the same color instead of about 6 different colors, do not think thats going to happen this year though). The only reason I was thinking about trying to go with the floor sander is because there is quite a bit of material that will need to come off the tops to really clean them up and the floor sander will move a lot quicker. I may just give the belt sander a shot first and see how well it goes.

How many coats of the poly did you usually go with?
klandin
Posted: Sunday, July 08, 2012 11:18:01 AM
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Joined: 6/1/2006
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Location: Connecticut
As you might well imagine, time is always the deciding factor. Two coats is the minimum but three are preferable. Be sure to use the paste wax when you're done. It really helps.

Keith Landin
Woodshop instructor, Woodstock Academy
"Mens tua sit implementum acerrium in fabrica"
bingmeng
Posted: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 9:57:57 PM
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Joined: 7/18/2012
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Location: fhdg
The only reason I was thinking about trying to go with the floor sander is because there is quite a bit of material that will need to come off the tops to really clean them up and the floor sander will move a lot quicker. I may just give the belt sander a shot first and see how well it goes.

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MrsN
Posted: Friday, July 20, 2012 10:57:56 AM
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Joined: 4/2/2008
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Location: Wisconsin
I usually sand mine down with a belt sander and re-finish with poly. Part of the end of the year clean up is for kids to take scrub brushes and sanders to the table tops. Last summer I went a little over board and did like 10 coats of poly on one of my tables, it is still in really good condition this year.
I have also done small parts of the tables in the middle of the year, like right before christmas break or spring break.
jgstearns
Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2012 12:17:55 PM
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Joined: 9/6/2006
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Location: Amity, OR
The finish I have used with good success, is a simple wipe on- 1 part Poly (whatever you want), 1 part mineral spirits (to thin), and one part Boiled Linseed Oil.
craigp
Posted: Tuesday, February 05, 2013 10:48:01 AM
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Joined: 2/6/2008
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Location: Chesapeake City, Maryland
I have refinished tables that were really beat up before using a floor sander. It works so much quicker than a belt sander. I just put all of my table tops together on the foor and did them all at the same time. They came out really nice.

I have also just flipped the table tops over and plugged the holes from the vises with dowels and reinstalled the vises. It actually saved a lot of time. The underside of my tables were finished at the factory and it was in really good condition.

Craig R. Patterson, CD
PLTW Teacher
Elkton High School
Elkton, Maryland
mstang64bb
Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 7:10:23 AM
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Joined: 8/21/2007
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Location: Coventry, CT
I have used the floor sander method as well. My benches were in really bad shape including the vises. I removed the vises and pushed all the benches together to sand them.
I bought from Delvies Inc. a 2 part 50/50 epoxy finsh. It's like 50 coat of varnish. Then like someone mentioned, apply wax and the glue peels right off.
I did this during the summer. I bought the 2 gallon kit and did 4 benches, and 3 counters and still have enough left over for touch-ups when needed.

A project isn't finished, until a FINISH is on it....Bob~
Champlainbuilder
Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 11:47:39 AM
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Joined: 3/7/2012
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Location: Middlebury, Vermont
I'm a little sheepish about saying this because I know that a butcher block top looks great and is traditional. But, I just got tired of the refinishing and dealing with broken screws etc. I've put 3/4 " melamine over my butcher block for years now. I've had to get 5 x 8 ft. sheets as the tops are 5 x 5 ft. and they run almost $60 although the lumber yard gave me a great deal once on some that were kicking around for a few years unsold. Glues and finishes scrape off of melamine easily with a chisel or glue scraper. I've gotten 3 years from my last order, and will flip them over for another 2-3. Even when I try to throw them away, some kid will tell his dad and they're gone the next day (hard to believe but true). They are a must for my 2 gluing tables. Just another approach.
Mike Walsh
Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 12:32:36 PM
Rank: Newbie
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Joined: 9/13/2006
Posts: 0
Location: Allegan MI
When I was teaching we covered one 'glue up" bench the same way but used 1/8" hardboard. However knife cuts and dents made summer replacement routine. Here in our warehouse we did the same thing but found the soft white plastic sheets sold by Home Depot to use behind urinals were ideal. They are soft so knife cuts "heal" and glue and paste flake off. One bench cover is now several years old.
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