After letting it sit for 24 hours, the bench is now ready for the hardware.

Workbench: Part 6 – Finishing the benchtop

The workbench top is almost done. It’s been glued up and cut to size. Now all it needs is the finishing touches to get it ready for the hardware.

Adding a shallow rabbet on the ends of each piece.

The left and right edges of each section are going to have angle-iron that wraps around the corners. Since these will be recessed, I need to add a shallow rabbet on each edge. I did this with my table saw and a dado stack. The depth was pretty crucial but the width was approximate. I knew I wasn’t going to get a final fit until I rounded the corner so I just made sure not to make it too wide.

Cut a shallow rabbet on the left and right edges of the benchtop pieces.

I did a rough-fit just to make sure it was deep enough but not too wide.

This is how the angle-iron will sit on the edge.

A close-up view shows how I need to apply a roundover to the corner.

I need to add a roundover in the corner so the angle-iron sits flush.

I used a contour gauge to determine the radius of the inner corner.

Using a contour gauge to determine the correct roundover to apply.

The router bit that fit best is a 1/8″ roundover bit.

It looks like a 1/8" roundover bit will work.

I set the benchtop upside-down on my router table and used it to set the height of the bit.

Setting the height of the router bit.

Then it was a simple matter of pushing the piece along the bit. The piece was pretty big but since my router table is mounted on my table saw, it was actually not too bad.

Cutting the roundover on the left and right edges.

It looks like this is going to be a better fit. Now it’s time to finish the rabbet.

Now I need to take the rabbet back by a bit.

It looks like I need to take an additional 1/16″ off the top.

It looks like 1/16" will do.

I set the fence on my table saw so I would remove just a hair under 1/16″. I’d rather remove too little and have to take off just a bit more than remove too much.

Setting my fence so I can take ~1/16" off of the existing rabbet.

I carefully extended the rabbet just a bit. I didn’t end up needing to move the fence at all, but I did have to raise the blade up just a bit and make a second pass.

Running the pieces over the spinning dado stack.

That fits much better. It’s not perfect but it’s close enough.

That fits much better.

Applying a stain to the tops and sides.

Now it’s time to apply the stain. For this, I’m using Varathane Kona wood stain.

Time to apply the stain.

I applied a generous amount using a 3″ brush.

First I apply the stain with a 3" brush.

My wife followed up with a blue shop towel and dabbed up most of the stain before it could soak in too much. As you can see, this leaves a lot of the stain in the deeper spots, like the dents, mill-marks, and “worm-holes”.

The towel soaks up most of the stain but can't really get into the dents, mill-marks, or "worm-holes".

I’m pretty happy with how this looks so far.

Looks good so far.

We need to let it sit for about an hour before we do anything else to it.

Letting the stain sit for an hour.

We put the angle-iron on the rabbet to get an idea of how it’s going to look when we are finished. I think it looks pretty good.

This is how the angle-iron will look next to this stain.

After waiting an hour, we made sanding blocks out of scrap wood and 220-grit sticky-back sanding discs.

Making a sanding block out of a scrap piece of wood and some sticky-back 220-grit sanding discs.

We used these to go over the benchtops and knock back the high spots a bit.

Knocked back the high spots with the sanding block.

The contrast was a bit too much so my wife decided to lightly dab on some more stain in spots to bring the contrast under control.

Lightly dabbing on some more stain to reduce the contrast between the light and the dark parts.

It’s probably worth mentioning that we made sure to get the front and back of each piece.

Making sure we got the front and back of each piece.

Now we need to let it sit for a few more hours before we apply the polyurethane.

Letting it sit for another couple of hours.

Protecting it all with polyurethane.

For this project I’m using Varathane brand matte finish interior polyurethane. It goes on easily and rinses out with soap and water. An added bonus is that you don’t have to sand in between coats. I still prefer to sand right before applying the final coat.

For this project I am using Varathane brand matte finish interior polyurethane.

I used the same brush that I used for the stain to apply a generous first coat of polyurethane.

Applying the first coat of polyurethane.

After applying the first coat, I went over it lightly with the brush to smooth it out. You can see how the poly sits in the deeper spots. Our intention is to apply enough poly that it fills in these spots, making a smoother surface.

I'm hoping it will help fill up the low spots and even out the top.

Finished applying the first coat. I’m letting that sit overnight before applying the next coat.

Got to let it sit for a few hours before adding more coats.

I applied the second coat and let that sit for a few hours.

Applied the second coat.

Applied a third coat…and waited.

Third coat has been applied.

…and a fourth.

After the fourth coat has been applied, I'm starting to wonder how many more coats this is going to take.

I let the fourth coat sit for 24 hours. It looks like it’s ready to be sanded before applying the final coat. The polyurethane has helped smooth out the high and low spots a bit. I’m not going for a writing surface here so it doesn’t need to be perfectly flat.

The fourth coat is dry and ready for sanding.

I carefully flipped the pieces over so I can stain the underside. Obviously, this isn’t as critical as the top and I could probably not worry about it at all, but the smaller piece will most likely be attached the the main piece with a piano hinge and will hang down on the side when not in use. This means that the underside of the smaller piece will be visible at these times.

Turned the bench-top pieces over so I can stain the underside.

I started the tedious process of applying the stain to the underside. This piece is pine plywood and it soaks up the stain a lot faster than the oak. As a result, this is going to be much darker than the top.

Applying some stain to the underside.

I soaked up as much excess stain as I could.

Soaking up as much excess stain as I can.

After waiting about an hour and a half, I lightly sanded the underside with 220-grit sandpaper. I’m just trying to knock back any bumps before I seal them for all time under a layer of polyurethane.

I let the stain sit for about an hour and a half then I lightly sanded the undersides.

I applied a single coat of polyurethane to the undersides.

I applied a coat of polyurethane.

This is the only layer of poly that I am planning on applying to the underside. I’m going to let it sit for 24 hours before flipping the bench-top pieces back over and finishing the tops.

The polyurethane has been applied and needs to sit overnight.

After letting the poly coat on the underside sit for 24 hours, I flipped the benchtop back over and lightly sanded the top with 220-grit sandpaper in order to knock back any bumps or high points. This also further distressed the top.

I sanded the top with 220-grit to knock down some of the high spots.

I carefully applied the fifth and final coat of polyurethane and let it sit for twenty-four hours.

I carefully reapplied the fifth and final coat of polyurethane.

After sitting overnight, the finish on the bench-top is complete and now it’s time to attach the hardware.

After letting it sit for 24 hours, the bench is now ready for the hardware.

Do you have any tips on staining and protecting your work? What has worked for you? Let us know in the comments section below.  I’d love to hear from you. Also, please consider signing up for my mailing list to be notified of future articles. I am also available on social media. Stop by and say ‘Hi’. I can be reached at the links below.

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