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I just completed a simple workbench using dimensional lumber. The top is 3/4" plywood. What is a good—preferably clear—finish that would harden it and protect it from dings and scratches?

I found an epoxy glaze on Lowes.com that looks interesting.

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I called Minwax and they recommend fast-drying polyurethane. – Daniel Dec 10 '12 at 22:05
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The epoxy glaze you cited is what us old timers used to call casting resin. We use it on bar tops to give good gloss and a hard finish. Sounds like a good choice to me, but several coats of good oil based urethane will also give you good results. Good Luck

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I should mention, if you use Casting Resin, be sure the surface is absolutely clean and moisture free. Any oily spots or damp areas will not bond well and cause bubbles in your finish. Over the years we have laminated coins, money, fishing hooks, you name it into casting resin. Fun stuff. – shirlock homes Dec 10 '12 at 22:58

I have a similar workbench but instead of finishing it, I screwed down (no glue) two layers of hardboard. It's cheap so I don't mind dinging it up and since it's only screwed down, it'll be easy to replace when it gets too dinged up.

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I've used spar urethane for this purpose.

Be aware, though, that it will outgas for a long time if you don't expose it to the sun.

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Spar urethane or spar varnish really should be used outdoors. If interior, regular urethane is much better. – shirlock homes Dec 10 '12 at 23:00

I, too, would be leery of making too nice a table to work on. I recommend a layer of Masonite for a top. It is cheap, takes paint well, and easy to replace when you spill glue or paint on it. Truth be told this is my plan, but I haven't quite gotten there. My workbench is covered by cardboard. Too busy working to make a workspace.

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I would not put any finish on a bench top. You should think of the top as replaceable and sacrificial. You don't want to worry too much about your tools, focus on the work you want to do with them and move on. Workbenchism is for gentlemen with lots of time on their hands.

In other words, don't be a tool nerd.

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