Author Topic: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?  (Read 14480 times)

Offline 90LX_Notch

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How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« on: April 26, 2015, 10:13:45 PM »
When it comes to the brown stuff I am challenged.  What is the best way to get 77 years worth of grime off of an oak bench?  The Rivett 608 that I bought came with an original oak cabinet.  Mild soap and water? Or, will that make the wood swell?  I don't want to distort the cabinet top beacause the lathe obviously sits upon it.

This is a picture from rivettlathe.com of the same setup as mine.  As you can see it was originally a beautiful cabinet but mine has darkened with age, oil and grime.  I'm not looking to refinish it just clean it up safely.

Thanks,
Bob
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Offline Don1966

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2015, 10:44:27 PM »
Bob if the top has darken and browned it means that oil has soaked into the wood. I doubt that cleaning it with soap and water would do it any good. Being that it's as old as you say, the varnish in those days were not that good. In order to restore it to the original color it was, you will have to sand it to remove the oil that has soaked into the wood. And yes it would be  good idea to use some sort of mineral spirit to help clean the oil off. If there are deep scratches the oil would work it's way into the wood easy. If you don't have deep scratches, chances are you will be able to sand it down to remove the surface oil that has accumulated. With oak being a hard wood you have a good chance of restoring it. If you have a close up photo we may be able to enlighten you a bit more.

Don

Offline 90LX_Notch

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2015, 11:22:55 PM »
Thanks Don.  I'm not looking to restore it.  I just want to clean it before I place the lathe back on it.  I realize that it will remain dark in color; I just want to get the grime off safely.  I wonder how Murphy's oil soap would work?  I also wonder if a rag with WD40 would work without hurting it?

-Bob
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Offline Jeff Michel

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2015, 11:50:32 PM »
I use whiting mixed with alcohol, mixed thin, brush it on. It will draw the oil from the wood as it drys. Scrap or brush it off repeat. Depending how much oil is in the wood, probably will take half a dozen coats, one per day. Once your oil is out, scrub it with household bleach and let it dry. It will now take whatever finish you prefer.

Offline 90LX_Notch

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2015, 12:06:47 AM »
Thanks Jeff.  What is whiting?  I am not familiar with that term.

-Bob
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Offline sshire

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2015, 12:07:06 AM »
The classic technique is a belt sander. 10 minutes and you're done. No screwing around with various alchemy.
Best,
Stan

Offline mklotz

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2015, 12:51:29 AM »
It's a workbench, not fine furniture.  Embrace the grime.

A scraper plane or Stan's belt sander to get the big pieces and then relax and enjoy the patina. 

If you get it looking like a 50's coffee table you'll never convince anyone that you really use it.
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Offline 90LX_Notch

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2015, 01:41:26 AM »
Thanks Stan. 

Marv I agree.  That's why I am only looking to clean it.  I have no interest in sanding or refinishing it. ( I hate anything to do with wood.) However,  this was the super high end lathe of it's day.  In 1908 they sold apparently for $1000.00 and were the most expensive lathes in the world as well as the most precise.  The cabinet is put together like a piece of furniture.  They were found in the R&D labs of Princeton, Johns Hopkins, etc. as well as instrument shops and toolrooms.  Mine unfortunately, is black with grime.

-Bob
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Offline Pete49

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2015, 06:35:59 AM »
Fire is a very good cleaner of oil soaked wood.  :lolb: Then a new metal bench would work well
Pete
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Online steamer

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2015, 02:17:27 PM »
I would gently try a paint scraper ( not a putty knife) or draw scraper and gently scrape the crap off the top.  Least chance of driving the oil deeper.

Like this draw scraper

http://www.mscdirect.com/product/details/00238402?CS_010=00238402&item=00238402&CS_003=7867724&src=pla&cid=PLA-Google-PLA+-+Test

Just clean it.   Leave the deep scratches.   Then gently sand it and then varnish   

Personally, the oil in the wood is part of the history of the lathe.   Don't turn it into fine art....some patina on this piece can be appreciated....

Dave
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Offline tangler

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2015, 02:44:06 PM »
An old friend of mine used to use Swarfega (a green hand cleaning gel) for cleaning grime off the old woodwind instruments he collected.  Seemed to work pretty well with no obvious detrimental effects to the (mostly) boxwood that the instruments were made from.  He had contact with the antiques trade so I guess he got advice from there.

HTH

Rod

Online b.lindsey

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2015, 04:01:17 PM »
Bob, I would give the Murphy's oil soap a try, especially if you have some. Another one to consider (I think it's still available) is Scott's Liquid Gold!

Bill

Offline Jeff Michel

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2015, 08:35:19 PM »
Whiting is a powder, I believe calcium carbonate. It will just about impossible to get any finish to adhere to oil soaked wood. I use it to remove oil from military rifle stocks during restoration. Sounds like you're not going to that extreme. Mineral spirits followed by a strong detergent, trisodium polyphosphate will get the majority of the crummy build up.

Online steamer

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2015, 09:06:32 PM »
TSP would do it!    Didn't think of that Jeff! :ThumbsUp:

Dave
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Offline 90LX_Notch

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2015, 09:55:12 PM »
Thanks for all of the replies.  I had some denatured alcohol on hand and  decide to try it.  It has worked rather well.  It takes a little "elbow grease" but it cuts right through the grime.  The cabinet top isn't in great shape so I decided to try the alcohol.
I need to buy some more and give it a few more applications.

-Bob
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