Author Topic: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?  (Read 14485 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
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Offline 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

Offline 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.

Offline 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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Offline rhankey

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #15 on: April 27, 2015, 09:58:29 PM »
Do not use water or any water based cleaners to clean oak, especially one that has been used under a metal lathe.  Iron found in water, or residual iron from using the lathe will stain the oak black.

Offline steamer

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #16 on: April 27, 2015, 11:32:11 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

If it works....it works!     Pictures please!!!!

Dave
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Offline 90LX_Notch

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2015, 01:30:01 AM »
For steamer-
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Offline steamer

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2015, 02:20:59 AM »
Hey Bob!   That's beautiful!   That should clean up really nice.   Just take your time with it.

I'll be watching!   I know what your in for!

http://www.modelenginemaker.com/index.php?topic=369.0

Dave
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Offline 90LX_Notch

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2015, 02:55:38 AM »
Thanks Dave.  I remember your SB project.

 Fortunately the lathe is in real nice shape.  The cabinet has it's beauty marks along with some cracks.   My plan is to get the top cleaned up, then mount the lathe and get it running.  Then I can clean the rest of the cabinet over time. 

-Bob
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Offline steamer

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #20 on: April 28, 2015, 10:46:02 AM »
By the way those slide locks on the doors have got to go!    Make up some new brass or bronze knobs....

Dave
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Offline Allen Smithee

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #21 on: April 28, 2015, 12:22:17 PM »
Thanks for all of the replies.  I had some denatured alcohol on hand and  decide to try it.

Well if you must - I'm told that it really needs ginger ale or a good tonic water to take the harshness out of the aftertaste. But I'm not sure I'd let a job like this drive me to drink...

AS
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Offline 90LX_Notch

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #22 on: April 28, 2015, 12:35:58 PM »
By the way those slide locks on the doors have got to go!    Make up some new brass or bronze knobs....

Dave

I know.  I had one off the other night.  What is sad is that the original locks are behind  them. Somebody removed the original plates and put the damn slide locks there.   I'll take some pictures of the atrocity.

-Bob
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Offline b.lindsey

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #23 on: April 28, 2015, 12:51:54 PM »
Bob,
I know you aren't into the brown stuff, but as nice as that is cleaning up already, I would sure be tempted to carry on and refinish the whole cabinet. The oak top seems to be the worst part and you have a fine start on that already.

Bill

Offline Mosey

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #24 on: April 28, 2015, 01:50:34 PM »
Remove as much of the oil as you can with mineral spirits or turpentine, then bleach the oak with oxalic acid. Careful, test a hidden area before you go too far. Then varnish or use a high quality oil-based finish like teak oil that has japan dryers in it.
As for the belt sander suggestion...............only for butchers! Sorry Stan.
Mosey

Offline ShopShoe

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #25 on: April 28, 2015, 02:45:47 PM »
I know you said you dislike woodworking.

For what it's worth, an additional woodworking idea that might be useful:

Cabinet Scrapers: You sharpen them with a file and burnish them to create a cutting edge. It's easier than it sounds. What they used before sandpaper. It will create a smooth flat surface and only lightly clean yours. May or may not be followed by sandpaper.

See below for an example:

http://www.grizzly.com/products/Square-Scraper-Set-3-pc-/T27042

In general, I think you have an historical machine and keeping some of the history is desirable. Just some cleaning and evening-up is desirable.

--ShopShoe

Offline mklotz

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #26 on: April 28, 2015, 03:11:33 PM »

Cabinet Scrapers: You sharpen them with a file and burnish them to create a cutting edge. It's easier than it sounds. What they used before sandpaper. It will create a smooth flat surface and only lightly clean yours. May or may not be followed by sandpaper.

See below for an example:

http://www.grizzly.com/products/Square-Scraper-Set-3-pc-/T27042

Scraping a table-sized object with hand scrapers will ruin your hands.  Scrapers do indeed leave a beautiful finish but get the tool that will save your hands...

http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=46266&cat=1,230,41182,68491

Of course, I still think you should embrace the grime.
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Offline 90LX_Notch

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #27 on: April 28, 2015, 08:49:56 PM »
Thanks for all of the replies.

update-

I am pleased with the top and for now I am going to call it done.  This is the look that I was after.  I think there is still enough history there.  Note that the tailstock end isn't cleaning up well due to scratches.

Next on the agenda is to get the lathe moved in tomorrow and start on the what I would call the headboard for the cabinet on Thursday.   You can see the headboard in the second picture.

The third picture is the keyhole in the cabinet door that they covered over with the slide lock.

-Bob
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Offline Mosey

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #28 on: April 28, 2015, 09:50:42 PM »
By the way, I forgot to say that that is a nice cabinet for a great machine. Enjoy it!
Mosey

Offline zeeprogrammer

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #29 on: April 28, 2015, 11:54:05 PM »
Of course, I still think you should embrace the grime.

As we do Marv. As we do.  ;D
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Offline 90LX_Notch

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #30 on: April 30, 2015, 02:15:37 AM »
Next question,  should I use some type of wood wax to protect the top now?  If so, what type?

Thanks,
Bob
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Offline old-and-broken

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #31 on: April 30, 2015, 02:35:25 PM »
http://www.aeromarineproducts.com/epoxy-400-21-1-5-qt-lp.html?gclid=CjwKEAjwpYeqBRDOwq2DrLCB-UcSJAASIYLjJpmimG6crdS6sU_LfScMFIXFw9VwHsGM7j_k6RnJxxoCFgXw_wcB

I don't say much around here, but I have been following this thread closely.  The marine epoxy will be permanent but you will never have a problem with oil and dirt again.
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Offline 90LX_Notch

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #32 on: April 30, 2015, 02:47:09 PM »
Thanks old and broken.  At this point I am hesitant to do anything irreversible in case I ever do decide to restore it.  I should have specified that above when I asked about using wax.

-Bob
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Offline old-and-broken

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #33 on: April 30, 2015, 07:04:12 PM »
If you have time then I consider boiled linseed oil a good choice.  several coats with several days between and a few weeks to cure.   if not, consider tung oil as a much faster alternative.   Both can be used with oil based stains. waxes could prevent good results should you use a varnish or other modern finish in the future.
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Offline 90LX_Notch

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #34 on: April 30, 2015, 07:38:07 PM »
Thanks old and broken, answers like yours are I why I asked here.  I really don't know much about wood and the effects of different products on it.

-Bob
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Offline Tennessee Whiskey

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #35 on: April 30, 2015, 07:40:18 PM »
+1 on the tung oil. I finished some antique pine floors in the house with about 5 coats and it's holding up great.

Cletus

Offline Dave Otto

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Re: How to clean a grimey oak bench top?
« Reply #36 on: April 30, 2015, 07:59:16 PM »
I was also going to suggest the tung oil; I have had good luck with Formby's Tung Oil on a few projects. Goes on real easy, dries fast, and you can build it up how ever much you like. It also doesn't have that dipped in plastic look that you seem to get with the polyurethanes.

Dave