I made a small tabletop Moxon vise and after some research decided to finish it using a 3-part mix of equal parts polyurethane, boiled linseed oil, and mineral spirits. Sounds okay to me, but I'd like to be able to finish it in my home and the Helmsman smells too much for that.

I have some Campbell MagnaMax H2O waterborne poly that's almost odor free, and am wondering if there's any way I could use that to achieve similar results.

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    I'm not sure exactly what you're asking. What qualities do you want out of your finish? Low odor seems to be the only thing you've indicated you need, and waterborne poly certainly satisfies that. Personally I don't finish any of my shop fixtures because I don't see any need to... Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 18:44
  • the 3 part finish i described is often recommended for workbenches because of its ease of recoat and maintenance, and not being as slippery as hard film finishes. so im wondering if its possible to get something similar to that with the waterborne instead
    – wabrrnt
    Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 19:10
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    I think you are just going to have to test it on some scrap pieces. Though I don't see how you are going to get a waterbased poly to properly mix with a mineral spirit based base.
    – user5572
    Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 19:30
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    So are you trying to ask if you can mix waterborn poly with BLO and mineral spirits? I think the answer to that is almost certainly no, but you can try it and see what happens. BLO and waterborn poly have different solvents. You're literally talking about mixing oil and water. The glycol in the waterborn poly might let it mix with BLO though...? Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 0:40
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    Really, though, I think this question is an example of the "X Y problem" - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/66377/what-is-the-xy-problem . What qualities do you want out of your finish? Why are you including BLO? Why are you cutting down the whole thing with a solvent? Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 0:42

2 Answers 2


I don't know if you can mix BLO with waterborne poly, but I wouldn't really recommend it.

The finish mix you mentioned is typically used when you want a wipe-on finish that provides the amber coloring of BLO and offers the added protection of a polyurethane. To break it down, BLO is easy to apply and provides a strong amber coloring but offers little protection against scratches. Oil-based poly provides additional protection as it is a film-based finish, but it can be difficult to apply. Cutting oil-based poly 50/50 with mineral spirits makes it easier to apply. This is known as "wiping poly" and can also be purchased pre-mixed. General Finishes Arm-R-Seal is probably the most commonly used example of this.

The chemistry of waterborne polyurethane is much more sensitive than oil-based poly. I personally wouldn't recommend mixing it with anything other than water. If you want to get the amber hue of BLO but want to use waterborne poly you will need to apply the BLO first, wait for it to completely cure, then apply the waterborne topcoat.

Note that the cure time for BLO can be quite long, on the order of 1-2 weeks. Also, you mentioned that you wanted to avoid odors, but BLO has quite a strong odor which will be present through the entire cure time.

Unless you really want the amber color of BLO I'd just use a waterborne poly. If you're having trouble brushing it on you can cut it with additional water to allow a wiping application. As with any finish you're unfamiliar with, try it on a test board first.


I know that this has an answer already chosen as correct.

I researched this a fair bit for my workbench and decided on a mix of boiled linseed oil and beeswax.

I can not remember the ratio, once melted together it stays a liquid but left to cool to room temp it "solidifies" to a soft-ish paste.

To apply you warm it back to liquid ( not real hot but beyond lukewarm ) and rub it in with a rag, buffing prior to each new coat and after the final coat. Three or five coats over as many days.

Easy, protective and easy to re apply every few years with out striping. ( well sometimes when it is really hot in the shop i do a little stripping but that is none of your beeswax )

  • LOL @ stripping. Just wanted to mention that oil and wax mixtures are actually really soft, and remain somewhat soluble in simple solvents and this could make it problematic for some users. This mix will shrug off glue drops very well, but the softness virtually guarantees that you have to take advantage of that easy recoating every few years. By comparison other finish choices might last in good enough condition to only require refinishing once a decade, so it's not an inconsequential difference.
    – Graphus
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 18:43

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