Author Topic: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?  (Read 18767 times)

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Offline lewis

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Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« on: February 09, 2013, 09:09:07 pm »
I'm building a new workbench in the workshop and would like some recommendations on a suitable material with the following criteria:
  • ~4m long
  • 900mm-1m deep (yes, it's deep)
  • >18mm thick
  • White / beige / light coloured and uniform colour
  • Resistant to soldering iron burns
  • Hard (enough to poke a screw in by hand without leaving an indentation)
  • Not silky smooth like marble or granite (although that would make one hell of a workbench)
  • Chamfered/rounded front edge
It's a permanent workbench - not freestanding - so I'd like to be able to buy the material in 8' x 4' sheets or similar. I've always used plywood and am considering birch ply, buy would like something a bit better. Maybe there's some fancy laminate available that isn't kitchen worksurface?

This kind of thing looks good: http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lfd3uiIDMD1qfhnbxo1_500.jpg

Any recommendations? What do you guys use?
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Offline houdini

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2013, 09:55:20 pm »
so like Formica or something? that stuff works fine for me.
 

Offline helloworld922

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2013, 10:47:07 pm »
Possibly masonite or MDF? These are both decently tough, and I've used MDF for cheap welding jigs. The 2x2 spacers would burst into flames if I stayed in one spot too long, but I think for the most part the MDF was ok.
 

Offline Thor-Arne

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2013, 11:08:38 pm »
Mine is made from pine floor boards glued and screwed together, 180*95cm, 50mm (2") thick with a 60*120cm ESD work surface.
Firmly screwed to the wall so it won't move whatever i do.

As happy as I can be with that, but I could always use more space. :D
 

Offline ErikTheNorwegian

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2013, 11:15:40 pm »
If you plan to use a blue anti static rubber matt like Dave's, and you live in a area that humidity do change. Paint the surfaces to seal them on both sides. Since some  workbench plates that are not treated will bulge due to the fact that tree is a living matterial and it will dry unevenly .
I made that experience. So i had to take the bench appart and paint the  bench plates.

The picture shows what happend after some days.. :-) The rubber matth did not allow the wood to dry equaly, so it curved.

Under, the bench bottoms from Ikea. The hight is low, no base on them since i`m in a weelchair they are adapted to my sitting position.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2013, 11:49:02 pm by ErikTheNorwegian »
/Erik
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Offline jaqie

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2013, 11:22:31 pm »
Why not contact a small precast concrete place and get a custom concrete surface made?  This is how good custom countertops are made anyway and if I ever get my own place, I will definitely want this for my workspace surface.

My father and grandfather had a precast concrete business so I know quite a bit more about this than most, I would probably make my own, actually.
 

Offline Thor-Arne

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2013, 11:28:13 pm »
@Erik:

Yes, the bench is treated with varnish.

@jaqie:

Excellent idea, think I'll do that next time. :)
 

Offline smashedProton

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2013, 06:05:54 am »
My workbench surface is a thick plywood with a thin sheet of oak on it.  With a coating of stain and varnish.   I made a novel little self supporting corner inspired by chris gammel's workbench.  Mine is better  O0
http://www.garrettbaldwin.com/

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Offline lewis

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2013, 08:55:05 am »
Thanks for your suggestions, I love the concrete idea!

Will try to find the laminate that proper laboratory benches are made from - that's kinda the thing I'm looking for. They use something called Trespa Athlon here: http://www.lab-tables.co.uk/construction.html
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Offline EEVblog

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2013, 12:57:04 pm »
My benches are IIRC 2.1m x 900mm x 30mm each, raw pine, and I've got 3 of them.
I didn't bother protecting them. A blue rubber ESD mat is much better for that, you can get 10m rolls in 900m width.

Dave.
 

Offline lewis

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2013, 01:01:44 pm »
My benches are IIRC 2.1m x 900mm x 30mm each, raw pine, and I've got 3 of them.
I didn't bother protecting them. A blue rubber ESD mat is much better for that, you can get 10m rolls in 900m width.

Dave.

Where's a good place to get those mats from Dave?
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Offline ivan747

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2013, 01:43:13 pm »
What about that plywood with a fake kinda plastic top they use on some school tables? I think that would be better than particle board. The problem is you would have to stick some boards together to make something that large.
 

Offline G7PSK

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2013, 02:42:42 pm »
I have used WBP phenolic resin (sometimes known as wesa board) concrete shuttering board for bench tops in the past, it is a plywood with a brown phenolic resin coating both sides one is usually smooth and the other side dimpled. The surface is so tough that you can hit it with a hammer and barely mark it. Most good builders merchants should stock as will most timber merchants.
 

Online PaulAm

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2013, 02:48:43 pm »
My bench is 2 sheets of 3/4 plywood with formica on top.  I have a piece of trim on the edge which extends slightly above the surface to keep small parts from rolling off.
 

Offline Shale

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2013, 12:29:10 am »
You could always make the base out of plywood and then use a click type wood flooring for the finished surface. would look nice, fairly strong, and easily replaceable if you ever needed to.
 

Offline free_electron

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2013, 01:53:43 am »
Professional workbenches are made from a material called Trespa Toplab or Trespa Athlon. That stuff is indestructible.
I had custom lab benches built by a local welder and have the working surface made from Trespa plates.

You can let a hot soldering iron lay on that thing for 24 hours .. it doesn't even change color... you can pour whatever chemical on it : it won't react. You almost can't scratch it ( it laughs at those stanley boxcutters. All you end up with is a dull blade. not a scratch in sight ) . Drilling is near impossible ( to get through a 1/2 inch trespa plate with a regular HSS drill you will burn out 2 or 3 drill bits. You need diamond tipped carbide drills to get through it. Cutting is done with a diamond saw. Don't try to drill a hole and screw in a self-tapping screw. You'll rip the screw to shreds.( i tried it. Does'nt work. The screw went i 1/4 of an inch and then the screw head popped off leaving the stem sticking out... The material is simply too dense)

To attach the plates you need to drill a hole , press in a copper insert with inside threads and then put a screw in the insert.

It is a commonly used material for chemical or wet labs , operating rooms , hospitals ( they line the wall with a 5 inch wide band of Trespa where they run beds or carts into the wall. That stuff doesn't budge. More , if you throw E-coli and Staphylococcus Bacteria on it the Trespa kills them within 24 hours !

It's one hell of a material.

The manufacturer will cut plates for you ( we bought them directly from the manufacturer. i had about 50 plates. )
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Offline senso

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2013, 02:09:13 am »
That looks like the perfect material for the job, but I think thats expensive as well..
I have recently made a bench for all my electronics ramblings, it has two 400mm wide foots at each side with 5 drawer 500mm deep, the top is 2.4mx0.90m plywood, just for the looks, and on top it has tempered dark glass 8mm thick, with chanfered sides, its a pretty slick looking desk.
 

Offline lewis

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2013, 01:21:41 pm »
Professional workbenches are made from a material called Trespa Toplab or Trespa Athlon. That stuff is indestructible.
I had custom lab benches built by a local welder and have the working surface made from Trespa plates.

You can let a hot soldering iron lay on that thing for 24 hours .. it doesn't even change color... you can pour whatever chemical on it : it won't react. You almost can't scratch it ( it laughs at those stanley boxcutters. All you end up with is a dull blade. not a scratch in sight ) . Drilling is near impossible ( to get through a 1/2 inch trespa plate with a regular HSS drill you will burn out 2 or 3 drill bits. You need diamond tipped carbide drills to get through it. Cutting is done with a diamond saw. Don't try to drill a hole and screw in a self-tapping screw. You'll rip the screw to shreds.( i tried it. Does'nt work. The screw went i 1/4 of an inch and then the screw head popped off leaving the stem sticking out... The material is simply too dense)

To attach the plates you need to drill a hole , press in a copper insert with inside threads and then put a screw in the insert.

It is a commonly used material for chemical or wet labs , operating rooms , hospitals ( they line the wall with a 5 inch wide band of Trespa where they run beds or carts into the wall. That stuff doesn't budge. More , if you throw E-coli and Staphylococcus Bacteria on it the Trespa kills them within 24 hours !

It's one hell of a material.

The manufacturer will cut plates for you ( we bought them directly from the manufacturer. i had about 50 plates. )

Cheers for that, just what I was looking for. I've ordered a couple of samples of Athlon from Trespa's site, if they turn up I'll report back! Could be 'fun' to work with by the sound of it...
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Offline Slothie

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2013, 10:26:40 pm »
In my last home where I had  a workshop I used Kitchen worktop. Its heavy duty, and if you're on a budget you can get it really cheap if you go for slightly damaged stock. You would not believe how small a chip out of the surface makes the worktop effectively scrap.  I think I got 10m of workbench for less than £30 (it was a while back mind) and most of the "damaged" bits got cut out or hidden under machine tools!
I made the supporting structure out of 40mm square pine, with ply gussets for strength. On the surface I had some conductive anti-static mat one end for ESD.

It supported a V8 engine and gearbox which I was stripping down so it was pretty strong! (For that I used some old industrial carpet to protect the laminate surface from the pointy bits of the engine!!)

I miss that ole bench!
 

Offline george graves

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2013, 11:35:10 pm »
I'm using an interior door as a desk top.  Stays nice and flat.  I picked one up with out any of the holes cut into it or any of the recesses for the holes.  I think I paid $25 or so.  You can't get much cheaper than that for a nice flat large surface.

Some of the cheaper one are made a bit too thin - but if you shop around you'll find a hollow core door that feels really sturdy.  I've even stood on mine.

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #20 on: February 12, 2013, 11:43:13 pm »
Where's a good place to get those mats from Dave?

Have to google your own country I'm afraid. Not cheap to send international.

Dave.
 

Offline sanka

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #21 on: February 13, 2013, 01:06:16 am »
Where's a good place to get those mats from Dave?
Have to google your own country I'm afraid. Not cheap to send international.
Dave.

In the U.S., I have found http://www.all-spec.com to have good quality and price. I prefer the 2-layer rubber matting over the 3-layer vinyl because it has no trouble with high heat -- like if I drop soldering iron / hot solder on it. Although the 3-layer vinyl mat is thicker, it isn't as resistant to high heat as the 2-layer rubber. It mars the surface if you touch it with soldering iron.

Recently, I think I paid around $75, including shipping, for a 2 ft x 6 ft rubber mat with two snaps and wrist strap. It is about $10-$15 cheaper if you just want the mat and want to add the snaps yourself.

As Dave says, it might be too expensive to ship overseas. But at least you can use all-spec's prices as a reference when you shop where you are. I have also seen detailed test data posted at all-spec's site for these mats. They probably supply a lot to large companies that demand such test reports.
 

Offline lewis

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #22 on: February 13, 2013, 09:20:20 am »
Farnell seems top have quite a range: ESD Mats, most notably this http://uk.farnell.com/vermason/228246/bench-mat-roll-blue-1-22x10m/dp/1833422 and this http://uk.farnell.com/multicomp/082-0044/smooth-esd-bench-mat-blue-1-2x10m/dp/1687910 and also this: http://www.teknis.co.uk/p-1152-esd-bench-matting-rubber.aspx amongst others, but I have absolutely no idea if they're any good, or what they feel like to work on, or how resistant they are to solvents, heat or physical abuse. We're always chucking heavy / sharp / hot items on and off the bench and it needs to be very sturdy and I'd prefer to go on recommendation.

We don't actually bother with antistatic protection on the bench at the moment, the surface of the plywood bench, and the floor, have a resistance of between 900M-1.5GR to mains earth (measured at 500V with an insulation resistance tester - when I saw the result I didn't believe it, but it is repeatable and a couple of layers of insulating tape is enough to kill it). It will be interesting to see if the Trespa samples encourage accumulation of charge.
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Offline free_electron

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #23 on: February 13, 2013, 02:49:25 pm »
Never had problems with static on the trespa material. I dont know its electrical properties but can safely say that in the 10 years i had that lab noone reported any static discharges.

Remember that this stuff is used in chemical labs where they often have flammable stuff around.
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Offline poorchava

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Re: Electronics Workbench Material - Recommendations?
« Reply #24 on: February 13, 2013, 03:48:23 pm »
Maybe good old stainess steel (like 2-3mm thick) bolted to some plywood? It fulfills all the requirements, but is conductive (duh!).

That Trespa material is really impressive. Can anyone disclose an approximate cost/area? (my guess: prohibitive)
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