[time-nuts] Conducting Bench Top Material
Charles P. Steinmetz
charles_steinmetz at lavabit.com
Mon Jan 25 18:27:11 UTC 2010
>Although over the years the non-conductive top has been an asset in
>avoiding short circuits, etc., I am concerned about static discharges when
>handling modern semiconductors. Would it make sense to spray the Masonite
>with a weak copper sulphate or similar solution so as to make the masonite
>slightly conductive, but not so conductive that 155 VAC connections
>safely rest upon it? Is there a better-suited material that could be used
>to replace the Masonite?
I notice that many folks who have contributed on this thread use
anti-static benchtops, but I have never found it necessary (and I try
to keep the RH in my house under 45% -- it is generally 20% or less
in the winter). I've been fooling with static-sensitive parts for 35
years and haven't lost one to static yet. With that perspective, my
preferred benchtop is white Formica with a very, very slightly
pebbled surface. Very durable, including to molten solder, and small
parts show up well. I use rubberized "gunsmith" mats for preventing
scratches to delicate workpieces (these happen to be anti-static, but
that is not why I have them).
Other bench thoughts:
Bench depth is very important. I sometimes work on equipment that is
more than 24" deep, so I want at least 30" of clear space in front of
any obstructions (power strips, Variac, test equipment,
whatever). In the past, I used a "flying bridge" over the rear 18"
of a 48"-deep bench to elevate the test equipment, which worked very
well. Now I use 24" deep adjustable wire-rack shelving units behind
a 30" benchtop (As others have pointed out, you can do the same with
equipment racks -- I'm not a fan of rack-mounting test equipment
unless the racks are anchored and everything is on slides, which I
was not prepared to do). I don't have enough shop real estate to
have a permanent access aisle behind the test equipment, so the bench
and racks have large (5") locking polyurethane wheels and can be
pulled out relatively easily for reconfiguration. This provides
plenty of stability for electronic projects, but you wouldn't want to
mount a big vise on the bench and try to bend 1" rebar. For that, I
have a separate metalworking shop.
Bench height is also important. I prefer a tall bench, suited to
working standing or sitting on an ergonomic stool, so my bench top is
44" above the floor -- a bit below my standing elbow height.
Finally, one can never have too many power outlets, or too much
light, in a workshop. Lighting should be arranged so that it doesn't
cause specular reflections from the workpiece or the faces of test equipment.
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