Step 1: Materials
While this may seem like a simple instructable, I'm always stunned when I look around this site and find some of the smallest tips and tricks that can make a big impact and speed up my work. If this little tip helps then it was worth the write up...
Masking Tape (Amazon sells 9 rolls for 13.92)
Step 2: WHAT? MANILLA FOLDERS!!!
Why use something so expensive like manilla folders? First off if you buy them it's too costly to use and throw them out? Why not regular printer paper or newspaper?
Printer paper: Unless it's heavy stock (Expensive) You will get a lot of bleed thru with solvents, paint, oils, gas, and even some glues can bleed thru easily. Plus it wears through quickly.
News paper: It's cheap and easily found, unfortunately newspaper is thin and just doesn't hold up well virtually has no resistance to chemicals (or even water).Another down side is working with miniscule parts can get visually lost in the printing (Try finding a tiny little "Black" eyeglass size screw on dirty paper with black writing).
Manilla folders: Highly resistant or absorbent to most chemicals (not a rubber shield but it will hold its own in a wide variety of cases) Clean manilla colored surface makes for good contrast on small parts, tough for the most part I can usually go for a few weeks with the same sheets. and makes for a clean writing surface to do all your figuring.
But the cost? That's the best thing; Everywhere you look there are offices who are always clean out storage closets throwing them out, I spent a couple of days a few years ago going around downtown Cincy stopping in every office building I could find and just asking if they are planning to throw out any used manilla folders, as luck would have I actually found several of them getting rid of so many I had several boxes in a few hours.
Some companies that regularly go through folders will even call you to pick up used supply's if you leave them you number.
Step 3: Lay It Out and Tape It Down.
That's it very simple and easy way to protect your work surface,
Some might say stain it and seal it however it's a workbench, and my view is your should be working on it not waiting for it to dry. Besides raw plywood is easier to patch screw holes from projects that need to be temporarily fastened to the bench, Not to mention I subscribe to the philosophy a too pretty workbench is a rarely used workbench.
Step 4: Where's the GREEN?
Like this: http://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Pulping-Papermaking-Christopher-Biermann/dp/0120973626/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1313521161&sr=8-2