Introduction: Copper Workbench

Picture of Copper Workbench

Protect your static sensitive electronics from getting fried!

Watch the build vid and read along!

Step 1: Copper As Conductive Work Surface for Electronics Workbench

Picture of Copper As Conductive Work Surface for Electronics Workbench

Electronics benches in years past had conductive work surfaces, but these have mostly been replaced by synthetic rubberized ESD mats. These mats have high electrical resistance, but still protect from static discharge. I don't like the aesthetic, the feel, or the durability of synthetics. I'm trading new tech for beautifully old school copper.

Strictly speaking, a conductive work surface isn't the best for electronics work. It does protect against static electricity. But it also provides a low impedance path to ground. One must take care not to drop any live conductors onto the worksurface or you will get an arc!

For this project you will need:

-20 gauge copper sheet, it comes in 36"x96" sheets. I got mine from Alaskan Copper and Brass. Check out specialty metals in your area. I checked the local scrap dealers and they all said copper sheet gets snapped up quick by jewlery and crafts makers.

-Construction adhesive

-3/4" plywood 4'x8' sheet

Tools:

-Carpenter's Square

-Tape measure

-Knife

-Scotchbrite pad

-Clamps

-Straight edge (knife guide)

Step 2: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Picture of Measure Twice, Cut Once

Copper is expensive, therefore, mistakes are expensive.

Make a deep score in the copper. Copper work hardens, so you will need to resharpen the knife blade frequently.

After it is scored use the straight edge to bend the copper sheet along the score. Work it back and forth until it breaks cleanly.

Step 3: Glue Copper to Plywood Backing

Picture of Glue Copper to Plywood Backing

Scuff up the glue side of both the copper sheet and the plywood (or MDF) backing. Apply an even layer of adhesive to the plywood. Position the copper sheet and clamp to laminate the plywood and copper together.

Step 4: Bend the Copper Cladding Over the Edges of the Plywood

Picture of Bend the Copper Cladding Over the Edges of the Plywood

Use a soft face hammer and the straight edge to form the band of copper around the edges of the plywood.

Apply the surface finish you want. I used a circular burnish pattern to break up the wavy look of the copper. If you take greater care, and use more glue, you'll be able to get a mirror flat copper top.

Drill holes for your vise and enjoy!

Comments

tomatoskins (author)2014-12-19

This looks great! I've always loved the look of copper. Is there any conductive finish you can put on it to prevent tarnishing?

Nevin Williams commented on the vid that a sacrificial anode of steel would work, or a quick wipe with acid once a year. Likely vinegar would work.

could do brass, as that wouldn't oxidize...

Janschutz (author)baecker032015-11-19

Brass does oxidize but looks nice after :o)

tjones74 (author)2014-12-19

Great project it looks great been looking for something to do on my bench might have to try this out. I'm using the rubber esd Matt right now and it's hard to clean and don't like the feel either.

There's been some lively debate on the youtube comments, the short of it is:

I'm going to use a small tile of mat on the bench for handling ICs. I don't like it, but it's necessary.

Kalle Klæp (author)2017-01-16

Awesome..! Like all the other stuff you make.

haroun (author)2016-01-05

Hard copper from a roofing supply house will work quite nicely. Not as wavey as the soft stuff, takes a nice clean edge if you have a brake to form it in,

tytower (author)2014-12-31

Use grese proof paper between the surface and the copper until it is lined up where you want it then slowly slide paper out and press down copper as you go

pfred2 (author)tytower2015-05-23

The way to do it is to straighten out some metal coat hangers, and put those down. Then put your sheet on those, and when it is lined up pull the coat hangers out. Or use TIG welding rods if you have them. Any thin metal rods will do.

tytower (author)tytower2014-12-31

Assuming you use contact adhesive

pfred2 (author)2014-12-20

I have a stainless steel plate on my desk that I solder over. I have it there just to catch solder splatter, not for any ESD protection, or anything like that.

arduinoversusevil (author)pfred22014-12-20

Forehead heat shield, brilliant!

pfred2 (author)arduinoversusevil2014-12-20

I suppose you mean the aluminum foil taped to the arm lamp reflector? I do that to cut down on bulb glare. I could swing the reflector a bit, but the foil just works better for me. I should probably pop rivet some flashing to the reflector, the foil tape job was just a quick fix.

baecker03 (author)pfred22015-05-23

you can get those 12volt led boards from ic station etc to replace those halogens... best part is you can wire directly to a 12volt adapter and the led board won't overheat, although it produces good lighting.

Robotguy (author)2015-01-08

I'm attempting to decorate my workspace in a steampunk theme and have been planning a copper desktop when I get the budget for it. Thanks for the example!

Terrormink (author)2014-12-31

Love this. If it's worth doing, it's worth over doing :)

efahrenholz (author)2014-12-21

this is cool, really steam punk. I tend to make small bone headed mistakes, and I'm sure others would too. I can already see the mistake I'd make: sitting a powered board down on the desk, where the through hole stubs would be in contact with the copper. Instant magic show.

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