Picture of The ultimate workbench top!
Using cheap mousepads makes for a low cost, VERY easily repaired, handsome and comfortable workbench!
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Step 1: The problem

Picture of The problem
Workbench tends to collect damage from soldering iron, gunk from old radio innards, x-acto cuts and so forth.

Step 2: Remove the crud

Picture of Remove the crud
Oh no! I've torn my desktop loose!

Note that the surface below this is, on my desktop, just plywood. Well, this whole thing works just great even if you didn't build your desk yourself from scrap iron and use cheap plywood for a top...

Step 3: Removed the damage

Picture of Removed the damage
After much tearing, the surface will finally look like this.

Again, this all tore the way it did because I use wood glue on plywood. I do this because this is the primary surface of my bench and I don't care - but believe me, it works just as well using white glue on nicer tops. If you have a formica countertop, white glue with this stuff works great and it wont tear as easily. Mine usually doesn't even tear this badly, but I put off replacing it longer than usual and it was pretty badly cut up.

White glue also cleans up easily with warm water, so the next step wont be needed if you are starting with a nicer subsurface.

Step 4: Clean up a little

Picture of Clean up a little
Scraping the stuff off with a piece of scrap pc board sometimes isnt enough - that's why I used this coarse sanding sponge. Sanding sponges are like the ultimate brillo pad - but don't use them on NICE formica surfaces!

Old formica surfaces, on the other hand...

Step 5: All cleaned up, the magic begins

Picture of All cleaned up, the magic begins
Now that we have a fairly ok surface to start with, let's add the magic.

Note that you don't need a GREAT surface to start with. My desk uses a piece of old exterior grade plywood I happened to have lying around the day my dad and I welded it up, and it works great. With the neoprene top you can't feel an unevenness and it looks great. And no slivers!

tackdetack4 years ago
I love how your mouse is on a mouse pad on a mouse pad!
Another idea would be to make a gelatine.you know the stuff the mythbusters use as a dummy for trying out guns.it takes the form of human flesh.make a few pans of it and lay in on your workbench.look up on YouTube or google it for the recipe
Thank you. Pads are a good idea!
I showed my gf the "Who needs to clean off the bench to repair it?" note. Still sceptic but a good +1 for me.
xproplayer6 years ago
im no expert but oculdnt u just use the rubber bottom and not glue it that is what it is designed for
poptones (author) 6 years ago
Thanks for all the great comments, though I don't understand the recent flurry of comments on this article! Sadly, the DIY desk is now gone, burned along with my home. The upside is I now am building a new desk, this one with a wonderful smooth top - a solid core door purchased at a discount outlet for 12 bucks! One end has been hacked away but this is of no concern to me! My new home came with a fantastic workshop in the back yard... and I have cast iron for legs on the way via UPS, and have located a great supplier of surplus closed cell foam on ebay.
I work in a print shop and sometimes take home the press "blanket" after it is changed on the press to cover my workbench. It is essentially a rubber mat with a degree of self healing properties. It will be pretty ugly after it's been on a press for a while, but is very durable. Ask your local print shop to save you one. Thnks for the 'structable
Phil B6 years ago
Another idea for a soft surface that will not damage polished parts and offers a constantly renewable surface is an old telephone book. Rip off the front cover. Anytime the top pages are torn or soiled, just tear them off and you have a new surface.
DYLEGO Phil B6 years ago
There may be a cough small cough fire hazard involved... Plus the surface won't be even if you combine multiple books...
Phil B DYLEGO6 years ago
This was a suggestion a number of years ago from Popular Science or Popular Mechanics. The object was not to cover an entire table surface with old phone books, nor was the object to use old phone books near any flame or heat source. The object was to have a soft, clean surface always available for delicate parts subject to destructive scratches. An old phone book makes a very good surface for rebuilding a carburetor, for example.
rob.price.37 years ago
Great idea. you can get the same material but in a large sheet form for about $10.00 from rubber or industrial supply or gasket house. I looked at my mousepad and it is made from 1/16 thick #3120 open cell neoprene sponge. I used to make mousepads as a kid. Since someone else used a mentioned a company, I will too: www.murdockindustrial.com Your mousepads looks like they were made from 1/16 thick SC42 closed cell neoprene sponge.
poptones (author)  rob.price.37 years ago
Thanks. That's very cool too. There are other sources I have found where you can also buy various types of foam. I have recently found a surplus lot of antistatic foam that has already been cut into tiles, but it is only .050 thick, too thin I think to be strong enough for desktop use. Your mousepad is made from 3120? Isnt that an antistatic foam? The thin tiles I found were made from 3120. See, the fact it isnt large sheets adds to the value. If I buy large sheets, now I have to cut it up into tiles myself. Even the rounded edges of the mouse pads work toward making a nice desktop. Why? Because that little "diamond" at every corner conceals slightly bad alignment. If the mousepads all had square edges then any slight misalignment would make the seams look bad (I know this because the first few I tried cutting the sides so the corners would be square, and it looked terrible).
DYLEGO poptones6 years ago
Do you think matbe you could remove the extra pictures at the beginning? I can't rate it... Usually that happens when there are so many pictures that it covers the "related" section... I want to give you 5 *s, but, well, I can't...
puffyfluff6 years ago
Hmmm... Useful.
codongolev6 years ago
recynd6 years ago
You, sir, are the greatest. Ever.
dpocius7 years ago
I like the "tile" aspect whereby you can renew the benchtop without having to remove absolutely everything. I've screwed a 2' x 4' piece of 1/4" thick of MDF (medium-density fiberboard) to the front-center of my 8' x 3' benchtop to take the beating from the boat anchors I typically work on. I also have an antistatic mat I lay down on top of that for more delicate work. The MDF is easily and cheaply replaced, with the old piece typically recycled for some utilitarian use.
Coffee bean7 years ago
cool but can you right on it well
chalky7 years ago


akira457 years ago
totally awesome, right now I have a small (like 2'x4'4") computer desk I'm using for some electrical work (modding r/c cars, fixing neighbor's dvd players etc.) and I've been wondering how to fix the problem of stuff rolling around and bouncing screws and whatnot! this looks like a great idea to solve that problem, plus all the pros previously mentioned. much kudos!
T-K7 years ago
That is pro. I use a self-healing mat, you know those green ones, but this is probably cheaper.
szechuan537 years ago
cool. comfy. cheap.
3 c's=good workbench top.
egreen7677 years ago
awesome! I think it's kinda funny that you use a mouse pad for your mouse on top of a mouse pad covered table.
Awesome, original idea! 5* and fav'd!!
It's a nice idea, however, you won't get any static discharge protection this way. Much better to invest in an antistatic mat that covers the bench and get a wrist strap that plugs into the ground connection on the mat. If you work with any semiconductors you'll save a lot of time and heartache by properly grounding yourself and the bench. Get a grounded soldering iron, too.
poptones (author)  Mark Rehorst7 years ago
It's not meant to be anti-static, its meant to be soft and flexible and easy to repair. I realize it may look like an anti-static surface, but that was never my intention. This all came about almost completely by accident as I was looking for a "self healing" surface (like seamstresses use) and this just sort of happened when I discovered the back of the mousepads I bought were way more useful than the way I had intended when I bought them. I can cut things, stick things in my desktop - do whatever I need without fear of "messing it up." If you have a "real" desktop (and not a piece of plywood) the paper and plastic backing on the mousepads help make those surfaces almost as carefree, as they will protect the surface below from all but the heaviest x-acto cuts. Not to be difficult, but I am 45 years old and have been working with electronics (no exaggeration) nearly 40 years, and I have never had a component DOA due to esd. The bags esd sensitive components come in make great esd safe work areas. Why buy something I only need occasionally when I can just recycle what I already have? That's why I bought the mouse pads: they were new surplus - they were one step from a landfill. Mine will still end up in a landfill, but not before serving a useful life. Anyway, some things are static sensitive, but tubes aren't one of them. I work with a lot of vintage tube gear which cannot get scarred up. This desktop is fantastic for that: it protects the gear and it takes heat, spills, solder blobs, cuts, scrapes and still looks great with just a few minutes touch-up. Thanks for your comment.
Mr. Rig It7 years ago
Cool idea, nice use of materials and lots of great photos, Good Job.
=SMART=7 years ago
Original Idea !! , i think i would use the plastic side though so it is wipe-clean
poptones (author)  =SMART=7 years ago
Aha! I should have mentioned this in the article! One of the best parts about it is because it is neoprene it IS essentially wipe clean. I regularly clean mine by pouring on a bit of alcohol and wiping it down. Liquids and even hot solder just pool up. It is "soft" but it isnt very absorbent. I would say you would have to deliberately neglect it in order to get a spill soaked in.
Actually yes you are right, the neoprene side is wipe clean and it has the added grip too
uguy7 years ago
Cool idea!! Thanks for sharing.