Step 1: The Problem
Step 2: Remove the Crud
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
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
Old formica surfaces, on the other hand...
Step 5: All Cleaned Up, the Magic Begins
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!
Step 6: Mouse Pad, Mouse Pad
Step 7: Cheap Is the Word
So, I decided I like the back surface better. What I did for my desk is tear that cheap coating off. You have to be merciless about this or it won't work - get one corner started, then RIP! If you try to tear it apart a little at a time the neoprene is just going to tear and you'll have scrap.
If you have a nicer desktop surface like formica, you may not want to do this part. Again, I tear the backing off because I consider the surface "part of" my desk. If you want something less permanent, don't tear off that plastic-cardboard part and skip ahead, I'll show you another method that works great for protecting "nice" surfaces.
Step 8: Tile Your Desk
Step 9: Fill in the Corners
Size isn't critical because hey, it's neoprene - it's compressible, right? Just dab on a bit of glue and mash it down. Rub it around a bit to even things out and you have a perfectly filled gap. These are much more durable than you might thing because there's glue directly on them - sometimes when I take up a couple of pads, I have to scrape these off because they stick so well.
Again, not an issue if your surface is less permanent.
Step 10: For Those Less Committed
This stuff is the same glue as used on post-it notes. It looks sorta like white glue stick, but it never dries. It does leave behind a bit of an icky residue, but that washes up with nothing but warm water in a cotton towel. It's a totally temporary solution - and by temporary I mean you can leave this stuff down for months and you may have to push one back down every now and then, but it works quite well and is easily removed and cleaned up.
Step 11: Paste Away
Note how well this thing sticks to the WALL (that's VINTAGE paneling, chief) but it takes almost no effort to remove it when I want to. A warm (warm is important) damp towel wipes away what little residue was left and one would never know I once had a piece of neoprene glued to the wall.
Step 12: Fin
But the best part is not have to take EVERYTHING off my work area in order to repair it. With most desks, you mess up the top and now it's major work to refinish. I can "refinish" only the part that's needed in less than an hour!