Gluing / Staining / Table Tops

Right now our policy is “put paper down when you are gluing”, and sometimes we provide the paper, but that is operationally and somewhat financially expensive.

Instead, I propose

  • putting white melamine faced ply like what we have on the outfeed table onto four of the six main tables, as well as on a removable cap for the artisanal bench-dog workbench
  • putting a few layers of cheap revolution ply down on the other two, and telling people that they may only use those two tables for glueup. (I propose the two tables closest to the metal shop, minimizing traffic and proximity to the working tools.) As the sacrificial ply gets used up, we can just remove the top layer and periodically replenish the stack.

A roll of brown paper is $19.99. A 4x8 sheet of 5mm plain plywood is $16 and will last longer.

The white melamine 3/4 x 4’ x 8’ ($33 at Lowe’s) sheets are $30. People who use a white table for glue-up will be invoiced for the sheet.

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Sounds like a plan.

Hardware store melamine is better than plywood of course, but it’s not high quality melamine like cubicle work surfaces. The hardware store stuff is pretty easy to damage, the edges peel and flake.

It’d be nice to have more of the cubicle-type desktop melamine stuff, but I’ve never seen in it 4x8. That is a really superior workbench because it’s SO solid. Nothing flexes with pressure of or bounces when tapped.

One thing I did discover awhile back is phenolic. Remember that dense, super-tough, thick black plastic-y unstainable chemistry lab bench surface that nothing sticks to? That’s phenolic. I saw where it was sold on Craigslist for awhile in big sheets as skateboard ramp surface, but thinner than a lab bench of course.

There’s some on Facebook marketplace now, but it’s a ways off and I do expect they’re understating the “extremely heavy” part (should be 156 lbs). But MAN it would be excellent:

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$212 per 4x8 for 1/8" green — https://www.mcmaster.com/phenolic-sheets/length~8-ft-/color~green/

Seems expensive but pays for itself on the sixth top replacement if our labor is free, much sooner in practical terms. Let’s put the white tops in and see what the behavioral impact and observed time-to-replace of having bright clean workbenches is, and evaluate once those start looking ratty.

Anyone want to call the plastics place next door and see what they could source for us?

Hmm… although the URL has “phenolic” in it, the actual page specifies the product is Fiberglass-Reinforced Polyester. That’s not resistant to glues/stains or impacts like phenolic.

Another neat option would be Corian countertop, but that of course sounds prohibitively expensive to get new in 4ft wide stuff, if 4 ft wide is even a thing. The used stuff is not that hard to find, but only about 2ft deep. Same prob for most phenolic tabletops- only about 2 ft deep, maybe 30".

We do need to keep that butcher paper on hand. I’ve looked for it before and couldn’t find any.

Petition for the removable cap on the artisan table to NOT cover the entire table, maybe an 18" wide poly-coated ply on the non-vise end?

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What about PTFE? Adhering it to the benchtop might be tricky.

https://www.mscdirect.com/product/details/13279393

You could go polyethylene (esp HDPE) or polypropylene. Or nylon or Delrin. PTFE is expensive but doesn’t have better properties.

These materials can’t be glued. You’d be forced to use screws. A knife being used against it will scratch it a bit.

Difficult with this is that it’s not going to be all that flat, if it’s just a thin plastic top layer that can’t be glued and is like 2ft between screws. And there’s a lot of reason to want a really flat work surface.

Stainless-steel-laminated wood is possible.

Good point. I’d be really annoyed if we spent a bunch of money on glue-up tables just to get them chewed up by sharp implements.

Looks like we could get 4x8 sheets of 1/2" HDPE if we wanted to make basically giant cutting boards. That’d be reasonably rigid in a screwed-down application. They’re about $400 (vs $600 for PTFE).

Would either of those materials be something we could resurface with a fly cutter if they got chewed up?

I don’t see it happening. Tough plastics are stringy and don’t fly cut easily. Plus, it would strike the screws. A better bet might be tiling the plastic so you could replace damaged plastic tiles. But, flatness problems.

Flip, you might look at the rockler silicon work mat. It is flexible, tough, removable and washable, glue resistant, offers a friction surface that’s not sticky. They have them on sale right now. I just ordered two of the extra-large 23.5x30”. They’re normally $44 On sale for $39. Six of them would cover a table but you could probably use 4 for most projects. I think their regular 15x30 mat Is $24. They can be connected together like puzzle pieces. They could be easily moved from table to table as they roll up. But they lay flat when they look roll out (No memory effect). They are also a great surface for sanding on as a grip your wood. They can be easily rinsed off. They are also heat proof and could be soldered on. I’m ordering a couple of them for myself.

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On a temporary basis until you decide on a proper surface for the gluing tables: Use card board, usually there are card board boxes outside. Or get a big box from a refrigerator or furniture and tape the cardboard to a table and once is chewed up replace with the same. It would only cost a roll of masking tape. An alternative would be waxing the top of the table so the glue does not stick and easily removed with a scrapper or the table would not be stained too easily. A little more challenging would be to talk to a bowling alley about getting a sheet of a damaged laminate they use on the lanes (they replace them often) this material is easily scrapped clean with a scrapper and is very tough. The bad: sheets are very heavy, longer than a normal sheet of plywood and will dull the blades quick when cutting it.

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