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Understanding Workbench Tops
Any decent workshop bench will offer you a choice of different benchtop constructions, with each better suited to different applications. When looking for a new workbench, you will already know what you are going to be using it for, but do you know which benchtop to choose to ensure the top is every bit as long-lasting as the workbench itself?
Steel Workbench Tops
The durability of steel makes it an ideal choice in workbench top in industrial and heavy-duty settings. In corrosive environments, galvanised steel could be a better choice, though stainless steel is also a good choice for work involving non-corrosive liquids and chemicals, especially if it comes with a raised edge to minimise spills from getting all over the floor. If your work environment involves a lot of cutting and the use of heavier tools, stainless steel is a better option, since it is more scratch resistant, with heavy duty steel being ideal since it is thicker than regular stainless-steel sheets. Most steel work tops still have a timber core, so if you’re working with liquids, check the joins to make sure they’re able to keep liquids from warping the core.
Wood and Laminated Wood Benchtops
Wood and laminated wood benchtops offer great aesthetic appeal and are generally more visually appealing than other worktops. However, though they can be quite durable, they aren’t ideally suited to work that involves chemicals and other liquids that could affect the wood, even if it has been treated well. In a medium industrial environment, wood tops are fairly resistant to scratching and, unless laminated, they can be smoothed and levelled again with some sanding to make them almost as good as new again. Always check the load capacity of the workshop bench and benchtop to ensure they are capable of supporting the average load in your workplace.
For lab work, or any industry where lots of liquids and/or chemicals are used, plastic laminates tend to offer more durability than steel or wood benchtops. Remembering that like steel tops they will typically have a timber or timber-like core, check the porousness of the laminate to ensure imperviousness to most liquids and chemicals. And the more abrasive or corrosive the liquids you work with are, the more resistant it needs to be, especially if the liquids might be in contact with the surface for an extended time. Don’t only assess it based on the liquids and chemicals you currently work with, but also any you might use in the future. Plastic laminates are also quite good for environments involving electronics, where you want a surface that doesn’t generate any static and supports electrostatic discharge. For work involving the use of chemicals, don’t hesitate to ask for a chemical resistance report.
Choosing the right workbench top is just as important as making sure you get a suitably sized workbench. Simply specifying that you need an industrial workbench or heavy-duty workbench is not enough, because these seldom include a benchtop suitable to any work environment.
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