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  • Any drawings or ideas for Workbenches / Tables?

    Posted by Henry Barker on December 30, 2002 at 11:11 pm

    I have been meaning to rework our 2 main work tables for awhile now….about 6 years!

    I have a separate part of the workshop…the Office which is about 50sq m and has the plotters, Edge, etc. Out in the work area we have 3 main tables, these 2 long ones which are 5m x 1.2, so when pushed together we have 10m work surface. However they are abit low for the back, and I had thought of making a frame with a lower shelf area for all sorts and putting them on industrial castors/wheels with brakes, so they were easier to move around, I just wondered before we change things if anybody else had better ideas or smarter solutions.

    and looking back up the other way…

    derbyparty replied 20 years, 10 months ago 17 Members · 37 Replies
  • 37 Replies
  • Robert Lambie

    December 30, 2002 at 11:24 pm

    Hi Henry
    What we did was to just build our tables from 2″x2″ timber. We built it at the right height we needed… sort of took a measurement while bending over but at just the right height for our backs.
    We then topped the tables with .75″ ply, so it was nice and sturdy then topped the ply with a thin sheet metal…. it works brill and lasts years… excellent for laying up vinyl because you just wash the tables down and thereโ€™s no dust caught due to the metal tops… we built the tables at 4’x10′ as that was the largest size of sheet metal we could get in one piece. But if you need longer just ask the stockist what metals they have on the coil. They just chop it at whatever length you want the table in one piece so you have no joins on the top.
    Our tables have lasted about 6 years now…but are starting to get a bit on the loose side due to being moved or should I say dragged around the room all the time. So the casters on the bottom with brakes is a great idea.

    What is that you have topped your tables with?

  • Henry Barker

    December 30, 2002 at 11:32 pm

    THey are topped with sheets of MDF which we paint every now and then, I did have a large metal sheet over a smaller table 2500mm x 1200mm but found we got alot of static shocks from that. Be interested to hear about what other surfaces people use, maybe sometype of laminate for example, or glass even??

  • Phill Fenton

    December 30, 2002 at 11:58 pm

    Our workbench is topped with grey Forrex (PVC Foamboard) material. Originally the workbench had a varnished MDF worksurface but over time and with the inevitable cuts from sharp blades the MDF absorbed moisture and started to swell in places leaving a rough surface. The Forrex we fitted gave us a nice smooth surface again and the appearance is quite attractive. In retrospect the bench isn’t long enough measuring 10ft x 8ft – we should have made it longer and thinner I think. My late Father designed it for me after I described to him what I thought I needed. We built it together, it’s now nearly seven years old and has served us well.

  • Martin C

    December 31, 2002 at 12:53 am


    I have an 8′ x 4′ chipboard bench G-clamped to the end of the Dining Room table. Great for entertaining at Xmas but terrible for keeping the missus happy!

    Seriously…I’m keen to hear what you guys reccomend too as I have a work shop planned and will need to make a decent bench for Banners etc.,

    Do you need all round access?

  • Robert Lambie

    December 31, 2002 at 1:14 am

    i would reccomend all round access martin… it helps alot when lettering things you cant reach from one side. before we had a bench fixed to the wall… it was murder trying to kneel up on the bench just to rub in the bits at the top… because your on your knees the vinyl at the top was never laid down just as good as it was at bottom…. ๐Ÿ™„

  • WP_Graphics

    December 31, 2002 at 12:45 pm

    I’m with Martin,

    Keen to see what everyone uses, I – as martin does – use a bit of acrylic or foamex on top of the dining room table to work on but am thinking about putting something together in my workshop but don’t know the best length, surface etc to use…


  • Robert Lambie

    December 31, 2002 at 1:42 pm

    if it is just vinyl work you are doing & your stuck for some space.. i would just make the depth of the table a few inches more than the width of the rolls of vinyl you use.
    the extra depth is always better to have, but if you dont have the room then
    just keep to the minimum. you will get by for now anyways…
    once you start getting lots of orders and bigger jobs then you can always look at exspanding the space a little… theres no rush mate.. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    i know your not saying your rushing out into new workshops and stuff, by any means.. its just somthing, ” a personal beleif” that when in business it pays in the long run to grow steadily & take on minimal debt if any at all…
    ive seen many companies here in scotland… jump from a one man band to 35 staff.. 15000 sq ft workshops and a fleet of vehicles… only to loss one or two contracts and they cant keep themselves afloat…. down they go taking many smaller companies with them… ๐Ÿ™„

  • Martin Pearson

    January 1, 2003 at 3:04 pm

    Our “custom made” signmaking bench is 6 flatpack metal tables bolted together. The surface was so uneven I have covered it with two 8′ x 4′ sheets of 18mm MDF. Robert is right about alround access to the table, we had them against a wall for a while but moved them back to the centre of the workshop as it was to awkward with access from only one side. I have been told that the best surface for the table is glass. 6mm toughened is what is recomended, it has a nice flat surface doesnt blunt the scalpal blades as quickly as some materials and you wont mark it with a blade so there is no chance of the blade getting in a track and not cutting where you want it to. Trouble is if you have a big table then it is very expensive to cover, mind you once it is done it should last a lifetime and you can put all sorts of things underneath it such as prints guide lines to help with cutting etc. When I have enough money I am looking to cover my tables this way but theres no chance at the moment.

  • Neil Kelly

    January 2, 2003 at 12:55 pm

    HI chaps sorry I haven’t posted for a while busy with the xmas thing. first day back today and while I was off I’ve been thinking of work place improvements and you guessed one of them was work benches I my self use x2 8×4 5 mm fomex panels on 1″mdf table supported by 2 16’x 3″ x 2″ Timbers sat on x 3 off brickys trestles was put together in a rush three years ago as a temp measure and still stands today ive had to change the tops a few times and found suppliers helpful with old stock or damaged sheets they couldn’t sell.
    I recently bought an 8 x 4 self healing cutting mat not cheap but not bad to use as the Fomex does break up after a while.

    I hope to replace this Jan with a glass toped under lit bench ive had an old 10 x 4 light box on the roof of the shed for ages and I wanted to build it into the new bench the idea is to assist weeding and it can be used for referencing intricate vinyl work. I had heard glass was a good surface so glad to hear that view reinforced curious to know about metal benches a few questions for you
    do you use mild steel or ally sheet.
    is it painted or unfinished
    is there a problem with surface rust
    do you find you blunt a lot of blades when cutting up vinyl jobs

    I might finish the sides of the bench with metal if its recommended your thoughts/comments would be helpful.

    Kind Regards And best wishes for the New Year


    PS metal letter with the plastic locators looked great ive posted couple of picks in show us your stuff thanks again for all the tips

  • Robert Lambie

    January 2, 2003 at 5:45 pm

    the metal we use i think maybe mild steel… not sure.. the reason im not usre is i know that it does not rust at all!
    its about 2mm and is not coated nor painted…
    it doesnt blunt the blade any quicker than i would say maybe glass would but im just guessing on that. ๐Ÿ˜• i do know that stainless steel and alluminium almost instantly blunts the baldes.. ive tried both those materials also.
    with regards to the light box thing… this is excellent for working on if its below the glass.. but you do need some sort of defuser so as your not looking directly at the bulbs… i make stained glass signs myself, and i have purpose built a 4foot by 3foot type light box. it works a treat and as far as laying my glass up i could not go back to a normal bench…
    “the size i built it at was because thats about the largest i go for one sheet of glass”

    when i read a few of you have decided to use glass topped tables i thought.. “good idea!” but then thought is it? ๐Ÿ˜•
    we have several tables in our work all 10’x4′ we use them for taping, & laying up vinyl. but we also use them for building lightboxes, putting channel on sheet metal etc etc… if we tried doing this on glass topped table im afraid it would last about 20 mins ๐Ÿ™ regardless to me maybe using toughend or laminate glass….

    one other thing.. depending on the length of the table. what happens when you move it? basing it on my 10 foot tables.. when 2 people lift these tables from each end the table tends to bow downwards in the middle. if you have a fixed glass top the weight would easily split the glass when you try to move it…

  • Martin Pearson

    January 2, 2003 at 7:52 pm

    6mm toughened glass would not break Robert, but you might need 4 people to move the table instead of 2.
    If your going to be moving your tables about or wanting to use them for other jobs then glass is probably not the best surface. My benches for vinyl work dont move and we dont use them for other work. We used to do everything on these tables but had all sorts of problems with dust & dirt getting under vinyl no matter how much we thought we had cleaned so I built another set of smaller tables to do all the messy jobs on at the other end of the workshop.

  • Robert Lambie

    January 2, 2003 at 8:39 pm

    hi martin…
    im not an expert on glass mate… i’m just speak from experience working with smaller pieces of glass. if they dont break lifting the table im sure they would hammering, drilling and dropping stuff ontop of it…
    toughend does mean what it says but doesnt mean it wont break. its just safety glass that if hit the wrong way shatters into a million pieces rather than splinter and shear.. ๐Ÿ˜•
    laminate glass is 2 pieces of say 2mm glass sandwhiching a clear type of vinyl. again this can break but when it does it stays intact because of the clear vinyl in the middle.
    both types of safety glass, but both do break…
    6mm may take more knocking but still ide not bet on it holding out for months let alone years… for a sheet of 6mm toughend 10 foot by 4 foot would set me back about ยฃ150 minimum and ide say thats with the small discount i get for the glass i use..
    very exspensive risk to take… but i do agree if it works & it is only vinyl work you will be using it for then thumbs up ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • John Childs

    January 2, 2003 at 9:27 pm

    We use two 8′ x 4′ tables covered in 5mm foamex. They work well, but need changing fairly often.

    I’ve wondered about glass in the past and having read some of the above posts will probably try it out on one bench.

    I will go for 6mm toughened as we are used to handling this stuff in the course of our normal work (we cover wardrobe doors in etched film). Anybody tempted to use laminated glass should be aware that it breaks much more easily under bending.

  • eddie cotter

    January 2, 2003 at 9:56 pm

    hi all, i use the kitchen table at the moment, but when i get my new work shop up, i was thinking of an 8×4 alluminium table, also
    an idea i was thinking about was a wall mounted shelf which could be height adjustable for doing foamex signs on, then i would not have to worry about back pains, eddie cotter ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Kevin.Beck

    January 2, 2003 at 10:36 pm

    I use 2, 3mtr x 610mm kitchen work tops butted together, I could only place them agaist the wall, this causes the problems mentioned above. I got them from a reclaimers ยฃ45 a apair. They last about 18months before they need replacing, due to scoring.

    I`ve also got a larger table, 10x5ft with a 2ft leaf. 25mm mdf with a laminate surface, I don`t cut on it much as it cost over ยฃ140. I just use it for Putting the application tape on to the roof kits. It`s located on the 3rd floor. You should have seen me struddle up 2 flights of stairs, the thing weighed a ton. If I ever move, I`ll leave the bl**dy thing there.

    I got a quote for a metal surface, they wanted ยฃ120!

    Glad to see most folk start off on the dinning room table. When I first got a plotter, I couldn`t wait, and spent 2 hrs cutting on the d/table before I notice all the score marks, I`ve still got the dent in my head where the mrs clocked me one!!

    I didn`t know they made cutting mats in 8x4ft size has anyone got a supplier for them.

  • Fat Bob

    January 3, 2003 at 1:14 am

    Hi guys

    Same as Becky I use work top to weed and tape on.

    But in the Garage where I make the signs I am pushed for room so I built a 24′ X 5’6″

    Easel for want of a better discription with with adjustable brackets along the legth.
    I just put my boards on and work as if im working on a van side and if i have to do banners i have some nifty little clamps to hold them on the only downside in 3 years is I use more masking tape than normal but this is a small price to pay for the room I gain.


  • Neil Kelly

    January 3, 2003 at 2:56 pm

    Hi Becky
    8 x 4 cutting matt sorced from Cherwell Sign Supplies
    01280 840297

    Rob could it be Zink sheet on your benches


  • Henry Barker

    January 3, 2003 at 3:03 pm

    Great to see how you all put together your worksurfaces…keep them coming.

    Cutting mats…people here buy the same sheeting used in strips for forklift truck entry, you know the thick transparent stuff. I believe its cheaper than going somewhere and buying something similar thats called a “cutting mat” instead. Then again thats here in Scandinavia!

  • Neil Kelly

    January 3, 2003 at 7:49 pm

    Henry the material you descride is it the curtain material that they hang infront of large chiller rooms if so i think that is the same as the cutting mat I bought or very similar.
    do you know who distributes it

    cheers neil

  • Henry Barker

    January 4, 2003 at 9:05 am

    Neil, that’s the stuff,

    I am not sure about suppliers in the UK….Vink are one of Europes largest plastic sheet manufacturers, they have a distributor in the UK in Slough Manchester and Belfast, they are Comco Plastics Ltd.

    I know a salesman here (he’s english too) who sells chemicals to the screen industry here, and it was him that put me onto it awhile back. I can talk to him next week and let you know, if you need. or check out

  • Robert Lambie

    January 4, 2003 at 10:13 am

    Ahhhh VINK!
    No no no Henry please mateโ€ฆ. Haha ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜† โ€ฆ sorry mate iโ€™m just having a go because you mentioned โ€œvinkโ€ nothing personal.
    Vink has to be one thorn in our side that we would rather forget. Ill try and explain briefly.
    Around 5 years ago we won a national contract to re-sign 60 factory depots throughout the UK. We had to specify the materials used & supply guarantees in order to win the contract.
    Vink had just recently taken over from VT plastics in Scotland. After telling them our position and could they recommend a red Perspex that was well priced & held a min guarantee of about 10 years UV Stable life.
    They came back to us showing us foamalux (a brand new product at the time) & half the price of the Perspex we thought about using. Nice one we thought, good price and gloss finish. Can we get a written guarantee we asked? Yes they said and proceeded to give us one.
    Cutting the story short:
    We completed the whole of England, Wales and some Scotland in about 4-5 months.
    One day I passed a Scottish depot and looked in admiration at one of the signs we had done.
    My chin hit my steering wheel. All the text on the sign was bubble gum pink. Not cherry red! This sign in particular was only 2 months old.
    We got back onto them pronto and had apology after apology. We also were told we would be compensated for the whole mess. After much a do. A truck arrives with 40 sheets of cherry red Perspex 3metres x 2 metres.
    It was about 4 weeks late but it had arrivedโ€ฆ our guys offloaded it and put it in our workshop.
    To my amazement the Perspex was all 3mm not 6mm. On the phone we go again complaining that the only compensation we have been given so far is wrong. Bare in mind we have to re-cut all the signage done. Travel to all the depots and redo the logos & text. Pay the guys for the time, petrol and travel accommodation.
    Anyway, several weeks later we received a letter saying vink had gone bust in the UK! So there was nothing more we could doโ€ฆ

    I wont mention publicly what happened next, but we had the last laugh I can tell you. Not because the matter was sorted out in anyway by them. But our luck changed for the betterโ€ฆ

    Sorry for my rabble mateโ€ฆ
    please note: This has nothing to do with Vink in your country. I in no way mean to knock their reputation or ways of doing business there. nor does this have anything to do with “Comco Plastics Ltd.” in anyway
    I just thought I would spout my story on the mention of their “past” UK company. I do apologise for piggy backing your post! ๐Ÿ˜ณ

  • Henry Barker

    January 4, 2003 at 4:24 pm


    We have an account with Vink but don’t buy anything from them, they stock quite an extensive range of product here, and thought that as they reckon they are the biggest, they might have the sheeting the guys were talking about for cutting mats.

    I personally don’t like their service here….we use a company called Essรฅplast here who have depots in all the major Swedish cities, but probably not in the UK!

    Hence mentioning Vink….Oh well I’ll talk to Tony here next week and see what he comes up with.

  • Steve Broughton

    January 6, 2003 at 11:31 am

    I use 8×4 sheets of polypropylene, trade name is Propylex in 3mm sheets it was about 20 quid a sheet, the same stuff that they make cutting boards for bread and meat in restaurants and butchers but thinner.

  • Robert Lambie

    January 6, 2003 at 11:45 am

    is propyplex not like forex steve. not correcting you mate.. just asking. ive been calling the likes of forex, propyplex since i started out… hope im not wrong ill feel a right fool now ๐Ÿ˜ณ ๐Ÿ˜ณ ๐Ÿ˜ณ ๐Ÿ˜ณ ๐Ÿ˜†

  • Steve Broughton

    January 6, 2003 at 4:37 pm

    Sitting here looking at some now Rob, Propyplex is polypropylene a semi translucent plastic with a “waxy” texture like chopping boards are made of or have you never been into your kitchen mate ๐Ÿ˜‰ is it the wifes “domain” ๐Ÿ˜†

  • Martin Pearson

    January 6, 2003 at 5:24 pm

    Excuse my ignorance Steve but would I be right in saying its a bit like foamex but it contains much less air so is a much more dence plastic ?

  • Steve Broughton

    January 7, 2003 at 8:34 am

    No Martin not like foamex, its a solid plastic not a foamboard at all, obviously another bloke thats never ventured into the kitchen ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜›

  • Tim Shaw

    January 7, 2003 at 9:16 pm

    we use kitchen work tops, they have a nice round edge for leaning against, are hard enought to resist most thinks, and a range of colours. we got a speckled grey cos it was all they had, but they don’t show the dirt.

    We have 4 to make up a bench 6m x 1.2 metres.

    The best tip I can give is when the two tops are butted and fixed together leave a gap in which you can run a scalpel blade. This saves hours when cutting up vinyls, after carrying up Cuts are also really neat and accurate.

    If you jam a blade in one end, and cut from the other, it means one person can cut upto 3 metre lengths in a very straight line in a couple of seconds.

  • Robert Lambie

    January 7, 2003 at 11:09 pm

    well ill be damned mr broughton… you have made me feel a right one here ๐Ÿ˜ณ ๐Ÿ˜ณ ๐Ÿ˜ณ
    please just say im right. propyplex is the same as forex.. go on please! everyone is looking ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

    can you all turn round while steve edits his mistake please… ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜†

    cheers mate.. im off to jump out my loft ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Duncan Wilkie

    February 10, 2003 at 4:19 am

    We try to use every sq. ft. of our shop (5000 Sq.Ft. + mezzanine). Here’s some shots…

    We’ve been at this location 11 years, so it didn’t come overnight ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Let me know if you have any questions.

  • Robert Lambie

    February 10, 2003 at 9:50 am

    excellent stuff duncan…
    all very neat and tidy… the best part is it looks all very professional for the customer that happens to get a look around, or the sales rep in for a nosey…
    10/10 mate… only wish our guys would keep our place as tidy & organised… ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Mike Brown

    February 10, 2003 at 12:35 pm

    …I suddenly feel sick…with envy! ๐Ÿ˜›

  • WP_Graphics

    February 10, 2003 at 10:58 pm

    ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
    That’s a big place
    ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  • davewo

    August 26, 2003 at 9:02 pm

    I havent tried it but I read that lino or “linoleum” is a good alternative material to use on workbenches, just like a cutting mat i would imagine.

  • Henry Barker

    August 27, 2003 at 6:58 am

    I forgot about this post….just an update, I built new benches with a work height of 950mm (no more backache) and fitted both of them with 10 blue wheels the same quality that we had on filghtcases i.e they take 150kg each and so the tables are easy to move around as and when, also fitted with 4 whhels with brakes. They are 5m long each and have a Webermade tape dispenser also, each table has a long shelf underneath for moree storage and a smaller shelf for squeegees knives pens, stabilos etc etc.

    and the other one excuse the mess ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Steve Broughton

    August 27, 2003 at 8:26 am

    By gum Henry they’re huge, do you have one of those small tractors like they use at airports to move them around, must take 2 or 3 of you ๐Ÿ˜†

  • derbyparty

    September 11, 2003 at 3:31 am

    4×8 sheet of 3/4 plywood at the moment but have gotten alot of good ideas here today and well probably build me a bigger table in the next few weeks. I am just now getting a building finished up that my stuff will go from the house out into (my wife will be so happy). I think i will build a 36″X10′ table with sheet metal top.

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