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Steel work bench

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Timothy Frost

Oct 4, 2016
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I'm an electronics noob, and I mean in the very early stages of learning. I live in an apartment so I have limited space for a workbench and I found this steel one on harbor freight http://www.harborfreight.com/multipurpose-workbench-with-light-60723.html. I like it because it's small, has lights and an outlet. I know a steel workspace is a bad idea, but my question is, would this be ok to use if I just put a sheet of plywood on top?
 

bushtech

Sep 13, 2016
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I have a wooden workbench to which I have stapled a piece of leather upside down to it so that the shiny side is down. Works quite well, things don't slide around
 

Timothy Frost

Oct 4, 2016
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I have a wooden workbench to which I have stapled a piece of leather upside down to it so that the shiny side is down. Works quite well, things don't slide around
Thanks for the reply, sounds like a good idea, but I'm looking at this specific bench because of it's features, it's size local availability. I'm worried about electrocution risk foremost
 

davenn

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Thanks for the reply, sounds like a good idea, but I'm looking at this specific bench because of it's features, it's size local availability. I'm worried about electrocution risk foremost


personal thought would be that it would be best to have something thicker and more durable than the leather cover. do the plywood layer
and if you think you may get into electronics a bit deeper as time goes by, then it would be wise to also invest in a proper bench top anti-static mat and wrist strap

this sort of thing ......

ThickBox_pcvalet-uk-mat-kit-grey.jpg

cheers
Dave
 

Alec_t

Jul 7, 2015
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Connect the workbench to a reliable ground. That will reduce the electrocution risk and provode anti-static protection.
 

shrtrnd

Jan 15, 2010
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My initial thought is it's a dangerous idea, but the fact of the matter is most workbenches have a steel frame, and a thick wooden benchtop, so it's probably OK.
If you do this, I'd be careful about making sure the electrical outlets and anything you plan to work on are isolated from the metal frame of the bench. This includes where you're sitting when you're working. I'd make sure the plywood extends out over the frame in front of your sitting position so you aren't leaning up against the steel frame,
or that the legs of your chair don't contact the metal workbench frame.
I sat down at a workbench once that zapped me. Whoever owned the bench screwed an extending-arm worklamp
onto the metal frame. Somewhere, somehow, the lamp housing became electrically 'hot', and he never realized it.
I moved the chair up and leaned against the workbench frame in front of me, and however I was grounded, the metal
frame of the bench unexpected voltage used me to find ground. It took us a while to diagnose the problem.
All the other advice here is good too. ESD protection and etc, ... just my thoughts on avoiding becoming a ground
for the bench or your work on it.
 

bushtech

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@et al
Would grounding shrtrnd's workbench as per Alec_t's suggestion have prevented shrtrnd from electrocuting himself.?
 

Alec_t

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Yes, if the house electrical system met the code. The earth leakage current would have tripped a breaker.
 

hevans1944

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It could possibly have tripped a circuit breaker off when the lamp support became "hot" and most certainly would have caused a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) to trip. Grounds, especially good ones, are what get people electrocuted. Keep your body away from grounded objects. Keep one hand in your pocket to prevent a current path across your chest.

Steel frame and top are okay, but place plywood covered in something like leather, as @bushtech suggested, to prevent parts from slipping around. Use the anti-static rig that @davenn showed to ground yourself through a high impedance (about one megohm) to protect static-sensitive devices from charges that can build up on an ungrounded human body. This rig will discharge static electricity on your person without providing a low-resistance current path through your body to ground.
 

BobK

Jan 5, 2010
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The posts in here made me think of something. Is it a good idea to use a GFCI for mains power used on the workbench? It seems like it would protect against one type of shock (grounding through the body) Do you use a GFCI?

Bob
 

Minder

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I ended up with a sheet of particle board topped plain Formica, it also comes with the Formica already on for making shelving etc.
Also I fitted a outlet strip across the front of the bench to avoid cords across the top, you can get multi-outlet strips for this.
One place I worked, the Electricians had steel benches and they were fitted with plain industrial linoleum, which makes a good top surface.
M.
 

shrtrnd

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The zapping I took was at somebody's home-brew workbench, before GFCI's.
Something inside the flexible arm lamp housing energized the metal lamp housing, which was physically screwed to the
metal workbench. I don't know if it had just happened, or how long the other guy had just been lucky. Maybe the SOB
had just never turned-on the lamp before.
I'm just careful around all-metal workbenches now.
 

davenn

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@et al
Would grounding shrtrnd's workbench as per Alec_t's suggestion have prevented shrtrnd from electrocuting himself.?

NO as with a earthed solid metal top like that, you can get zapped be\tween you touching the gear and the bench
DONT DO THAT

Yes, if the house electrical system met the code. The earth leakage current would have tripped a breaker.

I wouldn't rely on that .... get rid of the possibility of the shock hazard completely as per what I suggested
having a metal work bench for electronics/electrical work is just a recipe for disaster
 

davenn

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some/several in here don't seem to recognise the danger

thread closed
 
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