• Saturday, January 31st, 2015

bench blanket

As the parts of a project approach completion, dings and scrapes are increasingly interrupting and protection becomes a greater issue. For relaxed efficiency it sometimes helps to cover the workbench or assembly bench with cushiony material during glue ups or other work toward the end of a project.

Over the years, I’ve tried various materials with mixed success:

Velour fabric and felt work fairly well. These are inexpensive and widely available in 54″ widths. Downsides of fabrics are the tendency to hold sawdust and small wood chips, and soak up glue drips.

Router mats are another option but their grip and open weave are not always desirable. Mover’s blankets (try Harbor Freight) are economical and cushion very well but are actually too mushy for my liking. Wood parts do not register firmly on the surface and their corners can catch in the soft blanket when you try to slide them.

Finally, I think I’ve found a near perfect solution: upholstery grade bonded leather. Made of shredded real leather and polyurethane, it is the better-looking MDF of the leather industry. It costs about $24 per yard at 54″ wide so you can get a single piece to cover even a large assembly bench.

bonded leather

The top (working) side looks and feels very similar to fine leather and the underside is similar to the rough side of real leather. Just 3/64″ thick, it nevertheless is resilient enough to provide protection for wood parts without being too spongy.  Glue drips can be easily wiped off the surface. It seems like it will be very durable.

The photo at the top shows a piece draped over a 24″ x 48″ sheet of MDF placed on the workbench for assembly work.

This material also makes good clamp pads. Cut it to size and apply it to clamp heads with spray adhesive.

Category: Tools and Shop
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