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Setting up a shop at home


I am interested in setting up a shop at home similar to what I’ve
been using at school. My dilemma currently comes down to what type of
surface I should be looking for to do torch soldering on. The surface
I use at school is probably similar to old chemistry benches but with
a backing and sides also of the same material (which probably dates
pre 70s-80s).

Could anyone with experience point me in the right direction?

You actually have a lot of choices. I have friends who bought used
commercial kitchen work benches, or big shallow sinks, solid metal,
and used those. I have a really big old wooden “sink” left from my
printmaking days, which is a really long fairly shallow surface, and
I have covered one side of it with fire bricks for the base and fire
bricks for the back, and formed a little “kiln” sort of area of fire
bricks for when I’m melting metal (helps hold the heat in). They
also sell soldering surfaces from jewelry supply places. I went with
the fire bricks because I already had the wooden base, and fire
bricks are really inexpensive where I live - plus they are thick,
and are lightweight and easy to shift into different configurations.

The commercial sinks/counters I’ve used at workshops are nice, as it
is a big solid surface with a backsplash, so no worries about errant
flames or splashed chemicals.

Be sure to have a working fire extinguisher nearby, and to use some
sort of tank holder to ensure your tanks are never in danger of
tipping over.

Beth Wicker

My soldering station consists of a bench I made out of 12mm plywood
and pine that house my oxygen and propane tanks underneath. The top
and back are covered with asbestos free fibre cement board which are
held in place with screws so that I can replace the board if
necessary. I have a soldering board on top surrounded by fire bricks
and a removable sheet metal “awning” attached to the back board to
keep the soldering area shaded to facilitate judging the colour of
the metal. There is also sufficient room on the top for quenching
tray and a small pickling pot.

In the photo the oxygen cylinder is next to the bench because the
last gas delivery they supplied a larger cylinder. It is usually
secured underneath the bench.

The bench is utitilitarian rather than aesthetic.

All the best

1 Like

I’m sure you’ll get a million responses. But we use a beautiful
wooden tabletop. Ha! Hard wood. Large white soldering block (1ft by
6in) and small charcoal blocks or whatever is called for. My father
has used that for 30 years.

We have also had soldering stations at our benches when we had a
workshop atour retail store. (In addition to shop mentioned above.)

There are maybe 5 burn marks on the wooden table over 30 years. Not
bad, considering.


1 Like

J W what type of surface I should be looking for to dotorch
soldering on? I use a corning counter saver (14" x 18") opaque kind,
purchased used from ebay. Then I put a solderite 12" x 12" pad on
top of that. I have a formicacovered table top that hasn’t been
burned by using these two layers. I usethe corning counter saver
under my enameling kiln, too.

Go to Lowes, Home Depot or a similar store and buy a piece of tile
backer board. It is basically cement. It can be easily cut by
scoring and snapping off a piece along the score line. You can but
this on top of what ever surface you have, use it to reflect heat,
protect your soldering area from a miss pointed torch, and I use it
to anneal large coils of wire. You can then just buy whatever piece
of soldering board you want. I use everything from kiln blocks that
I buy at a masonry store to solderite, mica based, and charcoal
block. Have a bit of each around as they all have a place.
Experiement with what one works for you and pay attention to how
much heat they absorb and pull away from whatever you are trying to
solder or fuse. Be prepared to replace them as they get to the point
that you can’t restore a flat surface. I do this by rubbing them on
a piece of concrete sidewalk. This is especially effective on
charcoal. Beware that it is messy, so wear a mask. Good luck. Rob

Rob Meixner

Here is my take on it. They have huge safe surfaces at schools
because students are so clueless and careless. In my own studio, I
use a hardwood bench top and a small soldering surface such as a
charcoal block or whatever, and Ijust watch where I point my torch.

Sounds like soapstone. You can get off-cuts from counter top
fabrication places to cover the top of a hot work area, for a
reasonable amount.

Ron Charlotte
Gainesville, FL

I use cement backer board that you can get at home depot or lowes.
The board has a high fire rating. Its also great to use under &
behind kilns.

Have fun!

I know this thread is a few days old, but I thought I’d add my take

  • I have my soldering station on an old metal desk I got curb-hopping
    a few years ago. It’s long, with plenty of space for soldering and
    designing, with a couple of small drawers.

On top of the desk surface, about 18" clear of the design side, I’ve
a 9" square aluminum baking pan (the kind for brownies) filled with
pumice. Very useful for annealing (or catching bits of molten
metal!). Spaced on top of the pumice, or nearby, are various media -
fire brick pieces, magnesia block, charcoal, screens or tripods to
use as I see fit.

The shield idea to let you see the metal’s color is a great touch!