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I have been scouring the internet for information regarding what would be a good surface to do hot air rework on.

Right now, my lab, if you want to call it that, is a wooden bench with cardboard surface...not the greatest. I recently got a hot air rework station to do some awesome SMD work but considering it gets so hot, I'm worried that my workstation will spontaneously combust. At previous employments and labs, there were ESD mats that we'd used. Considering those are pretty expensive, what would be a suitable affordable solution?

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Use a 12" x 12" ceramic floor tile. It will cost you less than one US dollar but if you want to splurge you can spend another dollar and buy some small stick on rubber feet for it.

ceramic floor tile

Any ESD mat isn't necessarily going to hold up against the heat. You need a high temperature version if you're going to be using a hot-air rework station.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I recommend the rubber feet. They not only hold the tile in place and protect the surface below, they also lift the tile high enough for you to get your fingertips underneath so you can move it easily. \$\endgroup\$ – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams May 22 '14 at 3:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also a piece of 2x8 or other dimensional lumber works quite well. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Griggs May 22 '14 at 3:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Back to say I went with this answer and it works perfectly. \$\endgroup\$ – Funkyguy Apr 6 '16 at 18:07
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An ESD mat. The expense is worth it. You don't have to purchase a large roll; there are many suppliers from whom you can get 16x24 or 24x36 inches, such as Desco, for $30-60.

Failing that, I would recommend going to your hardware store and purchasing a piece of MDF (medium density fiberboard) as a work surface. It's smooth, can take some abuse, and is easily and cheaply replaceable if you damage it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I use a MDF workbench. It's durable, probably resistive enough that it's ESD safe, and I don't care about damaging it. Also, you can smell when things are getting too toasty. I've worked on ESD-safe matting for hot-air stuff, and it most definitely does melt. \$\endgroup\$ – Connor Wolf May 22 '14 at 2:29
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you can use silicon rubber mats what you use for baking to protect you workbench surface quite cheap to buy from most home stores

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I use this very inexpensive tool: http://www.banggood.com/Fixture-Motherboard-PCB-Holder-For-Mobile-Phone-Board-Repair-Tool-p-928075.html?rmmds=myorder and it makes a world of difference! I screwed it in to a piece of 2x4 for stability. For larger boards I bought also this station: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00Q2TTQEE/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1, but did not use it yet - my boards happen to be quite small :)

Small PCB holderSmall PCB holderHolder for larger PCBsHolder for larger PCBs

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    \$\begingroup\$ You use what? There's no way to understand this answer if the links go away - this is why link-only answers such as this are frowned upon. \$\endgroup\$ – pipe Oct 7 '16 at 1:51

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