I have a general purpose workbench that I would like to use for electronic work. It currently has a wood top, which I would like to protect (think varnished butcher block).

I have a small anti-static mat with wrist strap to use when working with sensitive components.

I would imagine that some sacrificial materials which I could use to cover this 2 x 4 foot bench are more ESD safe than others. Is this a factor I should consider when selecting what to lay down?

This is for home/hobby use but all the same I would like to follow best practice provided the cost is not excessive.

Whis is generally used for the top of ESD safe workstations? What would you recommend for hobby use that is reasonably low cost?


Butyl Rubber - effective, low cost, easy to use:

Choose any three :-).

Butyl rubber sheet, as used for roof waterproofing and similar, is cheap compared to "proper" antistatic mats. The rubber contains carbon black which provides the conductivity.

Here they shipped large bales of it with a wrapper sheet on the outside which they sold off very cheaply. I bought several square meters of it and it has served very well.

Any sort of conductivity at all will work. 1 megohm per square is fine.

Care! - Very low resistance material is potentially (pun intended) dangerous as it can short to equipment under test or repair. Steven's metal sheet could be very exciting in some cases :-).

I understand that some linoleum flooring works OK. As acceptable resistance can be so high as to be hard to measure, testing with a very simple electrostatic generator would work - as simple as some materials which allow static charge to be produced when rubbed together. If it will discharge electrostatically charged items almost instantly it should be acceptable.


Any conductive material is fine. In our test lab at work we had the table covered with a 0.5mm aluminium plate.

edit following Russell's answer
DUTs (Device Under Test) in the test lab are mostly packaged end products, so there's no risk of shorting. If a bare board has to be tested an antistatic mat is used, of course.
For certain tests the device has to be placed at a certain distance above the conductive plate, like when ESD pulses are released to the plate to test the device's susceptibility to induced fields. Here we use non-conductive spacers.

If you want to do it professionally, this picture should give you some ideas:

enter image description here

A wooden benchtop or a stone tile floor don't protect against ESD, but don't induce static electricity either. Cotton clothing also helps.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In the drawing, what does "RCCB" represent? \$\endgroup\$ – JonnyBoats Sep 11 '11 at 16:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JonnyBoats - "Residual Current Circuit Breakers". Protects in case of overcurrent and current leakage. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Sep 11 '11 at 16:33

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