<Test equipment

My electronics workbench

I have an old and sturdy desk that I work at (the previous owner told me it used to be a police lieutenant's office desk way back in the 1970s). To keep my most used lab equipment and supplies at hand, I wanted to add some kind of shelves to it. The simplest way I could come up with was to use some sturdy threaded rods bolted to the desktop. M16 rods seemed reasonable (and were the thickest available from my nearby hardware store), so I bought four such 1 m long rods, 32 pcs M16 nuts, 32 pcs M16 washers, three 18 mm thick wood shelves, and an 18 mm wood drill.

This is what my completed workbench looks like, furnished with all the necessary junk. There's an ESD mat on the desktop, a couple of grounded sockets (with the mandatory 1 MΩ resistors) to connect a wrist strap and other stuff, and a magnifier light is attached to the edge of the desk.

The threaded rods allow continuous adjustment of the height of each shelf independently, so I have spaced them according to the height of my various oscilloscopes, signal generators and other stuff.

Here's how the threaded rods are joined to the shelves: a hole is drilled in four corners of each shelf, and a nut and washer go on either side of it. Likewise I brutally drilled holes through the desktop as well, and each rod is again locked in place by nuts and washers. Use a drill bit that's a couple of mm bigger than the rods, and no special care is needed with measurements. Just make sure the desk's legs, drawers and other structures don't interfere with the nuts and washers.

When properly tightened up, the thing is just as sturdy as an expensive Treston electronics workbench, and all my test equipment is conveniently within reach.

I even added a cheap fluorescent tube lighting fixture just like the Trestons have. I raised it higher than the top shelf, so it doesn't hinder access to it. I did this with slightly thinner threaded rods (M10), and used lengths of aluminum profile to suspend the light outwards from the shelves. The profiles are high enough for me not to hit my forehead on their sharp ends, but easily enough within reach. Therefore I purposely made them longer than required, so that I can hang test leads, oscilloscope probes, headphones etc. from them.

The result is functional, but not beautiful. Vertical walls on the sides could be made of thin plywood (they wouldn't need to carry any weight) to pretty up the thing, but since this is in my own room, the XYL hasn't complained. A thin plywood "roof" might be good, however, to reduce the amount of dust settling onto stuff on the top shelf. It would be supported by the lighting fixture's aluminum profiles, and would also carry no weight. I must try to get that done some time.

Antti J. Niskanen <uuki@iki.fi>