Workshop counter: “Roadbed”

I’ve made more progress on the storage cabinets in my workshop – and there’s a good reason why I called my previous post about this project the “subroadbed” phase…

Workshop - Counter Cork

Having used plywood – a classic subroadbed material – for the base of the counter, I topped it with classic roadbed material: Cork. Specifically, 12-inch square cork tiles. These tiles are intended for creating cork boards in an office and I picked mine up at Staples. Similar products are likely available at any large office supply chain.

Workshop - Counter Cork

This may seem like an unorthodox choice for a counter in a workshop, but keep in mind that this is not a workbench: It’s a large bank of drawers for keeping tools and materials organized. When I’m building projects, I will work on a bench in the middle of the room. The surface here will be used in several ways:

– As a spot to put tools and materials as I’m collecting them out of drawers, preparatory to moving them to the work bench;

– As a place to store larger modelling tools, such as my soldering station, sensitive drill press, and so on, so that they’re ready to be moved to the work table;

– As a place to store projects while I work on other things – for example, I might set aside a painted boxcar to dry or a coated tree armature to cure.

With these uses in mind, I wanted a surface that was forgiving to tools:

If I drop a chisel on it, I’d rather nick the surface of the bench than nick the chisel.

I also wanted a surface that I could replace if it got damaged. The cork tiles are ideal for this: I can scrape off any damaged tiles and simply install new ones.

Finally, I just like the look of cork.

Before adding the tiles, I sanded the top of the plywood. I also painted the walls behind the cabinet to clean up the appearance of the room somewhat.

Workshop - Counter Cork

The tiles came with double-sided foam tape squares to mount them. These were insufficient for several reasons, but the biggest problem with them was they let the tiles float on the plywood. I knew that in no time at all, the springiness would bother me and – most likely – tiles would get damaged.

A better system of applying them to the plywood was in order. This was a job for No More Nails:

Workshop - Counter Cork

I was amazed at just how much No More Nails was required. I applied a thin coating to each tile and spread it about – but the job still required three caulking tubes of the stuff.

I started in the corner of the L, at the front of the counter, and then worked my way out to both ends, aligning the front face of the tiles with the edge of the plywood.

Workshop - Counter Cork

Next steps, in no particular order:

I will add a trim piece to the front face of the counter to tie everything together, hide the rough edge of the plywood, and protect the front edge of the tiles.

At the ends, I left the tiles longer than the counter: I’ll cut them back with a knife after the No More Nails cures.

I will add an elevated ledge along the back of the counter – a backsplash of sorts. I’ll have power bars mounted on each leg of this. On the long leg of the L, the ledge will support test tracks in various gauges. I’ve already planned out this project and I’m just waiting on some materials and time.

I will install cabinet hardware: I just purchased some nice drawer pulls through an architect I know. They’ll go very nicely with the modern grey drawer fronts. I will have to built a drilling jig for these.

I have to adjust the alignment of the drawer faces – something that’s relatively easy to do with the IKEA system, but which will require some time and possibly a second set of eyes.

I’m getting very close to the point where I’ll be able to start loading the drawers with tools and materials. This is the first time I’ve had such a dedicated space for a workshop and I look forward to putting it to good use!

12 thoughts on “Workshop counter: “Roadbed”

  1. Hi Trevor, I like your use of cork…there is something about cork material that suggests a work/model is in progress. Very professional.

    Monte Reeves

  2. Trevor, I like your idea of using cork for this application. Did you ever consider using cork “flooring” but opted the tiles?
    Enjoy your work and reads.

    • Hi Pete:
      I did not look at flooring but I would expect that it would be too hard a surface: it’s meant to be walked on, after all. Plus, wouldn’t cork flooring tiles interlock somehow? That would make it difficult to swap out a single, damaged tile…

  3. Trevor,

    I just joined the blog and have enjoyed ‘catching-up’ on your goings-on. The cabinet project is really cool. I did something similar, on a much smaller scale a few years ago and found I became a ‘tidier’ (?) modeler as a result. Sure, in the midst of a big project stuff is still scattered all about, but creating a proper place for everything kind of forced me to want to put everything back where it belongs. For the most, when I finish working in the space the last thing I do is put everything away. Coming back and seeing a neat a tidy area is a nice feeling and in a small way fuels my energy for the next work session.


    Dave Curtin

  4. Looking great! One question, did you peel off the double sided tape and was it difficult if you did? ( I guess that’s 2 questions)
    Cheers, Gord

    • Thanks Gord!
      The double-sided tape was actually a set of double-sided sticky foam tape squares, packed separately. You can see a yellow rectangle of them above the caulking gun in one of the photos. The cork itself was plain – no adhesive – so after testing the squares and rejecting them, I peeled them off my test panel and discarded the rest.

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