Somewhere in the gulf between paleontology and sanity....
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Installing the work benches
David Braley, the brilliant welder in the Pickle Campus facilities department, fabricated the metal framework for the work benches that line two walls of the lab. This bench is a giant L, 30" deep, 22' long on the longest arm, and 9' long on the short. This frame is incredibly straight and level, a very difficult task, but supremely executed by David. The whole construction is 2" tubular steel, supported by leveling feet for easy installation. The short leg abuts the long, and is both bolted and pinned, creating an incredibly stable platform to epoxy the table tops in place. I decided to go with the same tabletop material that we used for years at the Field Museum. Bill Simpson performed some rigorous testing on samples from various manufacturers, and finally settled on Resitop, a composite of phenolic resin and craft paper layered densely and cured under pressure and heat. Then it is topped off with a melamine laminate top in a wide variety of colors and patterns. I have always been very happy with the Resistop, it is widely resistant (perhaps impervious) to acids, bases, and solvents. It is also resistant for at least a few minutes to direct flame. The company we ordered from stocks white, black, and grey, other choices cost much more, because you pay for each 5'X7' panel instead of just the material that you actually use. We went with one inch thick at roughly $23 per square foot, including a four inch high backsplash on the workbench.
After spending quite a bit of time leveling the frame with the tops in place, the resin tops were epoxied onto the frames using West Systems Marine Epoxy thickened with a little bit of Cabosil to fill any void space, and were then clamped all around with C-clamps. Backsplashes were then epoxied and clamped, and will be filleted with more epoxy.
Matthew Brown works in a slightly obscure corner of paleontology doing work called fossil preparation. Fossil preparators spend most of their time actually doing what most people think all paleontologists do all day. He has worked for the University of Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History, the National Park Service at Petrified Forest, and currently the University of Texas at Austin. Now residing in Swinging South Austin, he recently lived off the grid in a dome in the middle of the Painted Desert, where his cat Jake was eaten by a bobcat, coyote, mountain lion, or phytosaur. Gustav, Jake's replacement, fared pretty well, and stayed behind in Arizona to guard the house.