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Old 02-26-2011, 12:31 PM   #1
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Aluminum desk top

Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to be replacing one of the twin beds in our 27' International with a custom built desk. Right now I'm leaning towards an aluminum top, probably a nice plywood with a sheet of aluminum glued to the top.

Ideally this sheet of aluminum would match the finish and gloss of the rest of the interior skin. I also like that the Airstream skin is coated with something that resists fingerprints, and that's certainly a requirement for the desk.

Anyone have suggestions for sources or types of aluminum for this purpose? It'll need to measure somewhere around 25"x67". Can I buy something directly from Jackson Center that'll match perfectly, or are there other good sources? Open to alternative ideas, too, like Octolam or Chemetal if they come with recommendations.
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Old 02-26-2011, 12:42 PM   #2
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this is where i bought from: Aircraft supplies aluminum sheet 2024T3 4130 steel tubing Airparts inc - Aircraft construction supplies

based on input from forum.

however, you might consider a countertop from ikea - its aluminum looking formica over particleboard - much cheaper (something like $70 i think).
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Old 02-26-2011, 12:49 PM   #3
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Josh how about something like this. It's HIPS ( high impact poly styrene). looks like brushed aluminium but won't scratch like real aluminium will.
Brushed Alumium Laminate
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Old 02-26-2011, 01:09 PM   #4
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I would strongly sugjest you go with stainless steel instead, you will frequently be rubbing your wrists on the aluminum counter edge, and prolonged exposure to aluminum can make you sick.

This is why stainless is prefered for making cookware and countertops.
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Old 02-26-2011, 01:11 PM   #5
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I actually started at IKEA, but their metal countertops are not quite long enough (only goes up to 60"). I'd lean towards one of their laminated countertops, but I haven't gotten much longevity out of IKEA wood finishes historically (esp when not using coasters for cups). Still open to that as a cheap alternative.

AirParts is in our neck of the woods, so I've looked at them too. I just don't know which of their handful of aluminum sheeting is most appropriate or how I'd go about finishing them to resist fingerprints. I'll probably give them a call early next week and see what they'd recommend.

Wasagachris, that may be exactly what I need. It looks like that's used mostly in vertical/wall installations, so I'm curious whether it's intended to hold up to the abuse of a desk/countertop? Since they list "durability" as a benefit over aluminum, I'm assuming that's not really an issue.

Thanks for both of your suggestions. I'll dig a little further.
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Old 02-26-2011, 01:24 PM   #6
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Whatever you end up using hope you will post some pics when you get finished. I'm thinking about a 25FB Flying Cloud with twins and doing exactly the same thing.
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Old 02-26-2011, 02:07 PM   #7
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Formica makes a "DecoMetal" in brushed aluminum...it comes in sheets up to 4'x10'. It's made for this sort of thing...and the brushed texture will better match the texture on your trailer than the 2024 from Airparts which is a good match for the mirrored-finish of vintage aluminum, but would easily scratch in a worksurface application.

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Old 02-26-2011, 02:18 PM   #8
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Formica DecoMetal

Josh,

Take a look at the formica aluminum surface material. Comes in polished, brushed and other finishes. You can also purchase the matching edgebanding for what ever surface you choose. Best of all any local cabinet maker can can whip these out in a flash. DecoMetal® by Formica Group -- The Collection -- Formica Limited

If you still want to go with aluminum I get mine at a local sheet metal shop by the pound. They have many different surfaces and thickness to choose from.

Best of luck with the project. Photos of your work are always appreciated.
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Old 02-26-2011, 03:38 PM   #9
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I made a 33" x 34" dinette table with 3/4" plywood and an aluminum top. Used contact cement for the adhesive. I wanted the look of both metal and wood so I left the plywood edging exposed. I really like it up against the aluminum interior skin, but I didn't realize that exposure to your skin can make you sick! Found the aluminum at a local salvage store. It was inexpensive and they cut it to my size. Good luck.
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Old 02-26-2011, 04:30 PM   #10
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I would suggest getting an aluminum looking laminate for several reasons. The airsteam aluminum is laquer coated. Straight untreated aluminum looks great but scratches very easily and will oxidize pretty fast about a year. If you rub Al with you hand ,your hand will turn black from the Al. You can cut Al with any wood blade which is nice but it will dent pretty easily.
Laminate is the way to go trust me. I work with aluminum every day and even though it is great to work with it needs very special attention in its untreated state.
I should add that aluminum will oxidize very fast but can be rebuffed with a 3m scouring pad to look like new (brushed stainless look). But will again oxidize.
I would go laminate for health and maintenance reasons.
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Old 02-26-2011, 05:01 PM   #11
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I second the vote for laminate. Most laminates are bullet proof. You can drop stuff on them , stand on them, slide things across them, neglect them and mistreat them and they still look great. Now try that with aluminum and the results will be devastating.

Laminates look great and last a long time, and they are made to be used as counter and table tops
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Old 02-26-2011, 06:41 PM   #12
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Metal desktop project

Hi, The husband took one of our twins out of the Tradewind and made a desk set up.... The bunkbed fits above for sleeping purposes. Came out very nice....
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Old 02-26-2011, 08:27 PM   #13
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Have you looked at wilsonart laminates? Unfortunately none of the "metal look" laminate is rated for horizontal surfaces and needs specialized tools to trim (thats true for all the major brand names I looked at). There are a few laminates from Wilsonart that are kinda cool. Try Luna Shadow pattern / color of Wilsonart HD High Definition Laminate - 1853.

If cost is an issue I had really good luck painting a wooden desk for my son with a hammered metal spay paint. WAY more durable that I thought and very cool looking.
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Old 02-26-2011, 11:10 PM   #14
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Great idea with the aluminum tables and bunk beds...thanks.
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Old 02-27-2011, 02:51 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by upstateart View Post
Hi, The husband took one of our twins out of the Tradewind and made a desk set up.... The bunkbed fits above for sleeping purposes. Came out very nice....
Indeed it did !
Great job.

Thanks for posting the pic.
I'm about to do something similar in my Argosy MH.




That nifty bunk-bed thingy: is that a standard AS thing ?

Thanks
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Old 02-28-2011, 01:08 AM   #16
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Thanks for all the opinions, everyone!

While most of the responses suggest using a metallic laminate, the only photos from actual projects were of metal countertops. I've also corroborated reinergirl's point that none of these metallic laminates seem to be rated for horizontal use. Formica even go out of their way to say "(these) products may scratch and are not recommended for high wear applications such as countertops" (PDF source). These metallic laminates are actually just _very_ thin sheets of pure metal on top of a HIPS or phenolic backer. And so I assume they'd not only carry the softness and chemical traits of aluminum, but wouldn't "heal" as nicely, since a scratch exposes that backing substance instead of more aluminum.

I also tried to find any evidence of the "aluminum will make you sick" story. While that much appears possible (there are several studies suggesting exposure to aluminum could have a number of negative side effects, including, perhaps, a link with Alzheimer's disease), the number of references to exposure through skin contact is conspicuously low. The primary concern is inhalation, especially for people who work with or around aluminum dust on a regular basis. Aluminum exposure through the wrists appears to be a very minor worry among worries as an RVer. There is aluminum in our deodorant, cookware, shampoo and some foods. Besides, if any of us were worried about exposure to aluminum, I think would have chosen a different trailer.

Aluminitis, it appears, is still something to celebrate.

(Here's OSHA's guidelines on Aluminum: Occupational Safety and Health Guideline for Aluminum)

star_kitty, your table is _exactly_ what I'd been thinking about doing (with leaving the plywood edges exposed). We call it the "Chipotle table", if you're familiar with the restaurant's decor. I find it a lot "warmer" and more inviting than a full metal-wrapped edge, which often ends up looking a bit too sterile for my taste.

I think I'll give Airparts a call tomorrow or maybe just look for a smaller metal supply company here in town. I'm open to either aluminum or stainless steel such that it meets my earlier criteria. I'll try to continue posting until this project is complete, and with pictures, of course. Couple more weeks of planning, first.

Thanks again, everyone; I would continue to enjoy your input.
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Old 02-28-2011, 03:35 AM   #17
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Hi Josh.
I've done quite a few things aluminum, both dekorative and
technical.
Aluminum will NOT work as a table-top.
It's way too soft. You can different types; softer/harder,
but none will do the job.
For your infotainment here's a demonstration.
Brand new sheet of alu.
Moving about a drinking glass, a kitchen utensil and a pen,
you know; normal 'table-stuff'.

VIDEO



Sorry about the quality of the video, but I hope you can see how
it will scrach the surface, and within ten minutes of setting up
your table you'll have one ugly table
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Old 02-28-2011, 01:28 PM   #18
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Oh wow, thanks for the demonstration, Octane. I definitely want to avoid the kinds of effects you're showing there.

A couple thoughts:

We're not exactly interested in keeping the mirror/glossy finish you're starting with there. We're actually interested in something more brushed, like what star_kitty's table looks like. If we scoured the whole thing with a 3M pad first, maybe additional scratches would be less noticeable? Maybe not.

Are there protective coatings we could look into, such that we're not interacting with the metal surface itself but some sort of clearcoat or enamel varnish? The aluminum skin of trailer scratches easily, but not THAT easily. How is it protected and could we implement something like that (we'll likely want to do something like that for fingerprint/smudge resistance anyway).

Definitely still open to stainless steel, if that's the right material for this job. Any opinions about that?
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Old 02-28-2011, 01:28 PM   #19
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Check out this . On Classic rides they restored a airstream and part of it was an aluminum countertop with a glass top. Pretty neat looking and simple enough. They etched the Classic Rides logo under the glass and it looked great! The whole series of youtube videos on the restoration is worth watching.

Seriously don't discount the metal paints out there (roll ons and sprays) there are many that look like the real thing. I painted a metal light chrome after making sure it was prepped properly and there's no way you could tell!
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Old 02-28-2011, 01:44 PM   #20
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BTW, the metal laminates are thick enough that they wouldn't scratch through unless you really gouged it. It would work better than a thin sheet of aluminum because of the phenolic backing on it is pretty rigid & supports it. I also think the "warning" about horizontal use is primarily for commercial use...I doubt occasional use in a trailer would compare. Regardless, stainless steel would be a much more appropriate surface than aluminum. It's what commercial kitchens use...

another issue with aluminum is acids (like wine) &/or salt (margaritas) will corrode aluminum pretty easily.

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