Refinishing slate(?) Slab for a table surface

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Forum topic by _JR posted 08-05-2021 12:41 PM 246 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18 posts in 884 days

08-05-2021 12:41 PM

I’m trying to identify the underlying material type and coating of what look to be old school chemistry lab tables and shelves. The underlying material is a dark gray while the coating is a black epoxy-like substance. Initially thought they were slate, but the 8” long shelves are bowed and can be flexed to straighten them. Taking a torch to a chip, it does not burn, does not melt, eventually glows red, and maintains its original strength after it cools down. Table is 30”x54”x1.25” and the shelves are 9”x96”x1.5”. They honestly look like what I had in chemistry class, 30 years ago, and those would have been the originals from 1963. They are either going in my shop for a solid glue-up table or I’ll turn them I to a retro industrial table. Any thoughts on the makeup and what the coating might be in the event I want to fully refinish them?

7 replies so far

View controlfreak's profile


2717 posts in 813 days

#1 posted 08-05-2021 01:01 PM

One thing for sure is any chemistry lab table would have been fire proof. I would see if it fractures like a natural slate stone in horizontal layers or in chunks like concrete.

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18 posts in 884 days

#2 posted 08-05-2021 01:05 PM

That is normally true. It chunks like concrete but still does not make sense. My understanding is the standard materials of the time were felenic (layered cloth with epoxy) and slate.

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4712 posts in 1117 days

#3 posted 08-05-2021 01:08 PM

Hopefully doesn’t contain asbestos like other fire proof things did back then.

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18 posts in 884 days

#4 posted 08-05-2021 01:14 PM

True, but as long as it is in solid form and is not sanded/cut/shredded it is safe.

View Axis39's profile


536 posts in 809 days

#5 posted 08-05-2021 01:18 PM

I am sure it is some sort of phenolic product, or something similar. Not sure you’ll really be able to refinish it.

I use some phenolic stuff for pickguards for guitars. It’s thinner, but has some similar properties (I haven’t tried burning it yet, but I might be tempted to see what it does now).

I’ve also seen some table tops made out of similar stuff. My daughters have traded a dining room table around. I wanna say it came from World Market? But, it feels kinda like concrete, but it’s not. I would wager it is some sort of dust that is compressed and then has epoxy or resin added.

-- John F. SoCal transplant, chewer uppper of good wood

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18 posts in 884 days

#6 posted 08-05-2021 01:29 PM

May have finally found my own answer in a history lesson from a manufacturer. The phelonic resin and epoxy resin tables were not made until the late 60’s and do not contain any sort of overcoat. Prior to that, 1.25” imperial stone and soapstone was used with an epoxy resin coating for additional chemical resistance.

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18 posts in 884 days

#7 posted 08-05-2021 01:54 PM

That does not work out either. One shelf weighs 70lbs. That works out to 9.33lb/cubic foot which most closely matches felonic resin weights.

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