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A gunsmith needs a stable workbench with a good vise mounted on it to hold the part on which the work is being done. The part needs to be held firmly when filing, grinding, polishing or fitting. Though a vise is used for some assembly and disassembly, this work is usually done right on the top of a workbench.
The top of the workbench should be clear of anything that could scratch or otherwise damage the project gun. There are many mats that are available to cover the area. Most are made of open cell, expanded polyethylene and are resistant to solvents. Unfortunately, although they are fine for cleaning handguns, they are really too small for long guns. There is another option available to the gunsmith/hobbyist.
Sections of rubber conveyor belts are easily obtainable for this purpose. Just be aware that many conveyor belting materials have abrasives to grip parts, so be careful to obtain belting without any abrasive. Get a section that is long enough to cover your work area. A width of 18” should be sufficient.
I use a 48” by 18” section of conveyor belt on my assembly bench. One could possibly obtain belting from the maintenance department of a company that uses conveyors. However, short sections are available from industrial supply companies, as they sell it by the linear foot. Buying new belting in short lengths is worth the investment because you will get exactly what you want and it will last a long, long time.
I found belting with small (about 1/16” high) ridges that form a small rectangular grid on the surface. This is especially handy because it keeps the gun slightly elevated and small parts remain where they are placed. A completely flat surface tends to result in small pins, springs and other parts rolling off of the workbench.
I’ve used the same piece of belting on my workbench top for the last 10 years. It will probably be the last one I’ll ever need.