Removing masonite (arborite?) from an old desktop

My brother gave me an old '70s desk that he made then and I want to put to use, but the top is not only beat to heck, it's not a style I like.
I've seen two methods to remove the masonite talked about: with a clothes iron, heat each piece and little by little lift it up, or just plain chisel away at it until it's all gone. This tells me that the glue is heat activated, I'm thinking.
Anyone know of another way? Also, is this going to be as big a job as it sounds? I'm not looking to spends weeks at this.
Also, while the replacement of the material doesn't sound too daunting, do I have to get the wood surface under the masonite clean down to bare wood, or does it matter. Talking about the old glue here. In other words, how clean does the surface have to be so that my new top will adhere properly?
--
"Stay calm. Be brave. Wait for the signs."

regards,
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Can't you just put a new layer over top?
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sometimes orange water gibbon bucket and plastic." -- Mr. Burrows
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If laminate is applied properly, it will telegraph all imperfections under it. The GP (thicker) laminate isn't as bad, but the PF stuff will show brush strokes from applying contact cement.
What I have done, with some success, is to fill all the holes with Bondo and belt-sand the whole mess. That does take some practice (and an excellent belt-sander) to use a belt-sander on a flat surface without gouging. If you belt-sand through the laminate into the old contact cement, you're screwed. Use a 80 or a 100 grit. Wear a mask.
One trick for belt-sanding which works nicely......draw rough lines, like a grid with a magic marker or carpenters' pencil all over the area to be sanded and watch the lines disappear as you sand.
YMMV
00
Rob
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As already suggested...put on another top. I can't be worth fighting dead contact cement. I you HAVE to clean it...laquer thinner will cut contact cement. Use a well ventilated area, remove all spark and open flame and don't overlook your furnace pilot light if it has one. I don't envy you.
00
Rob
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Thanks for the suggestions, guys. OK, so if the best way to go is a new top over the old, there is one thing more I need to ask.
One of the top corners of the old masonite has come unglued, and is missing an irregularly-shaped piece roughly 1" x 2". Do I just square out the chip, glue a new piece in there and then go re-cover the whole top and edges? Sounds too simple to be true...
Thanks again, Frank
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Sound doable. A sharp chisel and a hammer should do it.
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I think that'll be more sanity-saving for you.

Yes, I'd treat it like an inlaid hinge or similar; clean it out to a constant depth to the right shape, and fill it in with the repair material. Good router practice for working with templates if nothing else.
Dave Hinz
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