Simple PCB Vise

This one almost got relegated to a links post, but [Ken’s] simple PCB vise (PDF) is just so useful we had to give it a standalone feature. It works so well because he made every design feature count.

For instance, the groove the holds the PCB (almost impossible to see here but look at the diagrams in the PDF linked above) is cut with a dovetail bit, rather than just being a square rabbit. The clamping force is provided by that blue rubber band which simply hooks on a metal shelf peg on each side of the clamping plates. Those plates are machined out of polyethylene and slide nicely along the two nylon rods which keep them aligned. There’s really nothing to break or wear out here, except the rubber band with is easily replaceable. The rubber feet keep it from sliding across the bench as you work.

This is great for soldering, and would go right along with those diy smd parts clamps you made. It’s also a great way to hold onto your prototype boards when you’re working out the firmware.

25 thoughts on “Simple PCB Vise

  1. Great idea, simple implementation. I like it.

    I probably would have used a simple slot for the PCB holder, easier to make without a mill, but the dovetail works well with any thickness PCB.

    The rubber band won’t last long, especially if you hit it accidentally with the soldering iron. But rubber bands are cheap and plentiful. The whole plastic thing does worry me that I’ll eventually melt the dovetail enough to be annoying and require touching up with a knife or file, maybe aluminium jaw inserts? A Z-folded strip of Aluminium should do the trick.

  2. The proper way to prevent binding and to assure alignment of the holes so that the rods are strictly parallel, is to clamp the two end pieces together and drill the holes in a drill press. This is called “match drilling” and is commonly used in the machining industry. It is especially important when building DIY CNC or “reprap” machines.

    1. An excellent idea that addresses one of my primary concerns about the design. Thanks!

      One improvement I’d like to make is to the base, specifically so that it can be mounted in a real (cast iron) bench vise. This would allow for more-aggressive handling of the board (drilling, desoldering, etc.), while remaining absolutely steady.

      The other improvement would be adding an Acme-threaded rod, so it would act like a regular vise: threaded jaw on one end, longitudinally bound on the other. We got into a debate as to whether tapping an Acme thread through the UHMW jaw would create too much friction with the threaded rod (‘it taps like jello’ my dad says), but I think that would actually HELP, because it’d keep the jaws set in position without torquing down on the PCB.

      I know, I’m going overboard, but I’m an EE and my dad’s an ME, what do you expect?!? ;)

      1. PCBs flex so you want to be careful how much pressure you apply from the sides (as in a typical vise). You might want to think about a groove that fits the board, as well as an esd safe bottom support arm (like commercial models)

    1. Never heard “rebate” used to refer to a groove – thanks for teaching me something.

      But next time ease up on the attitude. “Rabbet” is hardly an Americanization, predating the 1600’s respelling (“rebate”) by something like two centuries. I checked Chambers Compact (“same as rabbet”) and the OED (etymology). Have you noticed that when used in this sense, “rebate” is often pronounced the same as “rabbet”? At least that’s what my sources tell me.

  3. Only thing that concerns me is the plastic melting as mentioned by Alan.
    If you’re milling it, a piece of MDF/wood might work just as well but wouldn’t melt. (and everyone loves the smell of charring MDF ;)
    It might bind a little more, but nylon is pretty low friction (use PTFE?) so you’d probably get away with it

  4. Holy crap! Why didn’t I think of this? I’ve been struggling with limited space and a cranky suction cup base vise from the Home Despot. I am definitely making one of these this weekend. I’ll use MDF and polished steel rods since I have that stuff sitting around. Maybe a junk box spring for the rubber band?

    Any ideas how does UHMW PE machine with a standard woodworking router?

    Thanks so much for the idea!!!

  5. Don’t know if anyone noticed, but he is offering these to those in the US for $23 shipped.
    Not bad considering you would pay at least that much for one from a retail store (if you can find one).

  6. Nice!

    This summer I snagged a German made version of a large panavise, complete with ball pivot base and clamp, for $3 at a yard sale. It’s done wonders for my pcb holding. I wouldn’t mind clamping a spring/band holding solution in the top.

    Hey, one question. Doesn’t that type of plastic tend to generate and hold a lot of static electricity?

    At the same sale I snagged a Triplett 630-PLK analog multimeter, also $3. This is one of those Giant bakelight meters – it is 7.5″ tall and 5.5″ wide. It’s gorgeous. As much as I might like to hack it for a project, I really think it must be left completely intact. And there are certain tasks that still demand a good analog meter (matching FETs, etc).

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