Review: Stickvise Needs A Place On Your Bench

Stickvise is a simple device for a simple problem. It holds a work piece while you work on it. Most obviously this means a PCB for soldering, but there’s a twist of versatility that will make it work for a wide range of needs. Being someone who has often used the roll-of-solder-to-hold-a-circuit-board-down trick, only to upset the apple cart when I run out solder, this is a great little tool to have within arm’s reach. For those that already have a PCB vise, how often do you need more than one? How rarely do you need something that large? And if you’re lucky enough to have a microscope for soldering this is a perfect fixture for moving a board to and from without adjusting the focus.

Details of the Design

Simplicity. This is three pieces of aluminum bar-stock, some steel rod, nylon jaws, two springs, and some fasteners. It all works extremely well. To load up a new circuit board I loosen the wing nut and squeeze the clamp shut. Hand tightening the nut doesn’t take much force and it hasn’t slipped for me at all despite moving it around the bench for several days. Once set, the board can be taken out and flipped over easily thanks to the springs.

The extensibility here is key. As it stands, the nylon jaws have a V-groove to hold a board. If you need to support much taller boards you can always put some standoffs between the aluminum and the nylon jaws.

stickvise-custom-jawsBetter yet is the ability to design jaws for your own needs. [Alex Rich], Stickvise’s creator, already has a number of STL files available so that you may print out your own. The “fingers” on the custom jaw shown here interlock with the ones on the opposite side. But my favorite is an articulated set of “third-hand” style jaws based off of the PCB probe jig [Anool] covered back in May. There are even plans to make a parametric STL file so that printing larger or taller jaws doesn’t require a CAD modeling session.

If the range of the vise is too narrow you can simply replace the center bar with a longer one (source yourself or purchase from [Alex]) — the fixed aluminum end is secured with a set screw. This can even be used as a type of stretcher by reversing the spring jaw. I couldn’t think of an application in my own shop for this but you never know.

Stickvise Roots

stickvise-hackaday-approvedIf you have an eagle eye you’ll have noticed the Jolly Wrencher with “Hackaday Approved” next to it on the Stickvise. When [Alex Rich] started refining his original design he posted about it as a project on Hackaday.io. It didn’t take long to grab our attention and, after tossing around the idea a bit we approached [Alex] about his plans for manufacturing and how Hackaday might figure into that. I love seeing hardware come to life like this; it puts an artisanal spin on the things I choose to have in my lab.

Conclusion

stickvise-angled

It’s so simple you could build it, but for me the production quality is well worth buying it instead. It’s simple and durable, with the ability to be specialized for a number of different purposes. I wish I had had it when populating the board I’ve been showing off in these pictures (the LayerOne Badge from this year). If you do any work with circuit boards at the bench the stickvise is a solid entry on your must-have-tools list.

The Stickvise is available in the Hackaday Store.

42 thoughts on “Review: Stickvise Needs A Place On Your Bench

  1. I love those things, biggest advantage is the low profile, so you can solder on your desk and rest your palm on the table while soldering to increase precision. I buy those holders for about $4 on eBay, 30 bucks is a bit too much for two pieces of aluminium and steel rod.

      1. “We sell what we love”…glad you are open about it but it makes your review less objective. I’d like to see reviews of conductive filament since there are a number of options out there.

        1. I have a stickvise. The spring-loaded end is a very nice feature. No fiddling with the wing nut or set screws to remove the board to flip it or replace it with another of the same. The wingnut clamps tight (the brass set screw on that cheaper one seems like it’s be tough to keep tight).

        2. Not got mine yet, it’s held up in the post. But for me, I like that I can rest it on a desk vertically so I have access to both sides for my through hole parts, and a bit of bulk to hold it there. The link you posted looks more suited to surface mount, which is beyond my skill set. I also may get the helper arm accessories for it later if I like using it.

        3. Fair question – I actually really like the little board holder you linked to for what it is. The designer did a great job of keeping it simple, and if that works for what you do then by all means stick with it. I would say Stickvise is a more versatile solution, you can raise the jaws up to increase clearance under your board if you have tall components, you can extend its length by swapping in a different shaft to hold larger PCBs, there are a bunch of 3D printable jaws available that do all sorts of things. As time goes by I hope to roll out accessories such as jaws in different materials and geometries that are useful for specialized tasks. Finally – I’m the designer and now we know each other! You can email me or drop a comment on my hackaday.io page and I will be receptive to feedback and may even incorporate suggestions into new designs. Cheers!

      1. We didn’t even have science back then… Components are size of stone hinge, so they don’t need to be held down – we more have a problem of placing them. From time to time, we kinda of needed to hold down those small animals for sacrifices though.

    1. No, the panavise base accepts a really large diameter, 5/8-Inch (15.9mm). The Stickvise shaft is only 6mm. Stickvise was designed for holding a PCB flat on a table. I would get the panavise PCB holding head if you want to hold something up in the air in your panavise.

  2. I liked the idea so much I built my own using Misumi rail, HDPE and the slide rod out of an old printer – took me about 45 minutes. We are hackers after all. I’d post a piccie but I can’t.

  3. I feel like it’s worth mentioning that the plastic jaws that come with it (or any 3D printed ones) are not at all heat resistant. I’m using mine to hold a board while I assemble SMD components on it. I use a hot-air soldering tool for it and the black plastic melted very quickly along one edge while I was soldering a part near the edge. These would probably be better if made from something with a higher temperature resistance. I’m thinking of trying to make some new ones out of an HDPE cutting board. I feel like something that’s made to hold boards while soldering should be able to handle some hot air.

    That said, I love it otherwise. It’s fine for hot air soldering if I angle the stream away from the jaws when soldering near the edges. It is perfect (as described in the review) for using under a microscope (I have access to one at work).

      1. I concur on this problem. There are some good high-temperature plastics out there that are probably more appropriate than what I used. Any materials engineers want to chime in? McMaster shows some Antistatic PTFE that’s good up to 500F, that’s a start.

  4. I like the design because it’s so simple. The problem with it being so simple is that basically any maker worth his salt can figure out a way to build one with the stuff in his junk pile. Granted, many would rather just buy one… But, selling maker tools to makers seems like an uphill battle.

    1. Actually is quite simple to sell to wannabe makers thinks that a maker worth his salt can make themselves, one clear example is the arduino, trough some times the true makers also buy then due to laziness or to save time.

  5. I bought 2 of these a while back to give them a go. Took one to work with me and left one at home. Turns out work liked them so much we ordered 3 more after a few days. M3 risers for the jaws are the main upgrade we need with them due to large I/O connectors.

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