Plastic Vise From 2 IKEA Cutting Boards




Recently I was restoring an old vise and I wanted to make some soft jaws to prevent marring on delicate work. Scrounging for some plastic to cover the jaws I came across an old cutting board that did the trick. In the process of attaching the plastic to the vise jaws, I thought it might be useful to try and make a plastic vise altogether using pieces cut from a couple of $2 IKEA cutting boards and laminated together with some hot glue.

The results of my project is the subject of this Instructable. So lets begin!

Step 1: Materials & Tools


  • (2) IKEA LEGITM Cutting boards 13.5" x 9.5" x 1/4"
  • (4) Sticks of High Temperature Glue sticks 10" x 1/2"diameter
  • (1) 5/16" x 6" carriage bolt
  • (1) 5/16" x 3" carriage bolt
  • (2) 5/16" nuts
  • Spray-on contact adhesive
  • 60 grit sandpaper
  • Scissors


  • Printer (to make copies of the supplied template)
  • High Temperature Glue Gun
  • Band Saw or Coping Saw
  • Wood Rasp
  • Drill
  • 5/16" drill bit
  • Utility knife and extra blades
  • Small chisel
  • propane torch

Step 2: Template

  1. Begin by printing (2) copies the supplied PDF file which is the template of the various pieces which make up the vise. One copy will be used as a build reference and the other copy to be cut out as the template.
  2. The 1st and 2nd pages are images of the laminated vise fully assembled, minus the 2 screws used to hold the vise to a bench and to engage the clamping action.
  3. Proceed to cut out the pieces and lay them out in numbered order. There is a set of templates for the FIXED JAW (#1 thru #7) and for the MOVING JAW (#9 thru #15) along with a view showing how the layers are to be assembled. Yeah, I know what about #8? Ignore it, I was absent that day in school.

Step 3: Layout

  1. All the pieces have been sized to fit onto the 2 cutting boards. It is highly recommended to use the image of the layout on the two boards to orient the templates.
  2. To maximize the layout on the boards, some of the templates will need to be inverted. Specifically, one of each from templates #2, #3, #4, & #10.
  3. Spray contact adhesive on one face of each of the two cutting boards.
  4. On the back side of each template, apply a light coating of contact adhesive.
  5. Wait 5 minutes before applying the templates to the board in the order shown.

Step 4: Cutting the Pieces From the Board

This step is pretty straightforward. Using a saw, preferably a band saw or scroll saw cut out the various pieces from the board as close to the line as you can get. You can use a manual coping saw, but this step is extremely tedious even with a power tool.

A word of advise, have a vacuum handy as this creates allot of plastic saw dust.

Step 5: Gluing the Pieces

Ok. Now the fun begins.

I wish I had pictures of the glue up process, but I didn't have a free hand to snap some shots while I applied glue

WARNING: Hot Glue can be messy to work with and also painful if gotten on bare skin. Do so at your own risk.

  1. Plug in the glue gun and set it to high temp. Let it warm up until the glue flows freely.
  2. Remove all the paper backings from the cut plastic pieces. Have a 2nd printout handy or use a permanent marker to number the pieces after removing the paper.
  3. Its best to complete each layer on both sides of the center layer before proceeding to the next layer.
  4. Some layers have multiple pieces with the same number. Use the 2nd copy of the printout to get a feel of how the parts are oriented to one another and the spacing between pieces.
  5. Start with center layer (#1 for the FIXED JAW and layer #9 for the MOVING JAW).
  6. Dry fit the subsequent layer to ensure proper alignment.
  7. Apply hot glue to one face of the contacting surface. Quickly press it to the mating surface of the next part, align and apply pressure for several seconds. The bond between the two parts occurs very fast and is extremely strong. There is very little room for error. If you see the joint is not to your satisfaction, immediately separate the parts and let the glue cool. A utility knife can be used to scrape the parts clean and be reused.
  8. Continue to build up the layers until the parts are complete.

Step 6: Fitting

The parts won't fit initially due to the tight line-to-line fit of the two parts.

  1. Using a utility knife, remove excess glue from the edges which makeup the sliding contact between the FIXED & MOVING JAWS
  2. With a flat surface available secure a piece of 60 grit sandpaper to it. Proceed to sand the faces to remove any misalignment of the layers due to the glue up. Feel free to shape the jaws to your liking.
  3. I found a chisel and rasp to be effective in shaping the U-shaped channel of the FIXED JAW.
  4. Work the two parts with sandpaper, chisel and rasp until the two parts slide freely together.

Step 7: Threaded Hardware (Jaw Screw)

  1. Using a 5/16" drill bit, enlarge the square hole that runs the length of the FIXED JAW and the MOVING JAW
  2. The 5/6" nut will be locked into the FIXED JAW by heating up with a torch and pressing it to the backside of the FIXED JAW.
  3. Thread the nut onto the 6" bolt halfway down.
  4. While holding the bolt in a vise or with pliers, heat up the nut with a torch. Try to keep the heat localized to the nut.
  5. With the nut sufficiently heated, slide the bolt into the 5/16" hole of the FIXED JAW. The nut will begin melting the plastic. Push it down about 2" into the body of the FIXED JAW. Make sure the bolt is straight in the body as the nut cools.
  6. Unscrew the bolt.

Step 8: Threaded Hardware (Bench Screw)

  1. Using a 5/16" drill bit, enlarge the square hole in the FIXED JAW on the feature which will allow it to be clamped to a table or bench.
  2. Slide the 3" carriage bolt into the hole.
  3. Thread the nut onto the bolt.
  4. Using the torch, carefully heat up the nut with localized heat.
  5. When sufficiently heated, pull the end of the bolt so as to drive the heated nut into the body of the FIXED JAW. The nut will start to melt the plastic. Continue to pull on the nut until it is flush with the C-channel face which will allow it to clamp to a bench.

Step 9: Finishing Touches

With some of the leftover scraps, I made a couple of knobs which was not included in the templates. Attaching them to the ends of the carriage bolts was done in the same manner using the torch.

Step 10: Final Thoughts

I have to admit, I rushed to get this project done to enter it by the deadline for the Make it Plastics Contest. Some things I would have done differently:

  1. The Jaw screw is not secured to the MOVING JAW. In the closing action, the screw pulls the two halves together applying a great deal of force surprisingly. In the opening action, the screw will back out, but the jaws have to be opened manually. Not a big deal, but a little inconvenient and easily remedied in the future.
  2. More pictures and maybe a video! I know, sorry about that. Again, it was hard to take pics of the gluing operation alone. Next time I'll set the camera on a tripod.
  3. Given more time, I would have liked to try drawing the template on TinkerCAD.
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    32 Discussions


    6 months ago

    This is a great instructable! I bet one made of MDF with your same plans would be useful as well.

    I also LOL'd at "Yeah, I know what about #8? Ignore it, I was absent that day in school." Thank you for that!

    1 reply

    Reply 6 months ago

    Hey Benny.

    A MDF version would definitely work. Great idea. Easier to glue too I imagine as you'd be able to use a bigger selecting of adhesives and not have to rush the glue up.

    Glad you got a laugh out of my ooops. I would have fixed the numbering of template but I was fighting the clock for the contest submission. Figured if I pointed it out first, there would be less food for the trolls.

    Let me know if you make one, plastic or otherwise.



    6 months ago

    this is the best idea brother . iam going to make a one like this

    1 reply

    Reply 6 months ago

    Good luck. Let me know how it turns out.


    6 months ago

    While this is cool and all, wouldn't it have been easier to just make caps to go over the jaws of an existing vise?

    1 reply

    Reply 6 months ago

    I did make soft jaws for my vise, but this was more of an exercise to see if it was possible to be done. Besides, it was super cheap and satisfying when it worked.


    6 months ago

    This is the coolest and most practical soft jaw vice I have ever seen. I will definitely be making one. Thanks for the plans also, much appreciated. How you thought it out & executed it is amazing. It makes me really think of what other shop fixtures can be made in this way. So cool. I can't say it enough sir great job. One of the best instructables I've seen to date.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 months ago

    Hey Dustin,
    Thanks for the kudos. Its really rewarding when someone appreciates your ideas and work. You'll find applications of the cutting board material and hot glue to be endless. About a year ago, I came across a template for a cardboard robotic arm operated hydraulically with syringes. Instead of using cardboard, I used the same cutting board material. That's when I first discovered the strength and potential of the combination. Good luck with future projects and let me know what you create.



    Tip 6 months ago on Introduction

    I would think it would be a more permanent solution to use ca or plastic model glue rather than hot glue. Other than that, I think this is an extrodanary idea and you have my vote!

    4 replies

    Reply 6 months ago

    From Wikipedia:
    "A plastic cutting boardPlastic boards are usually called PE (polyethylene) cutting boards, or HDPE (high-density polyethylene plastic), the material of which these boards are made. There are basically two types of HDPE boards being made. One version is made from injection-molded plastic, while the other is HDPE from an extrusion line."
    Some cutting boards are extruded Polypropylene.
    Both of these varieties of plastic (PE and PP) are EXTREMELY difficult to glue. They resist the solvent type glues using on styrene (model kits, plexiglass), and they have low "surface energy" to bond with epoxies or other thermosets.
    High temperature hot melt is about as good as you can do with these materials.

    Reply 6 months ago

    Hi ryoung. Thanks for your well crafted response regarding the bonding to PE plastics. I could not have said it better. To all who may read this posting, don't underestimate the strength a quality hot glue joint can produce. I am constantly amazed at the application that these two materials can be used for.


    Reply 6 months ago

    Hi JoeE39,
    Thanks for your response and for the vote. The responses I've been getting are very encouraging and I look foward to share more future projects.


    Reply 6 months ago

    No, brother: neither of those adhesives will bond to this type of plastic. Neither will epoxy; hot glue is actually a good option if used correctly: see my explanation below.


    Question 6 months ago

    Have you put the template in a DXF? This would be quite simple on my CNC router. What is the scale of the attached PDF? Thanks.

    2 answers

    Answer 6 months ago

    Hi David. If you like I can send you the iges file. The pdf is created in 1:1 scale.


    Tip 6 months ago

    I really enjoyed reading this instructable. Congratulations on a great idea and a well thought out explanation.
    Many people are surprised to learn that hot glue is the best choice for this type of plastic: polyethylene. Where most other kinds of glue will not bond at all, hot glue will make a strong permanent bond, but it has to be used right to avoid the number-one cause of joint failure: a cold joint. I sometimes preheat both surfaces with a torch or heat gun just prior to assembly. The heat can also be applied to the open glue line, AFTER the glue has been applied, to make sure everything including the glue is as hot as possible before closing the seam.
    Hot glue can also make a very strong bond to metals, as long as the surfaces are roughed and cleaned, as with any adhesive. But with metal, a cold joint [ie: failure] is almost guaranteed unless the surfaces are preheated; I go a step further and heat the joint again after connecting the two parts, much like soldering; making sure that the glue is bubbling hot in the seam. The advantage of using hot glue on metal, is that the position can be adjusted later with a touch of the torch. I used this advantage when I was assembling metal organ pipes, where later adjustment of position of the mouth parts was important to voice the pipes. The glue seams in the organ pipes that I built 35 years ago are still bonded as securely as the day they were born. A final note: hot glue is susceptible to oils, which can penetrate and cause the glue seam to soften and fail.
    Addendum: For metal-to-metal bonding projects, I use the high-temperature amber-colored hot glue, which gives a stronger bond than the milky-white low-temperature type.


    6 months ago

    This is SO COOL!!! Thank you Franco40! :)


    Tip 7 months ago

    If the jaws do not open wide enough due to the carriage bolt unscrewing from the nut, its probably due to the nut not being inserted deep enough into the FIXED JAW. This can be remedied by using a longer carriage bolt than the recommended 6".

    1 reply

    Reply 6 months ago

    Well done. I'll try this using wood too. Thanks