What are self-healing cutting mats made from?

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

2400 Articles

By Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

2400 Articles

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When I was in graduate school, I took a seminar class from a chemist whose work in developing self-healing polymers was widely admired. I had seen these self-healing cutting mats in the MicroMark catalog, and always wondered what they were made of. So I asked him, in class. He looked at me like I’d grown a second head: “You mean to tell me you’ve seen self-healing polymers on the market? In a consumer product?” Later I brought him the catalog, and showed him the listing. He was stumped, and more than a bit dubious.

I ordered one of their small “try it size” cutting boards, and made a few tests cuts on it to confirm that it did, in fact, appear to heal itself over time. Apparently, boards that see regular use do eventually get cut up and stop “healing,” but I can confirm that, at least for the first few cuts, the “self-healing” phenomenon is apparently real. And the folks over at Core77 recently started asking the same question: What the heck is that stuff? No firm answers in the comments over there, yet, besides a quote from a manufacturer website mentioning “a unique composite PVC vinyl material,” but I thought I might throw the question out to our more technical audience here. Anybody got an idea?