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How to make a new three degree of freedom hand for your 'helping hands'. The design allows you to make custom, switchable end-pieces (in addition to the standard alligator clip).

Step 1: Find Parts Lying Around

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you'll need:

three screws,

four nuts (appropriate to the screws above),

two big washers,

'ZapGel' (gel cyanoacrylate) and 'zip kicker' (a solidifying accelarent)
(http://www2.towerhobbies.com/cgi-bin/wti0001p?&I=LXCX45&P=M)
-OR-
ShapeLock
http://shapelock.com/page2.html

alligator clip

a thin piece of metal/plastic that you can drill holes in (I used a lego piece with holes already in it)

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optional:
two capped nuts (I don't know what these are actually called, see picture),

Step 2: Make a Base

drill a hole in the washer big enough to fit the helping hands rod through.

cut the washers to a smaller size if needed (just looks nicer)

super glue two nuts in between the washers. Then use ZapGel to strengthen the bond, use a lot of ZapGel to make sure it's really sturdy.

This is a base that you will use to mount your hand onto a 'helping hands' rod or some other rod on your work bench.

Step 3: Make the Balls of the Ball Joint

get your two screws, make a ball of ZapGel -OR- ShapeLock around the head. (ShapeLock might be better, I used ZapGel).

I also glued to tops from capped nuts (hack sawed off) onto the top to make a smoother metal half. This is not really necessary.

If you have ball bearing of appropriate size lying around, just ZapGel them to the tops of the screws instead.

Step 4: Make the Socket of the Ball Joint

I used two lego pieces with holes in them as the sockets. I just put a screw with a butterfly nut on the other end through the center hole, and put a ball (screw with ZapGel/ShapeLock head) in between each end. See the final picture to see what I'm getting at (it's really simple).

If you don't have a screw with a flat top (makes it easy to turn by hand) for the center hole, make one:
get a screw, cut off two sides of the head (I used a dremel). This makes a head that's easier to turn by hand.

Step 5: Make the Hand

glue an alligator clip onto a nut with super glue, then use ZapGel to add structural support to the bond.

Step 6: Put It All Together

I made an 'easy' to turn screw to attach the base to the 'helping hands' rod. It was still hard to turn it tight enough by hand to stabilize the base on the rod, so I had to use a screw driver to tighten it enough. Luckily my cutting had left enough of the head for the screw driver to grip.
The heads of acorn nuts will break off if you keep tightening a screw into them. I learned this by accident and had to go buy a new nut for the project I was building but it would be perfect for intentionally removing the dome part as you are doing.
I see one problem with the glue. If you're are soldering for a long time, and using the arm as a heat sink, the clip will get vary hot and melt/burn the glue. Safety hazard?
zapgel is pretty good under heat, but I don't know how much heat it can take. Good point. I never use the metal hand as a heat sink, I always put insulation on the claws so the hand doesn't get hot.
If you had a small ball-joint, that would work too. Or a flexible/bendable wire with a gator clip on the end might be a useful addition.
Hey, this looks like it would be pretty handy! Thanks

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