Third Hand++: A multi-use helping hand for electronics and other delicate work.

In the past I've used the third hands/helping hands available at chain electronics shops and have been frustrated with their usability. I could never get the clips exactly where I wanted them or it took more time than it really should to get setup right. I also wanted the ability to hold small circuit boards and alligator clips just don't do a very good job.

I was familiar with the adjustable coolant hose systems used to spray coolant at cutting tools in the machining industry and thought that would be a great place to start. I ordered various nozzles and hose segments from my favorite online machine tool supply company and started experimenting. This is what I came up with. While it still has plenty of room for improvement it has served me well over the last 3-4 years.

These arms can be placed into pretty much any position and they will stay there.

Another nice feature is that you can make all sorts of attachments for holding whatever you need to work on. So far I've made a circuit board holder, a clamp, a mount for an LCD, and an extraction fan for keeping fumes out of your face.

All you really need are some simple hand tools, a couple taps, a drill bit and a drill to make the basic version. If you have all the tools you need, it can be made for $20 or less.
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markmoran made it!12 days ago

This Instructable is almost 8 years old, yet it is still one of my all-time favorites. A few months ago I made the base (cutting a block of aluminum on a mini-bandsaw and then drilling and tapping the holes). I tried using the SparkFun arms because they are so inexpensive, but I found them far too long and flimsy. I finally got actual LocTite coolant hoses with the 90 degree connectors and made the hands exactly as Ryan described. They cost more and took some effort - mostly in finding threaded banana plugs - but the final result is much stronger and better in my opinion than the SparkFun arms.

uspatriota10 months ago
here is my spin on your idea...I mounted it to a lazy susan apparatus

it is good idea, i like it

MoonshineSG made it!2 months ago

Three hands, two with plastic clamps and one reverse tweezers on a bamboo cutting board with soldering silicon mat.

As I have a second Y fitting I might add a smoke extractor later...

Thanks for a great idea!!

JGUZMANO2 months ago

Thanks for sharing, great Instructable. Very useful. I'll post pics of mine when finished.

colinj4 months ago

This is a great instructable and a brilliant tool! Kudos!

I too bought the SparkFun version as I don't have the tools to make one of these and I saw that Ryan gets something back from each purchase.

I did want more arms and larger alligator clips than what SparkFun provided I got some extra arms and then headed out to get some banana plugs and clips. Since I didn't have a proper tap for the nozzle/banana clip attachment I went the route of heating up the threads on the banana clip with my heat gun. Once I got the metal warm enough to soften the plastic I was able to screw the banana plug in to the nozzle.

neo_xnitro4 months ago

Very nice support, i love it

RJBurton made it!7 months ago

Awesome idea! I cheated and bought the kit from SparkFun, mainly because the machine tools would of cost me more $$. However, the customizing is always the most fun, so I sprayed mine with high-temp grill/oven paint, added a third arm onto which I mounted an LED light magnifier from a now-redundant Harbor Freight third hand, and replaced the tiny alligator clips (worst invention ever) with some fine tip reverse tweezers. I love it! Thanks rstraugh!


Looks great, RJ! Where did you get the reverse tweezers? I bought the hose kit from SparkFun (since they are half the cost of anywhere else), but decided to make the base as Ryan did here. I didn't realize until too late that the SparkFun base and hoses are 1/2-20 threaded rather than 1/8-27 NPT threads! So now I need to either enlarge my base holes and tap them for 1/2-20 or order new hose adapters. Another big difference I see between the kit and this Instructable is the length and connector style.The SparkFun version has hoses that are 20 connectors each with straight nozzles whereas Ryan suggests 7 and then using 90 degree nozzles, which of course would make it much harder to screw in. Which I'm guessing is why Ryan used banana plus and then squeezed them tight. But I'm curious whether you find the SparkFun arms too long?

jconley58 months ago
I accidentally bought wide nozzles and too cheap too buy new ones. Anyone have an idea how to still use them? I'm thinking of heading up the banana plug and just melting it in, good idea?
RJBurton jconley57 months ago

By wide nozzles, do you mean 3/4"? If yes, then you should only need to adjust the size/length/head width of the screws holding the clips and you should be golden. If you ended up with 2.5" tubes, I'm not sure that would work at all for a third hand, but you can use it to make a bench vacuum system for dust removal.

ClydeS7 months ago

Perfect! I was soooooo tired of using crappy third hands for soldering. This is just perfect.

I modified mine so that each arm is on a freestanding base instead of a fixed station. This provides much greater flexibility for the sort of soldering that I do -- jewelry mainly.

The base is made of a 1/2" cast iron floor plate, a 1/2" male adapter (copper plumbing fitting) and a 1/2" connector. I removed the "valve" piece on one end of the tube and inserted that into the connector/base along with some glue. Then inserted and glued alligator clips to the other end. I also filed down the teeth on the alligator clips so as to not mar the soft metals that I work with.

I made four of these with two being half the size of the other two, again for greater flexibility.

Azeunkn0wn7 months ago

awesome.. materials aren't available in local stores, even ebay.ph.
where can I buy one of your work? :D

EthanJi8 months ago

very nice project. awesome!!

emkdas9 months ago

awesome one.

TomFromLSUMC9 months ago

Grainger should have them.

volto10 months ago

Awesome project. There is a commercially available helping hand tool on amazon for $50 but I'd rather build one myself like you did. One concern I have is with melting, have you had any problems with the arms melting where the alligator clips are attached from soldering heat? Thanks!

Boaticus4 years ago
Great instructable! I made the 4-armed part tray version. Also added a sheet of 1/16th thickness neoprene rubber to the bottom for more traction and less scuffs on the work bench.
hey whats the total expensive for this project .........

£60.00 UK but I did not have to do any work. So this is expensive.

If companies sell this as a product they should include instructions. Mine did not. That is why I decided to buy the tool. So I never need to depend on others to include how to take off the ends to insert the clips. Cement blocks instead of metal seems to be a saving. However I had the plate included.

£14.29 for pliers is cheap for ease of use.

You did an amazing job on that. Just saying.
zeremy Boaticus3 years ago
i really have to have one of those trays
Archy2 years ago
I'm building the same thing, with the magnet fittings from locline instead of tapping my steel block.
However, since I'm using a 14x14"x1/4" steel panel as a workspace as well, I'd like to coat it so it's not a bare metal surface that is a) conductive b) hard (dropping delicate components) c) slick (said components rolling off, and if unbroken before, broken upon falling off the surface).
I've put a fair amount of time into googling things like "rubber metal coat", "coating metal vinyl", etc. But the best I've come up with is plastidip. It seems that plastidip is really susceptible to sharp edges, which concerns me, as removing the magnetic mounts will probably require me to leverage them against their edges.
I need a durable, soft/rubbery coating for steel.
So, any ideas for what I'm looking for, or how I can search better?
Liamthe1st Archy10 months ago

I do a little out of the box thinking Children's mats made from recycled rubber type material sold in Aldi and Lidel stores in the EU and UK of course.

I have them on my Garage workshop floor and on my work bench, nothing has ever broken these mats lock together like a jigsaw. anti slip too not sure about anti satic?

con-f-use1 year ago
Does anyone know a source for 1/8" snap flow / loc-line in the EU? I'd even be content with an online-shop that ships to the EU. Its really impossible to get the small hoses where I live.

rs-components corby uk rsonline.com starter kits and pliers

Liamthe1st10 months ago

Hello this may be useful to UK members. I just bought the modular pliers and a starter kit From RS components in the UK total cost £32.81.

I had bought the original spark-fun set from Primori.com with no instructions on taking off the conical ends and fixing the Crocodile Dog clips.

After searching two American web sites and then two Businesses in the UK

I got to a supplier I use a lot who just happened to stock them. Pliers and Tube sets. Shipping included £32.81 compared with £27.99 for the basic set with aluminium plate. No force or pressure using the holes in the base plate needed now. I can see lots being made.

CarmelitoAndrade made it!11 months ago

Made a helping hand at home(kind off a remix of the above),with 3D printed parts,Pencils and used batteries .Thanks for great idea..

Here's the link - http://www.instructables.com/id/Soldering-Helping-...


Just ordered some hoses! Not sure what I'm going to use as a base. In order to keep costs low I'll probably find something somewhere. That's half the fun though.

I haven't got them in the mail yet, so I can't personally testify to their usability, but several of the reviews for this item mention this instructable and these being perfect for it:


They're a lot cheaper than anything else I've found out there too, and appear to use the same size thread. I'll let you know how mine turns out!

NAVET97 made it!1 year ago

More help!

Nescafe1 year ago
rstraugh, Thanks for sharing this idea!
btaylor342 years ago
I make mine out of stone/cement
Helping Hand.JPG

That base looks really cool!

Thank you! I sell them on Ebay!

What are the search terms to find them on Ebay?

I think this link will do it!


or search "third hand, helping hand"

rstraugh (author)  btaylor341 year ago
Wow, that is really nice!
iq2011 year ago
Are you selling these?
rstraugh (author)  iq2011 year ago
Sparkfun sells them. https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11784
iq201 rstraugh1 year ago


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