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

Picture of 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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emkdas1 month ago

awesome one.

Grainger should have them.

volto1 month 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!

Boaticus3 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
Archy1 year 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?

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 starter kits and pliers

Liamthe1st1 month 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 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.

uspatriota2 months ago
here is my spin on your idea...I mounted it to a lazy susan apparatus
CarmelitoAndrade made it!2 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 -

lifeinbeats7 months ago

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!7 months ago

More help!

Nescafe8 months ago
rstraugh, Thanks for sharing this idea!
btaylor341 year ago
I make mine out of stone/cement
Helping Hand.JPG
Boaticus btaylor3411 months ago

That base looks really cool!

btaylor34 Boaticus11 months ago

Thank you! I sell them on Ebay!

iq201 btaylor3411 months ago

What are the search terms to find them on Ebay?

btaylor34 iq20111 months ago

I think this link will do it!

or search "third hand, helping hand"

rstraugh (author)  btaylor3411 months ago
Wow, that is really nice!
iq20111 months ago
Are you selling these?
rstraugh (author)  iq20111 months ago
Sparkfun sells them.
iq201 rstraugh11 months ago


phone geek11 months ago
I think this is a great idea and that four arms would be better.
countspicy1 year ago
I had a chance to do a sand casting at a local community college and I decided to make the base for this project as my casting. Thanks for the great instructions, I look forward to creating more attachments for this tool in the future.
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nwlaurie1 year ago
I'm very taken with this but not kitted up for drilling and tapping. I'm wondering whether this is (yet another)opportunity to get the SUGRU out! I'm going to order a 13" length of the hose material from eBay and have a fiddle.
GREAT instructible because you are SO right about the two-armed, ball-jointed, easily-broken magnifying glass type of gadget.
do you have a step by step video tutorial on how to make this? this would be very beneficial for those who are physically disabled, its an easy DIY alternative for the medical stainless steel.
vickybacon1 year ago
If you happen to be living in the US, I found a great site alternatives who also can supply affordable yet reliable stainless steel bars and other steel structures.
Malaclypse2 years ago
You would be better off getting an "R" (.343) Drill and a #5 Center Drill after using the center punch. The center drill will give you a good pilot hole and if you find one with an 82 degree chamfer on it, you will also have a good leading edge for your threads.

Although, 3/8" (.375) will work because of the nature of NPT taps, and since you aren't using it for anything but structural support, it should be fine.
Also, USE A VISE! Drilling through any kind of metal while holding it in your bare hands in a REAL quick way to get hurt if it grabs when breaking through.
flamekiller2 years ago
Just build one up for myself ... haven't actually used it yet and it is already orders of magnitude better than your typical "helping" hands, at not much larger of a price.

Added a few bits of my own (well, a sunk dowel as a solder spool spindle). Would like to mount the soldering station on the board, but it doesn't have keyholes (next generation, Sparkfun, next generation!)
Hey, how about some photos ...
enderwigin2 years ago
This is my finish product. I had to epoxy some of the bolts in place cause i could not thread the metal. (it was to thin) i hope you like.
I saw this instructable a few months back and acquired most of the parts. Thank you for this instructable and others who have taken the time to post their ideas. I was deciding on which type of platform to get. In the meantime, I saw this portable work vise. I paid 30 bucks for it with shipping on ebay. Most of them are a few dollars more, maybe expect to pay 40-50 with shipping. Little did I know when I purchased it, I found out that you can tap the brackets that hold the boards and the coolant hose screws into it securely. I saw a post on here about an addition of a Irwin quick grip, I think this one is a micro or mini. I was going to get around to tapping the other three, but after using this, I have abandoned getting a platform and building a table version. This thing rocks! I can fit the tiniest DIY boards snugly in the vise and quickly adjust it to secure and area. This is extremely useful for getting to both side of a circuit board, and the table is heavy enough that I can apply enough pressure to effectively pull components, etc. Plus this thing can be used for all sorts of things. Keep the ideas flowing!
Workbench Vise.JPGphoto(1).JPG
BTW, the tap I used was a 3/8-24 found on ebay. Also I want to note that, there is a hole in the hardened rod that the blue plastic mold goes through, its about a quarter inch in diamter. I think I used a 3/16 bit and just happen to hit it! on the back side I drilled a 3/8 hole, if i remember correctly and was able to force fit the attaching peice. I put a machine screw in from the back side ( i think it was #10 or #12), sorry it has been a month or so, I cant remember, but it was bigger than the hole in the straight nozzle. Fit through the hole that was machined from the factory. Then I added some epoxy for good measure on the inside of the nozzle. then trimmed the screw and added an acorn nut and washer and tightened it up. Works like a charm!
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