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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lifeinbeats3 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!3 months ago

More help!

Nescafe4 months ago
rstraugh, Thanks for sharing this idea!
btaylor341 year ago
I make mine out of stone/cement
Helping Hand.JPG

That base looks really cool!

Thank you! I sell them on Ebay!

iq201 btaylor347 months ago

What are the search terms to find them on Ebay?

btaylor34 iq2017 months ago

I think this link will do it!

or search "third hand, helping hand"

rstraugh (author)  btaylor347 months ago
Wow, that is really nice!
iq2017 months ago
Are you selling these?
rstraugh (author)  iq2017 months ago
Sparkfun sells them.
iq201 rstraugh7 months ago


phone geek7 months ago
I think this is a great idea and that four arms would be better.
countspicy9 months 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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con-f-use10 months 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.
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.
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?
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.
Malaclypse1 year 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.
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 .........
You did an amazing job on that. Just saying.
zeremy Boaticus2 years ago
i really have to have one of those trays
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!
quaeredeo4 years ago
Please would someone make one and let me buy it from you. What would you charge to make one for me?
Take a look at;
foxmcf2 years ago
I searched over and over again for the 'perfect' soldering station. This is definitely it. I ordered my hose kit from enco on Monday, and they arrived today. Thank you for the great instructable! I also ordered a couple of these magnetic vise grips, and together your possibilities on soldering configuraitons are endless.

Here is a link. If the link stops working, search google for "Napa 77-4025 Magnetic Soldering Clamp Vise"
It's usually better to just drill through metal with the size bit you want rather than using a "pilot" bit like drilling in wood. It will cause your larger bits to wear unevenly. So just use the size you wish and go slowly, gearing down the drill press if you can, and releasing every now and then rather than forcing straight through. Also, you should always use a lubricant when drilling any metal. This will also save your drill bits.
rstraugh (author)  stagebuilder5 years ago
Cool, thanks for the pointer. I've wondered about that. Often I'm using a hand drill and find it too difficult to drill all the way through in one pass with large bits. But, I can see how that would wear out the outside of a bit faster.
qualia rstraugh5 years ago
conversely, if a straight hole without the drill wandering is the objective, or when going through hard materials, like annealed tool-steel (hardened tool steel drilling = fail) , sometimes it is good to drill a pilot hole and go up in bit sizes till you've got the hole size you're after. dont try go in drill bit steps of more than 2mm larger than the last, or it will srsly rip up the tip.
I drill metals all the time. I use a small pilot hole, 1/8. Then finish it with the proper bit. This makes a clean hole and saves your bigger bits point. Makes a perfect hole every time.
mildsteel3 years ago
good idea, but be careful when doing these things because some equipment are hot on working times.
hi1114 years ago
 Could you please give links to the exact things you used?
Tanks in advance!
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