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.

Step 1: Getting Started

The first step is to gather everything you'll need.

- Drill (A hand drill will work but a drill press would be better.)
- 3/8" drill bit
- 1/8-27 NPT tap
- 6-32 Tap
- A tap handle
- Ruler
- Center punch

Don't forget safety glasses!

- The Base:
I used a block of 1/2" thick aluminum (5.75"x2.5"x0.5"). Aluminum is heavy enough to be stable and is easily tapped. You can use whatever you want as long as it is at least a 1/2" thick and can be tapped. (Plastic, wood, MDF, steel, etc...) The lighter the material, the larger the base needs to be in order to remain stable. If the material is too soft the threads will wear out and the arms won't stay in. If you don't have a local source for the aluminum you can order it from an online metal sales company cut to length for about $6 plus shipping. I have used www.onlinemetals.com for other projects in the past.

- The arms:
The arms are made from coolant hoses and nozzles used in the machining industry to keep cutting tools cool and lubricated. I used the Snap Flow brand coolant hose system which I bought from www.use-enco.com. They sell a "Male NPT Hose Kit" that has 13" of hose and an assortment of nozzles and connectors. That gets you most of what you need to make a two handed Third Hand. I'd recommend buying two kits and a few extra nozzles and connectors. For around $12 you will have more than enough parts to make 4 arms.
For each arm you will need:
- One 1/8 NPT connector
- 4-5" of hose
- One 1/8" 90 degree nozzle.
You may want to consider buying the hose assembly pliers for $23. They are a little difficult to snap together by hand. I didn't buy the pliers but I kind of wish I had.

- The Hands:
Each hand is made out of a banana plug threaded into the 90 degree nozzle and an alligator clip. I chose the "Flexible Banana plugs (2-Pack)" from radio shack because it has 6-32 threads that will thread into the nozzle. The alligator clips are the standard 2" size.
Here I made with a little modification. Thanks for the instructions.
<p>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.</p>
here is my spin on your idea...I mounted it to a lazy susan apparatus
<p>it is good idea, i like it</p>
<p>Three hands, two with plastic clamps and one reverse tweezers on a bamboo cutting board with soldering silicon mat.</p><p>As I have a second Y fitting I might add a smoke extractor later...</p><p>Thanks for a great idea!!</p>
<p>Thanks for sharing, great Instructable. Very useful. I'll post pics of mine when finished.</p>
<p>This is a great instructable and a brilliant tool! Kudos!</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p>
<p>Very nice support, i love it</p>
<p>Hey Instructables community,</p><p>We are Hobby Creek, and we decided to make a Third Hand Kit which is similar to this instructable with a focus on quality and value. So I hope you like our version and feel free to take a look at our website and product. Our Kit comes fully assembled and is ready to use. Let us know what you think and please suggest ways we can improve or additional add ons you would like to see. Also feel free to modify our product in any way.</p><p>Thanks,</p><p>Hobby Creek</p><p>www.hobbycreek.com</p>
<p>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!</p>
<p>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?</p>
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?
<p>By wide nozzles, do you mean 3/4&quot;? 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&quot; 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.</p>
<p>Perfect! I was soooooo tired of using crappy third hands for soldering. This is just perfect. </p><p>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. </p><p>The base is made of a 1/2&quot; cast iron floor plate, a 1/2&quot; male adapter (copper plumbing fitting) and a 1/2&quot; connector. I removed the &quot;valve&quot; 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.</p><p>I made four of these with two being half the size of the other two, again for greater flexibility.</p>
<p>awesome.. materials aren't available in local stores, even ebay.ph.<br>where can I buy one of your work? :D</p>
<p>very nice project. awesome!!</p>
<p>awesome one. </p>
<p>Grainger should have them.</p>
<p>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!</p>
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 .........
<p>&pound;60.00 UK but I did not have to do any work. So this is expensive.</p><p> 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.</p><p> &pound;14.29 for pliers is cheap for ease of use.</p>
You did an amazing job on that. Just saying.
i really have to have one of those trays
I'm building the same thing, with the magnet fittings from locline instead of tapping my steel block. <br>However, since I'm using a 14x14&quot;x1/4&quot; 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). <br>I've put a fair amount of time into googling things like &quot;rubber metal coat&quot;, &quot;coating metal vinyl&quot;, 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. <br>I need a durable, soft/rubbery coating for steel. <br>So, any ideas for what I'm looking for, or how I can search better?
<p>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.</p><p>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?</p>
Does anyone know a source for 1/8&quot; 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.
<p>rs-components corby uk rsonline.com starter kits and pliers</p>
<p>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 &pound;32.81.</p><p>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.</p><p>After searching two American web sites and then two Businesses in the UK</p><p>I got to a supplier I use a lot who just happened to stock them. Pliers and Tube sets. Shipping included &pound;32.81 compared with &pound;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.</p>
<p>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..</p><p>Here's the link - <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/Soldering-Helping-Hand-and-more/" rel="nofollow">http://www.instructables.com/id/Soldering-Helping-...</a></p>
<p>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. </p><p>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:</p><p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008O14864/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A2LBFUKITQIB7" rel="nofollow">http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008O14864/ref=ox...</a></p><p>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!</p>
<p>More help!</p>
rstraugh, Thanks for sharing this idea!
I make mine out of stone/cement
<p>That base looks really cool!</p>
<p>Thank you! I sell them on Ebay!</p>
<p>What are the search terms to find them on Ebay?</p>
<p>I think this link will do it!</p><p><a href="http://www.ebay.com/sch/rjter50/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_ipg=&_from=" rel="nofollow">http://www.ebay.com/sch/rjter50/m.html?_nkw=&amp;_armr...</a></p><p>or search &quot;third hand, helping hand&quot; </p>
Wow, that is really nice!
Are you selling these?
Sparkfun sells them. https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11784
I think this is a great idea and that four arms would be better.
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.
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&quot; length of the hose material from eBay and have a fiddle. <br>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 <a href="http://ohareprecision.com/" rel="nofollow">medical stainless steel</a>.
If you happen to be living in the US, I found a great site alternatives who also can supply affordable yet reliable <a href="http://www.oharesteel.com/" rel="nofollow">stainless steel bars</a> and other steel structures.
You would be better off getting an &quot;R&quot; (.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. <br> <br>Although, 3/8&quot; (.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.
Just build one up for myself ... haven't actually used it yet and it is already orders of magnitude better than your typical &quot;helping&quot; hands, at not much larger of a price. <br> <br>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!)

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