Need a Hand? This is a mashup of several very clever instructables and an Article from MAKE. While soldering and working on circuits I was having a lot of trouble holding wires/components for soldering and also seeing what was going on. I've used the helping hands tools before, and while helpful, they're extremely limited. After reading about rstaugh's Helping hands ++ I knew I had to make a set of these. Coincidentally I had also just read about the Panavise Arm on MAKE, and with a little more searching found CaladanJen's DeskSquid.

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to build and it was just a matter of execution. Now, this certainly isn't the cheapest solution, a pair of the original helping hand can be purchased from Harbor Freight for as little as $3, but if you're looking for greatly enhanced function and usability I highly recommend building one of these, it's quickly becoming the handiest tool in my collection.

Before reading the rest of this instructable please note I completed this after building the DeskSquid so some of the pictures show completed, but not intermediate steps.

Step 1: Materials List

Here is the materials list, I estimate my total cost around $40 for the panavise and hose, fortunately I had some odds and ends around that saved me some time/money.

Loc-Line Hose Parts:
3/4" Hose 1' (61501)
3/4" Double Female Socket (61514)
3/4" Fixed Mount (60533)
1/4" Hose 1' (41401)
1/4" Y-fitting 2 (41408)
1/8" Round Nozzle (41403)
*This is the absolute minimum needed, you can get more creative with more parts, but the stuff isn't cheap. There are some other vendors but LocLine was the only one that would ship to my area. Others include
-Enco (which has SnapFlow)
-Cedarberg (which has SnapLoc)
-Jeton (no idea how to order)

1/2" PVC About 1" Long
6/32 Threaded Alligator Clips (From Mouser: 548-30-TBO)
3"-4" Magnifying Glass (Screw on handle)
Panavise 201

Metal Flex Arms:
USB Light (ebay)
2 Pieces of 1/4" Gooseneck

1/4 thread 1/2" Screw
6/32 Screws, assorted lengths + Nuts
5min Epoxy
Magnetic Base
Floor Flange

1/4 Tap
#7 Drill Bit
Hobby Saw
Phillips Screwdriver

<p>From where can I get that Gooseneck?</p>
This is so brilliant and simple. Well done! As a keen hobbyist with VERY shaky hands, I have been looking for something like this for years. Applications for Parkinson's sufferers could be fantastic! Congrats!
I have no-name version of this beastie, but it isn't as fancy. I'll be doing the bit with the wiring as it makes a great third-hand when sewing. I appreciate the instructions here. Nehmah
Here is a photo showing how to use a Helping Hands set-up in sewing and embroidery. It can be very difficult to see where to remove one or two stitches when working on dark fabrics, especially wool and linen. Embroiderers who attach pearls to their projects might find the idea helpful. I also use two LED book-lights for extra light. It took me from March until now to find the camera, upload the photo, and find it (in the wrong folder) ;) I'm old; I'm slow; and I am not the least bit worried by anything! Cordially, Nehmah
Here, I hope, is the photo mentioned above. Nehmah
Interesting, I never thought of using it for sewing. Please post a picture when you get a chance, it's always nice to see other projects. Especially since it was other's work that gave me this idea =).<br/>
The materials list says Panavise 201 but I think it should be a 203. The 201 does not have the connection piece - the base clamps directly onto the stand. The 203 (Panavise Jr Head) is the jaws assembly and the connection piece, but without the base.
I want to buy one instead of making it. :) Lazzzzyyyyy.
I'm actually looking into making some or buying parts in bulk to sell as a kit. The loc-line is so expensive when you buy 1-2' at a time. This finished kit was $40-50 in parts, when you add in shipping, tax, etc, it's a little spendy. Ideally this would be a $20-30 project I think. If that ever comes to fruition I'll post a link.
That would be great
The original DeskSquid Instructable has a link to modularhose.com, which sells the Loc-Line.
It looks like it will work perfectly. For us cheaper people, I soldered some alligator clips to some #8 wire and bent them to work how I wanted. I used rocks to hold them steady.
That works great too, for this project I wanted maximum function and paid a premium for it. As I mentioned before I'm looking into some new materials and buying in bulk, I'd like to build & sell these for ~$20
were do i get the flex arms?(the blue thing with orange ends)
I got mine through loc-line (modularhose.com), I listed some other suppliers in my materials step. Good luck, post some pics when you've finished!
I got a Staples light that clamps to my desk. It's a circular "natural light" flourescent with a large magnifying lens in the center. THen I can look through the lens, with the light underneath it, and the flexneck keeps it very movable. I love it.
I got the same thing at Harbor Freight, it's excellent.
What's a desk squid?
Just a name that another user (CaladanJen) came up with for this contraption. Since my instructable used her original for inspiration I included it in my title so other users could find it. It kinda looks like a squid with all the arms...anyway, hope that answers your question.
I think you can get the blue hose at pet shops for way less. It looks really similar to the stuff they use in aquariums.
not too safe for the soldering iron, one wrong move, and you've got 3rd degree burns.. just get a coffee mug, and stick the soldering iron tip down, wire up
yea, you should edit your design so the holder covers the tip. or at the VERY least the tip is pointed away from you
better yet, separate from the holder, so that if you tip the helping tool, the iron won't fly out and burn your carpet
Thanks for the feedback! The minisquid has a magnetic base for that very reason, it's unlikely I'd be able to bump it hard enough to tip. I only put the iron in this holder when I want the iron steady so I can hold the wires/parts, then it goes back in it's soldering station. It may not be good soldering form but sometimes it's the easiest way. You're right it could be a hazard if used incorrectly.
Where did you get the 1/4" gooseneck?
I had a few extra USB LED's laying around with a similar configuration to the one I used as a light, I cannibalized those for my alligator arms. It's hard to find, I didn't have any luck online or at surplus stores. If anyone finds a good source, please post it.
I can't find a source for small quantities, but it seems that <a rel="nofollow" href="http://alinaquick.ec51.com/">SZ Quick Electronic Co.</a> makes a bunch of gooseneck products. Importers are <a rel="nofollow" href="http://szquick.en.ecplaza.net/">ecplaza</a> and <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.madeinchina.com/2202661/S214671/Earphone-Microphone-gooseneck-tube.shtml">MadeInChina.com</a>.<br/>
Nice i'ble I've been needing a new set of helping hands lately and it just might be time for an upgrade. Ps (last pic :" I'ma firin' ma lazah!" lol cheers, mspark400
Some cool additions there. I actually made up an LED flashlight arm for mine out of some red LocLine. It worked fine, but I found that a single LED, no matter how well binned, was insufficient to be really useful considering the amount of illumination in my workshop (just shy of 300W (of real power, not equivalent) of fluorescent lighting). The PanaVise thing has held my interest for a while though.. I may end up adopting a very similar design myself. If you notice, I even suggested that direction in my Instructable. Seems that you got the bugs worked out; I just don't actually own a PanaVise. I decided not to bother with the magnifier. I never found the little lenses to be useful, and whenever I need some magnification, I reach for the microscope.

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