Helping Hand With Arm




Introduction: Helping Hand With Arm

About: I'm a jack of all trades and a master of none. I like to tweak, mod and improvise whenever possible!

This project came about when i recently ordered some Shape Lock. Shape Lock is a durable plastic with a low melting temp. At about 150 F it becomes very pliable and can be easily shaped by hand. It is sold under a few different names but the pricing is about the same for all of them. Best of all the stuff is reusable. Just heat it back up and its ready to become something new. So i have been looking around the house for good uses of the stuff when i saw my set of Helping Hands. I realized i could use this stuff to help make them more useful.

My biggest complaint about Helping Hands is the small and often unstable base. I didn't want to make a larger base for it since that would get even more in the way. I decided that a good set of hands is nothing without a good arm behind it. So i went online and found the cheapest swing arm desk lamp i could find. I figured with the help of the Shape Lock i could create some sort of coupling part to join the Hands to the arm.

Here is how i improved on my set of Helping Hands.

Materials Needed:

- Helping Hands ($7
- Swing Arm Desk Lamp ($12
- Shape Lock ($15
- Flashlight (any will do as long as it offers the lighting you want.
- 2x screws/bolts w/ nuts (your choice in size but you won't need anything over an inch long. I used what i had on hand)
- Box Cutter

Tools Needed:

- Drill
- 3/16 inch Drill Bit
- Screw driver/wrench (whatever is appropriate for the screw/bolt your using)

Step 1: Teardown of the Lamp

Upon receiving the desk lamp i went about stripping it down. I knew i wanted the Helping Hands to attach in the same place the lamp was attached so the lamp had to go. Taking the lamp off was easy enough. All i had to do was remove the wing nut and screw and it came right off. I wanted to try and remove the lamp without having to cut the wires. Unfortunately the wires where riveted into the light bulb socket so i was forced to cut them. I then pulled all the wire out of the Swing Arm frame. Now we are ready to attach the hands.

Step 2: Attaching the Hands

Originally i was going to mold a connector with a ball out of Shape Lock. Then i realized i didn't need to. I never use the magnifying glass that came with the Helping hands. I had long since removed the magnifier but still had the ball joint it was connected to on  the Helping Hands. I pulled the ball joint off and placed it on the arm. The hole in the ball joint was quite large compared to the holding screw on the arm but that made no difference. The holding screw pinches the joint in place quite well. All that was left is to attach the Hands to the ball joint and we have our new and improved Helping Hands with Arm.

But there is still something missing. Sure its nice to have a more flexible set of helping hands. But without good lighting or the ability to add various other attachments its just not finished. Besides i haven't gotten a chance to use any Shape Lock on it yet.

Step 3: Atachments

At the very least i wanted to add a light source to the arm to help illuminate whatever it is I'm working on. But it would also be nice if i can keep it simple so other tools can be added. I figured the best place to put a light would be on the arm itself. But it needed to be adjustable. A ball and socket or some other flex arm would be preferred but i didn't want to spend any more money. So it was time to use the Shape Lock and come up with a nice and simple solution.

First thing i did was to create a clamp to hold the attachments to the arm. I heated up some of the plastic and molded a simple U clamp around the box tubing of the arm. I made it so it could pretty much snap onto the arm and stay in place without any fasteners. But i left enough material on the ends to allow a strut to be attached to the clamp. Any attachments i need can now be easily attached to the arm and easily made from the plastic.

Step 4: Brackets

I then turned my attention to the light i wanted to use and how to attach it. For now I'm using a basic Mini Mag-light. With the plastic i made a good C clamp. After molding it around the body of the light i let it cool to the point that the plastic was starting to get hard buy still had some give. I pinched the plastic ever so slightly while it cooled the rest of the way. Making the clamp a very tight fit on the light. Avoiding the need for extra fasteners and allowing the light to be removed without messing with the full assembly. After that i attached a small U clamp about 1/4 inch wide to the bottom of the C clamp.

Now i took a good chunk of plastic and molded it into a strut that would link the arm clamp with the light clamp. I figured a 4 to 6 inch strut would be sufficient. I had to make sure the ends of the strut would fit in the both clamps. I didn't have to be a tight fit since the plastic has some give to it. 

Step 5: Mounting the Light

With all that done it was time to pull out a couple of screws and nuts and fit everything together. The screws measured about 0.16 inches in diameter. So i used my 3/16 inch drill bit to drill holes in both sides of the strut and both clamps. I found it best to take the drilling very slow. The plastic heats up fast so if you don't drill slow you won't get a good clean hole. Then i used my Box Cutter to clean up the holes and remove any stray bits of plastic. Since the plastic is reusable i kept all the scraps and melted them back together.

To make adjustment of the light easier i decided to turn the nuts into wing nuts with a bit more plastic. After heating up a couple of balls of plastic i molded them into shape. Then i pressed the nuts into the plastic and cleared out the back side to allow the screws to pass through.

Now its time to put it all together and see how it looks. 


Overall the Helping Hand with Arm works great. The Mag-light is a little heavier then i would like so i need to go back and beef up the strut. It holds just fine but the strut bows and bounces a bit. Should have kept the strut vertical all the way across rather then flattening it horizontally. 

Through the process i was using my 5th gen iPod Touch to take the pictures. I didn't realize how poor the picture quality would be till i was done and started piecing this instructable together. 

Step 6: Other Attachments and Improvements

I have added a bit of reinforcement to the light holding arm. Keeping the arm stable with little to no bounce in it. 

I have made a camera attachment for the arm. I had a small 3" camera tripod i never used and figured it would be better served on the arm. So i took the legs off the tripod but needed a way to attach it to the arm. I took a closer look at the magnifying glass from the helping hand. I noticed the ball joint screwed onto the metal brace that holds the glass in place. So i removed the ball joint and used some shape lock to couple the camera mount to the ball joint. 

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    9 years ago on Introduction

    I find two helping hands better than one.


    Reply 4 years ago

    pfred2, that's quite a magnifier you've got there! You must be doing surface-mount repairs by hand! Nice!

    I like the suspended platform, looks pretty versatile. Nice tool!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Some kind of scrap clear plastic I had laying around. I made it so long ago it was when I had less ability to work with metal than I do now. Seems close to a quarter of an inch thick to me. 6.35mm

    Having lived with mine I see better possibilities that could be done with 3 helping hands to work with. So far I've only accumulated two, and what I have works well enough for my purposes I suppose.


    4 years ago

    Ah, man! Now I wanna paint mine blue!

    Loved how simple it was!.I've used one of those lamp arms for a fume extractor fan, but never thought of using it for a third hand. That was inspired!

    Gotta get some of that plastic, looks like fun.


    Wow! This is great. I wonder with a drawer track attatched to the front black length. (essentially the 'forearm' before the 2 alligator clip 'hand) Anyways with a drawer track attatched to that and then a dremel hose clamped to the sliding part of the drawer track, I think that would work as an angleable drill press for electronics. Now why you would need to drill an angled hole in electronics I'm not sure but If it were more heavy duty slightly but the same design it would be good for woodworking, etc.


    Take a look at;