Introduction: Ultimate Third Hand

About: What a great job I have! I get to make beautiful jewellery that makes someone happy. Very often the jewellery that I make is part of a special occasion. It might be an engagement or a wedding, a birthday or …

What is a third hand?

A third hand is a devise used to hold something in place while work is being performed. It is essentially a third hand to aid your two hands. It is like having someone else’s hand to help hold something that you are working on. With the aid of another hand to steady your work you can perform the task that you are doing with a steady hand.

You can use a third hand to hold parts while using a torch to heat the parts and solder them together.

A third hand is useful to hold parts in place when using a soldering iron to make a join.

A third hand is very helpful when gluing parts together. There are dozens of other uses.

Essentially a third hand holds items in place while you work on them.

Step 1: The Old and Common Third Hand.

This is the kind of third hand that has been used for decades.

Time for a better idea!

I have been a goldsmith for well over 40 years and during that time a third hand has not changed. It is just a spring tweezer with a base as shown in this picture. There are many variations and some hold the tweezers with an articulating contraption that is hard to adjust.

I want to show you my “ultimate third hand” and give you instructions on how to make one for your use.

Step 2: Making Use of This Kind of Articulating Arm.

This is the key to an ultimate third hand. For this project I am using the stand holder for an indicator tool (as used in a machine shop) that has a magnetic base. It consists of two arms with a clamping device on the ends of them. There is a knob that when loosened allows the arms to move freely about and when tightened freezes them into place.

These articulating arms have a magnetic base that will attach to steel. There is a lever on its base that when switched to the "on" position, a magnet is engaged and the arm is securely attached to the steel.

Turn the lever to "off" and the whole thing can be removed and re-positioned.

The large knob at the top of the picture is turned to release the arms and they can be positioned any way you need. Tighten the knob again and the arms are held in place.

Near the end of the arm is a smaller knob that when turned will make a small adjustment to the position of tip of the arm.

These articulating arms are available on eBay, and at automotive supply stores and machine shop supply stores and many do-it-yourself stores that supply tools. The price varies from as low as $20.00 up to $100.00 US dollars. The price varies according to quality and fine adjustment capability. You can use the less costly ones just fine but you may not get the fine adjustments like mine have. I don't often use this adjustment anyway. The ones that I am using are about $40.00 US dollars.

Step 3: The Most Important Part That You Need to Use - PPE

Before I give you an idea of the parts needed to make this I want to emphasise the part that you must have and use. It is PPE.

PPE? You ask!.

Yes "PPE" is short for Personal Protective Equipment.

See this Wikipedia page.

In this project you will be using spray paint, a hand file, sand paper and perhaps a sander, and strong adhesive. You must have a good work space, hand and eye protection and protection for the use of spray paint.

Use the appropriate personal protective equipment to do this safely.

Step 4: The Things That You Need to Do the Basics

I encourage you to be inventive with your selection of parts. I will show you what I have chosen and why, but please do not restrict yourself to my choices.

Paint – I chose a high heat spray paint. This paint is used on the base for your third hand. The base is not really subject to high heat even when using a torch but I wanted this kind of paint because I am familiar with it and know that it is durable and readily available.

Adhesive - Once again my choice is influenced by my familiarity. This epoxy adhesive is easy to work with and makes an incredible bond. There is no objectionable odour and what I have left over from this project will be useful for other projects and around my home.

Step 5: Preparing the Steel Base.

Steel Base – I am using a plain steel base because the magnets in the “arms” hold well to it.

It measures 12 inches long by 4 inches wide and it is .25 inches thick. This particular piece of steel is made by a rolling process that leaves the long sides of it somewhat rounded as you can see in the picture. The manufacturer then cuts it to various lengths. Where it has been cut the edges are sharp and need attention.

When you first get this kind of material it will be rough and it will likely have oil on it. I paid less than $10.00 US for it. You can find this kind of steel at stores devoted to home renovations and also at automotive supply stores. There are also many sources of this material at businesses that supply metal to the metal fabrication industry and most of these places will let you buy small items like this.

File any sharp edges, rounding them off to make the base safer to handle. You will find this kind of steel to have a scale on it and oil. Use sand paper to smooth the filed edges and sand off some of the scale. There is no need to get it all off, just most of it. You are preparing this for paint and want all of the dust from your sanding and any oil removed. You can use a detergent in water, but you must dry it right away as this steel will rust easily.

When you have it ready, spray paint it. I used a cardboard box as a spray booth, with soup cans to hold the steel up so that I could spray the edges as well. Follow the directions on the can to get a good finish of at least two coats. Allow the paint to dry to a hard finish.

Step 6: The Feet.

Feet – I wanted this base to have feet on it.

I want the feet to be steel as well because I want to be able to easily move the whole "ultimate third arm" around on my work surface. Using steel feet will make it so that the whole thing will slide and they will be durable as well.

The ones that I chose were intended to be used on the ends of chair legs and thus they have a nail on them.

The diameter of each foot is slightly more than an inch.

They are readily available at home renovation stores for under $5.00 US dollars.

Cut the nails off the feet and then ground them down to be flush with the back of the feet. I used a disc on a shaft in my flex shaft but a simple side cutter will do. You will need to do a bit of grinding to get the cut flush with the back of the foot. I also scuffed up the back area to be cemented to the base so that it would adhere better.

Putting the feet on the base:

I marked on the back of the base where I wanted the feet. I chose to have them near to the edge but not quite at it, leaving them just slightly inside when the base is in the upright position. When I knew where I wanted the feet, I ground the paint away to expose bare steel. I did not want my adhesive to be on the paint; I wanted the stronger join that would come from the adhesive being directly on the steel.

Use the epoxy according to the directions to glue the feet to where you have prepared the steel and press them into place.

Step 7: Finished Base

This picture shows the finished base from the bottom.

The sharp edges have been removed and it has been sanded and painted. The feet are epoxied into place.

Step 8: Ready Now for Use

The first picture is of my "Ultimate Third Hand" ready to be used.

The articulating arms on the left are ones that I have had for many years. I will explain later about the clamp that is in it.

The arms on the right are new ones for this project. I have used a common spring tweezer in it for now.

In this picture, the levers on the magnetic base are in the "on" position. That means that they are locked to the steel base by the magnets in the base of the arms. By moving the levers to "off" you can move the whole arm mechanism around on the steel base and place them where you need them.

The second picture shows that the whole arm mechanisms can be placed in any position on the steel base.

(edit) --- Important update!

I received a message from the man who made this video and with his kind permission, I am sharing it here with everyone. ( you can find his inscrutableness here - )

It shows how the arms can be moved to where you want them and then how to lock them in that position.It also gives a good view of how the fine adjustment knob works.

(When you see his video, show him some support by liking it or subscribing to his channel.)

Step 9: Tweezers and Clamps

I want to give you an idea of what you can use in your "Ultimate Third Hand".

The tweezer on the left is a traditional straight cross lock type.

Next is a favourite of mine, one that I use most often. It is a cross lock but with a curved end.

Next is a head and shank tweezer. It is a good choice for when you want to hold a ring by the shank and can also be used to hold the shank and a item to be soldered to the shank. These work well for soldering claw settings onto a shank.

The last clamp is a part of the GRS brand soldering aid. Beyond a doubt I use this most often in various combinations. They work very well, clamp tightly and are predicable in the tension that they apply. The ones that I use have tungsten tips. I like the tungsten tips because they wick away less heat, are durable and can be used when soldering platinum, withstanding the high heat needed.

In later pictures I will show you more use of the GRS clamps.

Step 10: Soldering Blocks and Screens

Pictured here are some soldering blocks and screens.

The blocks on the far right and in the center are small enough to be used on the steel base of the Ultimate Third Hand. The advantage of the block being right on the base is that you can position everything ready to be soldered and then rotate everything around on your bench to get a view from many different angles.

The screens are used to hold parts that you want to heat from the bottom as well. Clamping the screen on one of the arms and then putting a part on it while the other arm is holding something else gives you the ability to evenly heat your parts from many directions.

The block on the left is a part of the GRS brand soldering aid. I mentioned it previously and I will bring it to your attention in some later pictures as well. I make great use of this block; it sits centred on my bench at all times.

Step 11: Imagine the Possibilities !!

Combine your Ultimate Third Hand and a GRS soldering station and you will probably have a solution to holding any parts combination needed to make your jewellery!

Step 12: Using Shank and Head Tweezers

A picture and a close up to inspire you about using a shank and head tweezers with your Ultimate Third Hand.

Step 13: Using a Screen on Your Ultimate Third Hand

Imagine how difficult it would be to hold these parts in place by using your hand and the old third hand tweezers and moving your torch to heat all of this evenly.

This combination will make the job much, much easier. With the parts held in place and your hands free to hold the torch and being able to easily view the parts that you are working on, a successful soldering is about to happen!

Step 14: A Difficult Solder? Nope!

Trying to hold the wire in place with your hand and solder this would be difficult.

With both parts held motionless while you can move your head about to get different perspectives of the work you can know that the wire is positioned exactly as you need.

Then you have both hands free to move the torch and place solder.

Step 15: View Your Work From Many Angles!!

With this collage of pictures, I want to demonstrate that when your soldering block is on the base you can move the entire Ultimate Third Hand around on your work bench.

You can, by moving it all around, see your work from all angles and from a top view as well.

Your pieces that are to be soldered will stay in place as you move the Ultimate Third Hand around on your bench.

This gives you a chance to see that everything is placed as you want it and see it from every way to make sure that it is just right!!

You can also choose the position that is best for you to bring your torch in to heat your work.

Step 16: Now Get to Work!!!

Make this Ultimate Third Hand and your tasks at the bench will be much better and more importantly, much faster!

Be sure to get quality parts from your jewellery tools supplier for some of what I have shown you here.

A hint to jewellery tool suppliers ....... add this "Ultimate Third Hand" to your catalogue!

Make lots of jewellery!!

Regards to all.


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