A Different Kind of Third Hand




Introduction: A Different Kind of Third Hand

About: I run Neal's CNC in Hayward, CA, an expert CNC cutting and fabrication service. Check out what we do at http://www.nealscnc.com/. I'm a founding member of Noisebridge, a hackerspace in San Francisco, and Ac...

I often solder things to other things -- well we all do, I suppose, but sometimes these things need a bit of pressure to stay together while being soldered, and the traditional third hand, which holds your work while you hold the soldering iron and solder, doesn't do that very well.  I remembered a few years ago when I took a flame-working class at the Crucible, learning how to work with molten glass. In that technique, the torch was fixed (pointing away from me) and I used both hands to hold the glass rods I was working on.  I realized I wanted a fixed soldering iron, and to be able to use both hands to hold the work.

Turns out it was trivially easy to make a soldering iron holder out of a couple pieces of scrap wood, some screws, and a "spring grip" -- one of those spring grabby things you can push a broom handle into to hold it in place against a wall.  Tools: saw, screwdriver, drill.

Step 1: Cut the Wood

You need one piece of wood in a triangle shape.  I also wanted a base, so I could clamp the holder to the table, but you could bolt it down permanently if you prefer.  I used a bit of 2x4 and some 1/4" plywood scrap.

You do want to assemble the finished tool so it holds your soldering iron at a good working angle, but doesn't obstruct the cord of it.  I found that 45 degrees was too much, and used an angle closer to 30 degrees.  The base only needs to be big enough to screw the triangle to it, and have some stick out for the clamp to attach to.

Step 2: Assemble

Now simply screw all three pieces together.  Two screws to hold the base to the triangle, and two screws to hold the spring grip on.  I got a little fancy and countersunk the base screws so it wouldn't wobble.  And by countersink, I mean I got a big drill bit and just touched it to the drill holes I'd made for the screws.  If you have a powerful screwdriver you can probably just screw them in far enough without bothering to drill out space for the head.

Step 3: Use

Do clamp or bolt it down when in use.  The whole point of this is to make the soldering iron immovable!  I'm using a clamp because my workspace is not dedicated to soldering but if you have room, attaching it to your table would be great.

Here's me soldering, with the iron held fast by my lovely new tool.  It worked great!

As suggested in the comments by jiovine, it may be even better to use the opposite orientation, where the iron is pointed down and towards you.  I tried this orientation in a dry run and I think I will probably use it that way instead of with the iron tip pointed up in future.  (The hot bit is closer to Me that way, so a bit more care will be required.)  It's a little tight because I didn't design my holder with this orientation in mind, so if I have to use it for larger pieces I'll probably have to modify the holder.  But for small work it's just fine.



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    49 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Why is it that the simplest ideas are so hard to come up with?... Thanks!

    Beats the crappy little stand that might come with a soldering iron. I'll make something like this but make it heavy enough to stay put. I have some 3/8 inch plate scrapes kicking around.........

    As an electrical engineer and someone who works with soldering irons extensively, I can tell you that this is a very bad idea for a couple different reasons:

    1) It is extremely easy to burn yourself. You have around 6 inches of 500-700 degree hot metal exposed in such a way that it's easy to drag your hand or arm across it when reaching for something or not paying attention.

    2) If your rig gets knocked over accidentally, there is no barrier between the iron and whatever lies beneath it. It's a major fire hazard. Your soldering iron should be kept in the stand (like this: http://www.cooperhandtools.com/brands/CF_Files/model_detail.cfm?upc=037103161093) whenever it isn't being held in your hand.

    If you are having issues soldering, you should use a third hand (like this: http://www.amazon.com/Helping-Third-Magnifier-Magnifying-Glass/dp/B0015YJV7S).

    6 replies

    in this case there is a small change that will limit any risk of fire to 0, will be added on the upper side of a base Dimess identical to that of the foot on the oblique face , preferably aluminium, with the clamp , if the base falls to the side, the soldering iron has very little chance of igniting anything because it may bow to one side or the other but will go no touching surface !!
    There is also the bench clock that supportte of very high temperature, since it is used for brazing , I am designer models reduced, and  I use it without any worries. 

    Not as an Electrical Engineer, but as a normal human being who also happens to work with soldering irons whenever a project calls for them, I can tell you that this is a normal idea with a reasonable amount of danger for a couple of reasons.

    1. If you use a soldering iron for more than 10 seconds, you know it is hot. If you don't, chances are you will burn yourself at least once, and then you will learn to be more careful. Learning is the point of life.

    2. If your rig gets knocked over accidentally, you will most likely be the cause of it and you will quickly right it so that you won't damage your table. You won't stare at it as it begins to char and/or melt whatever surface it is on for the 10 seconds or so that it would require for the iron to do any signifigant damage.

    If you are having issues knowing when a reasonable amount of care has been taken care of to know that this project is as safe as it can be while still working with tools, please realize that you are trying to help but you are coming across as a little bit of an annoying know-it-all throwing around degrees that nobody can verify or claims that mean nothing on the Internet where nobody has to prove anything.

    Sorry if I seemed like a know it all. I've had "Bring the tool to the part, not the part to the tool" in drilled into my head in every shop class I've taken and at my job at a fab shop during high school. Fires are also a huge danger with soldering irons. I didn't know until I found this about a couple years ago when I was looking up curling-iron-fire statistics: http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/TorchesFactSheet.pdf

    Thanks for the cautionary words - you really can't rate safety too highly. If people don't want to listen and are willing to deal with any adverse consequences, that's fine, but it's good for people to hear an adage like "bring the tool to the part."

    As a professional glassblower for many years, I certainly did my share of unsafe things because time or other pressing needs dictated. And sometimes from ignorance or sheer stubbornness or because I felt like it. Just as a cautionary tale, I had my share of adverse consequences from taking these risks, fairly severe electrocution being the worst among them. But you gotta do what you gotta do. And sometimes you learn not to do it. Hopefully being still alive and whole on the other side of that lesson! ;-D

    Also, hopefully nobody here will be among the percentage of those who start fires or end up in the ER. We all know how much it sucks to spend time in ER, and you really don't want a fire, not even a little one, in your house. And if you have kids, or old folk, or pets - anyone who can't easily evacuate a burning structure or could be harmed by smoke inhalation - then please think harder before taking risks.

    as someone who once thought about being an electrical engineer and soldered a lot but decided being a welder would be more fun with less school and pay about the same. i normally solder at closer to 400º F or under and i generally just put my soldering iron in a vice, i have never burnt myself but it is extremely useful especially for desoldering stuff.

    As an Electrical Engineer and someone who used to work with soldering irons quite a bit and who owns 3 different irons - I love this idea.

    I do not have the above referenced holder, I'd like to get one, but never remember to order one when I'm getting parts from DigiKey or Jameco. Right now my irons simply get rested on the bench, sometimes with a random nearby heavyish object holding the cord down so it does not roll off the bench or have the tip drop down onto the bench.

    This is a wonderful, quick, inexpensive DIY solution that will be a whole lot safer than what I'm doing now.

    When my next brilliant idea earns my fortune, I will invest in a solder station complete with fume extractor, till then, a dollar broom clip will do nicely.

    Lazy Glen

    Great idea. I need one of these, but I'd also like a similar base for my dremel, so I'm going to try to design a dual usage holder, bench space being at a premium here. i don't think one of those broom clips will work as the iron and dremel have different size handles. Rather than design my own clamp, which will probably require far more work and tools to build, turning this simple but effective design into a not-so-handyman's nightmare, I'm going to haunt hardware stores, plumbers and builder's supplies where something simple and adaptable to replace the broom clip is sure to be found. It will have to be rock steady and tight as well to keep the dremel from loosening from vibration.

    If I find a suitable clamp i'll post an -ible (which will be my first). Meanwhile, does anyone know of an adjustable clamp (say 5/8" - 1 3/4") and where to get one? I'll be most grateful to save shoe leather, though looking through hardware and suchlike stores is never a waste of time, even if you walk out empty-handed.

    4 replies

    Just as a thought on the adjustable clamps that you are looking for, look into the electrical conduit section of the hardware store. A u-bolt could be used by varying the amount of tightness of the bolts to fit the object being mounted, or check out the Kindorf line of straps and clamps.
    Good luck in your search and let us know how it comes out

    I'll be looking for something cheap, quick and easy to use, maybe something recycled. An old pair of ski boot clamps keeps coming to mind. Trouble is I live in a never snows area, so finding an old ski boot presents a problem. The u-bolts are a possibility. Maybe the type with a stepped crosspiece ala the type used on car exhaust pipes may work. Thanks for the ideas, but mostly thanks to Rachel for the original simple but brilliant idea. Now where's that patent application :-)

    Use a piece of pvc pipe (bigger diameter tan both tools) and a large bolt as the "clamp".


    How about 1 or 2 hose clamps attached to the holder. Sized to fit the Dremel tool, with a 2 piece bushing that would "grow" the soldering iron so it would be roughly the same size as the Dremel.

    Lazy Glen

    Duhhhh, Same here, just thought it was a holder (I use a large glass ashtray, great fit).
    Cool and simple idea.

    so nice! but here in the Philippines we dont have that kind of spring clamp..maybe i will improvise then post it the picture here..

    1 reply

    I do a fair amount of soldering. So when I see a new tool that has potential, I take a look. I like this Instructable. But I think the soldering iron is being held upside down. So I corrected this feature and built my own in about 15 minutes, with the tip pointed down.

    I'll put this up as an Instructable shortly.

    2 replies

    I think this is probably an even better arrangement! As I mentioned in the intro, I was inspired by the way a flameworking torch is positioned, and it didn't occur to me that the soldering iron might work better with a different orientation. So I just tried it, and turns out that I can just put the soldering iron in my stand the other way 'round, and it works fine! If I have a large piece of work I need to use it for, I would probably have to cut away some of the wood to leave a larger empty area, as yours has.

    This is why I love posting things here, they are immediately improved on. I'm adding a pic and comment to this Instructable. Thanks!

    jiovine says:
    I've done some flame work and glass blowing myself. So when I read your description I immediately knew what you were talking about. I already modified and fixed up my prototype (from the picture). I'm keeping the tool on my work bench to see how often and when it will come in handy.

    When I'm finished playing with the design, I'll put up an Instructables myself.