Desk Squid - "Helping Hands" Improved.

Introduction: Desk Squid - "Helping Hands" Improved.

Geek of all trades. I love building stuff. Electronics is my passion. Software is my trade. I ...

When tinkering with electronics, and especially while soldering, most of us find ourselves running out of hands. The answer is usually a basic "Helping Hands" or "Third Hand" - a contraption on a base that allows the user to position gator clips in the air to hold things.

The problem, though, is the cheap set-screw boom design of most is cumbersome, hard to use, and error prone.

Instructables user rstraugh came up with Third Hand++, a much improved version using Snap Flow.

I took the same design, and went a step further. The result is the Desk Squid.

Step 1: Construction

I started by buying a bunch of Loc-Line brand modular coolant hose from It was available in more shapes, colors, and sizes than the Snap Flow that rstraugh used, although it was about 50% more expensive. I also picked up the assembly pliers, which helped immensely.

I used both 1/4" and 1/2" Loc-Line in the design. The Loc-Line magnetic base, while expensive, eliminated all the complexity of drilling and tapping base plate holes, while adding a lot of versatility. The magnetic bases have rather rough under-surfaces, which when combined with the tremendous magnetic force they exert, can easily scratch most finishes. I found that a bit of fabric and some cyanoacrylate solved the problem nicely.

The magnetic bases are available only in 1/2" and 3/4" sizes, so I got the 1/2" versions, and added 1/2" to 1/4" Y connectors. At the end of each arm, I added a 1/8" right-angle nozzle.

The clip heads were done in exactly the same way as in rstraugh's design. I simply tapped each 1/8" nozzle with a 6-32 tap, and screwed the Radio Shack banana plug into the nozzle. The clips fit over them nicely.

The base is enameled plate steel, to give the magnets something to grip on. I glued a large sheet of black felt (as you would find in any hobby store) to the underside of the steel plate, to protect my desk and provide a nice firm grip.

Before I finished the base, I attached the magnets to the metal frame of my workbench. The magnetic bases are very versatile, and I expect to use them in many unexpected ways.

Step 2: The Future

There are plenty of future improvements possible.

I rigged up an LED light, but I found it too dim to matter much under the bright fluorescent fixtures in my workbench, so I removed it. I may add one back with a higher performance die eventually. After seeing another Instructable which added LED lamps, I decided to post a picture of it anyway, even though I don't actually use it.

The addition that interests me the most is adding a circuit-board holder of some sort. The jaws of a PanaVise board holder appear to be able to plug into a nozzle on the 3/4" Loc-Line.

At some point, I will probably add a magnifier.

For other ideas, check out rstraugh's original Instructable.



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33 Discussions

You could use pvc or acrylic sheets for the base. Both are available on ebay.

Plastics are easy to drill through. It is just not that heavy.

Steel plates are available on ebay. There are lots of suppliers.

The magnets are available on ebay as well.

Has anyone found any cheaper versions of Loc-line?

Where did you buy the enameled steep plate?

Where did you find the plate steel? I've been looking for something simmilar ofr a couple of projects of mine.

It's too long/tall. Too much flexability and not enough stability. Maybe limit bendable options? Very nice project tho. That's the general translation ;)

Great Instructable! I was wondering if you've received any coupons or discounts from I was going through the check out and saw that it had a "Coupon Code" section. I've looked online and couldn't find any. - Thanks

2 replies

Do you know what temperature those can stand? There isn't any information on the modularhose website and they're closed till monday. I'm going to be using a torch for soldering rather than an iron and am afraid of melting the living bajeezus out of the hoses

5 replies

They're made of acetal, which is a thermoplastic. I've had no trouble with soldering guns and hot air gun tools, but I can't say I expect it to be too compatible with torch use. Still, all you really need is a refractory layer in the claw end, and you'll probably be okay.

Is there maybe an instructable for that out there? I'm not fully exactly sure what a refractory layer is in this sense. All I know is how to torch the hell out of things.

I highly doubt it. Anyway, what you really need is some way of stopping the heat from traveling back up the arm into the plastic. You could always just use one of the old fashioned designs with wire arms instead. That would be considerably more tolerant to torch abuse.

Lo-tech approach to alleviate the heat would be to use a wooden dowel in between the alligator clamps and the plastic. The wood can take a lot more heat than the plastic, but this would only be good to a certain temp though. You could also use a coiled metal rod instead of the wooden dowel. The coil dissipates heat, just look at soldering iron "holsters" for inspiration.

Those are pretty decent ideas, actually. I would personally try tube-shaped ceramic or glass beads (which should be available from a store that sells beads and findings) as a refractory. That should work. I don't personally plan on using this structure for actual torching, though.