Introduction: Gorillapod Arms for a Magnifying "third Hand"
I've begun working with Arduino and Particle Photon projects and often need another hand when soldering. I bought a cheap magnifying "helping hand" device from eBay (~$8) and re-learned the lesson that "you (typically) get what you pay for."
Step 1: "Help! I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up."
No matter the position set or the tension applied to the joints, I couldn't get them all to stay where I put them. And both the adjustment process and inevitable sagging parts were a source of constant frustration.
What to do? I have nothing laying around with three adjustable arms sticking up that I can adapt to hold the two alligator clips and the heavier magnifying glass.
Oh look, my Joby camera tripod ($6) has come over to see what's wrong. Hmmm... Three legs, adjustable, and if I flip it upside down and connect it so...
Step 2: Disassemble "helping Hand" Then Drill Tripod Leg Ends to Fit
First, loosen and then disassemble all components of the "helping hand". The parts you'll keep are the two alligator clips, the magnifier on a short stem, and the base. The rest go into the parts bin.
Measure the diameter of the clips and the stalk of the magnifier. Run the bottom of each of the three legs of the Joby up through a drill press clamp, or hand-drill if you're feeling lucky. The blue rubber is soft, it's the hard black plastic beneath that you need to drill into. The Joby's joints are hollow so you're just looking to make a small seat for the clips and magnifier.
The Joby's leg joints are hourglass-shaped. Be careful to drill squarely into the ends and don't go too deeply or off vertical lest you pierce the thin neck area and weaken it. The alligator clips are narrow so not a problem, drill only enough to allow them to seat firmly into the end of the leg. The magnifier's stalk is thicker and it's heaver so you'll need to use a wider bit. I started narrow then moved up one size at a time holding and turning the bit with my fingers to ensure I didn't overdo it. You just need the magnifier to be stable on axis, the epoxy will hold it in place.
Step 3: Assemble and Epoxy
The base of the "helping hand" had a short horizontal stub. Looking at the camera mount on top of the tripod, I could have epoxied it to the stub. But pulling off the last knuckle to which the camera mount was molded (see photo) left a nice hole in the end of the next piece, which then fit nicely over the base's stub. A small packet of black Sugru molded around that joint held it in place.
The alligator clips slid into the ends of two of the tripod's arms, and I worked the magnifier into the end of the third. I pushed a bit of Sugru in there ahead of them but liquid epoxy would work better. I worked a small ring of Sugru around the base of the magnifier's shaft where it enters the tripod leg since it didn't have a good seat within the foot.
NOTE: I pulled off the last couple of joints on the magnifier leg in order to epoxy it together laying nice and flat while the rest of it dried upright. Don't do this--when reassembled, that joint is now weak and unstable. In short, Joby tripod joints can be pulled apart and then reassembled but they'll never be as firm as before and they won't hold their position.
This is a quick little project that made two cheap tools into one really useful tool. The lesson for me is to look around and envision things in new ways. Turn them upside down and think, what else could this be?
Credit where due: I just searched Instructables and found this similar soldering station 'ible, which may suit your needs better. Or combine the two for an awesome three-clips-plus-magnifier station!