Third Hand Tool for About $10




Introduction: Third Hand Tool for About $10

If you dabble in model making, soldering, or are just an everyday tinkerer, sometimes you just need to have a third hand. Though there are reasonably priced Comercial units out there. Often they are rather stiff, and it can be difficult to position around parts that are not on a straight plane. Most come with a magnifying glass, which I find is more often a hindrance then a help. Besides I normally use a set of magnifying glasses or a drafting light with magnifying glass both of which are almost always a better quality and can be completely moved out of the way when not needed. Originally I was going to add a third arm with LED for illumination, but in the end I decided that the wiring would hinder the articulation of the arm. I may yet include a LED but for now I'll live without it. I cannot claim that this is my original idea, it is only my version of the GorillaPod third hand tool.

So, without further ado, here's my first instructable.

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Step 1: Parts and Tool List.


GorillPod knock off tripod. $2 each on geek I only ended up using one though I bought two.
Alligator clips. I got a bag of 10 for $1 on geek
10-24 x 3/4th inch screw (parts box) maybe $1 at hardware store
10-24 T-nut (parts box) again maybe $1 at hardware store
Rubber feet (parts box) pack of 12 cost $1 at local dollar store
6x6x1/2 inch piece of red oak (about $4) I had previously bought a board for about $12 and have plenty left over for other projects. A hobby store may sell lamp bases or display bases that would also work, just adjust your screw length if your base is thicker.

Screw driver
Hex driver
Pin vise
Adjustable pliers
Drill with bits
Heat gun or hair dryer
Heat shrink
Sand paper
Something to finish your wood with.

I also used a miter saw and router, but are only needed if you want to cut your piece of wood and give it a little bit more of a finished look.

Step 2: The Arms

The tripods come apart and snap back together fairly easily. Just grab two consecutive balls and pull. To put back together line the small ball up with the cup and press till they snap back together.

My alligator clips had a stem that was just over 3/16ths of an inch, your clips may vary here, so check before doing any drilling.

Disassembly :

Picture 1. To begin with, pull the three legs off from the three way. Then separate the "foot" from each leg. Finally separate one of the legs into two equal four segment pieces.

Picture 2 remove the flat base from the three way, (mine had a small button you press then slide the base out) and remove the screw. Now is a good time to check and ensure your screw will fit. For my tripod I had some 10-24 countersunk hex screws with matching T-nuts in my parts box. The fit and I can slide the camera base in and out with this screw... Yours may be different.


Picture 3. combine the 4 segment pieces with each of the full legs creating two 12 segment legs. Then connect the two extended legs to the three way socket.

Next use a set of adjustable pliers to hold the ball foot be careful not to damage the mounting surface while you work. I covered my pliers jaws with some heat shrink to protect the plastic and give extra grip. use a pin vise to carefully drill a pilot hole through the rubber cap and underlying plastic ball. then peel back the rubber cap and used a drill with a 3/16ths bit to enlarge the hole. At this point the plastic cap came loose from the ball, which honestly made it easier. Repeat for the second foot. Picture 4 shows the foot pulled apart drilled and ready for reassembly.

Take the rubber cap and carefully pull it over the 3/16ths bit to stretch the hole out. It doesn't need to be drilled we just want the drills sharp edges to help cut it a little larger. Push the alligator clips stem through the rubber cap. Then push the stem through the plastic cap. You may need a little force here, that's good, it's better to be too tight than too loose. From the backside I placed a small amount of heat shrink on the stem of the alligator clips. Don't use a lighter here we don't want to melt the cap. Use a heat gun or hair dryer or just skip. On the top side I used a drop of superglue just for extra security. use a couple of drops of superglue on the cap to secure it back to the socket. Go easy with the superglue a drop or two is all that's needed. Before the glue fully cures pull the cap rubber cap back down over the plastic cap into its original position. Picture 5 is of a completed hand. Repeat for the other hand. And let set until the superglue is completely dry.

Picture 6. Since the feet are now hands, I guess that makes the legs arms. Attach your hands to the arms and you're ready for the base.

Step 3: The Base

Because I'm all about that base! Haha Ok but seriously without the base you really only have some floppy arms. You want something sturdy I had some 6" x 1/2" red oak, but any wood should work fine just be sure to adjust your screw appropriately for your bases thickness. The oak should be enough for what I'm normally working on. I like red oak, it turns out really nice without a ton of work. And really you're making your own tool give it some love! It doesn't have to look like the finish was an afterthought.

I cut my oak square, then rounded the top edges with my router. You don't have to do this, but you should at least sand the corners so they don't beat you up if you bump into them.

Picture 1. Decide where you want your arms, I selected a spot 1" from the edge and in the center from side to side. So if I Drip glue solder paint etc... It'll land on my base not my work space not on my bench/ table/ wherever I am working . That, and I really liked the look of the arms coming out of the wider grain with the tighter grain in the work space it reminds me of a tree growing out of the edge of a river. You can mount your arms in the center, on the corner, offset, whatever suits your style. But give it at least 1" from the edges and any knots so your T-nut has some room and doesn't Crack or break your base. Drill a pilot hole first from the top down and put a scrap piece of wood under the base so you don't get rough edges or damage your work surface. Then follow up with a 1/4 inch bit. The pilot hole ensures your mounting hole is where you want it. If you start with the 1/4 inch it will most likely walk before it starts to actually drill through the base. If you're not using a 10-x T-nut be sure to check the required hole size. Here you want it to be slightly larger than the center of the T-nut

Picture 2. After the hole is drilled flip your base over and gently tap your T-nut in, until it is fully seated.

Picture 3 test fit allcomponents. Now is the time to make any final adjustments before you disassemble for finishing.

Step 4: Finish It!

My apologies that I didn't take any photos of this part of the project. But remember what I said earlier?? It's time to give your project a little bIt of love.

Disassemble your project and sand down the base. I started with 80 grit then 140 grit, and finally 220 grit. Wipe the base down with a damp cloth, and one final round of 220. Once you are satisfied with the sanding it's time to seal it.

I used an old t-shirt to apply two coats of boiled linseed oil. And let it sit in a well ventilated area for 24 hours. That's it... I really like the look that this gives. But you can use shellac, paint, rhino liner... Whatever suits your mood.

Picture 1. Before reattaching the arms, flip the base over and put some feet on it. These little rubber feet are cheap and they keep my projects from sliding all around my workbench. It's a little bit of added safety / one of those touches that just really complete a project.

Picture 2. Flip the base back over and put it all back together. Step back and enjoy.

Step 5: Final Thoughts

I really like how this project has turned out. The extra range of motion over the store bought tools will really come in handy. Although I had many pieces already, this unit can be built for about the same price as a cheap store bought tool. And really the cheap ones aren't that great. Although it is a bit bigger IMHO it's a far superior product.

As I stated before I was going to add LED lighting and I may still do that. However at this time I needed the tool more than I need the lights. And I want to be sure that I can add light where I need it without the light being in my way. So until I come up with a solution for that, I am happy with the outcome.

These little tripods are actually pretty great. I'm already thinking about projects for the other unit I bought. And at $2 plus shipping for the tripod, it's hard to go wrong.

Well that's it, my first ible. I tried to make my tool as simple as possible. I hope that I didn't overcomplicate the explanation. Thank you for all your ibles, and taking the time to read mine.

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    7 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Good idea!
    I'll make one!

    DIY Hacks and How Tos

    Nice idea. The flexible arm let you hold more things than the rigid arms of a standard helping hands.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks it does work quite well on 3d parts. It might just be a bit of makers pride, but I've been using it for a few days and been very happy with it.


    3 years ago

    First 'ible. Autocorrect. :(


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who has autoincorrect issues.


    3 years ago

    ASAP, I meant. Lol.

    Great first bike!


    3 years ago

    I have an old gorilla tripod uselessly sitting in my closet. Going to totally make one of these adapt. :)