Yet Another Third-hand Soldering Aid. [with Built-in Fume Extractor]




Soldering is fun. Soldering is cool.

I remember when I bought my first soldering iron [I was 10 years old :)]. At first it was okay, soldering simple joints was child's play. But as my designs became more complicated, I needed to work around my project while soldering. With solder lead in my left hand and the soldering iron in my right hand, at times I would use my legs to hold the project. I burned my legs. When my legs were unavailable, I would use my mouth to hold the device. It didn't turn out nice either. Once in a while, I made my younger brother hold it for me while I solder. Yeah, I burned us both.

But then I saw instructables about third-arms and I wanted to build myself one. However, the authors use materials which I do not have, so I decided to improvise and make my own instructable :D

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Step 1: Gathering Tools and Materials. [gather, Not Buy]

For this instructable, I decided to use scrap materials from old projects, so in the process, I can also clear out some junk from my room so my Dad would stop nagging me.

For materials:
1) 4 alligator clips
2) 1 earphones socket
3) 1 CPU fan
4) 2 feet of hard wire
5) 1 power supply with earphones jack

Take note, only the hard wire and alligator clips are required for the third-arm. However, if you would like a convenient fan for blowing away those harmful solder fumes [I personally think that solder fumes make soldering look cooler]. If ever you decide to use a fan, you may also ignore the earphones socket and connect it directly to the power supply [I use only one power supply with the earphones jack as its plug because it is convenient].

For tools:
1) Glue gun + Glue thingy
2) Soldering iron + solder lead + soldering stand
3) Wire cutter
4) Tweezers
5) Pliers

Step 2: Cutting the Wires. [strong Arm Needed]

Cut the wires into four six-inch-long pieces. Why six-inch? In a foot, there are 12 inches, we have 2 feet of wire, so we have a total of 24 inches of wire. 4 pieces of 6-inch-long pieces when connected will be 24 inches long. So if you do it right, you will end up with a feet of extra wire. Kidding.

Step 3: Removing the Cover and Extra Wire From the Clips. [what's the Difference Between Alligator Clips and Crocodile Clips?]

This step is self-explanatory. So, instead, I will discuss the difference between alligator clips and crocodile clips.

Well, the crocodile clips are named so because of their resemblance to crocodile jaws. It is only appropriate that alligator clips resemble alligator jaws. But by convention, the two have been inappropriately referred to as the other, and often times, the two are considered synonymous. Just think how the zoologists would react if they knew about this.

Another question to ponder on: why aren't there gavial clips?

Step 4: Attaching the Clips Onto the Wires. [or Wires Onto the Clips?]

First, strip an end of the wire half an inch of insulation.

Then bend it 90 degrees near the end of insulation. If you're lucky like me, your wire should fit perfectly through a hole on the clip's neck. If there's no hole, or if it didn't fit, quit doing this instructable. Kidding. Use a drill to make a hole then. Use the pliers to squeeze the "teethlock", this will secure the connection.

Solder both sides until the wire is completely bonded with the clip. Careful with the soldering, the wire and the clip will get hot. Use a third-arm to avoid burns. If you don't have one, make one.

Cut the excess copper then make 3 more of this.

Step 5: Testing the Polarity.

In order for the fan to push away the fumes, the fan should turn the right way. So connect the power supply to the socket [and to the outlet of course], and connect the red wire of the fan to the positive terminal of the jack and the black wire to the negative terminal. Then feel which side has a breeze then set it down as the top side. Usually if you do it right, you could see the stickers of the fan [I don't know if this is a convention, I only tried 1 fan].

Step 6: Attaching the "fingers". [it Is a Hand, After All]

Most CPU fans have holes at the corners, so instead of drilling holes, I just inserted the fingers through them. Orient the fingers such that the two above point downwards and the two below point upwards. In this way, it can hold more effectively.

Step 7: Connecting the Socket. [last One Promise]

 Finally, strip the fan's wires and solder them to the socket. Glue the socket anywhere on the fan. You're done! 

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    12 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Shouldn't the fan be slightly raised above the desk so the air can flow into the fan's inlet/ outlet? (I'm not sure which way your fan is blowing?) It looks like the fan is siting flush down to the desk in your picture restricting the inlet/outlet. Other than that this is a really cool and inexpensive idea.



    4 years ago on Introduction

    plastic hose is best I bought mine from RS in Corby UK and a tool to join more parts at a later date. That was my total expense the parts being very cheap but the Tool is not necessary and too expensive for what it is.

    That said this is what I decided to do:

    I got a nice large fan from an old computer and put it into a hardboard square now joining plastic containers as a filtration system with a sponge inside a lid from one container has a smaller fan to aid extraction after sponge filter. Sorry no photo as yet. But with your idea and others I have made a very efficient solder extractor.


    Only moderately better, since the toxic aspect of the fumes are still in the room. Unless you are in a rather large room with adequate ventilation, all you have accomplished is increasing the length of time before your exposure reaches toxic levels in your system.

    Adding a simple activated charcoal filter into your system will drastically improve the design. Adding a vent hose/duct to that and venting the filtered fumes outside is the ideal.

    Otherwise, really nice Instructible. I like the concept of integrating the third hand with the fan, since it eliminates one of the things floating around on your bench while you are trying to make stuff.


    8 years ago on Step 3

    maybe the gavial clips would not be enough 4 most people.....or maybe they 2 crack....

    1 reply
    flame boyyyy

    8 years ago on Introduction

    And i got an idea of making the fan USB, it wouldnt let the fan be on high, but it would be enough to move the air around. I like USB stuff because im around computers alot, lol


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I love it, you simply described me hah thanks for this one


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for this 'ible! You have inspired me to do my own helping hands workstation.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    cool, I made one out of an altoids tn instead of a fan, it works great!