Cheap Helping Hands: Just Add Time

We think of helping hands as those little alligator clips on a metal stand. They are cheap and fall over, so we tend to buy them and don’t use them. However, if you are willing to put $35 or $40 into it, you can get the newer kind that have–well–tentacles–on a heavy base.  [Archie_slap] didn’t want that kind of investment, so he made his own for about $10. We think that’s Australian dollars, so that’s even less in the United States.

What’s better is he documented every step in meticulous detail and with great pictures. You probably won’t directly duplicate his project because you will probably pick up a slightly different base, but that’s not hard to figure out. The arms are actually coolant hose, [Archie_slap] picked up almost everything but the base plate on eBay.

It’s obvious [Archie] is a frugal guy, based on his drill press. It gets the job done, though. The build is attractive and looks like a much more expensive commercial product. Some of us around the Hackaday lab are old enough to wish there was a magnifying glass attached, but maybe that’s version two.

We’ve looked at a lot of different helpers recently. We couldn’t help but think about a somewhat similar Gorillapod holder we covered last year.

34 thoughts on “Cheap Helping Hands: Just Add Time

    1. Yeah, but it’s 30 USD, a little more than 10AUD. Also, it’s right there in third sentence: “However, if you are willing to put $35 or $40 into it, you can get the newer kind that have–well–tentacles–on a heavy base.”

    1. One of my cats especially likes to jump on my workbench and take parts away. Especially small PCBs with dangling wires. If I don’t look carefully after him, I can find the stuff later on in another room.
      I can understand his fascination for electronics, but that are MY toys and before he knows how to use the soldering iron he should leave it alone. :-)

          1. I have te same cat problem. He knocks things off my bench just to see them fall, he pulls wires out of protoboards at night (sometimes real fun to troubleshoot the next day), and to top it all off, if I don’t hide my glasses at night, he hides them for me while I’m sleeping. Good thing for him that he’s really cute… :-)

    1. The metal base is a must otherwise it won’t stay put. The arms are long and the entire contraption would be constantly falling over. If you are afraid of shorts, turn the power off before working on your circuit! You can also cover the surface. with some non-conductive material.

      However, I have been seriously disappointed with this type of helping hand. I have bought the Sparkfun one, which comes with a very nice, solid aluminum base. However, these blue plastic hoses are so stiff that it is next to impossible to get them where you want them. It is ok for things like soldering wires, but pretty much useless for any precision work. Sparkfun also ships their with very tiny and flimsy alligator clips that break very quickly but those are easy to change.

      1. Maybe the metal base isn’t a must. A 3/4″ thick, 8″x4″ or 12″x6″ stone paver might work. You may need to epoxy the coolant tubes to the paver.

    2. I’ve done something similar by pouring concrete into the bottom of a water bottle, sticking an arm (made of coolant hose like this one), let it set and peel away the bottle. It’s worked very well for me.

  1. I just built myself one of these — with a twist. I ran wires connected to the alligator clips, down thru each tube, and to a screw terminal at the back of the base. A separate wire and terminal for each arm. I can ground all 6 arms to hopefully eliminate/reduce ESD problems, or I can supply power and ground to different arms and power up whatever I’m working on. (Sorry, no pictures).

  2. Has anyone figured out just what the threading on the bottom of these are? It is almost but not quite 1/4″ NPT. But 1/4″ NPT has 18 threads per inch, this has about 20ish. It may be metric. I don’t have a real precise thread gauge. I’ve dug thru the eBay and AliExpress listings and can’t find an exact size.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.