Helping Hands are small work-holding fixturing accessories that you either hear about over and over again, or know nothing about. They typically feature a weighty base, sliding horizontal arm, and alligator clips attached via a double ball-and-socket joint. Sometimes helping hands will also come with a pivoting magnifying glass or other attachments.
You would ordinarily use one of these clamping devices when soldering small wires and electronics components, but they can be used to hold and position small hardware and parts as well.
My own HHs are about 12 years old or so. I don’t remember where I bought them – possibly Radio Shack – and the magnifier has long ago broken away, but they do come in handy from time to time.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Helping Hands are typically priced from $5-$10.
Slow news day…
Sure seems that way. These items sure seem to have a great deal of negative one star reviews on Amazon as well. Not to mention, none of these look like they are made anywhere close to USA.
Here is what I am talking about with Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/SE-MZ101B-Helping-Hands-Magnifying/product-reviews/B000RB38X8/ref=cm_rdphist_1?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&filterBy=addOneStar
Although I’ll never understand why people throw items away/not return the items if they aren’t pleased with them within the 30 day return policy Amazon has.
Helping hands, at least those that aren’t too junky, work well. Half the motivation behind the post was to introduce readers to a tool they might not know about and can use for their projects. The other half motivation was hope that someone would suggest a better version than those I’ve used or been able to find.
Don’t think of it as a slow news day, it’s the calm before the storm. Lots of good stuff coming. There’s also major bad stuff going on for almost 2 weeks now that’s keeping me out of my workshop, keeping reviews on pause.
As along time reader, and commenter, let me say that I hope the “major bad stuff” is resolved in a positive manor quickly. I am sorry to hear of anyone’s misfortune, and I hope you weather it well.
I for one have seen these devices, and have often thought, (while employing my bench vise to hold a magnifier…lol) that they might just come in handy on occasion.
What you have said here bears that out in my mind, and if I do see a good sale price on one I think might hold up for a while, I think I will pick one up.
Hang tough, this too shall pass, and keep up the good work.
used these multiple times this week. i have crappy HF ones that are falling apart but they were $2 and a lot better than nothing.
I have these, I use them often when soldering, but that’s about it. I find the alligator clips too aggressive for fine gauge wire, and end up padding them. What I really wish is for someone to make some small ball-mounted parallel jaws (sort of a mini Pana-Vise) to replace the alligator clips.
The basic problem with these products is the chrome plating. If it is too smooth, it is impossible to clamp the hands in place. If it is rough, it works OK for a while until the chrome plating comes off. Then it rusts.
Ken, if the chrome is coming off and rusts, why not sand away the rust with a Random orbital sander? If it’s too smooth, you could also go in with a sander as well lightly.
The central issue with helping hands is a majority of them aren’t that well designed and I have yet to find one that was made in the US as well. Although I’ve heard of people replacing those alligator clips with Fluke brand USA made alligator clips though. Just takes some precision.
I can get by with my flaky helping hands, it could be a real issue in an environment that is foreign particle sensitive, but then they can probably afford a real Pana-Vise.
Thanks for the Fluke clip advise, I’ll check it out.
This “not made in the USA” thing is getting pretty old. Not that I don’t agree with the absolute positive attributes of most products bring made in the USA, but done of you people must be stuck in the 50s or living under a rock. Most products we use on a daily basis are going to come from another country. It has been this way for a very long time now. There is absolutely no rule that says if it’s made in china it will be complete trash. Likewise (and keeping the outsourced job argument out of things) there is no garantee that a product made in the USA will be quality. Somehow people manage to comment on nearly every new topic with a generic “made in the USA” remark as if that were the theme of this entire blog site. Get over the fact that we as capitalists and consumers have driven our country to the point we’re at where most products are made cheaply outside of the US. Are there American made alternatives for a lot of purchases? Sure. Is it better to keep manufacturing in America to provide jobs? Undoubtedly so. But you cannot expect every product, invention or innovation that goes through this site to originate from America and you cannot immediately discredit it.
Now more on topic, I will say that for $2.00, you can hardly go wrong with the helping hands at Harbor Freight even if the ball joints are a bit loose and it doesn’t last through 50 soldering jobs. You couldn’t really expect a $2.00 product to last that long anyway. But for $2.00, you can get another one when it breaks. That is of course if you can get over the fact that it is made in china by unskilled cheap labor. Which, for $2.00, I can do.
Your philosophy is unsustainable, very shortsighted. We can’t continue to be a throw-away society. I am not against buying foreign, but we can’t continue this trade imbalance with China without serious problems. Quality aside, we can not continue down this road, read “The Great Disruption”.
I agree with you pretty much completely except that I choose to take the defeated point of view whereas you choose to feel like our actions can still change the situation. And maybe I’m just part of the problem when I say we should just give in and accept that things are the way they are, but I kind of see the opposition as vegans who refuse to eat any meat byproduct because of the animal cruelty. Regardless of whether they eat meat, animals will continue to be killed and live less than stellar lives.
Well, I guess following that we should all just crawl into our graves, we’ll be dead someday anyway.
This needs to return to the topic, I’m done.
Most products are made over seas you saw? I beg to differ, as if you shop at Grainger you can see the country of origin of all their products and a great deal of what Grainger sells are USA made.
I’ve bought a great deal of items made in PRC and 9/10 of these items have either broken or weren’t that great of quality. If it’s made in USA there is no quarantee the product will be much better, but I’ve never had a USA made tool snap or rust as I’ve had PRC tools do that. If you look hard enough, even with these “helping hands” I am sure you could find one that is USA made. eBay is bound to have something of that nature if Amazon/Amazon Supply, Grainger does not.
And buddy, your incorrect stating that with every single news topic posted here someone is posting about made in USA. Have you ever considered that maybe the people posting those comments have either had their jobs outsourced. their families or friends jobs outsourced? Once your job is outsourced, there is little you can do and you’ll notice no one seems to care as long it’s not their job or someone they know.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a job these days, some of these people are angry. Heck, I would be too if my job or someone I knew job was outsourced. I know in today’s society the mentality is not to care and to ignore others, but that is only easy when you walk away from the problem.
Allen is most correct, we can’t continue to be throw away society, Not only is that not environmentally safe, but it’s just plain ludicrous as well. Back in my day, we fixed items with our own two hands or if the job was really big, had a licensed, bonded, insured repair man take a look at the item and see if he could rectify the issue.
I can’t speak for anyone here but myself, but I refuse to buy any tools that are made in PRC. Harbor Freight is known for carrying those types of tools, as is Craftsman these days as well.
I’ve used an Xacto version for years
The base on the HF version is too lightweight to keep it upright in many situations
I have a couple of these, HF versions. One, like Stu’s is glassless. Glad I bought two. Figured the second would work for parts. 🙂
They help on occasion, but are kinda limited. Have thought for a long time a different model would be good idea. Never bothered pursuing it though.