I’ve been meaning to build my own “helping hands”, or “third hand” setup for a while now, with LED lights, clips, and what-not, but still haven’t had the chance. In the meantime, I’ve been using Sparkfun’s bendable 3rd hand kit, and RCProPlus’s soldering station.
Hobby Creek recently came out with something similar – a new 4-arm helping hands kit. The Hobby Creek third hand kit features a machined aluminum base that has multiple threaded locations for repositioning any of the 4 arms, and 2 small pockets for keeping small parts from getting lost or fasteners from rolling away.
I’m not sure how I feel about the company, as the Hobby Creek helping hands looks way too similar to Sparkfun’s product. Sparkfun gives a portion of each sale to the DIYer who inspired the product with this Instructable, but it is uncertain as to whether Hobby Creek has made a similar arrangement.
Hobby Creek was established in 2014 and we are launching our first product which is an improved Third Hand Kit. We were frustrated with the limitations of traditional Third Hand soldering tools and thought that some of the improved Third Hand Kits on the market lacked value and were of sub-par quality. Naturally we decided to create our own.
I like the design of Hobby Creek’s helping hands aluminum base, as it has those milled pockets for holding small parts. Arguably, compared to Sparkfun’s, Hobby Creek’s third hand kit looks to be the better product. Keep in mind that I have experience with Sparkfun’s product, but not Hobby Creek’s, and so I can’t tell how the two compare in person.
The Hobby Creek kit is more expensive than Sparkfun’s. Sparkfun’s is $30 (originally $35), and Hobby Creek’s is $45. Sparkfun’s comes with 2 arms, Hobby Creek’s comes with 4, but you can buy additional arms and alligator clips from Sparkfun for about $4 per complete pair.
Both products come with rubber feet and screw mounting holes.
If you ask me, it might have been better if Hobby Creek contracted with Loc-Line or another modular hose manufacturer to buy their hoses in a custom color. Not that I don’t like blue. Gray maybe? Black? Red? That would have helped to keep it from looking so similar to the Sparkfun helping hands kit.
Hobby Creek’s bases are machined in the USA, but the origin of the hoses and accessory clips aren’t mentioned, and so they’re likely imported. They definitely don’t look to be Loc-Line hoses.
But, even if they’re not Loc-Line, Hobby Creek boasts about the high quality and quiet nature of the hoses they use.
Hobby Creek’s third hands kit definitely looks to have more and better functionality than Sparkfun’s. If I had to buy one flex-armed helping hands kit right now, and I didn’t care about the price, I’d go with the Hobby Creek third hand kit.
In addition to the added hose/arm positions and small parts pockets, the Hobby Creek base is bead blasted and anodized. It also looks like Hobby Creek put more attention and effort into their threaded holes. Sparkfun’s threaded holes aren’t bad, but would benefit from a chamfering step.
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Update: In case there is any confusion, this is not a “review,” it is a hands-off preview.