There are a lot of different types of “third hands” soldering aids out there. There are the helping hands you can buy for $7-15, Loc-Line-style modular hose third hands you can buy or build yourself, and even premium high-quality soldering stations designed for jewelers.
This one, the RCA1218 by RCProPlus, is designed for radio control model enthusiasts. The RCProPlus soldering station is a little different than the ones previously discussed, not because it’s aimed at RC hobbyists, but because it’s designed specially for soldering connectors onto wires.
I have been doing a lot of work with wires – mainly testing but also some soldering – and knew I had to try this third hands station. I bought one from A Main Hobbies for just under $30.
Assembly requires use of a small hex key to adjust set screws, but once you have things set there is a thumb screw that locks in the horizontal rail.
I like that the alligator clips and their brackets are fixed horizontally. The design does mean this is best used for working on wires, but that’s what I purchased it for.
You can quickly disassemble the entire contraption for easy storage and portability.
While not very clear in the picture, there are holes in one of the alligator clip brackets and a peg in the horizontal clamp. This allows you to lock the horizontal bar at the 0° and 180° positions, making it easy to work on the top and bottom of connectors.
Another aspect I really like is how there are three wire clips. Most third hands stations only come equipped with two clamping arms. Two alligator clips hold the parts that are to be soldered together, and a third holds the wire a short length away from the joint for additional support.
The alligator clips are not very aggressive, but I would be happier if they were cushioned. It would be even better if they could be removed from their brackets, but they’re soldered in really well. A bit of silicone tubing or a minute of filing should make quick work of the teeth, but I would be happier if I could install the alligator clips of my choosing.
Soldering wires can be tricky work. Many third hands units and soldering aids are meant to hold smaller components or parts, and can sag or shift when used to hold wires in place.
This is a great soldering tool, and it really does a nice job holding wires in position for testing or soldering. If you are looking for a general purpose third hands tool, this might not be the best for your needs.
I definitely recommend it, but you should know its limitations before seriously considering adding one to your tool box, workbench, or RC kit.
Buy Now(via A Main Hobbies)
Here’s a video demo from the place I bought the soldering station from:
How stable is it in use? I have a set of “helping hands” like the one you linked to. It works fine, but the base is very unstable when in use. I end up taping it to the table, but even that doesn’t work very well due to the shape of the base.
This design looks like it could be a lot more stable. It looks like the lower, wider base should help with stability, and I’m guessing the silicon / rubber feet provide a lot of grip. It looks easier to tape as well, if need be.
Do you miss having a magnifying glass?
It’s pretty stable. The three legs screw in, and when I first assembled the unit I thought I would need to use a rubber glove to hand tighten the legs a little more. They unscrew easily, but not unintentionally.
The three legs are pretty far apart and the cushions are a nice size. I think it’s a lot more stable than the small bases “helping hands” are built with. If I ever need it to be more secure, a scrap piece of sheet/plate/board material plus some cable ties or cable straps should do the trick.
The removable feet are made of a semi-soft rubbery polymer, possibly heat resistant, possibly something other than silicone. There’s good grip, but not a lot more than would be needed to work on wiring connectors.
I tore the magnifying glass off my helping hands years ago. I don’t even know where my helping hands are at this point. If I need hands-free magnification, I have a lighted magnifier and head-mounted magnifier.
OK so we’ve got some more creative and useful than the traditional iron base and slippery ball and socket joints. Good.
Now let’s replace at least one of the alligator clips with a small vise and we’ll have something truly useful.
I have given up on alligators-only helping hands long ago, and use my PanaVise to hold the workpiece, and alligators for the wires.
Not really related to the product but from my experience amain hobbies is a pretty awesome company.
Great idea which I will steal it sorry. On you “Related posts:” section the one pictured in the “Helping Hands” cost me 5 dollars..I removed the magnifier and added another alligator clip instead. If I buy another helping hands and remove the magnifier part, replace magnifier with an aligator clip, add it to my “pimped” one, then I will add this wire functionality to my 5 dollar alligator clips for less than 28.50…but that’s just me.
For those that want a solution right out of the box…pretty good idea.
Regarding the alligator teeth, in the video at 0:06 I see rubber transparent tubing on them…maybe they come with the kit…so that will prevent from biting the wires. Not bad workaround.
The 3rd hand system does not come with the silicone hose/tubing that’s shown in the video. Aquarium tubing, heatshrink tubing, or stripped larger-gauge wire insulation jacketing should do the trick.