Helping hands are multi-purpose tool that are good to have and sometimes a necessity. They’re very useful for soldering electronic circuits and other applications where you would need a third hand to hold something or if it’s inappropriate to use your hands to hold a particular object. Not only does this DIY project look cool and save you money, you’re actually doing a favor to the environment by reusing scrap materials. This is a fairly elaborate and simple DIY, even less than modest fabrication skills are good enough.
1) Broken computer hard drive
2) Alligator clips
3) flexible metal wire
4) Small magnifying glass
1) 5mm super bright dome LEDs
2) 3.7v Li-Ion battery
3) 2-position switch (3 terminal or 6 terminal)
4) Any 2 terminal jack and suitable socket
1) The reason I chose a computer hard drive is because they have a nice CNC machined chunk of aluminum with pre-drilled & tapped holes that can make a great weighted base for what we intend to do with it.
Start by stripping the broken hard drive, make sure to remove everything you can from the main aluminum console. What you’ll be using is the stripped chunk of aluminum, the top cover and the screws. (Save the other parts too, most of them can prove valuable in other projects)
2) Why I chose the flexible metal wire to make the arms for the helping hands is because it’s easy to flex around however you need it to hold and it’s pretty cheap. A bit of 2mm thick soft iron wire will do the trick.
Form a small loop at one end and screw it down to any of the desired several holes on the aluminum base. Form a similar loop on the other end and secure the alligator clip to it. Like this, you can build as many arms as you want.
3) To make a magnifying glass attachment, take a piece metal wire, form a loop and secure a small magnifying glass to it. Loop the other end and screw it down to the aluminum base; just like the arms.
A basic Helping hand is good to take it’s place on your work table now. But, in case you want to make it a little more flashy and add that custom touch to it, you can give it some cosmetic details or make a few more useful attachments.
I couldn’t settle for the basic one,
For cosmetic details, I ran the flexible metal wire arms inside a 3 mm plastic tube to make them look a little more nicer and easy to grab.For some other useful attachments, I added a LED light for extra brightness, if I’ll ever need; a magnetic platform, a coil spring to hold the solder iron and a post to hold the solder lead spool (which was the handle of my magnifying glass). You can also add a small fan to extract the soldering fumes away. To top it, I made the entire station portable by housing a rechargeable Li-Ion cellphone battery inside the hard drive casing to power the lights.
4) For the light, I used 3 white dome LEDs. Try to get 5mm white (super bright) dome LEDs, they disperse light neatly and don’t sharply focus like regular 5mm LEDs. Connected in parallel, the current draw is a little over 23mA; on a fully charged 880mAh 3.7v Li-Ion battery, it lasts about 30 minutes, quiet reasonable.
Additional attachments: For the fumes extractor fan, you can use a small computer fan or something similar. Just make sure you can provide sufficient power to it. Small (30mm) fans powered by 3.7v can run fast enough to do their job. But, that again depends on the voltage rating of the fan your using and the current draw also varies by what you pick. If you can afford and have enough room inside the hard drive to house a few batteries, then go ahead by installing a fan and a couple of batteries along with it. Or simple power the entire thing with an external DC power supply.
My circuit uses a 6-pin 2-position toggle switch. In OFF mode, the battery is connected to the charging port. You can design a basic circuit to wire up the lights, fan, and the charging socket to be used with an appropriate switch or something that you can do at ease.
PDF instructions for download: https://www.dropbox.com/sm/create/Project%20files/Helping-Hand-Tool.pdf
Good luck, DIYers!