Helping hands are extremely useful considering all the up-close work you do while soldering. There are a variety of options that not only hold your work, but also include a magnifying glass and back lighting. When researching options for helping hands, there are several things you need to take into account. Make sure the unit has a solid base that can handle your work and maintain balance. It is definitely hard to get any work done if your unit keeps tipping over. In addition, take a look at the flexibility of the arms on the helping hands. You want to ensure they can adjust to any angle that you might need to maintain a steady grip. Finally, consider looking into a helping hands unit that has lighting as well. If you are a doing a lot of fine soldering work, having extra light up close will definitely come in handy. Here is a comprehensive list of the best helping hands for soldering.
Aven 17010 Adjustable Circuit Board Holder
The Aven 17010 Adjustable Circuit Board Holder is ideal for PCB soldering work. It clamps on to the board without damaging the circuitry and can rotate 360 degrees for ease of soldering. The base is a metal structure that has rubber feet to adhere to whatever surface you work on. The rubber feet also keep the helping hands from slipping. In addition, the center arms are adjustable so that you can handle different widths of PCBs up to eight inches wide.
A nice feature of this unit is that it has four different grooves on the holding arms to allow for different sized PCBs. The holding arms are also spring loaded so you can easily insert and remove circuit boards without having to adjust the arms. While the unit does rotate a full 360 degrees, it can also be secure at any angle for precision work. This is a nice and compact unit that fits on most workbenches and is very easy to use.
This model is quite popular as it is quite inexpensive, but it does have a few flaws. Most of the complaints for this unit centered on the quality of the product. There is not a lot of reinforcement around the tightening arms and the plastic can eventually snap when a board is clamped too tight. Users also complained that the unit did not stay set and hold the PCB tightly. They found it rotated while in use, making it nearly impossible to completely solder a board. In addition, this unit does not include any extra features such as a magnifying glass or backlighting.
Neiko 01902 Adjustable Helping Hands
The Neiko 01902 Adjustable Helping Hands is a small model that comes with two alligator clamps and a magnifying glass. The alligator clips are attached to an adjustable rod, which allows the clips to rotate to various positions. The magnifying glass is capable of two times magnification. In addition, it is also removable if your project does not require up close work.
The biggest pro for the Neiko is that it includes the magnifying glass. The fact that the glass is also removable makes it extremely versatile. The entire unit is made out of metal and has a cast iron base that stays put. It is a small, compact unit that works in virtually any space and is handy for small PCB projects.
The largest con of this product is the inflexibility of the alligator clips. They do not adjust lengthwise and they only rotate in place. They also do not expand higher if you need to grip a larger piece. In addition, this unit does not have backlighting features. The consumer reviews on this model were split fairly evenly. Many users found this model convenient and helpful, while others noted that the quality of this product was a bit poor. Several reviews mentioned that the alligator clips started to come off and would not stay clipped on no matter how much they were tightened.
Crazepony Helping Hands Soldering Tool
The Crazepony helping hands attaches directly to most workbenches and is tightened down using a metal clamp. It can clamp to workbench as wide as 25 centimeters and is extremely portable. The holding arms are quite flexible and can be positioned at various angles. PCBs are hold using soft-sided alligator clips that hold firmly without damaging the board.
The design of the Crazepony helping hands is very simplistic and easy to use. A major pro of this unit is the portability since it can attach to various workbenches at different thicknesses. The holding arms are extremely flexible and can be positioned in a lot of different shapes. Since the unit is compact, it does not take much space up either.
The biggest cons for this unit are the lack of lighting and no magnifying glass. While those items are handy, they are not necessarily required, but it is a definite negative to this model. Most consumer reviews were positive, but some users had issues with the construction of this unit. The arms were not always as flexible as needed and it made it difficult to reposition for different circuit boards.
ARRIS Third Hand Soldering Station Tool
The ARRIS Third Hand has six flexible arms and a seventh arm as a backup. Each arm comes with an alligator clip at the end to grip your work tightly. The arms are extremely flexible to various angles for any type of close up soldering work. This unit’s base is made of aluminum and has no-slip, built-in suctions cup to secure it tightly to your workbench.
A nice bonus of this unit is that it has a built-in fan for blowing away small particles while you solder. It is USB powered. In addition, the six arms are very flexible and the alligator clips can rotate 360 degrees. The clips can then be locked into place as needed. This unit also comes with a small magnifying glass that can be attached to one of the arms as needed.
Of the reviews we noted, most were positive. However, some users complained that not all the arms were as flexible. That made it difficult to maneuver certain pieces in place. In addition, since the arms were not as flexible, users had issues with them popping out of the base as they attempted to move them.
QuadHands WorkBench Helping Hands Third Hand Soldering Vise
The Quadhands is a unique helping hands unit. The arms are magnetically attached and can be easily moved around and repositioned on the base. Each arm comes with an alligator clip. There are four arms in total. Of the four arms, two are sixteen inches long, while two are eight inches long. In addition, each arm is heat resistant to stand up to the heat of soldering work unlike other plastic models.
One of the biggest pros of this model is that it comes with a 100 percent lifetime warranty. They will replace the unit at any time if it fails. Although the arms are attached via magnets, they stay in place firmly due to how strong the magnet is. The base also has four small rubber feet that keep it firmly in place while in use. The alligator clamps can also rotate 360 degrees just as other models and then be tightened into place.
This unit has extremely high marks amongst consumers, but some buyers did have issues with the arms staying in place. Once positioned, the arms tended to bounce a bit because of how flexible they were. This caused issues when trying to securely hold a PCB to solder.
Elenco WEmake Soldering Station
The WEmake helping hands station comes with LED illumination and an added magnifying glass. This unit has three flexible alligator clips. Two of the clips are attached to a rotating metal bar, while the third is standalone and attached to a flexible base. The magnifying glass is capable of three times the magnification and comes with a built-in LED light. The WEmake base also includes a soldering iron holder, a cleaning sponge, and a brass tip cleaner.
This unit has a lot of extra features, which is a big plus for this helping hands unit. The included magnifying glass with built-in illumination makes up close work super easy to manage. The added soldering iron holder and cleaning tools are a nice bonus for any hobbyist. The three alligator clips allow for flexibility when holding PCBs of various sizes.
One of the largest cons of this unit is that two of the alligator clips are not flexible like the third. They only rotate. Users also noted that the magnifying glass did not always stay put due to the flexible neck it is attached to. In addition, consumers also had issues with the third alligator clip staying put due to the flexible tubing.
MLTOOLS Helping Hand
The MLTOOLS model comes with an attached magnifying glass that has a built-in LED light for up close illumination. It has adjustable alligator clamps that are attached to a rotating rod. The base is steel and stays in place when in use. This unit also comes with a 100 percent customer satisfaction guarantee. In addition, the base has an attached soldering iron holder for compact usage.
This unit is extremely compact for the extras it provides. The magnifying glass with LED lighting is attached by a flexible hose that allows for different positioning as needed. The moveable rod that the alligator clips are attached to can move from side to side to reposition a PCB as needed. In addition, the alligator clips can rotate up to 360 degrees and are set on flexible hinges to adjust for different size circuit boards. The attached soldering iron holder is an added bonus along with the customer guarantee. Another plus of this unit is most definitely the small size. It can fit on any workbench and takes up very little space. It is ideal for working with small PCBs or up close soldering work.
The biggest con of this model is that the alligator clips are not adjustable from side to side, only the attached bar is. As with similar models, this unit really only flexes enough to fit smaller boards and not larger soldering jobs. Common complaints for this model included issues with the weight and the attached magnifying glass. Some users noted that while the unit had batteries in the base to weigh it down, it still slid around easily. In addition, the magnifying glass did not have a lot of flexibility, which limited its use.
We have provided a list of various helping hands that include different extras. Some of the units are extremely flexible and have multiple arms to work with and position. In fact, one unit had six different arms for secure holding. The key to look for with helping hands is what extras they have. Are they simply holding arms and nothing more or do they have any additional helpful items like background lighting? Some of the units specifically came with attached magnifying glasses, while others did not. In addition, some of the units have magnifying glasses that were detachable. This is a nice flexibility to have in case you do not need to perform up close soldering work. If you are looking for a small, compact unit, there are several options to chose from that are perfect for small PCB work. Some units even included fans or soldering iron holders for safety and cleaning while in use. Another key item to look at is whether or not the unit is made from bendable plastic and metal or just all plastic. You want to make sure the unit will hold up to multiple projects and the constant twisting of the arms into different positions. Make sure to read any online reviews about quality of the unit and flexibility. Users have great insight into the play of each model and whether or not it will fit into your soldering hobby.