Third Hand

This is a solderer's best helper, the third hand. Comes with a heavy base, two alligator clips, a soldering iron holder, and a good magnifying glass. Note that we don't normally need a third hand. It's nice, but soldering flat on a table works just fine. Then again, the desk is starting to look like a mine field of burn marks and melted pot holes.

What we've found with many of these cheaper third hand is the lack of stability. The small base on this unit does not make the problem any better. However, with some creativity, you can make it more stable. We also really enjoyed the fact that this unit has a iron holder. Cheap fire-starting soldering irons often do not include a holding stand - this third hand can help prevent accidents and melt marks in the dining room table.

Third Hand Product Help and Resources

How to Solder: Through-Hole Soldering

September 19, 2013

This tutorial covers everything you need to know about through-hole soldering.

Core Skill: DIY

Whether it's for assembling a kit, hacking an enclosure, or creating your own parts; the DIY skill is all about knowing how to use tools and the techniques associated with them.


Skill Level: Noob - Basic assembly is required. You may need to provide your own basic tools like a screwdriver, hammer or scissors. Power tools or custom parts are not required. Instructions will be included and easy to follow. Sewing may be required, but only with included patterns.
See all skill levels


Looking for answers to technical questions?

We welcome your comments and suggestions below. However, if you are looking for solutions to technical questions please see our Technical Assistance page.

  • Member #31410 / about 6 years ago / 1

    I've had one of these for years, every time I think it might help out, fails. The clips are too far away for any useful soldering. Since they are 90 degrees to the bar, can't get them to a useful position 90% of the time.


  • tinynormous / about 15 years ago / 14

    I appreciate your candor describing this item.

  • war_spigot / about 12 years ago / 3

    Maybe you should stock something like this , it's cheaper and has a sponge tray(I don't own either, though, so what do I know?)

  • girlzap / about 11 years ago / 2

    I, like others before me, cannot believe I soldered anything without having one of these. The scorched tables, the blistered fingers, the cramped hands from trying to use a pinky to do a thumb's job... The third hand should really be recommended right up there with flux and tip tinner. You don't NEED them to solder (you really just need heat and... solder) but you really SHOULD try to acquire them before you go insane. I would definitely suggest adding this to your cart if you ever plan on feeling the tips of your fingers again.

    Onto the actual piece. I'll start with the base and work up.

    The base is heavy, considering how small it is. It will do well holding small circuits or boards, but beware if you plan on hanging your soldering iron in the included holster. You might want to consider mounting it to a larger board or to your workbench itself if you want to use it as a solder iron stand too. I don't plan on using it as such, so I left mine free.

    The arms are what they are. Dual ball & socket joins attached to bars or clips and tightened with a wing-nut. Pretty rudimentary, but also pretty genius. They do what they are supposed to do, which is hold things for you. They are easily manipulated by gently loosening the wing-nuts and then retightening them. This might add a little delay because its tedious to work with on some level. But for a beginner its likely that you will be fidgeting with the placement of the board for a while anyway so a few extra seconds isn't going to make or break your process. For someone who can set up a solder station blindfolded, this thing may be more frustrating to you than its worth (which is pretty cheap!)

    The glass is dirty. Was dirty. Still sort of is. It's not a camera lens though so I don't mind. And it will likely continue to gather dust and filth so really, I don't mind. Its not like looking through a grime coated window, but its not like looking through a freshly Windexed window either. But the magnification is great, especially if you have older eyes that are prone to crossing while working on such tiny things so close to your face. The glass is also on an adjustable arm, but its limited, so if you need it much farther than a few inches away from your project, you might want to look into extending its arm. (Which could be pretty easy, but I haven't tried.)

    The end report is a pretty decent quality piece for a decent price. Yea there are better third hands out there, but this one is just as good if you are looking for something inexpensive that works. I would recommend it to someone starting out into soldering and electronics. If you really get into the hobby (or profession) then I would suggest eventually saving up for something a little jazzier (after you save up for your Hakko of course) or making your own as someone posted below/above.

    I'm happy with the purchase.

  • I found the instability issue to be easily fixable. Drilled a hole through the base and through a 10lb bench vise. Tapped said hole and drove bolt through. No longer moves.

  • CalcProgrammer1 / about 13 years ago / 2

    I've seen other people using these things for years but never bothered buying one. I always would use regular clamps to hold parts which was awkward. I finally got one of these with my free day order and it makes soldering a whole lot easier. The nice wire holder is a huge upgrade from the stamped metal stand that came with my RadioShack iron (got a SparkFun soldering station too but it is broken and I'm awaiting a replacement).
    The only complaint I have is that it isn't very stable. It tends to slide across my desk at the slightest touch of the soldering iron, so I have to hold it with one hand while soldering. I found that placing it on a block of foam helps quite a bit. Maybe I'll glue a foam pad to the bottom.
    Also the soldering iron holder can get in the way while using the hands, so I end up flipping the hands backwards away from the iron holder.

  • Member #235042 / about 10 years ago / 1

    I purchased this third hand mainly to hijack the magnifying glass to use with the SFE third hand (TOL-11784). I wasn't expecting this product to be very high quality and thus was expecting to throw it out, but it turns out it isn't bad after all. Think I'm going to keep it.

    If you've got the money by the SFE third hand instead (TOL-11784), if you don't this one will do the job quite nicely.

  • Member #395618 / about 10 years ago / 1

    Just like to put it out there this is just my experience. Its stable but when you put some thing on it like a circuit board it just keeps falling down and when you tighten it up it bends inbetween the two balls and now it broken and i just wasted $11 i could of spent on some thing else. When you use the magnifying glass it tips the third hand over

  • Chandhooguy / about 12 years ago / 1

    I NEED one of these! Come in stock! Come in stock!

  • Member #362215 / about 12 years ago / 1

    I just got one of these and spent an evening soldering onto small bits using it.

    I now wonder why in the I didn't get one of these @#$%^ things sooner! Seriously!!

    There was soldering before, and there is soldering after getting one of these, and I would not want to go back (you would not believe the ridiculous things I was doing to hold down the fussy bits!!!)

  • AVOID AT ALL COSTS, (cause you'll have plenty replacing components using this crap), 1. base too small, that's been said before, i'm re-itirating it, but it can be fixed. 2. hands are too clumsy , at times far part, this leaves me with handing with only one hand for unstable soldering, the solution i found was to replace one hand with the magnifying glass, so i'll be able to re-position it. 3. this hands fall apart!!!, this cannot be fixed after a while of twisting the metal grips of the crocodile are lossen, the they just fall from device, which drive me bonkers. i've just ordered this : which looks so much better..

  • razrburn / about 13 years ago / 1

    Thanks I love it, a heavier or larger base would be cool but for the price its good. I found it required to twist the solder iron holder at another 45 degrees then pictured above to keep it from tipping over under normal use which is still comfortable with my pistol grip soldering iron..

  • CoryW / about 14 years ago / 1

    I use a separate iron stand so I just left the holder off. I have had no problems with stability, and it's extremely easy to adjust!

  • zeropointo / about 14 years ago / 1

    I ordered one of these and got something completely different than what is pictured here. The model I have doesn't have the flexible neck or the LED's. I don't know if it was a mix up or if sparkfun has not updated the photo's, but wtf?

    • MikeGrusin / about 14 years ago / 2

      Oops! We changed suppliers and didn't notice the change in the part. Email customerservice at sparkfun and we'll fix things up for you.

  • R0B0T1CS / about 14 years ago / 1

    In the snake bot lab we used to call these Johnny Fives.

  • h.tzu / about 15 years ago / 1

    Elexp sells this for about $3.50

  • lostangel556 / about 15 years ago / 1

    For such an cheap unit you could always drill mounting holes in the base and screw it onto an piece of plywood. That would increase the stability tenfold.

  • signal7 / about 15 years ago / 1

    ... but ... would this be a better iron holder than the Aoyue holder that comes with the soldering station?
    I bought the Aoyue station as a replacement for the Ungar station I've had for years, but the iron holder that came with the Aoyue station forces me to grab the iron over-hand style. I don't know about everyone else, but I always grab and use my iron under-handed (so I'm holding it like a pencil). The Aoyue stand forces me to grab it over-hand and then switch to underhand afterwards because the angle it's in the stand doesn't give me much room to get underneath it. With a hot soldering iron, switching your grip single handed is kinda tricky...
    So - I'm wondering if this would be a better iron holder.

    • The Aoyue stand makes you grab it overhanded? Really? I use my Aoyue station religiously and am able to grab it comfortably like a pencil.
      To answer your question, I think the iron holder on this stand has a steeper angle so it might be easier to grab underhanded, but I believe the Aoyue is much better/more stable.

      • signal7 / about 15 years ago / 1

        Thanks Nate for the quick response. I keep my soldering station and the iron holder at the back of my workbench. When you reach across that distance, the angle of the Aoyue holder makes an underhanded grab difficult. A more vertical holder would be much more comfortable. It's a little better if I put the holder on top of the soldering station, but it's not quite as stable that way.

    • signal7 / about 15 years ago / 1

      Yeah - I should add - I love the Aoyue iron. I've never used a station that got that hot that quickly!

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5

Based on 11 ratings:

Currently viewing all customer reviews.

1 of 1 found this helpful:

basic but good

Pretty solid stand. I only planned on using the actual hands but the magnifying glass/iron stand comes off (I'm also fairly certain that if you put an iron in it the whole thing would tip. The base is heavy but not that heavy). I also recommend putting a piece of heat shrink tubing on either jaw of each hand so whatever you're holding isn't scratched.

Much better than not having one.

As others mentioned the base is a little small but that didn't bother me at all because I just taped a old HDD magnet to the table and that stuck so well to the bottom of this thing that it started pulling the duct tape off the table rather than letting go of the 3rd hand. Bottom line I could put a 1lb soldering iron in the holder and it won't fall over.

Lens arrived with a 1/4" chip on the edge, otherwise works fine

The outer box arrived looking good, but the glass lens inside had a sizable chip. It was protected with two really wimpy pieces of cardboard and nothing else, so the lens damage is not that surprising. Not bothering to RMA as it seems to be fine otherwise, but the packaging of the glass needs to be improved.

Other ideas for improvement that I see right off the bat:

1) Higher-quality thumb-screws -- specify a smaller thread pitch for easier adjustment; use high-strength steel to avoid stripping. The current one require some force to lock to a stable state.

2) Use a clip mechanism that allows the compression to be adjusted as-needed. I'd be worried to grasp delicate items with the current alligators.

This is a pretty basic third hand tool. We do have one that's a little more robust, but lacks the magnifying lens. I'm going to contact you directly about that issue. Happy hacking!

Great Product, But Disappointed On What Was In The Box.

This works really well and I love it, but I'm forced to give this 3 stars because inside it's box it was really dirty and dusty. Also I was disappointed that there were dead bugs In there as well, so for this being the first time I have purchased stuff from SparkFun it kind of discourages me from making purchases like these in the future from SparkFun.(I would like to specify that it was not the red box that everything comes in and instead the box for the third hand its self)

Update[1/23/2017]: I do have to say SparkFun does have very nice customer service, and after using it quite the bit it works well but the nuts keeping the clips on constantly need to be screwed on further after use. (By the way thank you SparkFun for the great customer service and I'm still a happy SparkFun customer)

Wow, really sorry to hear that. I'm going to contact you directly about this.

How practical!

This is so useful! I use it for all of my projects that require soldering. It's a great cheap option for a third hand if you don't want to create a hole in your wallet by buying a more expensive one. I'm not a huge fan of the magnifying glass, it doesn't really help me much and it gets in the way, but the other parts of it are really helpful.

Works good

Haven’t used it to hold the iron but it works good as a third hand.

Good, but...

its a good stand and works well with my current soldering iron. my only gripe with it was I had to secure it to the desk I was working at.

Good, but hard to control.

Nice thing to hold jumper wires and whatnot for soldering, but the arms are not very flexible. I'm constantly unscrewing and re-screwing the bolts on the joints.

Handy, but not TOO handy

Like many similar products and their respective reviews, don't expect it to be terribly sturdy, especially if you plan on using the iron-holder. It works well enough as a "third-hand," though, and is FAR better than not having an alternative. Proceed with caution, but if budgetary considerations leave this or nothing, go with this.

Hi, You are right, this is a more basic third hand. If you need one that is more robust, have a look at this one! Happy hacking

I needed this 10 years ago!

I've soldered without one and messed up a lot of boards. I bought this one and read the warnings about it being too light weight and will tip over, so the first thing I did was mount it to my table using a C-clamp. It's solid as a rock.