Airfield Models - How To

Improved Extra Hands

May 05, 2015

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Airfield Models ( to Improve Extra Hands

I decided that this will be the year that I seriously address the things that aggravate me in my shop.  So far I've been pretty good about it.  The way I'm going about it is whenever I plan to use a tool that doesn't work right I'm fixing it before I use it instead of putting it off like I have in the past.

As I mentioned in the article describing how to make extra hands, these things are really cheaply made.  The most significant problem I've had with them is that the alligator clips crush when clamping them which means they never really get clamped securely.  The fix was always obvious to me, but until now I never got around to it.

Another problem with extra hands is the clamping system for the articulating arms.  The arms have ball ends and are clamped between two pieces of soft sheet metal using a cheap thumb screw.

The soft sheet metal bends as its tightened and it can't be tightened too securely either.  I still haven't fixed that part, but I think what it will need is a harder metal for the clamps or maybe just thicker sheet.  This works well enough and I don't have material on hand to fix it.

Also see

A really old set of "extra hands." This set is probably going on twenty years old and still has the original set of alligator clips.  I've used it mostly for painting and soldering.

The alligator clips weren't very secure from the time I purchased this tool but until now I just lived with it.

A fundamental problem with this tool is it's inability to hold it's own parts on. Here you can see the thumb screw crushing the alligator clip.  You can also see the sheet metal clamps for the articulating arms.
An alligator clip crushed by the clamp that's supposed to hold it in place. This is why the alligator clip wouldn't stay tight which made the tool more difficult to use and annoyed the heck out of me.
Find a metal rod that fits inside the shank of the alligator clip. I bought new alligator clips from Lowes.  You'll find them in their small electronics section with lugs, heat shrink tubing, switches and other miscellaneous items you might find useful in your shop.

The copper wire is six gauge.  I paid about $0.25/foot.

Solder the rod into the alligator clip shank. Insert the copper wire into the alligator clip.  I soldered it in place but that's probably not necessary in this application.
Cut the rod off flush with the end of the shank. Cut the end flush with the shank of the alligator clip.
The filled alligator clip can now be clamped securely. You can now tighten these down securely so that the alligator clips aren't always falling out.


How to Make Extra Hands
Make a Dual-Axis, Height Adjustable Vacuum Holder

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Copyright 2006 Paul K. Johnson