but what does it do?
it’s a better version of the infamous Helping Hands tool (you know the one that can never articulate just the way you need). useful for holding small parts while you work on them in a variety of hobbies, especially electronics.
Loc-Line invented the style of modular/segmented hose that makes this kit possible. these positionable hoses are typically used for directing coolant in parts machining operations. the SparkFun kit is based on the DIY project detailed on Instructables: http://www.instructables.com/id/Third-Hand-A-multi-use-helping-hand-for-electro/
SparkFun’s version is currently $35 and comes with a machined aluminum base, some rubber feet, and all the parts for 2 arms. the price isn’t terrible considering the individual parts and the machining time. still, i really think they could maintain a profit while including a third arm assembly and larger clamps.
the base is just the right weight without being obnoxious. i also thought the heatshrink for the clamps and the rubber feet were a nice touch.
you can certainly make your own for a similar price with a very minor investment in time. if you know a few other folks that want one, then purchase a small bulk of the parts and you’ll save quite a bit.
i also added a small plastic vise from my toolkit to the base, and a little square tile which i often solder on. i tested out positioning a PCB board with a single component and a wire. i must say it’s a million times quicker to get things lined up than the old all-metal style Helping Hands tools.
as discussed in some of the comments on the product page, the included alligator clips are on the small side. they work great for holding wires or tiny components, but they don’t feel secure on larger PCBs. i rectified this by replacing them with 2″ Mueller BU-60TBO clips and 8-32 socket head cap screws.
buy / no-buy?
anyone with a soldering iron should have at least one of these!
whether you buy or DIY is really just a matter of convenience, the cost is similar. if you’re like me and want at least 3 arms and larger clips, it probably makes sense to DIY.