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Many hobbyists own the Eclipse 900-037 Helping Hands Soldering Aid. It is a weighted metal device that contains two or three alligator clips attached to ball joints. The joints are positioned and then the thumbscrews are tightened to hold wires, solder, and circuit boards in the designed position.
It recently occurred to me that the alligator clips can be removed completely and used stand-alone.
Alligator clip holds wires during soldering.
In the above example, the alligator clip clamps two wires in place while they are being soldered to an electronic component. This gives me an idea for an improved clip that would include grooves every tenth of an inch. That way, it could hold a larger number of wires at a standard spacing.
Notice the squashed and damaged end of the alligator clip at the far right side of the above photograph. That’s caused by the thumbscrew on the Helping Hands device, as illustrated below.
The Helping Hands thumb screw bends the barrel of the alligator clip.
Over time, the round end of the clip becomes so distorted that it no longer can be held firmly. It can be very frustrating to have a clip loosen and pull out in the midst of soldering.
Crimped barrel end of an alligator clip repaired with brass rod.
The alligator clip barrel can be repaired and reinforced with a half-inch length of 5/32-inch diameter brass rod. Or, as my metric friends would say, a 12.5 mm length of 4 mm diameter brass rod.
The brass rod can be picked up at almost any hardware store. It can be cut to length using a hacksaw, Dremel cut-off blade, or lathe. The ends can be sanded smooth, if desired.
Smooth jaw needle nose pliers repair crimped alligator clip.
I have a pair of long needle-nose pliers with smooth jaws (not serrated/jagged) that I use routinely in working with electronics. They have a nice round semi-circular shape on top that provides a nearly ideal surface to reform the clip barrel. Just jam the pliers’ tips into whatever remains of the hole and rotate the tip around a couple of times. At some point, there will be enough room to insert the brass rod.
After the brass rod is inserted, use the pliers to mold the barrel around the rod. This will restore the cylindrical shape.
Before and after image of brass rod protecting alligator clip barrel against crimping.
In the above image, the small yellow arrow points to the end of the brass rod peeking out from within the alligator clip barrel. When the thumb screw is tightened, it firmly clamps down on the alligator clip without deforming it.
Over time, the surface of the barrel will become scratched and marred from tip of the screw, but it should remain usable and steady for many years to come.