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Michael Mott Designed Third Hand

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Hi folks,


I thought I would do a bit of a tool review on a great new tool I have just received.  Michael Mott, in his build log for the restoration of the Basset Lowke Albertic introduced a great new third-hand he had designed for himself - a new take on the usual designs.  This looked very promising but as I am no tool maker, I asked him if he might make one for me - which he did :)  See following picture.




This was such a great adaption of the common cheap tool that are usually next to impossible to use for finer soldering projects, that I started looking at alternate uses for it.  I realised it could also be very useful for rigging and opened another discussion with Michael on alternate clamp designs/arrangements that would not crush rope cordage, but could also be utilised for working wire rope where necessary.  Michael has agreed to trial a few alternate clamps and has asked me to feed back to him on how useful they are.  I thought the best way to do this is via a tool comparison and review; so here goes.


Early in my hobby days, I had purchased two of those cheap version you can find in many tool, hobby and electronics stores.  These were okay for basic use, until I found they were difficult to configure exactly for the job at hand, the clamps were very poor quality (fit, purpose, pressure) and marred the parts, or crushed the fibres of rope.  I made a quick fix by putting heat shrink on the alligator clamp teeth which helped with grip and stopped some crushing of the fibres, but they still were not flexible enough to configure to hold small parts for a tight fit for soldering.


I looked around on the Internet and found what looked like the best solution available; the GRS soldering station used by many jewellers, and some electronics guys - they seemed to have good reviews, and although expensive I invested in one.  See the following photo:




These have proven much better for soldering but did not resolve my rigging requirements.  I then made a jig, based on a jig made by CristiC (I think) to assist in rigging which I used in conjunction with my 'rigging crab' which is an adaption of an idea by the late 'Hubert Sicard' on his Wood Ship Modelling Dummies site.  However I still found I needed another arm, so invested in a single arm version of the GRS third arm soldering station.  These can all be seen in the following photo:




This collection of tools and jigs worked okay for my Endeavour rigging - that was until I saw what Michael had designed :).


Michael's third-arms are very well made, and with a wider spaced/longer base arm, and rotating components that can be tightened securely without damage to the arms, provide great flexibility in positioning to hold parts or cordage.  The flexibility is enhanced with some great clamps, of which a wider range will be available after some further refining (if needed) whenI have used them for a while.  I will provide an update to these clamps once I have received them and had an opportunity to try them for awhile:


1.  soldering small and larger pieces typically used in our hobby;


2.  holding soft cordage in various sizes for various tasks such as whipping, seizing, making tackles etc.; and


3.  holding wire rope for the same purposes.


With the wider spread of the lower bar, I am also going to trial its use to hold spars while fitting stirrups and blocks etc.


As to soldering, at times you just need another hand to hold things, so I am going to trial an adaption to the base to allow me to screw in one of my GRS arms.  I opted for a rectangular rather than circular base, and glad I did now as I can drill and tap a hole in one of the corners to allow me to fit that arm out of the way and get max configuration options  :)  Happy days!


If anyone has any queries, or additional comments to make please feel free to add to this thread.





Edited by BANYAN
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I also purchased one of these from Michael and was unsure as to whether I would put it in the shop or just leave this beautiful example of fine machine work on my coffee table in the living room.  Seriously, this is one fine piece of work and very functional.  I also own the GRS soldering station that Pat pictures above as well as the single arm version mentioned.  All of these are very fine tools.  Michael's just has an added touch of class that you don't find in the usual manufactured tools.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Hi again folks, 


To say I am impressed with Michael's third hand tool is a gross understatement - the versatility of this third hand with interchangeable clamps makes working with rigging and small metal parts a breeze.  Before proceeding, I must state that I have no financial or pecuniary involvement with Michal and offer the following for the benefit of MSW members.  I must also declare that Michael has provided several clamps for me to trial and comment on, but I have purchased the third arm and initial set of clamps at the advised price.


I have received some additional clamps from Michael today.  I have completed some very quick tests and offer the following initial comments; I will provide further feedback after further use of them over the next few days.  Within my feedback I will also include comments on the build and test materials, the sizes and locations of the tightening screws, and on the types of clamps and modification to them. I hope to also complete a comparative test on soldering various items with the clamps in Michael's design against the GRS soldering station.


The tool itself, and the clamps are all very well made with only quality materials used.  Using it, you get the 'feel' that this is a quality tool and gain some confidence the tool is not going to wear out or break like some of those cheap third hands. The only small problem might be that some of the springs may need to be replaced later in a clamp's life (depending on usage and clamping pressures used).   I opted for the rectangular base which has proven very useful.  The weight is just right for stability and the aluminium is strong but light, reducing postage costs; and the shape also lends to easy clamping of the base to the bench for additional stability.


First up I will address the tool itself.  The design at this point has met tasks I have tried.  The height of the cross bar is low enough to create good stability, but high enough to get under and around anything I have tried clamping.  The height of the arms seems sufficient for the task also with enough room for wrapping seizing around the object without getting caught up in the arms or having to poke the stock through. The length of the main crossbar is of a good length, and if more is required, this design would allow easy replacement.


The functionality/flexibility of the tool is very good with an extensive range of positioning and clamping options to suit the task (and Michael is working on additional clamp options).  I found it much easier to position the arms on Michael's third hand, for most jobs, than with any of the other versions I have, including the GRS Workstation mentioned/shown in my first post.  The arms can be positioned in almost any position required without the minute tweaking required from the ball and pressure plate with wingnut type joints.  I find tweaking the GRS problematic for those minute adjustments to get the position of the parts to be soldered 'just right' - I found the thumbwheel control on rotating joints so much easier with this design by just slackening off a tiny bit of the pressure while adjusting.




Once the arms have been positioned, the clamps themselves can be readjusted quite easily if required, and just the right amount of pressure can be applied using the thumbscrew, rather than a one pressure suits all approach using the spring clamp options or alligator clips.  The increasing range of clamp styles will also allow selection of a 'fit-for-purpose' clamp for the job.  While I could not achieve the same direct angling of the arms in some positions (as with the GRS - see photo for difference), the design of the clamps still allows me to get the required angle.  A possible design tweak might be to provide an articulated elbow in the vertical riser arms; however, the more complexity added the greater the risk of something slipping?




That said, applying the right amount of pressure with thumbwheels on some of the rotating joints takes some exertion occasionally.  I believe Michael is aware of this issue and thinking of replacing some of these tightening screws with the ball lever style. 


My collection of clamps  :)  (Happy Days)




I have now tried several clamp options which I will comment on in the next post.


As always, comments and feedback are most welcomed.





Edited by BANYAN
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Hi again folks, as promised some initial thoughts on some of the clamps Michael is developing for the third arm.  The flexibility of having clamp options is one of the greatest assets of this design as you can select the clamp best suited to the task at hand. 



I will explain each clamp style/type with photos (as required) and accompanying text.  For the initial testing, I used some PE flat strips, some hard wire brass eyes, soft copper wire eyes and offcut wood (soft and hard) - note to oneself, don't over pressure when clamping softer woods :)




First up is the toolmaker style.  I find this one very useful for many tasks both metal and wood as even with hard edges to the metal of the clamp, the parallel action allows an even clamping pressure.  It is the best overall design for soldering tasks.  Further flexibility can be achieved with the use of sacrificial wood/plastic jaw inserts for non-soldering tasks if marking of the material is a concern.  however, the parallel action of these jaws minimises this risk and I have successfully held all materials mentioned above in the jaws with sufficient pressure that it would not move in the jaw, and without marking the materials.







Second, the two metal finger style clamps.  I found the one, with the O ring, the most versatile as it opens wider and applies sufficient pressure to hold most things; but I don't know how that O ring might cope when using it to solder things - the mechanism copes well and seems better/easier to control the pressure than the other type, and provided better clamping effect/pressure overall than the type 2.  It held the wire eyes easily and did not crush/marr the copper one.  I did not try wood in these as I do not see a purpose for doing so.








The second of the finger types is better in principle for soldering (no parts to melt), but does not open as much and I found that it did not grip the flat PE very well as I think the gripping pressure is only applied at the tip of the clamp (the PE strip shown in the photos rotated very easily even with extra tension on the thumbscrew).





post-385-0-67108300-1487207173_thumb.jpg  post-385-0-28965800-1487207181_thumb.jpg  post-385-0-95694700-1487207191_thumb.jpg 



Which of these would I use? I prefer the O ring style (type 1) for function and gripping, but I am worried about using an O ring which would probably melt/deteriorate with heat during soldering?  Michael has explained that it is really not designed for soldering and the toolmakers style clamp is the better option.  





Now for the wood style Clamps.  These are designed primarily for rigging/use with soft materials.  Again, these function beautifully and I can see a lot of use being made of this pair :).  These are constructed from boxwood which provides a soft mouth (jaws) but retains sufficient density that they will not wear too quickly.  Michael provided this pair with two grooves made by crushing a needle of the required size (to suit the scale rope) between the jaws.  the user can do this to suit the tasks and other sizes of rope, but may need a additional clamps. 




That said, for one of the tasks I had in mind I prefer to run the rope between two clamps longitudinally (see out of focus photo - sorry) when doing some rigging tasks.  This is where I still think a collet style clamp may be more flexible, but have yet to be convinced, as you would not want to have a myriad of crossing grooves in the wood jaws for different sized threads and directions of holding them. I have yet to try wire rope as I have not made any up yet. I am also concerned that wire rope would mar the jaws of the wooden ones, and that the metal jaws would crush the wire strands out of shape permanently?  All to be investigated/tested later.




post-385-0-67249600-1487207368_thumb.jpg  post-385-0-91400200-1487207355_thumb.jpg    post-385-0-05678500-1487207380_thumb.jpg



A couple of ideas I am investigating which may assist in rigging blocks, soft or hard eyes in rope etc.  A rod, of the same size as the other clamps, with a 90 degree thin hardened wire bend soldered on the end, upon which you can slip a made eye, a block etc to assist with rigging?  The photo below shows the concept. Another way of achieving the same functionality, and much easier for the user to do themselves, would be to put a pin (old micro-drill shank of appropriate shank sizes) in the top of the wood clamps.  See the second photo of simulated pin in wood clamp concept.





post-385-0-27251800-1487207462_thumb.jpg  post-385-0-32636300-1487208474_thumb.jpg



That is all for today, I hope you all find this feedback useful.











Edited by BANYAN
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No. 2 style: If one substituted a metal ring for the rubber or neoprene one and slightly modified the taper, it would function the same way and be heat-resistant.


BTW, I have one of Michael's third hands: it is brilliant.

Edited by druxey
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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Riccardo1966

They look beautifully made, top job Michael and thanks Pat for the review.

Should something like this become available I would also be interested, they are simply stunning tools.

Regards Richard.

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Guest Riccardo1966

Something like this would likely help in positioning the 100 life raft cannister racks that have been putting off my 1-350 CVN-65 enterprise build(14 years on and mainly off). These could really help in getting them parallel and vertically straight also.

Thank you very much for the PM Michael, You are a brilliant crafts man.

Regards Richard.

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