Very clever trick from next month’s issue of The Family Handyman, submitted by reader Joseph Johnson.

If you have “helping hands,” clamping wire leads against a washer, as shown, stabilizes the whole setup dramatically by connecting the two arms with a rigid member, so you can bear down a bit more with the iron without pushing things out of alignment. But the hole in the middle of the washer still allows all-round access to the junction.

If you don’t have helping hands, you can just use a washer, as shown, with a pair of alligator clips (or even small binder clips) as a pretty effective improvised workholding jig for this kind of soldering.


Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

  • Timothy Gray

    Hope that is for example only and nobody is soldering bell wire like that. the twist needs to be in line and parallel not perpendicular.

    • Sean Ragan

      Yeah, it’s just an example I set up in my garage. But thanks, I didn’t know that! Why is that, anyway?

      • Alex Barclay

        If you’re soldering in-line wires like that take a good long look at the Western Union Splice. It’s even in the NASA quality manual as acceptable on spacecraft.

  • markjuggles

    The inline splice is easier to insulate with heatshrink or tape and is less likely to come apart when the wire is pulled.

    I recommend insulating the alligator clip with heatshrink or aquarium tubing because the teeth are prone to poking through the wire insulation when the wire is hot from soldering.

    • Dee

      If i’m soldering or tinning wires i a put a piece of foam (something fairly dense and flexible like neoprene) folded over into my clip and then just slide the wires into that. I’ve found that even with heat shrink on the clips it can still damage the wire

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  • Roger Merrill

    Now that’s what I’m talking about …. Simple ideas that make a persons life better. Thank you

  • John R. Strohm

    The splice shown in the photos creates a stress concentration at the necessary 90-degree bend in the wires. This leads to premature failure of the wire. The Western Union splice doesn’t have that bend, so it doesn’t create the stress concentration.

    Those old geezers who wired the planet for sound (and telegraph before that) actually knew what they were doing – and still do.

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  • Gordon DeWitte

    Use clothes pins instead of alligator clips and you will have less heating of the wires’ insulation.

    • Brian

      Hey, don’t you *want* a good heat conductor to minimize insulation melt?

  • Brian

    Neat idea! Seems like you could also use a steel ring or even a piece of heavy gauge solid wire.

  • Philscbx

    Want cool – no solder creep proof joint – no distorted insulation –
    fold over wet 1/2″ of paper towel at edge of insulation.

    • Philscbx

      Place clamp over tightly folded over wet towel

  • maskoid

    Reblogged this on metagrey.