If you have ever done much soldering, then you are probably familiar with the “Helping Hands” tool. Essentially, it is a pair of articulated clamps on a base that sit on your desk and hold a circuit board while you work on it. It may also have a few additional tools — such as a magnifying glass — mounted to it. This kind of tool is pretty useful, but due to its size its potential applications are very limited.

So I decided to build a bigger and stronger version of the helping hands tool using an adjustable floor lamp and some large spring clamps. This lets you hold larger and heavier objects and gives you a much greater range of motion.

Project Steps

Unplug the Lamp

The first thing that you need to do is unplug the lamp. Seriously. Don’t forget this step.

Open Up the Body of the Lamp to Access the Wires

In order to access the wires, we need to open up the body of the lamp. In most cases, the wires will be connected together close to the switch, so start by opening up this section.

First, I removed the knob for the power switch and the nut that was holding the power switch in place. Next I unscrewed this section of the housing from the rest of the lamp stand. At this point I was able to just pull it apart and expose the wires. You may need to feed more of the power cord into the lamp so that it has enough slack to separate.

Disconnect the Power Cords

Now you need to disconnect all the wires. In most cases, these will be connected with either a crimp-on or a twist-on connector cap.

If the wires are crimped together, take a pair of pliers and squeeze the cap in the opposite direction (rotated 90 degrees) that they are crimped. This should loosen the wires enough for you to pull them out. If the wires are connected with a twist on cap, just unscrew the cap to remove it. If the wires are soldered together, you can either unsolder them or just cut the wires.

Separate all the wires. Remove the power switch. Then pull the main power cord out through the bottom of the stand.

Remove the Light Bulb and Cover

Next, remove the light bulb. Once the bulb is out, look inside the lamp cover. At the bottom there should be a large plastic nut that is holding the lamp cover in place. Unscrew this nut and remove the lamp cover.

Remove the Light Sockets

Now you need to remove the light fixture. If you are lucky, the light fixtures will just unscrew. Unfortunately, on my lamp, the fixtures were screwed in very tightly and the base of the lamp cover made it very difficult to get a good grip on the nut. So I had to resort to cutting off the base of the lamp cover with a pair of tin snips. With most of the metal cut away, I was finally able to get a good grip on the fittings with a pair of pliers. I was then able to unscrew and remove the light socket and wires.

I saved the mounting hardware (a lamp nipple and nut) to use for mounting the clamps.

Drill Mounting Holes in the Clamps

In order to mount the clamps onto the arms of the lamp, we need to first drill some mounting holes. Find a drill bit that is the same size as the mounting hardware on the lamp. In my case, the lamp had a standard lamp nipple and screw, so I used a 3/8″ drill bit.

Use this bit to drill a hole somewhere on the clamp. Depending on the material that the clamp is made of, you may need to start by drilling a smaller hole and redrilling it to make it bigger until you get to the right size. The handle of the clamp is usually the best place to attach it to the arm of the lamp. Making the hole farther from the pivot pin of the clamp will give you a little more range of motion. Making the hole closer to the pivot pin of the clamp will make the arm stronger and more stable. The choice is up to you.

Attach the Clamps to the Arms of the Lamp

Now you are ready to attach the clamps to the arms of the lamp. For simplicity, I used the same mounting hardware that was attaching the heads of the lamps.

I used a pair of pliers to screw the lamp nipple and nut into the hole that I drilled in he handle. Then I just screwed it back into the arm of the lamp. Do this for each arm of the lamp.

Adjust the Height of the Lamp (Optional)

If your lamp is too tall, you can make it shorter by removing one or more sections of the lamp stand. Most lamp stands are made from smaller sections. They do this mostly because it allows the lamp to fit into a smaller package. By removing sections of the stand, you can adjust the height so that it is more convenient to work with.

The sections of the stand should just unscrew from one another. Just take out one or more of the middle sections to make it the size that you want.

Reassemble the Stand

The last thing that you need to do is reassemble the stand. First, I put the pieces of the switch housing back together. Then I secured them in place with the nut. Lastly I screwed it back onto the base of the stand.

Use the Helping Hands to Hold Things

Now you have a heavy duty “Helping Hands” tool. You can use it to hold whatever you need. It can hold your tools, a flash light, your instructions, or even a cold drink.

Because the arms are flexible, they won’t stand up to a lot of pressure, but they’re still really useful for just holding stuff. If you want to make the arms stronger, you can insert thick steel wires into each one. The more wire you insert into the arms, the stiffer they will become.