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This question already has an answer here:

This very trivial task is to solder wires to the terminals of a small round 3.5 mm audio plug.

I can do this myself, but I need to show to others and this is one of the first times they're trying any kind of soldering.

The problem is the connector rolling away during the process of soldering. Students use one hand to hold the wire and another hand to hold the soldering iron. The plug itself lies on the table and rolls away after being touched.

Is there a standard, widely accepted way to do this kind of soldering easily? Do I need to provide some kind of vise for them, or there is some simpler approach?

The problem does not require soldering with one hand, using both hands is ok and preferred.

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marked as duplicate by Kaz, Dmitry Grigoryev, brhans, pipe, Ricardo Oct 11 '16 at 13:06

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's always "helping hands" (available from most stores, often include magnifying glass too). They do vary in price, I've got some like this: maplin.co.uk/p/helping-hands-with-large-magnifier-n30ch which do the job nicely. That's as close to a "standard" way that I know of. \$\endgroup\$ – Puffafish Oct 6 '16 at 9:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I keep a supply of Blutack for holding small things while I solder. But for soldering a 3.5mm jack plug Blutack isn't the best because the blutack can soften. A pair of pliers with a rubber band around the handles makes a quick vice. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve G Oct 6 '16 at 9:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Other than clamps, consider a jig (small piece of wood with 3.5mm hole in) or temporary adhesive ("blu-tack") \$\endgroup\$ – pjc50 Oct 6 '16 at 9:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Or you can simply bend the wire you are soldering in a way that causes it to hold itself. Then one hand holds the solder and one hand holds the PCB you are soldering to. \$\endgroup\$ – jbord39 Oct 6 '16 at 16:41

10 Answers 10

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A wooden clothes peg (clothes pin in American English) works very well:

clothes peg

it won't suffer from solder drops or brief touches with the iron, and has more friction than many other sprung solutions so is less likely to ping at the wrong moment. You can always rest a book on the handle end to add more weight. If you're equipping a classroom, they cost next to nothing.

I used to keep a couple with my portable iron in a travelling toolkit; the soldering parts of that were mainly for cables/connectors.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Some other answers are also great, but the peg is quick and cheap solution comparatively to others, and holds my connector perfectly. \$\endgroup\$ – h22 Oct 9 '16 at 13:36
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enter image description here

Figure 1. Image source: iFixit.

This works well for me. Increased grip is possible by increasing the number of "wraps".

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    \$\begingroup\$ Very creative use of a rubber band. \$\endgroup\$ – Uwe Oct 6 '16 at 10:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Brilliant! :-)) \$\endgroup\$ – Richard Crowley Oct 6 '16 at 11:30
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There are many ways to fix things during soldering.

One popular method is to use so called helping hands enter image description here

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe its just me, but I never found this simple style very effective to use. Improvisation actually feels to work just as well for me. \$\endgroup\$ – Sean Houlihane Oct 6 '16 at 10:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I found these good for close up work when they have a magnifier included. I use them more for model painting and gluing that soldering though. \$\endgroup\$ – TafT Oct 6 '16 at 12:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ In italian "terza mano" (third hand) :-) and, for me is better when there is also a magnifier. \$\endgroup\$ – Antonio Oct 6 '16 at 15:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's a simpler one that just has the base and one clip on a ball joint -- that would be sufficient for this task. Of course the one with the magnifier is best... but something like this is absolutely necessary for someone who's doing anything more than a quick once-off repair. Also, ALL the upvotes for this answer, there is NO reason not to equip every student in the class with one of these, it will be an invaluable tool for them throughout their soldering and other electronics work. If you have a soldering iron, you should have one of these. \$\endgroup\$ – Doktor J Oct 6 '16 at 17:27
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I have a block of wood with mating connectors for everything I frequently use mounted on it.

This has the virtue of not only holding the connector, but when dealing with the cheap trash end of the market, it holds the pins in place so softening the plastic is less of an issue (Certain knock off copies of XLRs looking at you!).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Holding the pins might be handy for VGA-type plugs as well, especially on repairs when you haven't got the access you'd like to the pins you're working on. I've used a mating cable for that before. strapped to the bench \$\endgroup\$ – Chris H Oct 7 '16 at 7:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was going to write this as an answer but its already here, at work I have a growing collection of junked devices that are used as purely jigs for holding plugs while soldering. \$\endgroup\$ – Hugoagogo Oct 8 '16 at 10:00
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There are tiny plastic vices which are too wimpy for most mechanical work, but are ideal for holding small connectors while soldering. Typically ~ US$5 or less.

enter image description here

And there is the more traditional "Panavise" which is great for larger connectors (like XLR, etc.) There are similar products from other vendors.

enter image description here

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in addition to the "helping hands" and "mini vices" already mentioned, I use hemostats and needle nose vice grips often.

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I make a 'third hand' with a croc-clip on the end of a bit of stiff copper wire. The wire can be held by screwing it to a block of wood, holding in a bench vice, standing the soldering iron transformer on it, and then bent into a suitable position.

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While not overly attractive in this particular case (because small parts get hot when soldering and that does not make it particularly pleasant to hold them steady while the solder sets), it's worth learning to make better use of your hands: two fingers are sufficient for gripping a part, and moving something held in thumb and index finger against something held in ring finger and (depending on the arrangement) pinky or middle finger is quite feasible.

This takes practice which probably explains that electronics are these days often assembled in countries where children are taught eating with chopsticks.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sometimes the actual electronics is assembled with chopsticks: bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=2946 \$\endgroup\$ – pjc50 Oct 7 '16 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is also doable and works for me but seems rather difficult as a starting point of learning. \$\endgroup\$ – h22 Oct 9 '16 at 13:41
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I use ACCO Binder Clips... Cheap, easy to store, don't die with age (like rubber bands do...) These have plenty of other uses in the shop, too.

ACCO Binder Clips

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Perhaps overkill, but I use a small (2-3") precision-ground toolmaker's vise which is heavy enough not to move around with wires or whatever pulling at it. I prefer that to vises which are mounted on the bench and cannot easily be moved under a microscope or to a rework area.

It has 'V' grooves in the jaws that allow you to hold round objects vertically or horizontally without crushing them unduly.

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