Have you ever found yourself hoping for an extra pair of hands when you're struggling to install something? FastCap has come up with its answer in an expandable clamp the 3rd Hand. I bought the tool with one project in mind holding up a plastic barrier to control dust in a remodeling project. I soon discovered that its ability to support 70 pounds of load made it useful in a variety of jobs.

Built of painted steel tubing, the tool's head and foot are 3-inch-square rubber-faced plastic swivel pads that articulate about 30 degrees. The inner tube extends 42 inches and has five locking positions set with two spring-loaded push pins. The head is attached to a solid inner rod controlled by a squeeze handle to activate its 38 inches of extension. The 3rd Hand ranges from 59 to 146 inches in length and can be shortened 8 inches by cutting a portion of the bottom section.

Working the clamp

I was a little surprised the tool came packaged with no instruction sheet or safety disclaimer but it's simple enough to figure out. The main section expands by holding the main body and pulling on the head portion, first releasing the two push pins which lock the inner expansion tube in place. It took a little practice releasing the pins, but applying enough pressure and a slight twisting motion seemed to work.

The tool also has a tightening knob to hold the expansion tube in place between the lock pin settings, but I don't think I would use this setting for a heavy load. The squeeze grip, which extends the head, works similarly to popular quick-action hand clamps. There is a release lever next to the grip for retracting the head or for quick manual extension.

Many uses

I used two 3rd Hands with 6-inch accessory feet to mount a wall cabinet, though I would keep a hand on it or third clamp at an angle for stability while fastening. The 3rd Hand also works well installing crown moulding, but it's best to configure the tool with its original 3-inch swivel pads for that use. While holding a 12-foot section of moulding along a ceiling I placed a 3rd Hand at its center and one about 4 feet on either side. By having most of the moulding supported the fastening process was a much easier task.

I purchased the 3rd Hand contractor's pack, which consists of four tools, four of the larger accessory feet and a soft carrying case. It's a better value for the price.

I don't know how well the 3rd Hand will hold up over time, but for the price, it's a good bet and has come in handy. FastCap's 3rd Hand retails for $39 each, a universal foot (6 inch square) for $5 or the contractor pack for $159. To learn more about FastCap's 3rd Hand, go to  www.fastcap.com.

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