Alligator clips are small, spring-loaded clips with serrated jaws. The clips are named for their resemblance to the jaws of an alligator. However, not all alligator clips are serrated jaws. The design and jaw of the clip depends on its intended purpose; for example, clips with uses that require gentle handling, such as hair clips, are made with smoother jaws. Though these clips are versatile enough to have numerous creative purposes, they have some very common uses.
The primary use of alligator clips is in establishing electrical connections. They are used to clip onto terminals and components, creating an electrical connection between the two. Alligator clips are highly useful in creating electrical connections because, once clipped, they can be left clipped, which frees up the user's hands for other tasks.
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Alligator clips are often employed in ID badges which are hung about the neck. These clips are attached to the end of a lanyard and used to clip individual employee badges to the lanyard. Alligator clips can also be used for this purpose without a lanyard; the clip simply attaches the ID badge to the opening of a pocket. Some advantages of using alligator clips for this purpose include the strength of the clip, which ensures few badges are accidentally separated from the lanyard, and reusability.
Alligator clips are used in high school physics classes to assemble circuits. Alligator clips are cheap and fast, making them ideal for use in lab demonstrations and projects at the high school level. They are typically used to connect two wires or to connect one wire to the anode or cathode of a device.
Alligator clips can be vastly useful in craft-making activities. Craft-makers use these clips to hold together small pieces for gluing, measurement or a variety of other purposes. One way in which alligator clips can be integrated into crafts is by decorating the outside of the clip with designs and material additions; for example, construction paper and felt can be added to the clip to make it resemble an actual alligator.
These clips are also used as hair clips. Hair clips are usually more decorative than standard alligator clips. They are also typically made of a gentler material than the metal of which clips used for electrical connections are composed. Alligator hair clips have practical uses, such as holding hair away from the face, as well as purely decorative uses.
Alligator clips can be used for any purpose in which a serrated jaw is necessary. For example, alligator clips are often used in dental offices to attach patient bibs. They can also be used to hold two items in proximity for tasks, such as soldering.