It’s likely you’ll see welding clamps on any “must have” list for welders. They’re an absolute necessity, and it would be hard for you to complete any major project without them.
Welding clamps temporarily hold two pieces of material together tightly so you can weld them together in alignment. They’re especially useful for large sheets and parts that would be extremely difficult to hold together by hand.
If you’re new to welding, and putting together your arsenal of tools, we highly recommend adding welding clamps to your list of items to acquire. Read on to learn more about how these tools help you complete projects safely and effectively.
When do I need to use a welding clamp?
In a perfect world, metal materials to weld would always be in a secure or stable structure. You probably know, even from your most simple projects that this rarely the case. Ask yourself this: DO I need an extra set of hands? If so, then you probably need to use welding clamps.
Types of welding clamps
The type of clamp you’ll need will depend on the size of your project and the types of materials you’ll be working with. As you become a more experienced welder, it will become easier to figure out which type of clamp you need for a particular project.
The number of welding clamps available seems to be growing everyday. There are even multiple variations of even the most basic clamps. If you were to begin to research every type of welding clamp available, you might find yourself lost for hours or even days.
Below are a few examples of popular types of clamps and their specific purposes.
- C Clamp (G Clamp) – The C Clamp is one of the most common and versatile welding clamps. You should use it for situations when materials require a significant amount of pressure to be held together. Because of their ability to hold materials so well in place, one disadvantage to C Clamps is that it is slow to release and can take a long time to readjust compared to other clamps. There are lots of variations to the C Clamp including ones that lock, are designed for one-handed use, or can reach further than the typical clamp.
- F Clamp (Sliding Bar Clamp) – The F Clamp uses the cantilever principle to hold on to objects; friction does most of the work of keeping objects in place. It has a wide opening capacity, and for that reason is sometimes used as an alternative to the C Clamp. Unlike the C Clamp, you can adjust an F Clamp very quickly, often with one hand.
- Locking clamps – Locking clamps come in handy when you for welding smaller materials. A similar clamp is a sheet metal clamp, which looks almost the same except for a larger surface area. They are ideal for sheet metal welds.
- Spring Clamp – Spring Clamps are very affordable and very easy to use–you simply squeeze the handle to open the clamp. A downside to spring clamps is their small opening capacity. Sometimes they are useful as an additional clamp to hold down a material.
- Two-Axis Clamp – The Two-Axis clamps hold together two tubes or rods at an angle. The thickness of the objects do not need to be the same. These clamps are often fixed onto welding tables. A variation on the Two-Axis clamp is the 90 degree clamp, which has specific purpose of holding materials together at a right angle.
- Quick Action Clamp – Quick Action Clamps are becoming more popular among welders. They can be tightened using one hand–useful for someone working alone or who needs to work quickly.
- Pipe Clamp – The Pipe Clamp is almost like an F Clamp except that instead of a sliding bar it uses a pipe.
- Vice Grips – Vice Grips are often used in automotive work to hold heavy or irregular items in place. They are also useful for holding small items in place during a weld.
Where do welding magnets fit in?
In general, welding magnets serve the same purpose as welding clamps–they hold pieces of material together. The difference is that while traditional clamps use screws and physical adjustment to keep materials in place, magnets use, well, magnetic force.
Welding magnets are particularly useful for holding together materials at difficult angles. This is sometimes tricky to do with traditional welding clamps.
Magnets do have their downsides, however. The magnetic field created can sometimes warp the pieces that you are working on. Before using welding magnets, be sure that they are appropriate for your type of project.
What to look for in a welding clamp
Just like any other product, a welding clamp’s value depends on how well it meets your project’s needs. When you’re buying new clamps, here are a few things to be on the lookout for:
- Material – Welding clamps are usually made out of stainless steel or cast iron. Sometimes iron can be prone to rust, but it’s also cheaper than steel. Your decision will depend on how much you’re willing to spend up front and how willing you are to replace rusted clamps.
- Manufacturing details – Knowing how your welding clamp was made can give you some good insight to its overall quality. Was it pieced together or forged? If you’re buying a new clamp you can often find this information on the label.
- Padding – Some clamps have soft or rubber pads on the parts that hold materials together. This can prevent scratches and abrasions to the materials. Sometimes this padding my make a clamp cost more, but if your projects require more attention to aesthetics, you may want to use this type of clamp.
- Jaw gap – It’s useful to know the maximum thickness that a clamp can hold before you start a project. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you can’t finish a project on-time because you didn’t have appropriately sized clamps.
- Proper alignment – If your clamps can’t hold item together in proper alignment, you can’t expect good results from your projects. Before starting any weld, make sure items line up properly in the clamps.
How many welding clamps do I need?
An experienced welder would probably say that you need as many welding clamps of different varieties that you can get your hands on. There’s some truth to that, as something unexpected could happen during a project. On the flip side, new welders don’t necessarily want or need to spend lots of money on dozens of specialized clamps.
You should start your collection with about 10-12 clamps. That may seem like a lot, but you could easily use 10 clamps even for a small project. As you continue to work on projects it will become more obvious about how many clamps you need. Grow your collection based on your experience. Make sure that you have a few different types of welding clamps that correspond to the types of projects you’re working on.
Always be on the lookout for new clamps that fit with your projects because you really can’t have too many welding clamps.
How much do welding clamps cost?
Welding clamps can cost anywhere between a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. The price of individual clamps depends on type and quality.
You may be freaking out a bit about the “few hundred dollars” part especially after we’ve told you you need at least 10 clamps in your collection. Don’t worry, there’s no need to break the bank on day one.
A good rule of thumb is to start with a set of less expensive clamps and see how far they take you. As items break or get worn out, you’ll have a better gauge of the type of clamps you should buy and how much you should spend on them.
Where can I find affordable welding clamps?
Many brick-and-mortar and online retailers sell affordable welding clamps. One useful thing about e-commerce is that you can read plenty of reviews from welders who have already made that purchase. This can give you some insight as to whether the same clamp would work for your project. Some reviewers even include pictures and videos about how welding clamps work for them.
If you’re the kind or person who enjoys yard sales, you might be able to find a high-quality welding clamp for cheap. However, while yard sales are great for surprise finds, we wouldn’t recommend this method for building your entire welding clamp collection especially if you are looking for specific types and models.
Tips for using welding clamps safely
When welding, you should always keep safety in mind. Here are a few tips that are specific to welding clamps:
- Select the right clamp of the job: As we discussed earlier, clamps do different jobs and serve different purposes. For example, if you project requires frequent readjustment, you may want to use a quick release clamp, as opposed to one that needs to be screwed open and shut.
- Use at least two clamps if possible: This is especially true for welds that don’t have table support. Using more than one clamp keeps the pieces from moving or rotating. Depending on how you arrange the materials, often one clamp is not enough to keep them still and stable.
- Use cushioning: If you’re not using cushioned clamps, place padding (like a piece of wood) between the clamp and the materials to prevent abrasions or unwanted marks.
- Don’t over-tighten clamps: Tighten clamps just to the point where the materials feel secure. Over-tightening clamps can damage and wear them out faster than normal.
- Remove clamps once you’re finished with the job: Clamps are not a long-term solution to hold materials together. Make sure your weld is secure, and then remove the clamps.
- Keep clamps clean: When not in use, keep clamps clean and lightly oiled so they will be easy to use the next time you need them. Also, you don’t want any dirt or particles to damage materials during future projects.
One could argue that if you’re serious about welding, then you absolutely must have welding clamps. It’s hard to think of another way to safely hold two pieces in position. Welding clamps reduce the hassle and stress of trying to keep all of your materials together during a weld. They also just make your life much easier.
Keep in mind that there are many different types of welding clamps that serve specific purposes. Some will be more appropriate for a job than others. It’s important to learn about the differences between clamps. You can do this by reading, talking with other welders, or (safely) experimenting on your own.
Having a large and diverse collection of welding clamps will help you be prepared for any project. While you only may have a few now, experienced welders often have dozens of clamps. Some projects require more clamps than you initially expect, so it’s important to have enough.
People new to welding may be worried about how they’re going to find and afford so many welding clamps. Finding high-quality welding clamps doesn’t have to be difficult. There are plenty of affordable options online. And it’s important to remember to start small. You don’t need 100 clamps on day one. Slowly building a collection helps you learn more about what you do and don’t need, and clamp quality.