Welding clamps are considered one of the more important and must-have tools for welders. They make it much easier to hold metal sheets and plates in place. They’re an absolute necessity for bigger and more precise projects. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for welders to complete any major projects without clamps.
If you are just starting out with welding we suggest putting clamps in your list of tools to acquire. They will make welding easier and teach you good habits that will eventually improve the quality of your finished work. Read on to learn more about how clamp will benefit your welding projects and help you complete work safely and effectively.
What are welding clamps?
Welding clamps are metal sheet or leg holders that temporarily hold two pieces of materials together tightly. This makes it easier for welders to run the arc and weld the pieces together without worrying about movements in the sheets.
The clamps enable you to weld pieces together in a tight alignment. They’re particularly useful for working with large sheets and metal frames that are difficult to hold together just by hand. But this doesn’t mean they are only good for larger shields.
Butt welding clamps are also great for connecting and welding smaller pieces of metal together. They allow you to create precise joints at difficult angles where the metal pieces must be held fixed when the arc is run over them.
Types of welding clamps
Welding clamps come in different shapes and sizes. Each one serves different purposes depending on the type of clamp. The most common types of clamps include the following.
- Bar Clamps
- Beam Clamps
- Bench Clamps
- C Clamps
- Dimide Clamps
- Dimide Long Series Clamps
- Edge Clamps
- F Clamps
- Hose Clamps
- Kant Twist Clamps
- Locking Chain Clamps
- Locking Clamps
- Miter Clamps
- Parallel Clamps
- Picture Frame Clamps
- Pipe Clamps
- Sash Clamps
- Scissor Clamps
- Sheet Metal Clamps
- Spring Clamps
- Table Clamps
- Vertical Clamps
- Web Clamps
- Wood Hand Screw Clamps
Why use welding clamps
Sometimes you will need to hold two pieces of metals together to create the perfect weld. Since you will need to hold the welding gun as well and have two hands only to put all this together, it can be very difficult to achieve this task.
The welding clamps can be very handy (no puns intended) to achieve this task. The will hold the metal sheets securely in place and allow you to weld the joints from any angle.
These clamps can also be used to create corners with different angles and make welds both inside and outside the joint. Clamps allow you to create a variety of different angles, based precisely on your welding blueprint.
What qualities should you look for in a welding clamp?
If you are looking to buy a welding clamp for your business, you should be aware of the things you need to check. Just like other welding tools, the real value of a welding clamp depends on two main factors.
- How important is the clamp for your projects?
- How precisely does it get the job done?
These two will determine the necessity for buying the welding clamp. Other important factors to look for include the following.
Most modern welding clamps are made of stainless steel or cast iron. Stainless steel is obviously better as it is generally rust proof. Iron clamps can begin to rust but they are usually cheaper. If you are willing to spend a good amount, go with a stainless steel clamp.
On the other hand, if you will only use the clamp occasionally on specific projects, the iron cast clamp could also do the trick.
If you are aware of the process for manufacturing the clamp, it can give you important details about its quality. For example, find out if it was forged or pieced together. Forged clamps are sturdier but prone to breaking while clamps made with replaceable parts last longer. This information is usually written on the label and easy to find.
Some advanced clamps have a soft material or rubber pads on the parts that secure metal sheets together. The padding prevents scratches and abrasions on the metal sheets and legs. This is useful if you are creating something that will not be painted and the scratches might look bad. Clamps with padding generally cost more.
However, if you are working on a precise project that requires better attention to aesthetics, you may want to buy this specific type of clamp.
The jaw distance identifies the maximum thickness that can be held between the clamp teeth. If you are working with thicker metal sheets, you will need a clamp with greater jaw gap. These clamps are generally bigger in size. If your sheets are less than an inch in thickness, you can go with smaller clamps.
If the material width varies, it is better to get multiple clamps with different jaw gaps. You probably don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you can’t finish the project on time because you didn’t have clamps of the right size.
The fundamental function of welding clamps is to hold metal legs and sheets securely together at the right angles. If your clamps can’t hold items together at the right alignment, you can’t expect a great project finish. So before you hit up the arc, make sure that you are able to secure and align the metals properly in the clamps. If they seem off, get new and better clamps.
How many welding clamps should you buy?
Professional welders will probably advise getting as many welding clamps as you can as long as they are different varieties. They argue that a variety of clamps will make it easier for you to take on diverse projects and you will always be prepared to take on any kind of work.
There is some truth to this. Conventional wisdom also suggests that something could go wrong on a project and you may have to use a different clamp while working. It is always better to have more clamps on hand than few.
On the other hand, if you are new to welding, you probably don’t want to spend too much money on specialized clamps. If you are working with limited funds, the money is better spent elsewhere on welders and protective gear.
If you are just starting out, you should get around 4 – 6 clamps. If you have been in the profession for over a few months, you can increase the number to 10-12 clamps.
This number may seem excessive but remember that more clamps will allow you to work on a variety of projects. This ensures you will get a steady stream of work and not just box yourself into a specific type of welder.
You may now always use every clamp. If you start getting only specific kinds of work, some clamps will be used more than others. But if you have them on hand, you can differentiate your services.
As you continue to work on new projects it will become more obvious about how many clamps you need in the long run. At some stage, you will need to grow your clamp collection based on your experience. Make sure that you have at least a few welding clamps for each type of projects that you are working on.
The cost of welding clamps
Welding clamps are not that expensive. They cost anything between a few dollars to a couple of hundred dollars. The price of an individual clamp depends on its type, material and quality.
The clamps that cost a few dollars shouldn’t be a major concern and you can buy them with ease. Welding clamps that are more expensive however may cause some concerns. You may be wondering how you will spend a few hundred dollars on clamps alone.
Well there are two things to consider here. First, you may not necessarily need these clamps for your project. You can delay purchasing them until later, when you actually need to work on projects that require these clamps.
Another thing you can do to solve this problem is to build your own clamps. These will probably not be as high quality as commercial grade clamps, but they get the job done and you don’t have to spend a fortune on them either.
Make your own welding clamps
You can create a variety of clamps for your needs. If you are just starting out, it is recommended to go with something easier like an angled jig that helps hold metal legs in place. Here’s a short guide on how to get started.
You don’t need a lot of materials for this. You can create an angle jig with a bar of 2x2x1/4” angle steel and a flat bar steel of 2×1/4”.
However, if you want you can use heavy duty stuff and go up to 10” pieces of angles. Heavier weight steel does not warp as much and since you will keep this tool for a long time, make it out of the good stuff.
Building the clamp
- Start by cutting the two pieces of the angle steel in equal lengths and the flat bar at a length that can be joined together with these. The flat bar should be cut at a 45* angle at either end to make a smooth joint with the angle steel.
- After cleaning the metal legs with a flap, place them at a 90 degree angle to each other. You can use an L-square to align the pieces together. Secure them in place at the corners by using four C-clamps. Check the inside corner with a framing square for accuracy. There should be no wiggling movement of the square when properly adjusted to 90.
- Once you have the assembly in place and where you want it, flip the piece over and start welding. Tack weld the pieces in place, check alignment is correct, and then complete the welds. Do not go full on and simply weld the whole corner clamp up in one go. Allow the form to cool and check it with the framing square repeatedly. Keep the c-clamps on the assembly until the clamp is complete.
- After the welding is complete, you can check for preciseness using a different framing square. Sometimes framing squares get tweaked and are no longer square. It is better to check them with more than one scale if you have an additional scale around. This will create a basic, 90-degree clamp that can be used for securing metal legs. You can fit bolts on the clamp or use powerful magnets to keep it firmly on the welding table in the future.
Safety tips for using welding clamps
Always ensure that you are working safely when using clamps for your welding projects. Here are some tips that will ensure better safety.
Select the correct clamp for the job
As discussed earlier, welding clamps serve different functions on different projects. Table clamps are used for securing metal sheets on the table while pipe clamps allow tighter welding on pipes and valves.
A project that requires frequent adjustment of angles will be better served with a quick release clamp than a clamp that is screwed shut to the table.
Try to use at least two clamps
If you are working on a welding table, you can manage with one or even no clamps. However, if you are working out in the field or cannot use the table for a weld, it is better to have at least clamps that hold the metal pieces firmly in place.
Using multiple clamps keeps the pieces from moving or going out of alignment and make your welding job much easier. Quite often, a single clamp is not enough to do a good job on project that cannot be complete on a worktable.
Clamp cushions reduce abrasions
If possible, try to buy cushioned clamps. They are much better at keeping your metal legs getting scratches during a weld.
If you can’t buy cushioned clamps, you can place padding -like a piece of fabric – between the clamp and the materials to reduce unwanted marks.
Never over-tighten clamps
Always make sure that you tighten clamps on the metal plates just up to the point where the metal feels secure enough but do not over tighten it. When you over-tighten the clamps on the material, it can damage both the clamps and the metal sheets.
Remove clamps after the weld
Clamps are used to keep the metal in position during the weld. You should remove them after the weld is complete instead of holding them in place as a way to strengthen the joint. If you feel like you need to use them for this purpose, then you are probably not welding the materials correctly.