Welding clamps have a variety of purposes, the most popular of which is to hold two pieces of metal together while they are being welded. They can also be used for clamping down workpieces while machining or drilling and providing extra support when welding in difficult positions.
This article aims to provide answers to the question of whether you should use magnetic welding clamps and grounds by addressing the pros and cons of their use, concerns about durability, cost of the equipment, and some potential alternatives.
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When Do I Need Welding Clamps?
While you could weld without a clamp, keeping the metal at the desired angle and position would be very difficult. Basically, welding clamps increase accuracy and precision, allowing for clean seams and quality workmanship. They also help a welder to concentrate on welding instead of constantly having to readjust the pieces being worked on.
When used to hold pieces in position for welding purposes, a welding clamp should be clamped down on all four sides. This will ensure that the two pieces of metal are held firmly in place and prevent twisting during the process.
Different Types of Welding Clamps
There are a variety of types of welding clamps that can be used. These include:
C Clamps – These are very basic and can be used for a number of tasks. They do not have the holding power that other types, such as vices, have.
Vice-type clamps are very strong and provide good leverage for holding pieces in place. They also have the ability to rotate, allowing for increased flexibility when working with different angles. These types of welding clamps require more storage space than other types due to their size.
Vices come in both stationary and non-stationary (also referred to as “self-tightening”) types. The stationary type requires a welder to tighten the vise manually, while the non-stationary models have a handwheel that tightens them automatically.
F clamps are used for lighter projects. These are easier to use than C clamps but do not provide the same amount of holding power. They also do not allow for as much flexibility since they cannot rotate.
Magnetic Welding Clamp
Magnetic Welding Clamp is the most popular choice for welding applications. They are extremely strong and do not rust or corrode. Magnetic clamps allow maximum flexibility, allowing welders to work with different angles easily.
Why to Use a Magnetic welding Clamp?
The most important reason for using a magnetic clamp is that they are the easiest to use. They require no tools, which means they can easily be attached or unattached with one hand. This is very important when the welder needs the other hand to hold the welding gun.
Pros and Cons of Magnetic Welding Clamps
There are numerous pros or advantages to using magnetic welding clamps and grounds, most of them point back to the reason why magnetic welding clamps and grounds were invented in the first place: for added convenience.
Pros of using magnetic clamps and grounds
Let’s start with all the good things about using magnetic clamps and grounds.
They increase welding productivity
Using magnetic clamps and grounds instantly increases welding productivity. Instead of twisting traditional screw-type clamps in and out, magnetic clamps and grounds allow the user to simply stick a magnet onto the surface of the workpiece and start welding.
More convenient for welding large workpieces
Welding towards the middle of a large structural, square, rectangular, or circular steel pipe becomes much more convenient. In the case of welding on an oversized workpiece such as pipe, a magnetic welding ground makes grounding your weld – in some instances – possible.
Great for welding where only a portion of the base metal is exposed
In applications where you are welding on a workpiece that has only a portion of the base metal exposed (such as in an automotive repair shop where a body panel is taken down to bare metal only in a certain area) grounding becomes easier or even possible.
Amazing when welding sheets of metal
Magnetic clamps are worth their weight in gold when welding sheets of metal that need to be constrained in a perpendicular orientation without any elaborate jigs or fixtures. A magnetic clamp can simply stick to the metal in the corner of the joint and hold the workpiece securely.
They decrease the cost for setting elaborate fixtures
Using magnetics can decrease cost in setting up elaborate fixtures such as in shipbuilding where “dogs and wedges” are used for sheet metal fit-ups. Costs can be decreased in labor by decreasing a two-man job to a one-man job, simply by using an optimized magnetic work holding solution.
Cons of using magnetic clamps and grounds
Given the many great advantages of using magnetic clamps and grounds, there are some downsides to using them.
Only for Ferrous materials
Magnetic clamps and grounds will only work on ferrous materials. This means that for applications where you are trying to weld aluminum or non-ferrous stainless-steel materials, you will need to find an alternative to using magnets.
Special attention and care needed
Special care must be used when using magnetic clamps and grounds. Unlike other welding equipment which can be used heavily on a busy job site, magnetic clamps and grounds cannot be thrown into a box, dropped on the ground, or accidentally struck with another piece of equipment.
The clamp can become demagnetized
If the magnetic clamp or ground becomes demagnetized in part or in full, there is a good chance that the clamp or ground may fall off your workpiece while you are performing your welding job. This can be costly, dangerous, and annoying.
The magnet can interfere with the weld
In the case where the magnetic clamp or ground is close in proximity to your weld bead, there is a chance the magnet can interfere with the weld puddle and cause arc blow which is very difficult to control and can cause diminished weld quality.
The magnet can accumulate metal filings
In shops where there is cutting and grinding (most weld shops), there is a high likelihood that your magnetic clamp or ground can accumulate metal filings on the magnet surface and cause extra cleaning of your magnets prior to using them.
How durable are welding clamps and grounds?
The durability of welding magnets used for clamps and grounds is a common concern for welders. This concern about how durabče welding clamps are is actually backed by science.
Two things that welders do most, preheating materials and hammering the workpiece to remove slag from the weld bead.
The science behind the diminishing magnetic field (demagnetization) is based on the strength of the magnetic dipoles of the material.
When either high heat or a high amount of vibration traveling through a magnetic field, the magnetic dipoles are disrupted and change their orientation to become less magnetic.
When a magnet is heated to a temperature called the Curie point (different temperatures based on the base material) the magnet’s strength will be decreased.
Therefore, in order to maintain a magnet’s strength, you must treat it with at least a minimal amount of care so that the magnetism of the tool is maintained.
One important area to be aware of is the amperage rating of your magnetic welding ground.
NOTE: Using an incorrectly rated magnetic welding ground can cause your magnetic welding ground to demagnetize and/or cause a dangerous arcing situation. Use the properly rated magnetic welding ground for your application. There are different amperage varieties on the market including magnetic welding grounds rated anywhere between 300 and 600 amps.
Cost of Magnetic Welding Clamps and Grounds
High-end magnetic welding clamps and grounds have higher quality, magnetism strength, and long-lasting durability. Some brands that fall under this higher-end category are Magswitch, Industrial Magnetics, both of which cost a bit more than other brands.
In the case of magnetic welding clamps and grounds, you really get what you pay for since there are varying quality levels in this product category.
If you need a larger, stronger magnet, you should expect to pay more for it than a smaller weaker ones.
On the other end of the spectrum are the super economical versions of magnetic welding clamps and grounds.
NOTE: The only reason that I would recommend something this economical (and most likely cheaply made) is if one of my friends was looking for a “throw-away” set of magnetic welding claps that they would only be used for one project then not need them anymore.
Magnets at this price point are made from lesser quality materials and therefore have lesser durability over time.
The last thing you would want to happen while you are performing a weld is for either your clamp or ground to come loose from your workpiece – not only is this dangerous, but very frustrating.
Alternatives to Magnetic Clamps and Grounds
When magnetic welding clamps and grounds are simply not an option, whether there are issues with the workpiece ferrous qualities, workpiece sensitivity to magnetic fields, or an absolute need for ultra-high-strength clamping, there are always alternatives.
After all, steelworkers, or welding professionals in general, have been constructing countless welded structures for over one hundred years now.
The typical solution for abnormal clamping and grounding situations is to weld either a dog or a stud onto your workpiece.
In the case of a necessary ultra-high-strength clamp, a dog might be welded onto a plate of material, and in conjunction with a wedge, a plate can be moved and clamped into position for welding.
Shipyards always use this clamping methodology since they regularly weld together large plates of material while holding tight tolerances.
On a smaller scale, in instances where a welding ground is needed, and magnets cannot be used, a bolt or a stud can be welded (or spot welded) to the workpiece for the sole purpose of grounding the weld, then it can be cut off and ground smooth after the weld is complete.
This methodology can be used in applications where the workpiece is non-ferrous such as with aluminum and stainless steel.
Expert welders agree that 99 percent of hobbyist welding applications don’t require magnetic welding clamps or grounds – the scope of hobbyist applications are simply limited enough only to require the use of conventional clamping and grounding methods.
If you have either determined that you need magnetic equipment for your welding application or if you need assistance, deciding on this type of equipment it is strongly recommended to visit your local welding store.
Your local welding store typically has someone there who is very knowledgeable in welding equipment and will be happy t assist you.
How many welding clamps should I get?
There is no specific answer to this question because it depends on how much work you need to do. A basic set will get you by, but if you need more than one pair of clamps for your welding project, more is better.
What does magnetic grounding do?
If you plan on welding and need ground, a magnet will work fine for that purpose. If you plan on doing any aluminum TIG or MIG, then it’s very important to have either a ground clamp or some other grounding method.
How do welding clamps work?
Welding clamps are used for both TIG and MIG welding with flux core wire in an effort to hold the material down while you weld. They also protect against any unexpected movement that could hamper your welding project.
Which welding clamp is best for aluminum?
For aluminum, the better option would be to use a stud or dog in order to hold down your workpiece while you weld. A magnet will suffice in some cases, but when working with larger pieces of aluminum, there’s too much risk of it moving during welding.