Let’s talk clamps. Specifically those used for DIY home welding projects. Here is a list of 6 different types, what they are, and how to use them.
I put these in order from my favorite to least favorite. All of them are useful in their own way though. To prove this isn’t me just making stuff up, I went through the archives and found old ‘in-use’ pics for every type of clamp I have.
1. Bench Vice
Vices are the original clamping device. When bolted to a heavy table they are great at holding workpieces for grinding, beating, shaping, cutting, or whatever else you might be doing. I LOVE my vice, it is one of my most used tools in the shop.
The one linked below is a 6 inch vice. I suggest getting as big as possible. I regularly open the jaws on mine as wide as possible to fit a project in. Smaller ones are cheap and easy to get, but for your main vice buy a good large one. If new is too expensive you can usually find them used too (Auctions, FB Marketplace, Craigslist, etc.)
2. Vice Grips
Vice grips just like the name implies grip like a vice. However they are mobile and work great for holding pieces together for welding/grinding. They also work great if you have a piece of metal that is too small to hold that you want to drill/grind without tearing up your hands.
Irwin is the original creators and still make the best quality. The kit below gets you pretty much any vice grip you would ever need.
3. F Clamp / Bar Clamp / Speed clamp
I always call these bar clamps, but people call them by different names. These are super handy for holding materials together for welding, gluing, etc. These don’t grip quite as hard as vices or vice grips. They are great for welding because they are all metal and won’t melt.
There are a couple of different versions of these. I have the ‘pipe’ type bar clamps like these. The cool part is if you need to clamp something that is 6ft wide, you can just go to the hardware store and buy a 6ft length of pipe and slide these adapters onto it!
Below is the other more common type of bar clamp / speed clamp. These ones have a fixed length but are a little more compact and often have trigger type squeeze handles that make them easier to use than the pipe version. I don’t have any of these myself (though I wouldn’t be mad if I did).
NOTE: Most of these are typically made out of plastic or have plastic parts on them. They would work for setup but you would need to remove them before fully welding or you risk melting them.
4. Cleco Fasteners
I am going to lump these in with clamps because they do technically clamp pieces of metal together. While I don’t personally have these, I wish I did. They are made specifically for holding pieces of sheetmetal together for mock up and welding/riveting. I am just starting into working with sheetmetal and hope to build out my tool collection with these soon.
To see some pictures of Cleco fasteners in action, check out our other article: Deuling Design Sheetmetal Fabrication – Shop Tour
5. C Clamp
C clamps also sometimes referred to as G clamps are handy in many situations. I find them most useful when I need to hold to pieces of material together or down to a table for welding. They don’t work as well for cutting or shaping as a vice or vice grip though because they don’t get quite as tight.
TIP: I don’t recommend getting the ‘quick release’ C clamps.
I have a couple and they just don’t seem to be as reliable. The release button that allows you to slide the threaded rod up/down to save time is sometimes problematic. The time savings isn’t worth the extra failure point.
6. Spring Clamp
Spring clamps are great for materials that can be held together loosely. I have some cheap plastic ones that have been melted many times from me using them on pieces that I was welding. These are at the bottom of the list because I grab them when they are convenient for a quick mock up, otherwise I would rather use one of the above clamps.
Mine are plastic and I keep melting them. Therefore the ones I would suggest you get are more like these metal ones.
That is all I have on clamps. I hope you learned something! Clamps are super handy tools to have out in your shop and help you work safely by getting your hands and body out of the way.
Now YOU, get outside and work on something! (while maintaining proper social distancing)