mig earth clamps
MIG (Metal. Inert Gas) welding essentially utilizes arc formation to generate heat enough to melt the metal being worked on.
So when I mention arc start thinking electricity and with electricity comes circuits.
That said, this article will look at MIG welding earth clamps.
What is an earth clamp?
What is an earth clamp?
Now an earth, clamp is a device that gets the current on the go.
Electrons, which from their name, are the little guys making up electricity.
When they flow they move towards charge that is opposite to theirs.
In this case they move towards the positive end of the welding circuit and the clamp allows this to happen.
Basically the home of the electrons in MIG welding is the power unit. They flow through the electrode and unleash their energy on the metal being welded.
This energy comes in the form of heat.
So what is next for this electrons? I mean they would want to go back ‘home’ and this is where the earth clamp comes in.
It is like their guide back home. It closes the circuit by allowing the electrons to flow back to their source.
The earth clamp can also act as a short circuit. This is seen when the MIG equipment experiences voltage that is weigh above its normal capacity.
Under normal circumstances this type of currents will damage the equipment and fry it circuits and even worse, get you electrocuted!
Fortunately the earth clamp acts as a short circuit which channels the excessive electric current safely to the ground.
Types of earth clamps
There are different types of earth clamps and you do want to make the right decision in choosing the right one depending on the intended use.
In this article I have classified earth clamps according to both the general design and also the material used in its manufacture.
Crocodile clip design
Crocodile clip design is a commonly used to design.
The name crocodile is derived from its appearance.
It consists of 2 metallic jaws (commonly made of bronze) which are held together by a spring that enable its opening and closing.
It also consists of a cable lag, clamp and, spring.
The G-type earth clamp
The G-type earth clamp design consists of a G-shaped or C-shaped metal structure with a screw.
This design is especially useful for heavy duty welding where you’ll be feeding your equipment with loads of electric current.
Even though the G-type earth clamp design is very useful when considering heavy duty welding it is needless to say that the most famously used design is the crocodile clip design.
The crocodile clip design secures more electric current and establishes far much better electrical conductivity compared to the G-type earth clamp design. It is not only less bulky but also easier to use.
Majorly, as we shall see later in this article, all you’ll need to do is to fasten the cable to the lug and to fit the metal to its jaws.
The material used
We can also classified MIG earth clamps according to the material used to manufacture them.
Brass and platinum are popularly used materials however bronze takes the crown for the most commonly used material in the manufacture of ground clamps.
This is because it offers very little resistance and is relatively cheap compared to other materials.
Furthermore, it also contains copper strips which are very essential in conducting away heat that built up in the equipment during the welding process.
This will, without doubt, increase the lifespan of your MIG equipment. Importance of good quality clamps
As I stated before not all clamps are the same.
You definitely want to go for the A-game in order for you to have an almost perfect and clean weld.
With this in mind, trust me ,you would not just want to walk into any hardware store or visit any online shopping website to get yourself a working earth clamp.
Quality is key! There is only one rule in getting yourself a ground clamp of good quality.
The cheapest is not always the best!
There are several reasons why I would advise you against going for a cheap MIG earth clamps.
A cheap earth clamp has several flaws as we shall see shortly.
the earth clamp design
A quality MIG earth clamp will have a good and efficient design.
Good and recommended designs of ground clamps have cable lugs that will enable you to fit the electric cable that connects the clamp to the power source perfectly.
This will reduce, if not totally eliminate current leakage. Cheap ground clamps tend to have cable lugs that loosely hold onto the electric cable causing high current leakage which as a result will lead to wastage, in the long run, inflating your electricity bills.
Good designs also minimize electrical resistance.
This will avoid unnecessary heat build-up in the ground clamp caused by the resistance as often seen in most cheap clamps which will ultimately result to wastage of electricity and the damage of the clamp apparatus.
A ground clamp of good quality contains a spring that is made of a material that does not get corroded or experience rust over time (preferably coated bronze) when the spring experiences corrosion as seen in cheap and ineffective ground clamps it loses its functionality.
Importance of using an earth clamp
Imagine what would happen if the electrons never went back home?
One option for them would be to accumulate where they are and this would lead to resistance.
Think of it like an electrical traffic jam.
Since the electrons are not flowing back to the source it leads to a gap in the circuit.
Hence formation of an open circuit. An open circuit would prevent formation of an arc.
No arc formation means no welding!
Second importance would be this: an earth clamp plays a role when it comes to safe welding.
Remember those science lessons of how you should never be in an open field during a thunderstorm? Of how you would become lightning’s shortest route to the ground?
Pretty much the same concept when it comes to earth clamping and safety.
When MIG welding you can end up being the better route the electrons to flow through. Better than the metal you are working on.
This is not good because you will feel what the metal feels: Electrical burn!!!(Aka electrocution) You risk this happening if you happen to touch the metal or are in close proximity to it.
So what does the earth clamp do? It diverts the electrons. It becomes the better path!
Lastly using an earth clamp will give you superior quality welds.
This has got to do with how well you connect the earth clamp. See as the welding process continues the voltage drops. If there are poor connections in the earth clamp circuit the voltage drop will be magnified.
Yes, the arc will be struck but the cost is bad welds. Really bad welds.
So before you throw out that MIG welding machine you might want to check how you have set up the earth clamp.
How to use welding clamps correctly
Here are the simple steps of helping you set up your earth clamp:
1. Before you set up the clamp you need to give the metal to be worked on a good cleaning. Grind off paint or rust or scale from thick metals. You can use discs bonded with resin for thinner metals
2. Place the clamp on the metal and make sure you get a good grip. You can get a good clamping using one of those mole grips also known as a wrenching mole/vice grips.
3. Complete the circuit by connecting the clamp to the connecting cable of the welding machine.
Now maybe you are one of those welders on a budget and the clamp that comes with your welding machine is weak. Now this clamp makes earthing very hard for strong metal that is bare.
Here is a trick to fix this situation and guess what? You will not have to run back to the shop to get this sorted out. What you’re going to do, essentially, is to cut the nasty clamp off.
1. Get your vice and saw through that clamp at the cable holding handle. Leave about one and a half inches of space of cable linked to handle.
2. With a miniature hammer hit the handle flat.
3. Grab some tin snips or a file and get those sharp edges round and smooth.
An earth clamp that is not in good shape will have your current leaking out or you will get a whole load of resistance. Resistance leads to way more heat than you need and the connection problem will get worse.
Three types of links on your clamp will be the culprits for leakage.
1. The first is the clamp-cable connection. This is the cable that connects to the welding machine.
2.The second is connections inside the clamp so you want to make sure that your earth clamp is not broken or maybe the design is not just right for the job.
3. The third would be how your clamp is holding on to your metal. So is the spring weak? Are the jaws looking beat? Is your clamp corroded?
Surely it goes without saying that for the ultimate MIG welding experience one will need a good earth clamp.
Even with a good earth clamp, connecting it right is a no-brainer if you want a smooth welding process.
This is where I say good things used badly do not give good results.
Moreover you do not want to be zapped out of existence because of interrupted circuits.
So go ahead and grab yourself an earth clamp!