For those of you with younger brothers, you know what it was like having an extra set of hands around as a kid. When the two that were issued to you weren't enough, all that was needed was a quick scream to the other room in order to morph into a four-armed working machine. Now that we're older, we often find ourselves out working in the garage alone, with just two hands by our side. As many of you know, many jobs require the use of at least a third hand. For that reason, we surround ourselves with various clamps that help us out in a bind. Here's a closer look at a few clamps that will offer their services when you need an extra hand.
When it comes to clamps, there may not be any other clamp more recognizable than a C-clamp; they're everywhere, and for good reason too. C-clamps are simple, efficient, and easy to use. Best of all, they can be used to hold up darn near anything-just like duct tape. On the downside, C-clamps can be quite a pain to use, seeing as how at times it feels as if you're winding up a rubber band airplane. To avoid the wind up of a C-clamp, Hobart Welding Products has begun manufacturing their drop-forged, heat-treated, nickel/chrome plated F-clamps (sliding-arm clamps), driven towards metal work. Hobart has taken all of the benefits of a conventional C-clamp, and expanded on them to form their F-clamp. Like a C-clamp, the F-clamp holds work material in a similar fashion between a fixed end and a tensioning screw. However, a big advantage of the F-clamp is the tensioning screw is on a sliding arm, which eliminates all the screw turning involved with C-clamps. Another advantage is the throat depth between an F-clamp and C-clamp is similar, however the height of the clamp on an F-clamp is adjustable, a big plus over a C-clamp. In simple terms, one F-clamp can do the job that three different sized C-clamps can.
To secure work material with an F-clamp, all it takes is to slide the arm up to the work material, and then begin tightening the screw. The pressure between the work material and the F-clamp will lock the sliding arm in place, securing the work with an iron grip. And iron grip is exactly the phrase, because Hobart's 8-inch, 12-inch and 16-inch clamps provide between 500 lbs to 1,250 lbs of clamping force, depending on which level of capacity clamp one orders. Being that Hobart is a welding company, they have catered to the everyday metal worker by copper-coating the screw, which will protect against weld spatter-a perfect fit for any fabricator.
Quick Release On/Off Magnet
Magnets are no strangers to metal fabrication. In every fabricator's workshop you'll find an abundance of various magnets. Like C-clamps and F-clamps, magnets can be used efficiently for a wide variety of applications. No matter what application it is, one thing that is common in all magnet situations is when you get close to the work piece the magnet will "jump" toward the metal, regardless if you planned to place the magnet there or not. Granted this action isn't necessarily a matter of life and death when fabricating, but it can be quite the nuisance. Trying to align a piece of metal and setting the magnet in the correct location can be quite frustrating at times. With one hand you're trying to align the magnet on a panel-even though the magnet is perfectly content where it landed-and with the other hand you're trying to align your patch piece, while the magnet tries to pull your patch piece in all different directions. Undoubtedly a situation we've all faced. Once again, Hobart has created a product to help aid this situation, their Quick Release magnet. This new magnet is a standard jig magnet-with 45 degree, 90 degree or 135 degree capabilities-only it has one big advantage, an on/off switch. By simply turning the on/off switch on the magnet one can engage and disengage it. With this simple switch one can align accurate fit-up without fighting the magnetic field. Then once in position, by simply turning the switch the tool engages a firm hold.
When the word Cleco comes to the forefront, many have no clue what the subject matter is. But whether or not you can recall what Clecos are, odds are you've probably seen them before. Take the movie Days of Thunder for instance-a movie all auto enthusiasts have surely seen. In the scene where Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall) is putting together Cole's first car in the barn (you know, the scene where he is talkin' to the car about shapin' it like a bullet and so on), he has used Clecos to piece together the sheetmetal of the car, which in turn made it look like Pinhead from Hellraiser. Familiar now?
Clecos are small, bulletlike, spring-loaded clamps that are versatile enough for just about any type of sheetmetal fabrication one can throw at them. Originally, Clecos were developed for the aerospace industry; they're what hold planes together before they are riveted, but seeing the benefit of the temporary fasteners hot rodders have established Clecos as a must in sheetmetal fabrication. As usual, The Eastwood Company has concocted a Cleco kit that is suitable for both the professional and the hobbyist. To use Clecos, simply drill a 1/8-inch hole, and then use the pliers to compress the internal spring, and insert the Cleco into the hole. Once the pliers are let up, the spring engages the Cleco pin and provides roughly 20 lbs of holding power. The Eastwood Clecos also have a grip range of up to 1/4-inch. And when it comes to the thickness of sheetmetal, a 1/4-inch is like miles of country road.
Eastwood also includes side-grip Clecos in their kit. While traditional Clecos are good for joining overlapping panels together, one thing they can not clamp is edges. For that reason, side-grip Clecos are thrown in the mix. Like a standard Cleco, side-grip Clecos are spring loaded fasteners that are used in conjunction with pliers. However, instead of drilling a hole to insert a Cleco, side-grip fasteners clamp work material together like a traditional clamp: one end being fixed and the other providing tension. The Eastwood side-grip fasteners have a 1 1/4-inch depth with a 9/16-inch maximum opening, a range suitable for a wide variety of sheetmetal work, such as fender edges and the like.
To engage the holding power of a Cleco, place the Cleco in the grips of the pliers. Then apply pressure and the internal spring will collapse, which will push the holding pin from the body of the Cleco. Once the tension is off the pliers and the Cleco is inserted in the work piece, the pin will expand and hold the sheetmetal in place.
Check out this hood blister being held in place with Clecos. As you can see, Clecos are a tool that can be used in diverse situations, which is a major benefit to the user.
When it comes to welding two pieces of metal together at a 90 degree angle, there are numerous ways to hold the work material in place. Whether it is cinder blocks, weights or an extra set of hands, the possibilities are endless. Yet none of the options above are a secure, bulletproof hold that won't bend or twist and cause an 85-degree or 95-degree angle. When using a 2-axis clamp, you'll get a 90-degree angle every time. Hobart's 2-axis clamp is a jig clamp designed around a 90 degree fixture with a floating head, and a rotating spindle screw that adjusts to align and hold work pieces for a perfect 90 degree fit-up. Hobart's 2-axis clamp is ideal for welding square tube, round tube, angle and channel iron.
360 Degree Swivel Magnet
Like Hobart's On/Off Magnet, their 360 Degree Swivel Magnet is another small tool that will help out in a jam. Hobart's swivel magnet adjusts to almost any angle to hold metal objects in place while welding. Unlike a jig magnet that has fixed angles, the swivel magnet has countless angle possibilities. Both 3-inch magnets of the tool swivel 360 degrees, giving one the option for accurate placement. Although the 3-inch magnets may not sound like much in terms of holding power, these little suckers pull with 50 pounds of strength.
Just as plastic body fillers are usually referred to as Bondo, even though Bondo is a brand name of plastic filler, locking pliers usually fall under the general term of Vise Grips. However, like Bondo, Vise Grip is a brand name of locking pliers. Regardless of what wording one uses to refer to this dexterous tool as, the fact of the matter is no shop is complete without an assortment of locking pliers. When it comes to fabrication, having an assortment of C-clamp locking pliers is key.
Feeling the pressure from customers near and far, Hobart has released various lengths of C-clamp locking pliers. They feature a heavy-duty gnarled head, and nickel-chrome plated handles, which are rubberized in black and orange to increase comfort. To help out in a number of situations, they have offered the tools in four sizes: 4-inch, 6-inch, 11-inch, and a long-neck version. It's also a good idea to have an assortment of other locking pliers on hand. Here are a few other styles available, which can be picked up at just about any local parts, welding or hardware store.
Another sheetmetal fabrication tool to come from The Eastwood Company is Intergrips. Like Clecos, these little clamps are specialized tools driven towards sheetmetal fabrication. Intergrips are small clamps designed for precision butt welds on either flat or curved panels. What makes Intergrips unique is the fact the clamps secure two pieces of sheetmetal together, edge-to-edge and surface-to-surface, with no overlapping or holes to be filled. The best part is the intergrips clamp two pieces of sheetmetal together with a minimal .040-inch gap, leaving just enough room for adequate weld penetration, yet still leaving a small, clean weld for easy grinding. Once the metal is tacked in place, the clamps have served their purpose and should be pulled out.
The basic set of Eastwood Intergrips comes in a set of four. Note how the clamps grip the metal. By using a .040-inch separator with a cross bar and tensioning wing nut screw, the clamp provides adequate force to clamp sheetmetal together.