I don’t know about you, but I work alone A LOT and I always seem to need an extra set of hands to hold things together, down, out of the way, etc when working on my projects. It seems like whenever I need an extra set of hands my friends aren’t around and the significant other is no where to be found and I’m stuck trying to hold a piece together with my knee and elbow to tack weld. Over the years I’ve gathered a bunch of items that make working alone a little easier and I decided to put them together in a list for you. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments!
1. Magnets- Get yourself a LOT of Magnets. They work awesome for SO many things. While the cheap-o triangle magnets work “ok” for holding metal, the magnets aren’t strong enough to hold much of anything on a vehicle or off a work bench. I prefer to use rare-earth magnets and clamps or vice grips to get a piece sitting how I want. I have a couple CRAZY STRONG rare earth magnets for holding pieces in place, but use them with car those suckers can be hard to get off a panel and WILL damage paint if they get stuck to anything like the exterior of a car. Our stitch weld magnets are the PERFECT mix of strength and ease of removal. Use them to hold paper on a panel when making a pattern or holding sheet metal in place for a perfect butt weld alignment. You can NEVER have too many magnets, I usually snag a pack of these every time I’m in our retail store making a purchase.
2. Adjustable Locking C Clamps- Just like magnets, you can never have too many welding clamps. My favorites are the locking C-clamp style. These allow you to clamp together and also clamp panels down to a table when working. I tend to use these most commonly to position a part in place that a magnet couldn’t hold. Just be careful when tightening them down as they DO have the power to dent sheet metal.
3. Cleco Panel Clamps- For holding panels in place when setting them up for fitment or shaping I have a few boxes of Cleco panel clamps. These clamps are spring loaded and quickly clamp in place with their special pliers. They require a small hole drilled in the panels, but you can easily locate a panel back in the same place over and over again. I like using these over tack welding a panel in place when building something that is made of multiple pieces. Once you buy the starter kit you can just buy the bags of clamps. You’d be surprised how many different ways you can use these!
4. Pinch Weld Clamps– This little suckers are deceivingly strong for their size! I use these for holding the edge of panels together or clamping sheet metal together for a spot or plug weld. They also work nicely to keep parts aligned on the ends. The adjustable knobs help you really crank down on the pressure. I admittedly abuse my clamps cranking them down super tight, but I’ve never destroyed a set, these are made to last!
5. Fixturing Table– Tired of stacking clamps and want to get closer to a professional shop? This fixturing table is THE best thing you can drop some coin on for setting up parts to weld. The table has a number of holes in it all spaced the same apart and there are different adjustable clamps for fixturing through the holes. This makes the possibilities endless for getting parts mocked up precisely how you want. The table comes at a cost, but once you’ve used it I can assure you it’s worth every penny!
6. Ratchet Straps are your Friend- Ok so I’ve showed you a higher-tech, expensive way to hold your parts for mockup.. here’s my low-buck method. Ratchet Straps aren’t just for holding things down in the bed of your truck! Ratchet straps work amazingly for squeezing parts together, holding things in place or taking out the spring-back in a part so you can weld it precisely. I keep a few under my work bench for when I need to pull something together and I don’t have a spare set of hands. They’re cheap and fairly disposable, just don’t let them get to close to a weld or they’ll melt and snap!
7. Panel Beater Sandbag- Not the intended use for this product, but I like to use the heavy panel beater bag for holding down a large panel that I’m trying to weld or work on. A few of these can act as a counter-weight on the bench and allow you to hammer and dolly or weld on a panel without it pushing all around the bench every time you touch it. This is a perfect reason to get two or three of these just in case you need to hold down multiple corners of a work piece. I LOVE repurposing tools!
There are plenty more methods out there, but these are some of my go-to favorites that I have. Feel free to drop us a line in the comments with some of your favorites!