Your choice of welder cable will depend on what kind of welding machine you will be using, the environment the cable will be used in, and how long you need the cable to be. The kind of weld you want and the material you will be working with will affect how much power you want running through the welder cable.
For example, you may want a deep and narrow weld with more heat penetration for thicker, tougher metals, or a shallow weld more commonly used on sheet metal.
We recommend always checking with our technical sales engineers if you are planning to use welding cable for applications other than welding. For other possible applications, call us at 510.490.2187 for more information.
For welding applications, some general factors to consider are:
AMPACITY - The first thing to determine when selecting welder cable is if it is compatible with your power source. You will need to buy cable that can handle the electrical currents (amps) produced by your welding machine. The maximum amount of current the cable can safely handle without getting damaged is called its ampacity. There are various factors that affect welding cable ampacity. Cable length, gauge (cross-sectional area), and insulation temperature rating are especially important when selecting welder cable. See welding cable ampacity for more information.
LENGTH - Where you need the electric power to go ultimately determines how long of a cable you need to get (though the length of the welder cable will also affect its ampacity). The cable should be long enough for the electrode to reach every corner of the space you will be welding in. Welder cable ampacity will not matter if the electrode can't reach the weld joint.
Keep in mind you will need to determine two welder cable lengths: one cable connects the welding machine to the electrode (the electrode lead) and the other cable that connects the machine to the piece being welded (sometimes called the work clamp or ground lead).
For example, if you are welding a piece 5 feet away from your machine you may need 10 feet of welder cable. See examples of electrode and work side welder lead setups below.
GAUGE - Long thin cable will have lower ampacity than a shorter and thicker one (i.e. shorter and thicker cable can handle more current). Thus, if a project requires very long welder cable, you may want to look at lower gauge sizes (thicker cable) that will have a high enough ampacity to compensate for the length and prevent damage to the wires by your machine's electric currents.
INSULATION - Choose welder cable with the proper insulation so that the cable has adequate protection against cuts, abrasions from being dragged around a floor, sparks, and oil or water corrosion. In welding applications, cables frequently come in contact with molten metal, may lie on floors surrounded by scraps of metal, and be run over by forklifts or other moving equipment.
You will also need to choose insulation that will not melt or get damaged by the heat coming from the copper wires themselves as they conduct current. As such, you may want to ask for cables that have extra protective coating or shielding.
FLEXIBILITY - The higher the strand count, the more flexible the welder cable will be.
COLOR - You will want to distinguish the cables with different colors, for example, to indicate polarity on DC machines (+/-) so you know which cable is going to the electrode and which cable is going to the workpiece. For other applications you may also want different colored cables for however many connections you are planning on making.
Call us at 877.474.8209 to speak with an application engineer about your project.