About Welding Cable
Welding is a common task for many different fields and industries, and it requires a lot of power to get the job done. To get all that power to your welding setup, you’ll need a strong, specialized cable. Fortunately, welding cable is straightforward to use and provides all the strength and flexibility necessary for the task.
Here, we’ll review welding cable and its characteristics, as well as what you need to know to choose the right one.
What Is Welding Cable?
Welding cable is made up of copper strandings, which offer the flexibility necessary in welding environments along with exceptional conductive properties. This is a portable power cable commonly used for power supply applications and secondary voltage resistance welding leads. Our welding cable uses 30 American Wire Gauge (AWG) bare copper strands to support flexibility. Common AWG sizes are 6, 4, 2, 1, 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, and 4/0.
Around these copper strandings is rubber insulation and a non-conductive jacket for added durability. This jacket is made of ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) and designed to stand up to being dragged across a shop floor or over abrasive materials. It provides extensive protection in industrial environments, making these cables a great choice for commercial work. In addition to EDPM, you might find this cable with a neoprene jacket.
This construction grants welding cable a wide range of characteristics. It has a 600-volt capacity, capable of supporting many different welding tasks for both alternating currents (AC) and direct currents (DC). It also has a temperature rating of up to 90℃ and a vast selection of sizes.
The copper strands of the cable grant it exceptional flexibility, making it portable and highly versatile. Typical colors for welding cable include black and red.
There are two primary types of welding cable:
- Class K: Class K welding cable has 30 AWG strands, which is typical of this kind of wire.
- Class M: This wire uses 34 AWG strands for more durability and flexibility. This type of cable usually costs more and features a brightly colored jacket.
Both offer the design of welding cable intended for use with connections from the electrode holder and clamp to an arc welder, bus, welding box or transformer.
Benefits of Welding Cable
Welding cable is a one-of-a-kind cable because its name immediately tells you what it’s for. If you wanted electrical wire, you would need to answer about five more questions before finding what you need. You could be looking for thermoplastic, high-heat, nylon-coated (THHN) wire, Romex®, underground feeder (UFB) cable and even service entrance cable. They each have their own function for different applications.
If someone called looking for welding cable, the only thing we would need to ask them is how flexible they want it. Standard welding cable is already very flexible compared to electrical wire or power cables. This flexible welding cable comes in an orange jacket and is called Super Vu-Tron welding cable.
This cable has smaller strands that make it more flexible, and it has a more rugged outer jacket to protect against daily industrial damage. It is used on job sites to run very large welders or as a power cable supplying power to generators and industrial machinery. This type of welding cable is frequently run over and dragged around job sites, so it needs extra protection.
Welding cable can carry several different approvals, including those from:
- The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
- The council on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS).
- UL LLC.
- The CSA Group.
We carry flexible copper welding cable, which is a rubber-insulated cable used to hook up welders in shops and garages. Industrial grade welding cable has UL, CSA and MSHA approvals and a more rugged jacket to handle more impact each day.
Choosing the Right Size Welding Cable
To choose the right size welding cable, you’ll need to consider several different variables, including those that can affect the current capacity of the wire. Things that determine a cable’s capability include the length, its ohm rating and the temperature of its surroundings.
Other factors to consider include:
- The length of the welding circuit: Identify the length of the path of electricity, which involves the power source, electrode cable and handler, electrical arc, work clamp and work cable.
- The duty cycle of the power source: You’ll also want to know the duty cycle of your power source. This number is a percentage of a 10-minute period in which the power source can operate at a certain output level. Past this level, the power source typically overheats and, if overload protection is in place, shuts down. The duty cycle is related to the type of work you’re doing. You can usually find the duty cycle listed on the power source’s nameplate or in the manual.
- The rated output of the power source: This number is the maximum current that the machine is meant to be used at. It’s usually listed in the machine’s name for easy identification.
Knowing these factors can help you pick a cable that offers exceptional performance for your application. We can always help you sort through these factors and pick the best one if you’re not sure.
People sometimes call us with nothing more than the AWG size of the wire or cable that they need. So, we start asking questions to figure out what you might be looking for.
The first thing we ask is if it’s an electrical wire or a power cable. If you’re unsure of the answer, then we start evaluating the application. Most types of wire and cable provide the same amps based on the size, so we have to figure out the right insulation for the situation.
If you need to place the wire outdoors or in conduit, you’ll want THHN electrical wire. If you need more than one conductor in those locations, we typically suggest running two THHN wires or a tray cable. The wires inside that cable are the same as single wires, but they’re wrapped together for easier installation.
If you need to use the wire for your welder or garage, this is where we would likely recommend a welding cable. Its rubber jacket makes it durable enough to withstand the use and abuse common to a garage or shed. It’s tough enough to be run over, walked over and dragged across concrete. Electrical wire wouldn’t work well because the PVC insulation on it isn’t very durable — as this cable is often placed in protective conduit, it doesn’t require the same ruggedness as welding cable.
Welding cable is typically just a one-conductor cable. Different power cables are priced based on the amount of copper and the type of insulation involved. Electrical cables don’t have the same level of insulation as welding cable, so they’re cheaper and easier to make.
Welding Cable Alternatives
If welding cable doesn’t seem to be the right choice, there are a few others that work similarly, namely battery cable, diesel locomotive (DLO) cable and the Type W cable:
- Battery cable: You definitely can’t confuse welding cable with battery cable. Battery cable doesn’t need to be made flexible or tough because it was made for a different application that doesn’t require those characteristics. Battery cable also has a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) jacket which doesn’t compare to the welding cable’s rubber jacket. You will find that the battery cable is much cheaper, and you can see why if you use it.
- DLO cable: If you need something with a high voltage rating, consider a DLO cable. It is a little bit less flexible but it has a 2,000-volt rating instead of the welding cable’s 600 volts.
- Type W: The Type W power cable also has a higher voltage rating and it comes in multi-conductor as well. Type W is like an industrial-size extension cord used in very high-power applications.
3 Manufacturers of Welding Cable
We carry quality welding cable from several different manufacturers, as outlined below.
1. General Cable
General Cable is a well-known manufacturer of all portable cord and industrial power cables. A portable cord has rubber insulation and it connects power to portable machines like generators and power tools. Welding cable is used to bring power to a welding machine, and its flexibility means the machine can move around the shop with ease.
General Cable offers black and red welding cable with MSHA and RoHS approvals. They also make a more flexible and durable Super Vu-Tron Cable in orange with a UL and CSA approval as well.
2. Coleman Cable
Coleman Cable focuses on PVC hook-up wire and portable cord cables. Coleman manufactures black and red welding cables that are MSHA- and RoHS- compliant as well. However, they do not offer a Super Vu-Tron cable because that registered trademark is owned by General Cable.
3. Alpha Wire
Alpha Wire focuses on electronic computer and telephone cables with very efficient shielding options. However, they are very large and have grown into new markets including portable cord and welding cable. The Alpha-brand welding cable will be more expensive but Alpha has quality as a number-one initiative and their price will reflect it.
UL-Approved Welding Cable
Not all welding cable will have approval from outside organizations. One of the most widely known approvals comes from UL LLC.
- Standard welding cable: Standard welding cable is not UL or CSA approved but it is MSHA- and RoHS- approved. Typically, welding cable is used by homeowners and small shops to supply power to a welder or small 600-volt machine. The cable has protective insulation so that it doesn’t rip or tear when being dragged along the shop or garage floor.
- UL-approved welding cable: UL LLC double-checks the attributes that are listed on wire and cable. Therefore, UL tests and approves the Super Vu-Tron welding cable to perform to the standards that are presented on the spec sheet. Super Vu-Tron is an upgraded welding cable mostly used in industrial applications supplying power to larger machines that also require more protection.
Welding Cable From WesBell Electronics
At WesBell Electronics, you’ll find quality welding cable from reputable manufacturers, backed by the support of our expert staff. We can help you identify the right cable for your work and make sure it’s ready for the task at hand with our convenient preparation services.
Browse our selection of welding cable, or reach out to us today if you have any questions.