Welders commonly refer to Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) as TIG welding. Although it is one of the more challenging welding processes to learn, there are many lucrative work opportunities for skilled TIG welders.
Although you could choose an easier welding technique such as MIG or stick welding, a proficient TIG welder can perform precise welds unmatched by other processes. TIG welders can work with any materials that can fuse, making it a perfect technique for those who enjoy the versatility of welding numerous metal types.
While there is a steep learning curve, you can reap the rewards of becoming a TIG welder by following some expert tips.
TIG Welding Advantages
TIG welding provides the operator with superior control compared to other welding processes. A variable amp controller allows welders to control the heat level, and there is no need to use blended gases since TIG welding uses 100% argon gas for nearly everything.
All TIG welding electrodes are suitable for use in any position, and there is little clean-up because there is no spatter. Although wind can affect the shielding gas resulting in welding pool contamination when working outdoors, and TIG welding can be a slow process, the advantages far outweigh the negatives.
Practice TIG Welding Safety Practices
Safety is the most important factor when learning how to TIG weld, and you can protect yourself and others by taking some precautionary action. The first step is to clear your workspace of any unnecessary clutter and post signage warning others you are welding in the area.
Chain your gas cylinder to an upright support, and place a protective gap over the valve. Ensure the room is well-ventilated and consider using benchtop fume extractors or installing an exhaust hood. It’s essential to work in a dry environment because water conducts electricity, and you could electrocute yourself or others by welding in a damp building.
Always read the manufacturer’s handbook before TIG welding and contact their support team if you have any questions.
TIG welding produces high temperatures, sparks, ultraviolet (UV) rays, and infra-red (IR) radiation that can cause severe injury. Wear a fixed-shade or auto-adjust shading welding helmet to protect your eyes and face, and invest in a pair of heavy-duty gloves that provide a firm grip.
Button up your shirt collar to cover exposed skin and wear flame-retardant clothing such as a welding apron. Your footwear should have leather construction, and you can increase your safety by wearing steel-toe capped boots with rubber soles. Place your trousers or apron over the top of your footwear to prevent sparks from becoming trapped inside the materials.
Set Up Your TIG Welding Equipment
The next step in learning how to TIG weld is setting up your equipment. Plug one end of your ground clamp into the positive terminal on your TIG welder and attach the front end close to the workpiece. Stand to your gas cylinder side and open the valve for a couple of seconds to clear any debris from the threads.
Connect your regulator to the gas cylinder so you can read the flow rate and see how much gas remains in the tank. The regulator should attach easily onto the clean threads and form a snug fit. Attach one end of your gas hose to the gas inlet and the other end to the regulator, and check the fittings are firm without being overly tight.
Although you don’t need a foot pedal when TIG welding, it offers superior control over the amperage; if you have a foot pedal, it attaches to the remote amphenol. You should refer to the manufacturer’s handbook when connecting the components to ensure they are safe for use.
Turn on Your TIG Welder
Once it’s set up, you need to turn your welder on. You may notice several settings when you first switch on your TIG welder, but the only one you need to focus on at the start is amperage. When adjusting amperage, the correct settings are 1 amp per 0.001” material thickness, making it easy to choose the right level for welding various metals.
Here are some common settings on many TIG welders that you may find useful when honing your skills.
Pulse TIG Welding Mode
The pulse welding mode automatically switches your amperage setting between high and low levels. This functionality is ideal when seeking increased penetration while using reduced heat levels.
Upslope and Downslope Modes
An upslope mode allows you to increase your amperage level slowly and is useful if you don’t use a foot pedal. In contrast, the downslope mode gradually decreases the amperage level
AC stands for alternating current and is necessary when TIG welding aluminum covered with an oxide layer that requires a higher heat level to melt than the base metal underneath. The DCEP wave side removes the oxide layer, and then the DCEN side melts the base metal.
Strike An Arc
After choosing the best setting for your project, you need to strike an arc. TIG welding allows for several arc striking methods, and you can choose the one you find most comfortable or most compatible with your machine. A high-frequency start is suitable for beginners because you only need to hold the tungsten near the workpiece and press the foot pedal. The arc instantly travels to the metal.
A scratch start involves striking the tungsten across the metal, just like striking a match. However, you need to be careful not to leave some tungsten stuck at the weld’s start.
A lift arc can be challenging because you need to press the foot pedal, rock the torch on its cup, strike the arc, and remove it from the metal simultaneously. However, with practice, you can master all three techniques.
Place Your Weld
Immediately after striking an arc, press down on the foot pedal until you see the welding pool form, and then add your filler metal to the front of the puddle. Don’t use a pull technique when TIG welding because you end up dragging the filling rod through the arc. By utilizing a push method, you allow the gas coverage to protect the weld pool in front of you instead of cooling your completed weld.
Adding filler metal is one of TIG welding’s most challenging aspects, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t use enough or end up with too much in the joint. With practice and experience, you’ll soon find the right amount of filler and travel speed when TIG welding.
Learning how to TIG weld takes time, but you will enjoy learning the different techniques and working with various metals. Whether you plan to TIG weld as a hobby or become a career TIG welder, it’s a great skill that’s fun to learn.