Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding is an arc welding technique that creates a weld using a non-consumable tungsten electrode. It is a versatile process that can be used on steel, stainless steel, aluminum, nickel alloys, and other types of metal. TIG welding is commonly used in automotive work, building and repairs, and even to create art.
TIG welding is one of the more common techniques used by hobbyists and professionals. Despite this, it is difficult to learn as a beginner. As a process that creates clean, precise, and high-quality welds, the welder must be adept in control and technique. Let’s take a look at some tips for beginner TIG welders.
Use a Minimum Amount of Power
TIG welding requires a constant current power source that can be either AC or DC. As a beginner, you should use the minimum power setting to give you a puddle that you can sustain. With too much power, you’re likely to burn through the material you’re welding.
A constant power source is crucial to avoid high currents if the electrode is short-circuited on the workplace surface. Once you find a power setting that you can sustain, establishing a suitable puddle technique for creating strong welds will be more achievable.
Hold the Torch at the Right Angle
The torch should be held around 15°-20° from the surface material you are welding. This not only gives you increased visibility but also allows easier access to the filler material.
Holding the angle at 45° or more can cause you to lose coverage from shielding gas. A flatter angle makes the welding puddle longer, rather than wider, for a more seamless join.
Adopt a Comfortable Position
Welding can be physically taxing, particularly if you spend an extended amount of time in a fixed position. When starting, your body needs time to adjust to the process. Be mindful of this and make an effort to adopt comfortable welding positions.
In some cases, sitting is ideally suited to welding. However, you must avoid sitting on plastic, wood, or seats made from flammable materials. Being comfortable while working can result in improved welds.
Perform Practice Runs Before You Work
Practice runs are very important for beginners. Even professional welders carry out practices before starting work on a project. A dry run doesn’t have to involve any equipment and can be done quickly.
Simply get in position and run your hands along the welding path. As well as developing muscle memory, you may notice if your body position needs adjustments or if a particular section requires you to alter your hand placement. Even slight unexpected adjustments can negatively impact the weld.
Keep the Welding Surface Spotless
TIG welding requires the metals to be meticulously clean as contaminants can affect the weld quality. The first step in ensuring the welding surfaces are kept pristine is to clean the base metal using a degreaser.
Always use dedicated brushes for each metal type. After the initial wash, use these brushes to clean thoroughly. Although this process can be tedious, beginner welders must establish good habits.
Invest in Quality Protective Equipment
Welders are exposed to hazardous materials daily. Searing metal, toxic fumes, and UV and infrared light can cause lasting damage if the body is exposed to them for prolonged periods. Investing in quality safety equipment can help protect welders from potential harm, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.
A welding helmet has two main functions. The first is to protect your eyes, face, and neck from harmful UV and infrared rays. The second is to shield you from hot debris or welding splashes.
Fixed shade helmets are inexpensive but are limited to one shade of lens. One of the most useful TIG welding tips is to opt for an auto-darkening helmet. These helmets change the lens shade, eliminating the need to pause and switch helmets while working. It is also recommended that you wear safety glasses beneath your helmet.
Welding would be impossible without fire-retardant gloves. Working closely to the welding arc, your hands are exposed to radiation and high temperatures. While thick and durable materials suit some forms of welding, flexibility and finger dexterity are essential in TIG welding.
Find welding gloves that are flame-resistant yet flexible enough for precise work. Leather from deer or goat hide is an excellent option. For TIG welding, the fit should be snug.
Welding helmets and gloves are most important, but you should also have suitable clothing. Cotton and flame-resistant materials work best, and there are special welding jackets and hats for maximum protection.
Use the Correct Tungsten
One of the most critical TIG welding tips is to use the correct tungsten. Depending on what metal you’re working on, you may need to use a certain type of tungsten. Green is generally used for aluminum surfaces. For steel, red tungsten is commonly used.
As you progress in your career, you’ll begin to understand your equipment better. Your welder may perform particularly well with different tungsten in certain conditions. Take note of new discoveries as you weld, and update your kit as necessary.
Learn About Shielding Gases
Learning about how shielding gases affect your weld and the environment is important as a beginner welder. In TIG welding, the most commonly used gas is 100% argon, with a 75/25 argon and helium combination being another popular choice.
Increasing the amount of helium causes the temperature to drop, often leading to problems in striking the arc.
It’s recommended that beginners set the shielding gas to between 15-20 ft³ per hour as a higher setting can cause you to blow your weld.
Be Diligent with Electrode Grinding
For arc stability, it’s crucial to be consistent with electrode grinding. You can use a tungsten sharpener or a bench grinder but remember that your grinding tool must be exclusively used for electrodes. A dedicated tool reduces the chances that your electrodes will become contaminated.
Patience is a Virtue
To become a good TIG welder, patience must be one of your core attributes. You should be excited about the prospect of learning without focusing too much on projects that require an advanced skill set.
Keep our tips in mind the next time you pick up your welding torch. With the right habits, you’ll see improvements in your welding in no time.