Let’s talk about welding and horses for a moment. Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), commonly referred to as TIG welding, is something like a thoroughbred – pure, high-maintenance, and beautiful. Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), commonly called MIG welding, is a workhorse – hearty, agile and steady. While MIG is the industry go-to method – said to be used in 70% of the welding operations – TIG is more specialized and requires a bit of touch. Let’s make sure you’re on track, with these 10 great TIG welding tips.
Getting Out of the Stable
TIG welding uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to heat the metal. A shielding gas like argon protects the weld puddle. The process produces clean, high quality, precise welds.
- You’ll be using both hands for TIG welding so make sure the glove on the hand guiding the wire is flexible and thin enough for you to feel the filler rod, but thick enough to protect your hand from the heat. Try, woven cotton, goatskin or soft mechanics gloves.
- Make sure your material is clean! As in grind it to shiny bright metal or use a stainless steel brush. No rust, paint, oil, scale or other substances.
- Find the proper torch. One that can handle angles – usually those with a flexible neck. Choose either an air or water-cooled torch. Air-cooled equals low amp, thin material welding, and extra mobility. Water-cooled prevents overheating, allows extra speed, and works well for higher amps.
- Use extreme care when grinding your tungsten. Grind it lengthwise and as evenly as possible. That will keep your arc from wandering. Bench grinders are recommended by many professionals, to avoid contamination.
- Check all connections, and make sure a stick electrode holder isn’t already attached to the machine.
- Set the foot pedal – which controls the amperage – at about ¾ of the way. You’re saving that last bit for more control to power up or down.
- Choose the proper size tungsten rod. Welding thick aluminum differs from welding the thin material of a turbine blade. In addition, an oversized rod can cause an erratic arc and contamination.
- Torch angle can be very important. Many experts suggest 1/8 to ¼ inch distance from the material and a 70-90 degree angle – with a few exceptions (lay wire technique). Too much angle means deflected heat, prematurely melting the rod, resulting in balls/blobs that contaminate the puddle.
- Don’t touch the weld puddle with your tip. It damages the tungsten and requires regrinding.
- Try to keep a consistent weld pool, about ¼ inch wide. If you’re completely sealing something, consider making a vent hole to keep hot air from blowing away your shielding gas.
A Photo Finish
TIG welding is a much slower more deliberate method, but it allows welders more control and produces a pretty final product. Leading fabricators like LeJeune Steel Company rely more heavily on MIG welding for day-to-day, but their welding teams understand how to TIG weld. The more methods you can perform as a welder the more success you’ll enjoy.
For more than 70 years, LeJeune Steel has been an industry leader in steel fabrication. Since 1944, we have grown to become one of the largest structural steel fabricators in the Midwest, with more than 40,000 tons of steel fabricated annually by our shops in Minnesota and Wisconsin.