More so than MIG and ARC welding, TIG welding requires a lot more practice to be proficient in. There are a lot more ways to control the arc, puddle, and final outcome of your weld than with a MIG welder. Here are 5 tips that are essential to keep in mind when learning the basics of TIG welding.
1. Cleanliness- TIG welding unlike other types of welding requires a very clean surface to produce a clean arc and nice welds. Make sure you are cleaning the work surface extremely well before you weld. For aluminum and stainless we like to use a dedicated stainless brush for each type of metal we are welding on. DO NOT use the same wire brush you use to clean rust and scale off of your chassis! You will find the more time you take cleaning your work area before welding, the better your final results will be.
2. Choose the correct Tungsten- Depending on the surface you are working on, you may need to change out your Tungsten. Traditionally green tungstens are used for aluminum and red for steels, but some people prefer the red tungstens across the board. We suggest trying the "traditional" use of each before making a decision. Believe it or not, it's possible to use too small or too large of a tungsten for the thickness material you are welding. By using too large of a tungsten you will have to turn the heat up far too much to strike an arc and could risk warping or burning through the workpiece. On the other side, using too small of a tungsten can cause damage to the tungsten from being overheated. Below you can see an overheated 1/16 tungsten.
3. Touch the Tip, Regrind- This is one of the most frustrating parts of learning to TIG weld, as well as one of the hardest to obey. If you happen to touch your tungsten tip into the puddle, even for a split second, you have contaminated it and you MUST regrind the tungsten. You will know if you have done this because the arc will start to wander badly, as well as a it will be difficult to keep a focused arc on the metal. Below is a picture of a tip that was just touched for a split second, notice the sharp tip now has "splits" in it.
4. Keep up productivity- There are a few things you can do to keep you welding longer, and without interruption. Distractions and interruptions will make a beginner easily forget what they have just learned and will make it more difficult where they left off. A few things can be done to optimize your time learning to TIG. A big one is to keep extra Tungstens ground, and ready in case you contaminate one. Also keep any pieces you plan to weld cleaned and in arms reach. Lastly, keep plenty of extra filler rod in a close arms reach (it goes quick!).
5.Grind your Tungstens Correctly- A common first-time error beginners make is to not correctly grind their tungstens. Make sure you are grinding the tungsten length-wise, and as even as possible. Grinding the opposite way will make for an unpredictable arc that tends to wander on the workpiece. If you aren't using a tungsten sharpener, we suggest using a dedicated bench grinder to only grind tungstens on, otherwise your tungstens can be contaminated if using an all purpose grinder.