When you're a beginner at TIG Welding there's a lot of steps to go through to lay a nice weld down. Getting a setting incorrect, or setting something up just a little off can be the difference between a gray mess of bird-turd welds and rainbow colored stacks of dimes. It's no secret TIG welding takes A LOT of practice and even with a perfectly setup machine it won't replace repetition and practice.
Setting up Tungsten stick-out is something that a lot of beginners get confused with. There are some formulas out there to help you determine stick-out, but those don't always work in real world applications. It boils down to setting your torch up to match what you're welding. I have two quick tips that will help get your torch set up (or at least very close) in seconds. Use these methods until you're more confident in your torch setup and it will eliminate one of the stumbling points that beginners struggle with.
1. Quick Stick-out Setup- After grinding you're Tungsten/Electrode you should have a nice taper on the tip. What I like to do is use the taper as my guide for how far the electrode sticks out past the cup. Get yourself close quickly by allowing the entire tapered portion to stick out past the cup. Tighten the torch down so just 1/16" or less past the tapered portion is visible outside of the cup. This setup is a good way to get you in the ballpark and it will work for welding on flat butt joints and many other common weld joints.
2. Use a Spare Tungsten Electrode- When welding a joint together other than a butt weld you may find that the method above may not work and the tip of the Tungsten could be too close or too far from the weld joint. A quick way for a beginner to get the stick-out correct is to lay a piece of the filler rod being used on the weld seam. You can then set your hand and torch where you'll be traveling across the work piece. Then pull your electrode out until it just about touches the filler rod laid in the seam. This will quickly get your electrode set to roughly the right height off of the work surface and with just the right amount of tungsten sticking out from the end of the torch.
These methods aren't super scientific, but they will get you close quickly and easily. Once you get more comfortable you will be able to eyeball the torch setup, but until then you can use these methods for setup and focus on perfecting other portions of the TIG welding process. I hope this helps a few beginners as it definitely helped me out in the beginning! Drop us a comment if you have any suggestions for future tech articles.