TIG welding a bicycle frame is one of the most practical welding applications you can do at a home welding shop, but it is also one of the most difficult and specialized. Welding your own custom bicycle frame with a TIG welder will take a lot of practice, prep, and then even more practice, but it can be one of the most rewarding welding projects if you plan to ride your bike some day in the future.
We’re going to offer a few key tips to keep in mind as you plan this welding project:
TIG Welding Is All About Prep Work
Cutting the frame and fitting it together will take a significant amount of time. These cuts will need to be curved and angled so that they fit together without any gaps. TIG welding also requires metal that has been sanded and then cleaned with rubbing alcohol so that it is free from impurities.
That all means you’ll spend a lot of time trying to get the precise fit for your metal work pieces. And even once you clean and fit the metal together, you need to use a variety of clamps to hold them in place so that you can tack them together as precisely as possible.
Designing Your Bike Frame Before Welding
A simple blueprint or design of your bike will help you figure out how all of the different parts will fit together. For example, you need to choose which tubes you’ll use, how they’ll fit together, what your miter lengths and angles will be, and how to calculate your hole-saw diameters. You’ll also need to plan how your chainstay will fit in and what the jig-setup dimensions will be.
If all of that sounds overwhelming, perhaps you should consider signing up for a TIG welding class that will walk you through all of the complexities of this process. However, there’s also no better way to learn how to weld than to strike your arc and play around with the settings and cuts on scrap metal.
How to Make a Steady TIG Weld
TIG welding a bike frame requires a lot more than clamps and planning. You also need to work on proper positioning for your hands while you work. For instance, you need to keep the arc steady and focused on the weld joint while consistently adding wire. One hand needs to be relatively still, only making minor movements, while the other is engaged in a fairly steady motion with the wire.
You better believe that takes a lot of practice to pull off! Welders suggest that you do a few “dry runs” on your welds at first so that you can figure out the best position for your hands before getting to work.
Bike Frames Made of Aluminum
Bike frames will typically be made of aluminum in order to make the bikes lighter. However, if you’re working with aluminum, you need to be especially aware of how much filler you’ll need: lots and lots of it. Skimping on filler will leave a bunch of weak welds that will sooner or later crack, compromising your safety.
Managing the Heat While TIG Welding
Your TIG welding pedal will be especially important as you work on a bicycle frame, as you’re dealing with relatively thin metal and joints are a matter of millimeters. Some metals should be pre-heated, while others will be cold, so be aware of how much you’re pressing the pedal down. Too much heat will blow a hole in the weld, while too little will give you a cold weld with poor fusion. Remember that you need the filler metal to be concentrated into the welding joint so that the metals effectively mix together.
Keeping the tungsten focused on the weld joint’s heat affected zone will help you get better fusion, but it will take a lot of practice to achieve that level of precision if you’re new to TIG welding in the first place. Take some time to practice on these types of weld joints if you don’t have a lot of experience.
Double Up the Weld If You Can
As if TIG welding a bike frame isn’t hard enough, you can sometimes double up your weld in order to create a stronger weld in the end. This doubling up will only be feasible if you’re able to stack your welds properly. This could be a bit much for a relatively new TIG welder, but it’s certainly something to explore on your bike frame if you want to make the most of your welds.
If you are planning a project like this you're going to need a welder that can get the job done. Make sure to take a look at all of the TIG welders Bakers offers.