If your resolution for this year involves learning a new way to weld, then you may want to give TIG welding a shot. TIG welding requires a little more skill and practice than the other welding methods, but it’s a very precise, clean, and versatile way to join metal. You’ll need to practice your techniques a bit more, but there are several key things you can do to improve your TIG welding abilities as you start out.
Learn How to Grind the Electrode
Depending on the materials you’re working on, you’ll need to prep your electrode accordingly. For example, welding aluminum will require a rounded (not “balled”) electrode. While welding most other metals such as steel will take a sharpened electrode that looks like a pencil.
If you’re prepping a thoriated electrode with radioactive materials in it, be sure to wear a respirator while grinding it down. There are several ways you can prep an electrode, but it’s easiest to use a grinding wheel, running the electrode up the wheel instead of across it.
Your Electrode Stick Out
If your electrode doesn’t stick out enough, you may not have enough power to weld effectively, while too much stick out will provide too much heat and may even burn through your metal. You should be able to see the electrode sticking out of your torch, without seeing too much of it. Precise recommendations vary among welders, and therefore your best bet is to test out a few different stick out distances before getting to work on your main project.
Practice the Foot Pedal
TIG welding has a lot of moving parts, as you’ll need to manage your torch distance from your work piece and your filler wire while manipulating your heat with a foot pedal. The foot pedal gives you tremendous flexibility while you work, provided you learn to use it effectively!
Feed the Filler Rod
Since you need to feed the filler wire yourself while TIG welding, you’ll need to practice feeding it both through your bare hands and then through your hand while wearing a glove. The amount of dexterity required for feeding a TIG wire will make a tight-fitting glove quite appealing!
There are several different ways you can feed filler wire. One method lets the wire rest between your thumb and index finger, while your index finger and middle finger pull the wire through. This is a good way to move a lot of wire, but it doesn’t necessarily feed the wire in the most precise way possible. A more precise way involves moving the wire with your thumb and middle finger, while your ring finger and index finger provide support to keep it in place.
Practice Adding the Filler to the Puddle
Some welders suggest that you practice running beads with a TIG torch without adding any filler. That’s a good way to figure out the foot pedal and the welding speed that will work best for you. The faster you move, the narrower your weld bead will be.
Once you have a handle on the torch movements, practice adding the filler rod to the leading edge of the weld puddle. Don’t push it too far into the weld puddle or you’ll add too much metal, wasting materials and creating a sloppy weld.
If you want to start practicing with a TIG welder today, check out the TIG welder promotions at Baker’s Gas and Welding today, as well as the many welding resource articles available.
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