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TIG Welding for Beginners and Skeptics

TIG welding requires more time, practice, and preparation than any other welding method, but whether you’re used to the hefty stick welding electrodes or the wire feeders of MIG welders, there are some great reasons to learn more about TIG welding. For starters, TIG welding provides the most precise and easily controlled welds possible with both machine settings and foot pedals to regulate your heat. With six electrodes to choose from, you also have a wide range of metals you can weld with a TIG machine.

Miler TIG welding

Whether or not more control or more options sound like advantages to you, here’s a brief run down on some TIG welding tips that will help you get started.

Preparing to TIG Weld

Before you begin TIG welding, your metal surface needs to be cleaner than any other welding method. It’s ideal to either grind or brush any contaminants from the metal surface using a dedicated brush or grinding wheel that isn’t used for any other surface prep. In addition, a clean cloth with acetone can remove metal shavings and any remaining oils from the cleaning process.

The appearance and strength of a TIG weld depends on the preparation process. While you can get away with some short cuts with stick welding preparation, TIG is far less forgiving even though you’ll use a shielding gas.

Choosing Your TIG Welding Electrode

TIG welding uses an electrode in order to transfer the welding arc to the metal that you’re working on, and different jobs will call for different electrodes. The six electrode options include: pure tungsten, 2% thoriated, 2% ceriated, 1.5% lanthanated, zirconiated, and rare earth. Depending on the power you’re using and the electrode, the electrode end can be balled, pointed, and truncated for TIG welding. First, let’s cover some tips for choosing the right electrode.

Pure tungsten electrodes are popular since they’re affordable, provide a stable arc on aluminum and magnesium, and work well on AC welding projects with a balled tip. If you’re working on a DC welding project, thoriated and ceriated electrodes will be ideal. In most cases the 2% thoriated, 2% ceriated, 1.5% lanthanated, and rare earth electrodes will use a sharp point that is created by placing the electrode straight onto the grinding wheel.

Thoriated electrodes are probably the most commonly used electrodes because they have thorium mixed into the tungsten to provide a stronger electrode tip that will stay sharp longer and last considerably longer than pure tungsten. However, thoriated electrodes are also slightly radioactive, so take the recommended ventilation precautions. They work well on DC applications for projects such as carbon steel, stainless steel, nickel, and titanium.

Ceriated electrodes are best used on DC applications with low amperage projects that involve small, delicate parts. Common metals include weld carbon steel, stainless steel, nickel alloys, and titanium. Lanthanated electrodes are extremely versatile, working on AC and DC machines. They offer stable arcs, work well on low currents, but also dramatically increase the current carrying capacity. Welders often use them on steel and stainless steel when working on square wave power sources.

If your goal is to use a strong electrode for an AC welding project that is also resistant to contamination, then a zirconiated electrode may be ideal. You should never use zirconiated for DC welding since it can carry a higher current capacity. Like pure tungsten, zirconiated uses a balled tip.

Rare earth electrodes will vary depending on the manufacturer but can offer a stable arc for both AC and DC processes and tend to last longer. Rare earth electrodes can also offer a smaller diameter electrode if you have a particularly small job to work on.

TIG Welding Modifications

You may have a TIG welding glove that is on the thinner side since you’ll need more dexterity and grip while feeding the filler metal while working with the torch. However, some welders have found that the finger closest to the arc can still get quite hot. A little extra padding or a TIG finger have been suggested by some welders so that you can TIG welder comfortably for longer stretches of time.

You’ll also hear a lot about the stubby gas lens kit that makes it easier to weld in tight spaces since the typical TIG cup setups can get pretty large. Whether or not you want to use a stubby gas lens kit will largely depend on the type of project you have, but if you’re stuck in a tight space, the right set up can make all of the difference.

Ed Cyzewski


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