Tungsten inert gas welding, also known as TIG welding, is a commonly used technique by welders. It involves having a torch in one hand and a rod giving filler metal in the other.
It’s one of the harder welding processes to learn with welders often creating weak welds or porous welds that just don’t look very nice.
It doesn’t matter if you have one of the top TIG machines – you need to nail down your technique first.
Here are some basic tips for TIG welding you should follow to improve the quality of your welds.
1. Ensure The Base Metal is Super Clean
Contamination is the top cause of porosity in TIG welds.
To avoid this, clean the base metal and filler rod with a degreaser, then scrub the metal with a wire brush for a few minutes.
Different metals call for different wire brushes. For example, when cleaning aluminum and stainless steel, use a delicate brush.
2. Find Support For Your Hands
TIG welding calls for extensive concentration and steady hands. The rod has to be at the right distance for a long period of time so you should prepare for this.
Unsteady hands raise the risk of making the puddle (molten metal) too large, causing a hole.
You can support your hands with a specialized bar to rest your wrists on, adjacent to the joint. Slide your torch hand across the bar whenever you weld.
You can also use the part you are welding as support. With bars and other supports, you have smoother hand movements and quality welding.
3. Get The Angle of The Torch Right
Not only do you need steady hands, but you need to have your torch at the right angle.
The best starting angle is 15-20 degrees from the surface material. This allows for easier access of the filler material, better sight of the part being welded, and the puddle.
It is best to not hold the torch at 45 degrees or more because it will damage the weld with large puddles and shielding gas.
However, for perpendicular pieces and a fillet weld, you can weld at 45 degrees. However, you can torch metal at 90 degrees if you are butt welding.
In the end, some welders go more or less, depending on their comfort. The angles can be adjusted depending on the metals and their thickness.
4. Avoid Melting The Filler Rod Directly
Melting the filler rod directly will only result in a weak weld – this is where good hand support becomes useful.
Remember: The electrode should be melted into the puddle created by melting the base metal first.
Ideally, the space between the torch tip of the electrode and the base metal should be between 1/8 inch and 3/16 inch.
5. Don’t Apply Too Much Heat For Stainless Steel
Welding uses heat to join metals together, but too much heat can cause damage. If it is too hot, the weld will burn through the metal or distort it.
You control the heat by regulating the arc that comes from the electrode.
The best way to make sure overheating does not happen is to start at minimum power and increase the heat until you can make a solid weld and puddle technique.
Another way to watch out for overheating is the color of the weld. You know the weld is hot enough when it turns into a golden or salmon color. It is too hot if it turns into a dark or dirty gray color.
To fix the heat, you can do two things: reduce the filler rod thickness because it melts easier with moderate heat, or increase the travel speed while reducing the amps.
6. Make Sure To Do Practice Welds First
The very best welders do this before every pass and it serves them well… doing practice runs allows you to fine-tune your TIG welder settings and allows you to set up so that you are comfortable for the next run.
Any strain in your posture or hand movements can distort the welding job. Practicing the hand movements before turning on the heat gives you the idea of what is comfortable for you, where you need to put your hands, and can build muscle memory from the repetitive hand movements.
Even the smallest of movements can give you more comfort, ensuring a steady hand and higher quality of work.
Wrapping it up
These tips are great guidelines on making sure each welding job is done right. But know that once you are more experienced in TIG welding, you can make small adjustments to fit what feels comfortable for you without changing the quality of the welding.
Interesting related article: “Starting your own welding business.“