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TIG tips and tungsten love

Posted by Sparky Sommer on Mar 29, 2015 10:00:00 AM


I have long had a passion for TIG welding and a love for tungsten. It’s a craft that takes your mind off everything else.  

And let's face it, tungsten is the Chuck Norris of the metal world. It even has a hardcore element name - WOLFRAM. Tungsten has the highest melting point at 6,191 °F (3,422 °C), the lowest thermal expansion coefficient, and the highest tensile strength of all pure metals.

Add a little thorium or zirconium and you have a tungsten electrode.

The extraordinary look of the serpentine root pass that pipe welders make while walking the cup is craftsmanship at its best.

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(Photo credit to the Instagram account of madshlarsen.)

The bead of a fine TIG weld can make you look like a rock star. 

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(ESAB image) 

The interesting jobs TIG welders can have is all part of the excitement. I’ve worked weld repair on everything from jet engines to laboratory welding on metals as varied as stainless, titanium, cobalt, Inconel, magnesium, and aluminum.

Another thing I love about TIG welding is being able to make or fix so many cool projects at home.  One of my favorite things is when a buddy brings over a broken piece of metal that was on something awesome, like the chain cover on an old Indian motorcycle. The look of astonishment on their faces when you hand it back looking like brand new is priceless. I never get tired of that, or the frosty cold one they have for me as a reward.

The best part is being able to dial your TIG machine into your personal welding style, and it’s a lot easier now than in the past. I remember my first TIG power source – it was a huge thing, four feet tall by three feet wide and the front panel looked like the cockpit of the space shuttle. Now, with inverter power sources, machines don’t take up much space for the amount of power they have and using them is much easier.

Blog5-Photo2Heliarc® 353i AC/DC front control panel. 

A lot of welders shy away from TIG, but it’s not as hard as it looks. Don’t get me wrong – it takes knowing a few things about metal and plenty of practice, but it is definitely doable. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years doing TIG welding: 

5 Tips for TIG Welding

1. Cleanliness – One of the most important things to remember in TIG welding is to clean your material before you weld it. TIG won’t tolerate any kind of dirt, oil, rust, etc… I usually use a glass cleaner and a stainless steel brush.

2. Tungsten – Your choice of tungsten is a big deal. The type and how you sharpen it make a difference in your weld. Learn more about tungsten electrode types with this chart.

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Tungsten electrodes.

3. Sharpening – If you dip or stick your tungsten in the puddle, take the time to re-sharpen because your arc will become unstable and wander, and you’ll wind up with lack of penetration. 

4. Gas lens – On thinner material I recommend using a gas lens instead of a collet body, which provides a concentrated column of shielding gas where a collet body disperses the gas as more of a cloud.

Blog5-Photo5(From left): 1) Gas lens dispersing gas; 2) Collet body dispersing gas; 3) Gas lens; 4) Collet body


5. Polarity – Usually every TIG welder is also a stick welder and your machine runs both. When you’re running TIG put your torch lead in the negative side and the ground in the positive, and when you’re running stick put your stick/electrode holder on the positive side and the ground in the negative. There are exceptions to this rule, but it’s very rare. And, of course, if you’re doing TIG on aluminum or magnesium just flip the polarity to AC without changing the leads around.

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Polarity (clockwise from top left):1) TIG welding = torch in negative; 2) TIG welding = ground in positive; 3) Stick welding = ground in negative; 4) Stick welding = stick/electrode holder in positive

I hope these tips have inspired you to find ways to get better at your craft or to give TIG welding a shot if you haven’t already. I would love to get your feedback on what else you would like to know about TIG, so let me know in the comments below.

 

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 *(Sparky Sommer is a TCP Trainer and Application Engineer for ESAB.)  

Topics: Welder, welding, ESAB, ESAB blog, education, metal, welding basics, STICK, TIG, welding tips, TIG welding, tungsten

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