Last month, we presented the basics on setting up a TIG welder as the groundwork for the next few write-ups on actually making things with TIG welding. These TIG welding techniques aren't difficult—it's just something that requires a lot of practice. And the best way to practice is by welding different types of joints on scrap material.
1. Practice TIG Welding. Before trying to join any material together, run a bead across a flat piece metal. Doing so allows you to concentrate on practicing your TIG welding techniques.
2. Holding the TIG Torch. In general, the proper way to hold the torch is at a 45-degree angle to the work surface. Angle the filler rod in with your other hand, also at a 45-degree angle. The combination of the torch and filler rod will form a right angle, if that mental image helps keep the different elements in alignment as you weld.
3. Experiment with TIG Amperage. There are charts and guidelines that list proper amperage settings for various materials and thicknesses, but you will generally get a sense of where to set the machine as you gain experience. In the beginning, though, you can just experiment. With the TIG torch in position, start the arc. Within a second or so, the surface will start to melt and form a weld puddle.
4. Adjusting TIG Welding Amperage. If no weld puddle forms, turn the amperage up. If you blow right through your work, ratchet back on the amps. Set the machine's amperage higher than you need for the material you're welding, because you need to be able to vary the amp output of the machine as you're running the bead. Maintaining the weld puddle is all about managing the heat. If you encounter a thicker section—like a corner, for example—the additional thickness draws more heat away from the area you are welding, and the puddle can go shallow—meaning the weld may not fully penetrate. With extra amps available at the control pedal, you'll be ready for those situations. Edges need less amps because there is less area for the heat to go.
5. TIG Welding a finished look. Everyone is impressed with a nice-looking weld bead, but the stack-of-dimes look is hard to achieve. The key is to start and stop as infrequently as possible and develop a rhythm for moving the torch and dipping the filler rod. We've had welding instructors tell us that some people chant or recite a cadence to themselves as they go. Try it! It works. Once you're comfortable with the TIG welding techniques, try joining two pieces together. The lap weld is the easiest because it is the least sensitive to heat input.
6. TIG Welding a T-joint. A T-joint can be difficult because of the awkward hand positions required to get the TIG torch and filler material oriented correctly. Feel free to rest the torch's ceramic cup against one or both sides to help stabilize the torch.
7. TIG Welding Techniques: Butt Weld. The butt weld (insert crude joke here) can be difficult because the heat settings have to be accurate. It's very easy to burn through one or both edges as you go along. Likewise, back off the heat as you get to the edge. Again, there is less material here to absorb heat from the torch, and it's very easy to burn through the end of your really nice bead.