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Old 05-29-2014, 07:53 PM   #1
pne OP
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Tig Welding?

I want to learn how to TIG weld, but don't know where to start.

The reason I want a TIG is to be able to do mostly aluminum and some stainless in the garage. I'm talking about stuff like repairing broken brackets, fabricating small items, nothing very heavy duty. Stuff you would find on a car or bike, perhaps welding up an exhaust, or some intercooler pipes.

I don't know how to weld at all, a long time ago I played with a MIG and was able to get OK beads with that, nothing pretty. I can't stick weld.

Basically, how did you guys get started, and learn? Some friends suggested to buy a used machine to practice with, but I'm not sure what to look for. Are there any resources I can learn from? Is this something I can actually learn by trial and error on my own?
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Old 05-29-2014, 08:07 PM   #2
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Some guys teach new welders to be a very good gas welder before they try to teach tig with all the variables tig brings.

Take a night course at the vocational school............a new welder learning on his own will be a frustrating and slow process.
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Old 05-29-2014, 08:15 PM   #3
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Where in Alberta are you? I know Nait and Sait had courses on learning how to weld at one time. I suggest what was mentioned. Take a course first then buy the welder. You will know what to buy then and not waste obey buying something that won't work for you. You can also buy a 3 in 1 machine for a decent price from KMS. That way you will have mig, tig and stick.
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Old 05-30-2014, 02:27 AM   #4
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Its fun to do, but can be soooooo difficult!

Figure out a good way to clean the alloy and dedicate gear to an alloy weld setup (verses MS or SS) - use a dedicated wire brush and grinder to trim electrodes - a stray grinding or sanding fleck will play merry hell with a nice weld pool. Clean clean clean and clean.

If it is Aluminium you want to Tig weld... my advise is only buy a BRILLIANT weld machine cos a budget unit just won't do a good job. Get the wallet ready!

Ask advise at a dedicated weld supply store, on what you can weld with a home electrical supply 240/110v. Ask for a demo, or tryout in their workshop. They should have loan units handy.

Thicker alloy can take HUGE current to weld when cold, so to assist you'll need a preheat oven.
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Old 05-30-2014, 07:25 AM   #5
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i suggest a course

Take a course..i didn't and learned the hard way..in hind site ..I do not recommend play and learn. Any course will save valuable time and a whole crap load of frustration. Just imagine trying to figure out what knob or dial to turn.. is the work too thick and need pre-heated before flashing up the tig torch...etc etc.. especially if you spent a day making some thing that needed welded and pluck it up... arrrgggggg..
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Old 05-30-2014, 09:31 AM   #6
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Any particular reason for a tig? A tig can do alum and stainless without it being ac. To tig aluminum properly,you'll want an ac box and that'll raise the price instantly. Mig needs a spool gun or a push/pull. Non ac on aluminum is a huge hassle in prep or it'll be a major exercise in frustration.

A tig can be a good do all box, bit owning both here,I use my Mig 90% of the time or more. You can also convert a tig to a stick readily. I've shut the gas off before and put a rod in the tungsten slot before. Most manufacturers or weld shops can make you up a stinger for dedicated stick.

Stick,just like flux core Mig has it's uses. High wind or high contamination read dirty) welds. Also portability comes into play due to the lack of a gas tank.

As far as classes,you can buy a box and learn off the net. Youtube and welding forums will help. A weld or fab shop can train you. A welding supply or gas supply can, community college, body shops,etc. A good instructor will make things go faster,but they're no replacement for hands on experience.

Since you wanted aluminum,look into an ac tig. Or, thermal arc makes a box called the fabricator. It's dc,but a spool gun will do the alum. It's a Mig/Tig/stick box. It's also an inverter type so it's light with a ton of arc controls. The mid sized box is dual voltage,and the little one is still 180a,enough for almost any job. The mid and high end boxes approach light and general industrial output and are nice machines. They're good for a single do all box,but cant give you the flexibility of an ac tig.

Welding is a science and an art, especially tig. You need to know your tungsten,gas,filler,and base metals on top of procedure. When in doubt,Google it.

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Old 05-30-2014, 09:54 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by rarepartbuilder View Post
Take a course..i didn't and learned the hard way..in hind site ..I do not recommend play and learn. Any course will save valuable time and a whole crap load of frustration. Just imagine trying to figure out what knob or dial to turn.. is the work too thick and need pre-heated before flashing up the tig torch...etc etc.. especially if you spent a day making some thing that needed welded and pluck it up... arrrgggggg..

This is way harder than you might think. Can't find one in North Atl area. The one college I found that still teaches welding is day student oriented.
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Old 05-30-2014, 09:55 AM   #8
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assuming one doesn't have unlimited funds ... to setup for Tig on aluminum .. basically two ways to get the job done... used name brand like Miller Syncrowave 250 or new Chinese Everlast AC/DC Tig .. both will cost about $1600 + argon tank, etc. etc. then add water cooler for thicker aluminum.

Miller is a known brand used by the pro's .. but amazingly Everlast PowerTig 250EX AC DC TIG gets rave reviews and compares favorably with high end Miller Dynasty Tig. learning all the controls for modern inverter Tig can be challenging .. just what are all these settings for? ... for instance .. what's high frequency and what does AC balance do?

welding tips and tricks channel is a good place to start
http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqq70AnPkj4-UApS_m_6mPw


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Old 05-30-2014, 10:24 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danjal View Post
Any particular reason for a tig? A tig can do alum and stainless without it being ac. To tig aluminum properly,you'll want an ac box and that'll raise the price instantly. Mig needs a spool gun or a push/pull. Non ac on aluminum is a huge hassle in prep or it'll be a major exercise in frustration.

A tig can be a good do all box, bit owning both here,I use my Mig 90% of the time or more. You can also convert a tig to a stick readily. I've shut the gas off before and put a rod in the tungsten slot before. Most manufacturers or weld shops can make you up a stinger for dedicated stick.

Stick,just like flux core Mig has it's uses. High wind or high contamination read dirty) welds. Also portability comes into play due to the lack of a gas tank.

As far as classes,you can buy a box and learn off the net. Youtube and welding forums will help. A weld or fab shop can train you. A welding supply or gas supply can, community college, body shops,etc. A good instructor will make things go faster,but they're no replacement for hands on experience.

Since you wanted aluminum,look into an ac tig. Or, thermal arc makes a box called the fabricator. It's dc,but a spool gun will do the alum. It's a Mig/Tig/stick box. It's also an inverter type so it's light with a ton of arc controls. The mid sized box is dual voltage,and the little one is still 180a,enough for almost any job. The mid and high end boxes approach light and general industrial output and are nice machines. They're good for a single do all box,but cant give you the flexibility of an ac tig.

Welding is a science and an art, especially tig. You need to know your tungsten,gas,filler,and base metals on top of procedure. When in doubt,Google it.
thank you for this helpful post. The reasons for wanting to go with TIG, I've heard it's very clean, makes some beautiful welds, and I would say 90% of the stuff I would weld is aluminum and maybe a bit of stainless, very rarely MS. Even if I had to weld MS I have access to a stick welder.

Also, I'm hoping that a TIG welder is one of those tools that you buy once and it will last a lifetime. I plan to go with a used unit and if it doesn't work out I can sell it and recoup a lot of my costs.

I havent played around with a MIG with spool gun before, but I've heard that it is not easy to do aluminum and doesn't do it very well either. I'm not against buying a MIG if it can handle this type of work. Also, a lot of stuff I would be doing is repairing cracks and such, also heard that MIG is bad for this as it makes brittle welds.
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Old 05-30-2014, 11:30 AM   #10
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You have some solid advice here.

I learned to Oxy/Acetylene torch weld at my local adult education office. It was available as night classes. This was about 30 years ago. About 25 years ago, i.e. pre-youtube, I bought a Lincoln Square Wave 175 and taught myself to TIG weld.

Of course, a lot has changed since then -- housing bubbles, bank bail-outs, TARP, etc. Education has taken a kick in the nuts because of misbehavior by banking institutions and the 1%. Throw in offshoring of jobs, and the need for vocational education has declined. I'd be pretty surprised if you could find any welding classes, at all.

If you speak to a local union hall that represents welders, they may be able to hook you up with a mentor that will work with you in the evenings or weekends in exchange for some cash or even pizza & beer, the universal currency. They may have an apprentice program, but that's probably daytime.

Here's my advice: When I say "Brand Name", I mean Miller, Lincoln, or ESAB, or whatever your local welding shop carries in stock. I rely on my local shop, not the internet. When I need a new shielding gas cup, I take my torch in. There are 11teen different kinds of torches and cups, and I don't have the bandwidth to become an expert on them: they do. That's why I pay 25% extra on the little stuff. Now, if I need a new machine, maybe I will use the internet b/c there is a lot of $$$ to be saved there.

1) a used, brand name transformer machine will need to run on 220v, and will cost in the $700-$1500 range. However, it will run forever with no maintenance, and consumables will probably always be available.

2) a new, brand-name solid-state converter machine will cost $2500-$4000, and it will have dials and readouts you won't understand at the beginning. They are desirable options for an experienced welder. Being a brand name, there will be a dealer network to repair them. Repairs will probably be expensive.

3) a new off-brand, such as the previously-mentioned Everlast (which seems to have a good reputation, thus far) will set you back in the $1000 - $2000 range. They also have dials and readouts you won't understand immediately. IIRC, these can run on 110 and 220.

Regarding reliability and dealer support: they are a relatively new brand, and as such, there is no historical data to rely on when making a choice. We may discover that they all burn out X component on Y board at precisely 5 years out. What IS known is that parts have to come from China, directly. What I've read is that customer service is pretty good.... for a Chinese company.

4) Machine size: I used to advocate buying the biggest machine you can afford, but not so much anymore. IMHO, a ~200 amp machine will do anything you want to do on a motorcycle.

5) Features: More features are better, to "future proof" your purchase. However...my Square Wave 175 is dead simple. A torch, an amp dial, and AC/DC switching. That's IT. And it does pretty darn good on 95% of the stuff I need it to do. Would a water cooled torch be nice? Yes, it would. Could I make better looking welds with pulsing? Yes, I could. Could I get better penetration by changing my wave form balance? Probably. But you need to know what they are, and how they affect your process before you can use them to your advantage. They are a disadvantage until you have that knowledge.

6) Materials: start with clean, new materials. Never try to teach yourself on mystery metal. I tried to learn how to weld aluminum using... wait for it... old street signs. There are sooooo many things wrong with street signs: they have been in the environment forever, so they're dirty. The alloy is corrosion resistant and un-weldable. They have a plastic coating that burns and contaminates the weld. Lots of hours of frustration and wasted consumables. Wasted consumables = wasted money.

7) Learn to get stuff CLEAN! Unlike stick welding, you can't weld over flaky rust, mill scale, and paint. Not gunna happen with TIG or MIG. Get in the habit of getting down to bare metal. With aluminum, it has to be mechanically cleaned to shiny bare metal, then wiped down with acetone and a clean rag -- the welding rods, too. That will help you minimize hurdles when learning!!!

8) Learn to get good fit-ups. You should have gaps no bigger than a business card. The more fill you use, the more your welds will distort. Better fit = easier welding. You want easy when you are learning.

9) Look on YouTube to see what good welding looks like. Jody on Welding Tips & Tricks (.com) has a great channel. Not being able to observe good welding deprives you of a target to shoot for -- knowing what your goal is... that is key to learning.
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Old 05-30-2014, 12:40 PM   #11
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thank you for this helpful post. The reasons for wanting to go with TIG, I've heard it's very clean, makes some beautiful welds, and I would say 90% of the stuff I would weld is aluminum and maybe a bit of stainless, very rarely MS. Even if I had to weld MS I have access to a stick welder.

Also, I'm hoping that a TIG welder is one of those tools that you buy once and it will last a lifetime. I plan to go with a used unit and if it doesn't work out I can sell it and recoup a lot of my costs.

I have played around with a MIG with spool gun before, but I've heard that it is not easy to do aluminum and doesn't do it very well either. I'm not against buying a MIG if it can handle this type of work. Also, a lot of stuff I would be doing is repairing cracks and such, also heard that MIG is bad for this as it makes brittle welds.
Mig does aluminum very well. More so than a tig IMO. Migs are DCEN boxes (DC Electrode Negative) meaning the arc comes from the base metal to the wire. In doing so,it cleans the base metal. In an ac arc,you get DCEP weld phase) and DCEN cleaning phase). Already see how a Mig is ahead since it's100% cleaning while welding? A Mig is also hotter by process and penetrates more. One reason your aluminum capability is less on a tig is the split cycle,another reason is that alum sheds heat fast. You can get more penetration by preheating or having a buddy heat ahead of you.

Another bit to consider is an inverter box. Some let you crank up the Hz,and that means more power. Your older transformer boxes can't do this though. So weigh your budget vs needs for that consideration.

Magnesium is nest left to a tig. Both processes are very clean. In many cases both are finished welds. The tig runs cleaner,but a Mig is no slouch in the cleanliness department if you clean your base metal.

A tig shines at precision control. You can weld foil with the right prep,box,and a steady hand. Tig also leaves less HAZ (Heat Affected Zone), this is metal that's been super heated and now considered out of spec from the rest. Good weld practices and engineering of design can trump this totally or to varying degrees based on use,material,thickness,cost,etc. Leaving a thick weld bead on a thin and flexing part (aluminum semi trailer fender) will always result in a stress fracture at the weld. Grinding it smooth eliminated the cracksbut tripled labor costs. Not worth it in this case.

Look up a Lincoln precision tig 185. It's the predecessor to the 175, but IMO a better box. For a couple hundred more is the 225. Miller synchro is another good box. Just watch your input voltage and phases buying used. A cheap deal can quickly become sour when you find out it's a 3 ph box.
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Old 05-30-2014, 12:52 PM   #12
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Also to state,the Mig,tig,and stick processes are all different. None is inherently better than the other in all environments, but one may be for a certain job. Tig is great at small precision parts,but I have managed to stick an exhaust header (1/4") back on a piece of thin sheet before. Don't knock a process for it's short comings, work with it.

I'm not trying to talk you into a Mig either,just trying to make you realize that every process can do,but it'll take some working around and smart thinking.

As for access to a stick, a tig can be a stick easily. Migs are pretty much Migs. One is cc,one is cv. Migs can be ran in dcep also for some welding. There's a LOT to learn with welding.

I can list some pros and cons later on Mig and tig setups later if you want. Just know EITHER process will work,it's just where and how you want to take the hit. Aluminum is the main material that mucks up the decision making process. It's ac box vs spool gun. Both cost more money too.
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Old 05-30-2014, 01:27 PM   #13
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I am still learning, mostly from others in person. Wish there was a local vocational school with classes. I did take one 20 years ago but it was 80% stick welding. MIG was make a single pass, turn in the sample and back to stick. Never touched TIG in class.

Quick reference for machine sizing, each amp is good for about .001" material thickness. 250A is good for about quarter inch material. But you want a machine with enough extra capacity that you won't be hitting the duty cycle limits.

My personal machine at home is just a Miller 180 MIG. I have owned for over a decade. Up until 2 years ago I never reached the thermal limit, but one day fixing a trailer I did. In the past month I have now hit it a half dozen times fixing a loader bucket on a tractor. To put it another way, I got enough extra welder capacity years ago that I never pushed the limits. but now I have done a couple of projects that were bigger than I thought I would do and that extra capacity comes in handy. Even if I reach the limits, it just takes a little longer. So whatever your plans are, go a size bigger to take in account new projects that are just a little bigger.

I have been shopping TIGs for years. Just have not pulled the trigger. For the most part I can do little jobs at work. Write it off as "practice" for when I have to actually do welding at work.
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Old 05-30-2014, 01:55 PM   #14
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Pull your covers and clean out your box once.

Good advice above. I bought more than I need,and it's come in handy already. I bought a Lincoln 256, it's welded 5/8" already and a TON of 1/4". Buying a bigger box and pushing it a little is like buying a semi for a middle weight trailer vs using a geo metro.
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Old 05-30-2014, 02:23 PM   #15
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this is why AC is desired for Aluminum .. AC is short for alternating current. it's the switching from electrode positive to electrode negative that gives AC Tig it's cleaning action on aluminum.

a simple explanation on what AC balance control is and why it's desirable for aluminum.

AC or alternating current changes from electrode positive (EP) to electrode negative (EN). without balance control time spent between EN & EP is about 50/50. meaning 50% of energy is going into work piece.



aluminum naturally forms a protective film of aluminum oxide on surface. when aluminum is anodize this aluminum film is built up to form a thicker/stronger layer.

aluminum melts at about 1,200f .. aluminum oxide at about 3,600f .. fortunately switching from EN to EP cleans puddle from the contaminating aluminum oxides.

balance control increase/decrease the time welder spends at EN, depending on how much cleaning is desired. transformer machines typically allow 45-70% EN, with some inverter based units capable of up to 99% EN.

simple eh ... above is why some folks have a hard time figuring out all the controls provided on new inverter based welders.

notice heat zone on side of bead, more EN used on left pic
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