Time to go over another welding method with the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace! In last week’s article about MIG welding, it was described as a good place to start for beginner welders. Well, TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding is the ideal method for versatility. Its adaptability requires a good understanding of welding methods, though. If you’re just starting to learn, it may be best to stick with MIG welding until you have a better understanding of welding basics.
How it Works
TIG welding, just like MIG, is a type of arc welding. The electrode for TIG welding is made from tungsten - hence the name - which is the same as lightbulbs. This electrode heats the metal being welded using electrical power while a shield of argon gas protects the melted metal from contaminants. This gives the metal a chance to harden enough to be safe from contamination. Contamination can come from solids, like dust, or even from some chemicals in the air. A contaminated weld is a weakened weld and can cause problems for the project later on.
Because TIG welding uses electricity, there is also an element of grounding involved. Grounding is the process of channeling away excess energy so that it can dissipate without causing harm. This is done by attaching a grounding cable either directly to the welding project or to the table. Since electricity travels through conductive objects and can be extremely dangerous, this is an important safety feature.
All welding relies on how deep the heat of the torch penetrates the metal. After all, metal that isn’t heated to the proper point won’t liquify. One of the best things a beginner can do is keep their heat on low. Yes, this requires more time to complete the weld, but it also offers more forgiveness and an opportunity to correct mistakes before it’s too late. As comfort level with the equipment and process grows, the more a welder can explore. (And, of course, this can always be helped along by asking questions or having a more experienced welder give advice.)
It’s important to remember that welding can be quite dangerous. All due safety precautions must be taken both for the welder and others around them. With any type of welding - not just TIG - always follow proper safety procedures. Always wear a welding mask to protect the eyes and work gloves rated for this use. Gloves from the garden aren’t going to help much. When working in a communal space like the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace, please also be sure to pull the special curtain that surrounds the metal work area to protect anyone else who might be working in the shop.
Please note, the photos used for this article are not specifically TIG welding, but are simply meant to illustrate aspects of the welding process and environment.