Introduction: TIG Welded Drawings

About: Woods Custom Stainless is a small single person custom metal art business located in San Diego CA.

In this tutorial i will teach you how to weld just about any design you want on to a piece of stainless steel. You are going to need to have a few things to start.

Firstly you are going to need to have at-least a basic knowledge of TIG welding. this is very important because you need to have a fairly fine control of the torch.

Second you will need at-least a basic TIG welder, the more options and controls the better. i personally own the AHP TIG200x. this machine is EXTREMELY nice for the cost, very good budget machine for anyone looking at just getting started. i have made some changes to the torch, i run a 3/32nd electrode with a CK worldwide stubby gas lens setup and a #8 ceramic cup (a larger cup can help you more easily achieve better results but a #8 works perfectly fine for me)

now heres some optional things that are going to make the process easier. if you have a machine that has pulse settings like i do, i set the pulse up to 3.5 pulses per second, 30% base amperage and 30% on time. these setting keep your speed consistant and maintain shielding gas for an appropriate amount of time.

if you however do not have a machine with pulse settings you can still just try to maintain a descent speed, it will take some trial and error for you to figure it out.
next is post flow, and i consider this a necessity, i have mine set to 2 seconds.

the next optional tool is a foot pedal, you can do this with a torch switch and really have no problems at all with it, but you have to have your settings a little more dialed in. typically with a foot pedal i run 40 amps max and tend to stick around 30 amps. with 4T i would probably set it at 30 amps and call it good, although you may need to experiment for yourself.

Step 1: Argon

lets discuss argon shielding a little bit, to obtain to colors your looking for in the stainless, theres 2 things you need to control, heat input and shielding gas. argon coverage can make or break one of these drawings, not enough and it comes out looking super dull and crappy, too much and you'll have a nice shiny silver outline but no color. i typically run 18-20 CFH with a #8 ceramic cup on a stubby gas lens, if you have a larger cup you may be able to adjust flow a bit better and try some other stuff out, but i like my #8 cup just fine.

Step 2: Materials

now for materials your going to need a sheet of stainless steel, i buy 3x1' 16g sheets of polished 304 stainless and cut them to the size of the drawing that i'm doing. next you'll need backing material, now this is REALLY important because without the backing metal you would essentially have a stainless steel taco by the time you are done welding. i usually buy a 3x1' 10g sheet of COLD ROLLED mild steel, it must be cold rolled because hot rolled has too many contaminants and is way too much work to clean.

now for filler wire, i use 304 stainless wire in varying sizes depending on the effect and size of the drawing. for most of my work i use .030 stainless mig wire.

If you look at the image depicting the hot rolled, cold rolled, and galvanized sheet, you can see that the hot rolled looks a bit rusty and dirty, it just causes you to have to clean it way more before you can weld. next there is the galvanized sheet, this metal is coated in zinc to prevent rust, this zinc coating is terrible to weld. as it heats up it releases zinc oxide which when inhaled can create numerous health conditions, stay away from the stuff at all costs. lastly theres cold rolled steel, this stuff is great, theres no mil scale on the surface, its just nice shiny clean steel, all you have to do it wipe the oil coating off of it with some acetone and your good to go.

Step 3: Engraving

now heres where things get interesting, if you try to weld a design on metal thats been drawn on with a permanent marker you'll learn fairly quickly that they call it magic marker for a reason. with heat the marker disappears. so i have 2 approaches to this. both of them include buying a $20 engraving tool, i recommend the dremel brand one because you can buy replacement bits for it and they seem to last the longest. so theres 2 ways of getting your image to stay on the steel while welding, the first is to draw it on and fallow the lines with the engraver, the next is to print whatever drawing or photo you'd like to recreate, tape it to the metal and fallow the lines with the engraver. don't mind the paper being there because the engraver blasts right through as if it weren't even there to start.

Step 4: Prep and Tack

one you have your image engraved on the metal it's time to cut it out, i just use a cut off wheel on a grinder, leave about .5 inches minimum around the edge of the drawing. once it's cut you'll need to clean up the edges, i just use a wire wheel on a bench grinder, it cleans em up real nice and smoothes them out fairly well.

once the stainless is cut out you'll need to clean everything really well, take some acetone and wipe both sides of the stainless and clean the surface of the backing material until it is completely free of any contaminants, give your filler wire a wipe as well. now tack weld the stainless down to the mild steel, i use 1/16 304 stainless filler wire for this. make sure to piece is flat and tack down all 4 corners, and run a few 1 inch beads around the piece to ensure minimal flexion in the metal during welding.

Step 5: Final Weld and Finishing

once the piece is welded down securely its time to begin welding your design, i typically like to start at the smallest detailed spots and work my way around stopping occasionally to prevent my torch and the stainless from overheating. take quite a few 10 minute breaks during the process of this in order to keep the color concentrated on your drawing.

now that you've completed your drawing you will need to cut the piece off of the backing material and grind the edges to a smooth finish. be very careful during this process, one slip and you could leave a huge gouge in your drawing.

all thats left to do now is admire your work and enjoy a celebratory beverage of your choice.

thank you for reading this entire thing, i know its a TON to read but i just had to get this information out there somehow. if you have any questions feel free to comment or send me a message, also check out my etsy store if your interested in buying any of my original art pieces.

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