How to Weld - TIG Welding

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TIG Welding is one type of welding amongst a few choices you have - MIG, Stick, Oxyacetylene, etc.

TIG can be used to weld copper, titanium, even two dissimilar metals, and is handy for making tricky welds (e.g. s-curves, or welds on round things)..

TIG generates heat via an arc of electricity jumping from a (tungsten metal) electrode to the metal surfaces you intend to weld - usually aluminum or steel.

TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas, after the tungsten electrode, and the sheath of inert gas (argon or an argon mixture) surrounding it.

Big thanks to Mose O'Griffin, who narrated, taught, and demonstrated.

Also, If you're interested in MIG welding, see this instructable:

Step 1: Choose the Electrode

Your TIG is likely to have the right electrode in it already.

For aluminum, the best choice is a pure tungsten rod.

You can alternately choose from any number of tungsten alloys (including thoriated tungsten - which is radioactive!) which are uniquely suited to welding particular alloys of metal.

For reference, this example uses the specific alloy 6061 Aluminum (the "steak and potatoes" or "normal" type of aluminum)

Step 2: Grind the Electrode

Grind the tungsten rod to a point.

Do this, especially if the rod is a brand-new cylinder and doesn't have a pointed or rounded tip yet.

The tip will become rounded due to heat as you weld.

Lincoln recommends a balled tip for AC welding, and a pointed tip for DC welding.

The pointed tip will give a smaller, more directed arc. The arc will tend to dance around, when from a rounded tip.


Step 3: Insert the Electrode Into Its Collet

Unscrew the back of the electrode holder, insert the rod, replace back.

The tip of the electrode should be about 1/4" away from the protective sheath, but not much more.

Skip this if you already have your electrode ready.

Shown below are two different types of electrode holders.

Step 4: Choose the Settings

The typical TIG rig will have three main electricity options - AC, DCEP, and DCEN.

AC is for aluminum - choose "AC".

Set the "Cleaning/Penetrating" setting to the more "Penetrating" side - around 7 on a scale from 1 to 10.

Set the "Air on" to about 5 seconds, if you have the option to do so.
This is the amount of time the gas stays on after the arc stops, to keep your weld from oxidizing/rusting.

Set the "Max Amps" pretty high - perhaps around 250.

For specific settings, check out Miller's settings calculator.

For the curious:

Cleaning/Penetrating is a modification to the positive/negative ratio of the AC that changes the depth of your weld (cleaning is more shallow).

DCEP means "DC, Electrode Postive". This setting is used for balling the tungsten tip, or stick welding.

DCEN means "DC, Electrode Negative", and is for welding steel.

The difference between the two DC settings is the direction the electricity flows - to the metal from the electrode, or to the electrode from the metal. This makes a big difference in the amount of heat the metal absorbs, and the width and depth of the weld.

Step 5: Turn on the Gas

For aluminum, use pure argon.

For steel, you would use an argon/carbon dioxide mixture.

The gas is important to keep the weld from becoming corroded, as metal will rust (or in the case of aluminum, oxidize) ridiculously quickly at the high temperatures the metal reaches.

Step 6: Prepare Metal and Welding Table

Some kind of large metallic area is necessary to let electricity flow through your metal. We're using a welding table, purchased for the purpose. Otherwise, a large piece of sheet metal will do perfectly well (just make sure it's flat).

Beauty Tip: Use a wire brush to scrub the surfaces of the metal. It's good practice to keep a dedicated aluminum brush (separate from what you use to clean steel). If you want really nice-looking welds, you can also wipe down the welding rods with acetone.

If you don't care about the way the welds look when finished, don't bother and you'll be fine. However, your welds will be a little weaker and not as pretty.

Clamp your metals so they'll stay where you want them when you weld.

And, if you have the stuff, spray down your welding table with anti-spatter (so if any metal leaks off, it doesn't stick where it lands, which is important if you're trying to keep your surface flat).

Step 7: Get Dressed Up!

TIG will give you sunburns. TIG will make you see stars (or go blind). TIG will burn your hands.

Use thick leather welding gloves, and a welding helmet, and closed-toe shoes.

To avoid sunburn, wear a long-sleeved shirt or jacket, or a welding coat.

Clean your helmet - the better you can see what you're doing, the better you can weld.


Some people like auto-darkening welding helmets. Others don't like relying on the device's reaction time - you have to invest a lot, to get a good-quality, fast one.

We're using always-dark helmets.

You might use a bright flashlight, if you want to see what you are doing without lifting your helmet.

Step 8: One Last Check

Hold the electrode in your dominant hand. Make sure it can move freely (untangled, unhampered cord).

Step 9: Weld!

Hold the electrode about an inch away from the metal. Never touch the metal with the electrode. If you do, molten aluminum will leap onto the electrode. If this happens, stop, turn off the welder, remove the tungsten rod, and grind it down.

Jam down on the foot-pedal to quickly dump a bunch of current and heat into the metal.

The idea is to very quickly heat the metal and start the weld pool. You'll know it when you see it - the metal becomes fluid.

Start on an edge.

When the pool has formed, touch the rod in.

If you heat the metal for too long, it will warp. The longer the metal is heated, the more it will warp.

This is a "tack" weld, to hold the metal piece in place, so you can take off the clamps and do big long bead welds.



Once you have a weld pool started, you can ease off the pedal a little, to control the amount of heat and current being applied to the metal.

Welds shrink as they cool, so you can alternate sides to keep the welds even, and to keep one side of metal from getting too hot and warping. Hot metal can warp a great deal, and if you don't change sides, you might find yourself even 1/4" off of where the metal ought to be.

Step 10: Draw a Bead

After tacking, remove any clamps.

Start a weld pool by jamming down the pedal fast to form a weld pool.

Then lighten up on the pedal, to regulate the current.

If the metal starts to burn/melt away, too much current is being dumped in, back off the foot pedal.
If the metal gets a flaky, but not liquid look to it, put more power in (step on the pedal harder).

To weld aluminum, move the electrode towards the rod, while feeding rod into the pool. The rod should be to the side of the electrode that the weld will form or grow towards. This is known as "leading" the electrode.

To weld steel, the electrode travels first down the weld line, and the rod chases after, "following" the heat.


Step 11: Types of Welds

Getting the knack of TIG welding is mostly in getting the weld pool to form, at the same time, on both pieces of metal.

The easiest type of weld is the "fillet", two metals jointed at right angles. (The one shown in this instructable).

The next is the "lap" weld, which is two metals resting flat against each other.

Trickier is the "butt" weld, where two metals touch along the edges - it is difficult to keep the electrode traveling in a straight line along the joint, and tough to keep the weld pool going well on both.

Corners require some skill, as the heat is not dissipated evenly.

You can create "cosmetic" or "strength" welds.

Cosmetic welds tend to look more even over long lengths. Create them by making a weld pool, dipping in the rod, and then moving to the next point. Use them on highly visible joints, like on bicycles.

Strength welds are a lot stronger - use them for things that aren't designed to be seen, or are designed for strength rather than beauty. Anything that needs to bear a load (e.g., a gas cannister or propane tank) will have a strength weld. These are the welds where you simply draw the weld pool along continuously, while constantly feeding rod in.


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    180 Discussions

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    aking14frostedlakes

    Reply 10 months ago

    The thing you may be missing is that without the argon, aluminum welds extremely poorly, molten aluminum combines with the oxygen in the air into aluminum oxide which basically won't stick. Google image search 'bad aluminum welds' and then 'aluminum weld without gas'. The worst ones with craters that look terrible are when the gas was low or not working.

    The argon is blown at the weld point while the weld is being done, so the oxygen can't touch it while the aluminum is molten and become aluminum oxide and get deep into the weld. Once you're done welding, the surface still oxidizes later like normal but that's just surface oxidation, the weld is internally still strong.

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    I'm not sure if your question is clear enough. the aluminum does oxidize as normal, (i.e, you end up welding a an aluminum plate with a thin oxide layer" but the process with argon doesn't introduce new oxidization when it heats up, because it displaces the oxygen. I don't know how the weld manages to deal with the natural thin layer of oxide that rapidly forms on aluminum, but I believe/assume it just blasts away.

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    Darkishfrostedlakes

    Reply 3 years ago on Step 5

    Well, oxidizing happens because of oxygen (in the air, in this case) ... if you have argon there, it displaces said oxygen. No oxygen => nothing to oxidize with.

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    Gumbatronfrostedlakes

    Reply 4 years ago

    Aluminium, or any other metal, can only oxidize in the presence of oxygen. Thre argon, being a heavy inert gas, displaces the oxygen from the weld site (until the weld has solidified).

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    slanwar

    11 months ago

    I though Tig welding will not use CO2.

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    Davew62

    2 years ago

    Yep, no problem, just use a D rated micro circuit breaker - industrial use type. Also when sharpening tungstens it's better to use a belt sander, just turn it over and sharpen the tungsten on it, it leaves a near perfect finish, obviously if you're welding ally leave the tungsten flat. When welding ally you are effectively reversing the current flow AC instead of DC the electrons flow towards the tungsten and in doing so break the oxidation allowing you to fuse it, Argon simply allows this process to happen, without sheilding the ally would melt away underneath the oxidated layer.

    1 reply
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    ChristoferS2Davew62

    Reply 1 year ago

    Can you please explain what you mean when you say "you are effectively reversing the current flow AC instead of DC"? AC is alternating current DC is direct current.

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    irham yahya

    2 years ago

    why the alumunium very difficult to weld, what else if the surface not be grinding?

    there any tips for solve it !!! thanks

    http://teknikpengelasan.com/pengelasan-smaw/

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    Kreat0r

    2 years ago

    how many amps does a 200Amp need to function ?

    I have 40 amps, would that be enough?

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    steveastrouk

    3 years ago on Introduction

    Oh god, DO NOT EVER grind a point on a wheel like that, you are a tiny step from a disaster with an exploding wheel and serious injury.

    4 replies
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    Could you do an update about what particularly were the problems with that method of grinding?

    For example, is it enough if the OP was standing to the side instead of infront of the grinder? Or were there also issues with how the piece was being held?

    Thanks for the elaboration :)

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    You never hold something that can slip DOWN between the wheel and the rest. If he slips, the rod will jam into the gap between the rest and the wheel, and the wheel may well explode. The only safe way to do is point up the wheel, on the front, never the edge.

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    well, damn, that makes sense when you lay it out actually. I don't suppose I would have considered it, because intuitively putting the rod into the disk, as one might spear something taller than yourself (I hope that made sense), doesn't feel safe. It feels like you're jabbing the wheel and very likely to catch on it. But I can imagine as long as you take the top of the wheel it might be doable and it's essential to not allow the part to fall into the well.

    That said with his very aggressive grinder guard I feel like it would be hard to get the right angle. And the rod being so light feels like it won't slip out of our hand.. Yet the consequences of it falling in the wheel well would be terrible.

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    KinnishianKinnishian

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    My comment sounds snarky where I say "makes sense when you lay it out actually." I did not mean it to sound snarky, I should have added a comma after "out."

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    PaulC46

    3 years ago on Step 5

    For TIG welding steel, you must use pure argon or an argon / helium mix. Argon / Carbon Dioxide mix works for MIG welding, but will spit and pop and make a total mess of a TIG weld.

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    ceo.egal

    3 years ago on Introduction

    I am going to be using argon 99.9% for aluminum, sst, and a bronze aka NiBrAl it is a nickel bronze aluminum mixture. It is a specialty metal for ACME propellers and Legend along with OJ. My question pertains to the NiBrAl specifically what is the proper or best gas to be using just out of curiosity previously i have used the Argon.

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    AdeelR

    3 years ago on Introduction

    best tutorial giving deep insight about TIG process including tungsten preparation and selection of suitable elements. Always thank you for giving special instructions. For more about TIG welding visit http://www.weldpedia.com/

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    dyethor

    4 years ago on Step 6

    Another tip is to have a brush dedicated for stainless. Only a stainless brush should be used on stainless steel. It you use a steel one it will contaminate the SS and it will rust in the spots you used the brush.