Category: Welding

Comprehensive how to guide for DIY’ers, Fabricators, Welders, Builders and Other Handy People.
And Other Interesting Write-ups.

When it comes to safe TIG welding, limiting exposure is the number one goal. Here is a list of 5 techniques and precautions to take into consideration when welding. More Specifically, TIG welding.

 

  1. Setup two fans. When TIG welding, Argon is typically the gas of choice. Argon is denser than air and will fall to the ground and linger around your working area. I like to setup two fans if possible. I set a fan on the ground about 10 to 15 feet away from my welding table. I like to use a larger standard metal fan. They hold up well in a shop environment with dust and sparks. I use an Optimus 9-Inch Fan in my shop. The air movement is like a gentle breeze that is slow enough not to carry my shielding gas away from the work. This gets the area circulating and blows the heavy argon out. I position a second fan usually up on a stool set to a medium speed, and have it directed at the back of my head. The back of the welding helmet acts like a scoop and funnels fresh air to the front of my face. It also aids in clearing any fog or moisture that may accumulate on the lens. The Stanley Blower Fan is handy because it lets you tilt the fan body up or down to get the air aimed correctly. It also has built in power ports to plug in a spare grinder or task lighting. The second fan is especially important. Many heavy metals, chemical vapors and quantities of ozone are off gassed during welding. They linger around and definitely should be redirected out of your personal area. Welding outside may still require a fan to get air moving.

 

  1. Weld with gloves. Yes, it’s easier and more comfortable to work bare handed without welding gloves, especially when feeding small diameter rod into some tricky areas. But if you do this regularly, you will greatly increase your odds of skin cancer. The UV light from the TIG arc is very intense and being that the process creates virtually no smoke, and there are no fluxes used (normally) the light is unfiltered and much more damaging to the skin. Practice feeding rod with a glove on during down time watching TV. I have tried many welding gloves; thick, thin, long cuff, short cuff, deer skin, cow hide, and Kevlar blends. I always gravitate back to the short cuff Steiner Ironflex TIG Gloves.

 

  1. Wear a collared long sleeve shirt. Similar to the glove situation that it may be faster if you just have to lay a couple tacks down, not to worry about throwing on a long sleeve shirt. A quick 2 minute weld job a few times a week with no neck and arm protection over the course of 10 years could add up to some adverse effects. I’ve had my fair share of inner –elbow burns from being too lazy to grab a jacket. I picked up a Carhartt Flame Resistant Classic Twill Shirt. It’s got a nice sturdy feel, but not overly bulky. It also has a high button up collar that protects the neck from UV rays. I leave it hanging on the argon bottle when not in use. This way it’s never more than an arm’s reach away from my welder.

 

  1. Clean material surfaces. Wipe down oily or mysterious metals that you will be welding on with Acetone. I get my concentrated supply online. It’s usually a couple bucks less than the hardware store and more convenient. You can use nail polish remover, but sometimes that has added coloring and isn't as strong. I go through a lot of acetone. It is very handy for wiping machine coolant off and removing surface rust on material. Chemicals and heat from the welding arc can produce dangerous fumes. If brake cleaner was previously sprayed on the material and you strike an arc, there will most likely be serious health side effects, possibly death. The chemical breaks down into deadly phosgene gas when heat and UV light are applied.

 

  1. Ditch the red tungsten. 2% thoriated tungsten is radioactive. Handling it and breathing the dust when sharpening an electrode is enough to put you at risk. There are so many alternatives to suit any material and current that there is no reason to use the red banded devil. Around the shop I have a couple favorites. Blue 3/32” Lanthanated is the Swiss -Army knife of TIG welding electrodes. It’s thick enough for a decent current carrying capacity, it’s not radioactive, it’s inexpensive, and it can be used with AC or DC and on all types of metals. E3 tungsten are a relatively new blend of tungsten that are made for longer life, more stable arcs and can be used with both AC and DC current, but they come with a higher price tag. I would suggest starting with the 2% Lanthanated and if need that little extra jam, give the E3's a try.

 

If you're wondering how to approach welding jobs and give good estimates, check out A Great Approach To Any Welding Job

 

sparks

Often times, an unknown material will need a crack repaired or a bung added. Mysterious metals can be challenging for the one doing the work. An oily cover plate from a vintage motorcycle engine, a cracked cast piece from an antique stove or a small block Chevy valve cover, that needs the oil fill tube reconfigured.

But how do you decide what filler material to use or what welding process will work best?

If you are unsure, here are 3 ways to point you in the right direction:

First, and most obvious is the Magnetic Test. Strongly magnetic materials include the carbon and low-alloy steels, iron alloys, pure nickel, and some martensitic stainless steels. Slightly magnetic reaction is found with monel and high-nickel alloys, and some stainless steels when cold worked (stainless seamless tubing and pipe) Non-magnetic materials are copper-base alloys, aluminum-base alloys, zinc-base alloys, magnesium, high chrome stainless steels and precious metals.

Second, the Spark test. Using a hand held angle grinder, on a hidden edge or scrap piece of the material lightly touch the material with the grinding disk and note the shape and color of the sparks produced. The best way is to test the unknown material, and then quickly test a known material you think is similar composition immediately after. This way the sparks can be compared easily. Cast Iron will produce dull red to straw yellow colors with short spark streams and many small short sprigs. Wrought Iron tends to be long straw colored streams with spearhead arrow looking ends. Low Carbon metals have long yellow carrier lines with less off shoots. High carbons such as tool steels will have abundant yellow carrier sparks with many bright star bursts. Manganese steel tends to be bright white with fan shaped bursts. Stainless steels throw short carrier lines with little to no offshoots or sprigs. Nickel has an extremely short spark stream, and carrier lines are orange. Titanium produces a white spark with arrow-like shapes at an angle from the main carrier spark lines.

Third, the torch test. On a hidden edge of the unknown part, light up the TIG torch quickly (preferably with a foot control) and then extinguish the arc. Inspect the metal and bead area. Compare the size and shape to known metals with the same test. Take a hand file and with medium to light pressure, file the top of the arc strike. If it is very hard and slides smoothly without cutting, the material likely contains high amounts of carbon. (could be cast iron or tool steel)

There is no completely accurate and exact way to determine the compositions of unknown metals without lab tests to confirm grain structures. With knowledge of similar metals and past experiences you will have to judge each instance individually with care.

Here's 5 simple tricks for safer TIG welding.

 

 

 

When I start any project, cost is always the first factor I tend to think about. For me, it's important that the customer receives good value for their money.

I have seen and repaired many "quick and cheap" jobs working in the welding industry. Where the customer originally was drawn in by someone who knew little about welding and a lot about nothing pertaining to the job at hand. Eventually the part or piece failed in some way and it needed to be repaired.

goodfastcheap

This image may look cliche, but is definitely something to consider.

 

When a customer comes to me with a job involving welding or design, it is so important to know what they're talking about, how the part or piece fits into the bigger picture and the impact of changing certain variables. ie. material type, welding process, joint design ect.

I need to be the expert in the field, in order for everyone to be satisfied when the job is done. The customer is relying on my (or your!) experience and qualifications for guidance.

So, back to the question; How does material type influence welding?

The answer is more like, material type + knowledge = recommendation for what material will suit the situation and solve a problem.  This is 99% of the time, purely circumstantial, and one of the reasons cost estimation for welding is difficult.

For example the customer has an oil soaked differential housing (automotive) with a large crack and some material missing.

In this case it is a unknown metal type, most likely cast iron of some kind, oil impregnated.

In a customer's eyes, "It's a little crack. Just weld it up and I'll be on my way."

What me (you) as the fabricator/welder should be thinking.

  • Oil soaked - Will need preheating to cook out impurities
  • Unknown material - Spark test, or arc test to try and narrow down possible options
  • Filler metal- The crack is large and will need filler metal to build up parent material, which type should I use?
  • Welding process- What will burn hot enough to cook out impurities and be less affected by any oil /dirt remnants
  • Safety - The is part of a vehicle in which occupants travel at speed

As you can see, the risk for the welder and customer may not outweigh the positives of repairing the differential. Also the time and cost to repair is likely greater than cost of a new housing.

In this case I might recommend the differential housing be replaced, rather than repaired.

Check Out: Stack Dimes with TIG

 

 

 

With the recent boom in small manufactoring and over seas production of inexpensive inverter based welding machines, the niche of hobbist fabricators and skilled crafts people have grown. Online web forums, mail ordering and social media have exploded this once hidden trade. Anything from self help to self advertising can be found on media outlets such as: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit.

But, with the flareup in DIY'ers misinformation is everywhere- as with anything seen on the internet, should be taken with a grain of salt.

I am a huge fan of the TIG process. Throughout my career in the field, I have been able to work on awesome projects ranging from the food processing industry to automotive racing. In every specific project a decision was made on which welding process should be used and why.

Here's a spool attachment piece I did for a food plant.

Welding done by Tradewest
Welding done by Tradewest

Some of the factors to decide that TIG was right for this particular job were; food would come in contact with the area, had to be easily cleaned & could not have flow restriction.

Cost V.S. Aesthetics

Most projects are billed by the amount of time it takes X the cost of the material. There are other factors, but this is what it mainly boils down to.

Quality and appearence are TIG's strong points, but the process also has many weak characteristics.

Deposition rate (meaning amount of weld metal deposited in a given time) is very low.  

Travel speed (distance / time) is much much slower than other welding processes. 

Shielding gas expenses; inert gas to protect the molten weld puddle from atmosphere, and cooling.

Clean material and shop environment; Materials and parts need to have a sterile essence to them before a quality weld bead can be layed down. TIG is very prone to outside contamination and variables.

A 4 inch thin walled single pass stainless pipe, in a properly setup environment and work station will take on average 10-15 minutes of arc time. Thats hood down argon flowing and intense two hand focus. - This is properly purging and allowing for fusion to happen... I'm not talking just a quick autogenous buzz to stick the surfaces together.

A more forgiving process like FCAW ( gas shielded flux core) or GMAW (MIG, gas shielded solid wire) on a much thicker joint or similar diameter would be in the 3-5 minute realm. 

How Does Material Type Influence Welding?

 

Stacking dimes, it's what everyone is always talking about.

Welders and fabrications shops alike are flaunting their TIG skills these days. It has become the gold standard in the welding industry.  TIG Only Shop, Kill All Filler, Walk the Cup and Weldporn are common phrases popping up everywhere on social media steadily over the last year.
Welding with a steady hand and robotic approach will produce quality welds
when hand skill techniques and machine settings are dialed in to the sweet spot. With TIG welding in particular, it is a common misconception that "pulse" is needed to get the dime stack look, when actually the hand control and puddle manipulation has more to do with it.

Aluminum

Dimes can be created with layrod technique- leaving the filler rod in the molten puddle and feeding more as needed, and also with the dab or dip and pause technique.

Each person performs the dabbing, dipping, laying, pausing whipping and feeding differently, therefore each welders dimes have a unique look.  Like a fingerprint, no two dimes are the same.

When is TIG welding really needed, and when is it just overkill?