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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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