TIG Welding: What Is It, Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Tips

Think again if you believe that welding involves only one method.

Or that the variations you see are just special techniques that the craftsmen thought of doing to make the job easier.

It may not be that obvious to an untrained eye. Professionals use different welding types depending on the material they are using. Their choice also depends on the kind of project they are doing. These different types will also have different results. However, they all achieve the basic goal of joining pieces of metal together.

If you can’t differentiate one method from the other just yet, don’t worry because it is a common dilemma. We are here to help you out, whether you want to find the right plasma cutter or keep reading this article.

For starters, we will talk about TIG welding. It remains one of the most widely used methods. We will tell you what it is and some valuable tips if you want to try it out. By the end, you’ll know how it should be used when fusing materials such as aluminum and stainless steel.

So, let’s get to it!

What is it?

You may be wondering what TIG welding is, especially if it is your first time hearing about it. It stands for tungsten inert gas, which is its main component. It is also known as gas tungsten arc welding or GTAW. It is one of the arc types. Tungsten is used because of its high melting point, which is ideal for fusing.

An arc is made between the tungsten electrode and the material. The tungsten electrode is non-consumable and attached to the torch. This arc is surrounded by an inert gas, typically helium or argon. It functions as a shielding gas to prevent oxidation and contamination of the metals while welding.

The arc produces enough heat to create a molten pool. As this molten pool forms, a filler material is typically added to it that melts and mixes with the pool. This filler material comes in the form of a rod and is separately held. It means you hold the torch in one hand and the filler rod in the other hand. The seam is formed when the molten pool mixed with filler material cools down.

Filler materials that can be used var. Among them are_

  • stainless steel
  • aluminum
  • nickel
  • and mild steel.

Doing it without using filler material is also possible, but it can affect the quality of the work.

Advantages and Disadvantages

With the different types available, you might ask yourself why you should choose TIG over other types. It¨s especially a consideration if other types can also be used. To answer that, you need to discover its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages

  • It produces a high-quality result and superior bead that does not sacrifice the strength of the joint and is corrosion-resistant.
  • A high-purity fuse is created because it requires working in a clean environment and with clean materials.
  • It is generally affordable.
  • While it is typically done manually, automation is possible for orbital TIG.
  • There’s no flux. It means any hassles or issues involving slag are avoided.
  • Little to no touchups or finishing process needed afterward because of the quality of weld made.
  • It offers versatility because it can be used to fuse various materials.
  • Its small heat zone lessens any possible distortions and allows the craftsman to work with thinner materials.
  • No fumes or sparks are produced. The same goes for spattering and flames produced in most cases.
  • It allows you to work on even small joints, as well as hard-to-reach sections that other methods are not capable of.
  • TIG offers more control.
  • Torch, with a pen-like design and size, allows the welder to create intricate designs. That is why it is also used in creating art.
  • Welding is possible in all positions.
  • It’s ideal if you need gas-tight joints.
  • Two-handed operation offers convenience if you need to switch filler rods.
  • Autogenous or filler-free welds are possible.
  • Defective results are rare.
  • Continuous work is possible because of the non-consumable tungsten electrode used.

Disadvantages

  • Working with dirty materials and the environment will weaken the joint formed.
  • Its deposition rate is low. You need to work slowly to get the kind of weld you need. A slow pace is needed for a successful result.
  • It cannot be used to fuse thick materials.
  • Using this method requires training. It cannot be done by anyone without proper knowledge of the process.
  • It is harder to separate two metals welded together, such as when recycling metals. Doing so will likely damage both base materials.
  • It requires the use of both hands and one foot for the pedal at the same time when working.
  • It can be more expensive than other types, particularly because of the shielding gas and equipment.
  • It produces high levels of UV rays, requiring a craftsman to use the right glasses or helmet at all times when working.

It is important to know all these advantages and disadvantages before deciding whether this method suits your project. Should you consider other types of welding instead?

MIG vs. TIG

MIG vs. TIG – two different types often used interchangeably, and it is easy to see why.

For starters, even their names are already quite similar. Their basic function is also the same: To fuse two metals. They both require a shielding gas. But this is basically where their similarities end. You are already quite familiar with TIG, so it will be easier to understand their differences.

Unlike TIG, MIG only requires a one-handed operation. MIG is therefore considered a point-and-shoot process. You only have to point the gun at the location you want to work on and press the trigger to start. This makes it a method that is fairly easy to do, even for beginners.

It requires a filler rod held separately. The filler material in a wire is directly fed to the gun in MIG. It is automatically added as you work. This means the process is simplified and offers faster work, allowing you to work faster and increase productivity. Unfortunately, this also means that the joint created is not as strong as the one created via TIG.

MIG is much more suitable for thicker materials, whereas TIG is best for thinner ones. And while it offers a high-quality finish, the same cannot be said for MIG because small holes are often formed at the joints. And because MIG costs less overall, it is suitable for most applications. In contrast, the more expensive TIG is ideal for specialized ones.

There are also other minor differences between the two methods, but these are the major ones that you should be aware of.

Basic Tips for Beginners

If you consider yourself a beginner, these basic tips will help you once you learn the ropes through training. They can also help if you’re currently in the process of finding that right TIG to get you started:

  • Keep it clean. If you want the best quality result possible, ensure both your working environment and the materials are clean. They should be completely free of impurities, such as dust and rust.
  • Safety first. Never forget to wear your safety gear when working.
  • Choose the right tungsten. The method involves using tungsten, and there are different types available. Always match the material to the right type of tungsten.
  • Also, consider the thickness of the tungsten. If it is too thin, it can overheat quickly. But if it is too thick, it will need more heat once you start using your torch.
  • Less power is more. Choose the lowest power setting that you can handle or sustain. Too much power will likely cause it to burn through the material.
  • The angle is key. You can weld in all positions. Make sure there is a 15 to 20-degree angle between your torch and the metal and away from the travel direction. This allows you to easily work with the filler material and offers better visibility as you work.
  • Avoid the common rookie mistake involving the filler. You should always allow the filler rod to be melted by the molten pool created by the torch. Using the torch to melt the filler material will only result in a weak bond.
  • Never allow the tungsten tip to touch the molten pool. This will cause the tip to become contaminated. When this happens, you must regrind it first using a diamond grinding wheel before restarting. That is if you want a high-quality weld. And when grinding, do it as even as you possibly can and in a lengthwise direction.
  • Keep it slow, steady, and consistent. You need to work carefully and at a controlled and steady pace to produce a uniform result. There should be a small gap between the base material and the electrode, ideally only 1/8 to 3/16 inches.

These are just some of the many tips you need to note when still mastering this craft. TIG is a more specialized type, but it does not mean beginners like you should not attempt it.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a challenging material to weld because of its excellent heat retention. It can cause it to warp or rust. It can also become brittle when being welded. Because of these characteristics, only a few of the available welding types can be used. One of these is the TIG method.

While it can be used for stainless steel following the usual process, extra care is needed. You need to choose the correct type of tungsten. The right gas and filler material will ensure that your workplace is clean and that the tungsten tip is properly sharpened. Focus on the heat being applied to the metal.

Using too much heat increases the risk of warping. Just the right amount of heat must be applied to stainless steel. The color of the weld can determine this. If you are using the right amount of heat, the color should range from a flaxen or light-yellowish to a salmon color. But if you see that the weld is grayish or dark in color, too much heat is being applied.

To prevent this, increase the speed of travel of the torch and reduce amperage at the same time. You can also opt for a thinner filler rod so that it can melt much faster at moderate heat. To prevent the coloring common to welding stainless steel, stop now and then as you work. It will allow the material to cool, especially once you start noticing discolorations while working.

Aluminum

TIG is often associated with aluminum because most projects done through this method involve aluminum. But just like stainless steel, aluminum has properties that make it complicated to work with. There are no color changes as you weld, making it hard to determine if you are doing it right.

It is an excellent conductor of heat. The oxide layer present on the surface of aluminum also has a higher melting point than the base material itself. This means you need precision in terms of the heat to surpass the oxide layer while preventing the base material from overheating. When working with aluminum, remember the following:

  • Use a stainless steel brush to clean and remove the oxide layer before welding aluminum. Do so in one direction only and use the same brush for aluminum only.
  • Weld aluminum using an AC or alternating current polarity. This will remove the oxide layer that quickly reforms after cleaning with the stainless steel brush.
  • To prevent burning through the base material and creating distortions, increase the speed of travel as you weld. Make sure that the current is set high enough. If done too slowly, it will burn through the base material.
  • The arc should not be high enough nor too close. Make sure that it is just close enough so that the heat is concentrated on a small area only.

It offers you more control as you work, which is needed in aluminum. Even if MIG can also be used on aluminum, TIG is the method of choice for many craftsmen working with this material.

Copper

Another metal that can be quite a challenge to work on but is doable using this method is copper. This metal is known for its high conductivity, which means it will quickly heat up once you start. This property means that the pool created quickly dissipates because copper cools it down quickly.

When working with copper, you also need to work fast and hot. Pre-heating the entire material using a propane torch will prevent the molten pool from immediately solidifying. Copper is also prone to warping. If you are working on thin sheets of copper and require it to retain its shape, this method may not work for you.

Proper cleaning and ventilation in your workplace are also important. Copper is known to oxidize and form a patina. It must be removed using a stainless-steel brush with fine bristles. While it is generally fumeless, any fumes generated by copper are hazardous. That is why proper ventilation is important. The high heat required to work can be potentially dangerous if flammable items are nearby. It can get hot enough to ignite them.

Because of the method’s versatility, always ensure that you are using the right materials for your project. The tungsten electrode, filler rod, and shielding gas are crucial to choosing the right! They need to be appropriate for your base material if you want to produce high-quality results. Make sure to undergo training before attempting this method. It requires specialization, but it can still be done by a beginner trained to do so.

Are you ready to buy your machine?

We hope that this informative article helped answer some of your questions. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of TIG welding.

It may initially seem a little more difficult to get started with TIG. It provides a range of benefits over MIG. It may be the easiest time to get started with this new skill. Start incorporating it before you become accustomed to an easier but weaker method!

You are now on your own to start exploring some of the other welding articles. Consider reading our article that compares MIG and TIG. Suppose you are ready to buy a welder at present. Visit our page, where we have listed what we believe are the absolute best options for you to go with.

You will usually get more functionality when investing in a more expensive TIG machine. Our ultimate mission is to ensure that anyone who makes it here gets the service that best suits their budget.

Our long-term goal is that we end up becoming your trusted source of information. You start your journey here, no matter if you are looking to buy a fuel transfer tank or a wide belt sander.

When you get ready to pursue your interest in buying one, we have all the best options. Please look at them and see which one best suits your needs.

There are welders available for all sorts of budgets. Before you buy the most expensive equipment, understand the features you need. Do you have a type of metal that you will typically be welding? You may want to think about that as you look at the different welding models.

FAQ

What is better, MIG or TIG welding?

MIG and TIG welding both have their own set of pros and cons. Each type of welding works best in a different set of conditions. For instance, MIG welding is ideal for bigger and thicker materials. At the same time, TIG welding is more suited for joining thin slices of non-ferrous metals. Therefore, TIG welding is suitable for you if you’re on a time and budget crunch. But if your material is large and difficult to handle, you may have to opt for MIG welding instead.

What is TIG welding mostly used for?

TIG welding works wonders for welding thinner pieces of non-ferrous metals. Therefore, it’s ideal for the aviation and aerospace industry. It’s also commonly used for pipe welding.

What do you need to weld aluminum with a TIG welder?

For welding aluminum using a TIG welder, you require several things. Firstly, you need shielding glass (typically made of argon) to prevent the molten liquid from atmospheric gases. Then you will require a non-consumable electrode made of tungsten. Lastly, make sure you’re working on a clean surface to remove any oxide buildup in the process.

How do you set up a TIG welder for aluminum?

For setting up your TIG welder to weld aluminum, you need to connect the torch, remote control, and clamps. Once you have the setup decided, choose the proper polarity. For aluminum, set the polarity to AC. Next, it’s essential to prepare your tungsten electrode. While working with aluminum, it will begin rounding up. You must grind it to keep the edges pointy. Once you’ve assembled the torch, you need to install the electrode and switch on the power supply.