Is TIG welding somewhat of an art form? Is it harder to learn than MIG? Can anyone do it? My answer is yes to all these questions. If you have ever tried tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding you know that it is not the easiest skill to learn. But as you also know, learning to swim or ride a bike was not as easy as diving in the water or jumping on a bike. TIG welding takes practice followed by more practice and a little know-how. Although I can’t show every detail of TIG welding, I hope what you read in this limited amount of editorial space you can pick up a few tips and tricks and be TIG welding in no time.

How do you get started? Well, first off you need to figure out what you want to do with the TIG machine. Do you want to weld steel, stainless, titanium, aluminum, and magnesium, etc, all with one machine? If so, I would suggest you choose a machine that has DC and AC settings for welding aluminum and steel materials. Direct Current Electrode Negative (DCEN) for steel, stainless, titanium, copper, and nickel alloys. Alternating Current (AC) is used for welding aluminum and magnesium materials. TIG welding aluminum has a better appearance than that of a MIG spool gun and TIG also has the ability to weld a thinner material because of the focused heat coming from the TIG torch.

For me, I needed a simple machine that I can plug in and start welding and The Miller Electric Diversion 165 and 180 make great choices for welding all kinds of materials. I ended up choosing the Miller Diversion 180 because of the extra amperage it provides when welding thick aluminum. The Diversion 180 also has a few new items that some of the older TIG machines don’t have, such as an inverter. The inverter inside the machine allows the welder to draw less power from your house or work area but still can put out the same range of power that the older transformer machines do. The new inverter technology helps stabilize the weld arc and give more consistency. Another plus of inverters is that you no longer have to have a giant, heavy transformer, so the overall weight and size of any inverter machine is less. This means that I can pick up the welder and put it into my truck without the help from a buddy or breaking my back. The Diversion 180 weighs only 50 pounds. The Diversion 180 also has the ability to plug into 115V or 230V power using their multi-voltage plug that screws on and off of the welder’s power lead. The multi-plug comes in handy when welding thin sheetmetal with the 115V plug or I can plug into the 230V plug and go all the way up to the max 180-amp setting when welding thick aluminum. This multi-plug is also great for taking your welder to a friend’s house that only has 20-amp, 115V outlets, but the only downfall is that with a 115V power source the welder is limited and maxes out at 125 amps.

The electronics inside have changed with the use of the inverter. The older, non-inverter style welders would weld at 60hz and the new Miller Diversion inverter machines allow for a fixed 120hz. This helps with keeping a narrower bead when welding aluminum. At 120hz you can now sharpen your tungsten to a point, blunt the end and start welding. For the older machines you would need to create a ball on the end of your tungsten for aluminum and would not be very easy to direct your puddle because of a wondering arc.

So now that you picked a welder, what gas do you need for TIG welding? For most automotive applications argon is used. Most of you that have a MIG welder with an aluminum spool gun know that you need to switch between argon and a C02 mix depending on the material you are welding. With TIG welding argon can be used for everything from steel, stainless, aluminum, brass, and copper without switching back and forth like the MIG process. Helium is another gas you can use with an argon mix, or just pure helium, but when adding helium to the mix, the price goes way up. While argon is used mainly in the automotive industry because it works great and is less expensive than helium or helium mixed with argon. That doesn’t mean that helium does not have its place with TIG welding. For example, when adding a small amount of helium to argon, the arc from the torch becomes more intense. Adding helium will allow several things including, faster welding speed/time for TIG production welding, allow a smaller TIG machine to weld thicker than the machine’s maximum material thickness, and promotes better penetration in thicker aluminum plate. Although going over the maximum rating with any machine is not something I would do very often because you are pushing the machine to the limits of what it is designed to do. For the general automotive shop use and the home hobbyist argon gas works best and has a more stable arc than helium. CT

3491 Mission Oaks Blvd
CA  93011
Industrial Metal Supply
2481 Alton Parkway
CA  92606
Miller Electric
1635 W. Spencer Street
WI  54912
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