TIG welding (also called GTAW or gas tungsten arc welding) is considered by some to be the toughest process to learn. Whether or not that is true, one thing is certain: you can weld more base metals with TIG than anything else, which makes it ideal for bike fabrication and repairs.
TIG welding is a very clean welding process, which is one reason many people like it. It does not produce sparks, spatter, or fumes (although proper ventilation is always recommended), and it requires little clean up. It is also ideal for welding on thinner materials, especially those less than 1/4-inch.
During TIG welding, a tungsten electrode creates an arc and transfers the current to the material being welded. To protect the weld puddle from contaminants, the process requires the use of a shielding gas, typically argon. You usually need to use a filler metal during TIG welding, which you feed into the weld pool by the opposite hand than that holding the TIG torch. TIG filler metals are often called rods or cut-lengths and are available in diameters ranging from 1/16- to 1/4-inch.
Having the right equipment for TIG welding and properly maintaining it is important. Take the torch. Since it is responsible for carrying and directing the welding current to the weld joint, it can have a big impact on your welding success.
2. A TIG torch with a flexible neck (as shown here) helps improve access to difficult joints.
2. A TIG torch with a flexible neck (as shown here) helps improve access to difficult joi
The Torch: From the Machine ForwardThere are two options when selecting hoses or cables for a TIG torch: vinyl or rubber. These are available for both air- or water-cooled torches.
For either type of TIG torch, rubber hoses and cables, especially braided ones, are recommended for their longevity and welding performance. They offer good heat resistance, up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (compared to 150 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit for vinyl), and also resist kinking, which prevents disruption to the shielding gas flow that can lead to problems like porosity. Rubber hoses and cables also maintain their flexibility and durability in cold environments better than vinyl and offer good protection against high frequency leakage.
Next, choose a TIG torch with the right handle for the job, specifically one that is comfortable to hold and one that offers the appropriate cooling capacity needed for the application. Generally, there are two available types of handles: smooth (sometimes called knurled) or ribbed.
Ribbed handles help improve cooling capacity on air-cooled torches, and are often shipped standard from the factory when you order this type of TIG torch. Conversely, smooth handles offer good thermal conductivity for water-cooled torches. These two types of handles can be interchanged; however, it is important to be sure that both are made of durable electrical grade plastic. This compound helps resist cracking and protects against high frequency shocks.
If the power source being used does not have a gas solenoid, choose a torch body that includes a gas valve control. This valve can be turned on and off as needed to minimize unnecessary shielding gas usage.
The TIG torch body should feature good insulation, as this protects against damage from day-to-day use, helps extend torch life, and shields against high frequency leakage. Most TIG torch manufacturers surround the torch body with silicon rubber insulation, and some specifically use a high-dielectric type. High-dielectric silicon rubber withstands higher voltages without breaking down, which helps lengthen the life of the torch. Silicon rubber insulated torch bodies are also more resilient than hard phenolic torch bodies (another torch body option) to resist cracking if dropped.