Several TIG welders advices: how to become a better welder and how to select the top welding equipment. For DCEN welding on steels, 1/16″ will work in the 20 to 100 amp rage as long as you prep it right. If you are using 20 amps, you will need a needle sharp point to get good crisp arc starts. At 100 amps, you might not want quite a needle sharp point or you might be putting a smidge of tungsten in the weld. You need a blunter taper. Some charts extend the range to 150 amps for 1/16, but I think that’s way too much. Why not just swap to a 3/32 at that amperage.? 3/32″ is good from about 65 – 200 amps. And 1/8″ 2% thoriated electrodes are good in the 85 – 300 amp range. ( Drop all these numbers by about 30% for A/C) Using helium mixed with the argon will also change the recommended currents because the arc is hotter with the same amps. These recommendations are from down and dirty experience and don’t come from a chart. Most charts I have seen tell you a 1/16 tungsten is good all the way to 150 amps…Please.
Get filler metal charts to let you choose correct rods for whatever materials you are welding: Alcotecs Aluminum filler metal chart . Go online to alcotec.com for an aluminum filler wire chart. You probably won’t find a filler metal chart that covers welding dissimilar metals so here is your filler metal chart right here: are you ready? Here it is… if it you don’t know what metal you are welding, but it sparks when you grind it, and it is not titanium, try using hastelloy W. or 312 stainless. Hastelloy W TIG welding rod has become extremely expensive. 312 stainless is also a very good rod choice for welding steel of unknown composition. For a critical weld, you should not just rely on 312 without knowing the metal type..you should determine the metal type for any critical weld.
Do a practice run. This may sound silly, but you’ll find that many professional welders do this before every pass. Get in the most comfortable position you can, with support blocks in place if helpful, and run your hands along the path they will traverse as you make the weld. You will often find that a slight adjustment of your position will allow you to make a longer pass, or to move your hands with less stress. Any strain in your position will have a negative impact on the weld. Also, you build valuable muscle memory when making your practice run, which will help keep everything on track when you make the ‘real’ pass. Clean a contaminated electrode immediately! Every welder will contaminate their electrode at some point, but it’s essential that you replace a contaminated electrode immediately. I usually keep a group of pre-sharpened electrodes right on my welding bench, so I can swap them out without having to walk to my grinder.
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Keep in mind that heavy-duty MIG welding often produces a lot of heat, sparks and spatter, and requires a lower degree of dexterity than some other forms of welding. Therefore, using thick, stiff leather gloves that provide a higher level of protection is smart. Similarly, choose leather footwear that covers your entire foot and leaves as little room as possible for spatter to fall along your ankle line. High-top leather shoes and work boots often provide the best protection. Finally, always be sure you have adequate ventilation per OSHA recommendations and check material safety data sheets (MSDS) for each metal being welded and filler metal being used. Use a respirator whenever required by the MSDS.