Welders in nuclear power plants, food industry plants, and their own workshops have long used a simple series of modifications to their stick welders in order to TIG weld. By adding a TIG torch, shielding gas with a flow meter, and a few other parts, welders can create clean, effective TIG welds on steel and stainless steel. What do you need to know in order to scratch start using a stick welder? Well, you won’t find everything you may want to know here since every welder has a slightly different set up, but we’ll give you some tips for getting started.
Defining Scratch Start TIG Welding
While you can start a TIG welder with a high frequency start or a lift TIG function, modifying a stick welder with a TIG torch is a different matter. Welders use the scratch start method for this type of TIG welding, which involves a very quick match strike motion to start the arc. While some flip the electrode around after striking it on the metal, many tend to grind the tungsten into a sharp point and then strike it.
The main challenge of course with scratch start TIG welding is keeping your electrode clean. While a quick strike on the metal is essential and not lifting it more than 1/8” once it starts will help, you also need to make sure your metal is completely clean. Grind and sand down any impurities before starting up your welder to ensure there are no contaminants. Keep your grinder handy as well if you get any contamination into your weld while you work.
When Do Welders Use Scratch Start TIG Welding
If you already have a DC stick welding machine or an AC/DC stick welding machine, you have the key component you need in order to scratch start TIG welding. There are plenty of reasons why you may want to use this method, from finding a TIG welding rig that’s cheaper than a costly TIG machine to adding a new skill. Scratch TIG welding is also extremely portable since you can take a basic stick welding machine anywhere and get to work. Many industries rely on this method for basic repairs since they tend to create clean, reliable welds.
What Do You Need for Scratch Start TIG Welding
If you’re interested in getting started with TIG welding with your stick welder, the most important components will be an air cooled TIG torch, preferably with a valve so you can regulate the shielding gas right on the torch itself. The size 17 is the most common type of torch, and you can even add a smaller head to the torch to make it more versatile, but the size 9 is also a good option for this set up.
Your argon shielding gas needs to be hooked up to the torch and a flow meter. Expect to run through a lot of argon gas. One of the worst mistakes you can make while TIG welding is to go light on the shielding gas. Make sure you completely protect the weld joint while you work.
Some welders have purchased or made simple foot pedals so that they can get more control over the process, but may be a step too far for some welders who prefer to keep things simple. However, if you want to protect your weld puddle from contamination, a foot pedal gives you a little more time with shielding gas rather than relying on your torch to regulate the argon flow.
An air-cooled torch should be all you need for this type of job, since a water-cooled torch can make your set up a little more complicated. Air-cooled should be able to handle the amount of heat your torch puts out while you weld.
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