Best welding tricks: how to become a more skilled welder and how to choose the top welding equipment. Use the smallest tungsten that will get the job done. Use the smallest tungsten to get the job done. …within reason. Another way of saying this is don’t just use a 1/8” electrode for everything. There are jobs where a 1/8” electrode is great like for welding 3/16” thick aluminum. But what if you are welding on the edge of a .030” turbine blade? A .040” electrode will be plenty to handle the 15 amps and will give much better starts than even a 1/16” electrode. Too large an electrode can cause an erratic arc and contamination…and A bad start where the high frequency tries to arc up inside the cup and off the side of the tungsten can easily melt off a thin edge and scrap an expensive part. 2% thoriated or lanthanated tungsten electrodes hold up at high amperage better than most all other electrodes. When welding at higher amperages, often times you can use one size smaller electrode by using 2% thoriated or lanthanated. And that is a good thing.
Not all aluminum alloys are weldable: For example: 7075 and 2024 are not considered readily weldable using TIG welding. You can usually TIG weld them and they might be fine for a tool tote or some little art project…but don’t be fooled. You can’t depend on the welds in critical applications. Take a tree stand for instance. Lets say Joe gets a good deal on some aluminum angle iron at his friends scrap yard and he decides to make a tree stand. Joe has no way of knowing what alloy of aluminum he got from the scrap yard. He makes the tree stand, it holds together and looks just fine. The welds are real pretty…like a stack of dimes. One day he is sitting in his tree stand about 20 feet up a tree. The stress corrosion that has been happening on a microstrucutural level since he finished welding the tree stand finally comes home to roost and CRACK!!
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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Before you get started, conduct online research to see what the best practices are for the specific wire you have or contact a trusted filler metal manufacturer. Doing so not only tells you what the manufacturer’s recommended parameters are for your diameter wire, but also what the proper wire feed speed, amperage and voltage is, along with the most compatible shielding gas. The manufacturer will even tell you what electrode extension or contact-to-work distance (CTWD) is best suited for the particular wire. Keep in mind that if you get too long of a stickout, your weld will be cold, which will drop your amperage and with it the joint penetration. As a general rule of thumb, since less wire stickout typically results in a more stable arc and better low-voltage penetration, the best wire stickout length is generally the shortest one allowable for the application.