Last Updated on November 9, 2020 by Gary Hargrave
Perhaps, you know that TIG welding is arguably the most difficult of all welding processes even if an experienced person attempts it. This fact alone can make you think that TIG welding metal with a stick welding machine is a wacko idea. Is there any way to make this idea practical and sensible? As I got this question several times before, I gathered my findings around this.
You can convert a DC stick welder into a TIG welding machine by adding an air-cooled TIG torch, pure argon, and ER70S-6 3/32 X 36 to the list of required items. Try “scratch start” to start the arc and go on with stitch welding. You can bring a foot pedal for amperage control.
As I am about to move forward with the details, I should tell you that the finished weld may not be the best of all welds you could possibly make in other ways. But following this guide and using your skills properly may bring excellent results.
First up, I’ll tell you why this very idea is worth a trial. Then, I’ll unfold the actual work process under different sections.
Topics Covered in This Article
Why Would You Want to Use a Stick Welder?
This question may seem a little bit awkward since we want to know if TIG welding can be done with a stick welder. But I should let you know whether there are considerable advantages to this undertaking or it is just a way to avoid getting a dedicated setup for TIG welding.
Using a stick welder to TIG weld material is what one might deem as an unconventional application. Saving some money on buying a TIG welder is perhaps the first thing that makes many professionals think about this. So, you can definitely give it a try if you already have a stick welder, and you don’t want to specialize in TIG welding.
In this setup, the gas is set to flow separately into the torch. This allows you to use a long gas hose which should bring great flexibility to your effort. However, you won’t be able to rest assured that all odds are in your favor.
You cannot use thin materials. Yes, I mean the ones you would have on an actual TIG welding job. Other downsides to this include the lack of precise arc and increased wear on your tungsten tip.
Finally, the finished welds won’t look as clean and aesthetically rich as you would expect with a TIG process. So, following this particular method, you’ll only be doing TIG welding with the desired quality of the weld absent.
But I guess your goal is to get your hands dirty with this exotic application. So, I’ll start the relevant discussion right away with the essentials for the job.
Required Tools to TIG Weld with a Stick Welder
Any DC stick welder can be converted to a TIG welder. So, make sure you have a DC stick welder. But the most important one after the welder itself is the torch you’ll be using. It should be nothing less than an air-cooled torch designed for TIG welding. You should choose a torch that has a valve on it to let the operator regulate the gas.
Why should you rely on an air-cooled model and NOT a water-cooled torch? An air-cooled torch handles the heat put out by the torch better than a water-cooled model. This is how you can simplify the process.
Next, I should tell you about the size of the torch you should choose. While most experts would say the size 17 should be what you need, I’ve learned that a smaller head, if added to the TIG torch, can make the process a little bit easier and more versatile. So, I recommend the size 9 for this particular job.
Bringing a basic torch is not out of question, but people without much experience may not benefit from it. If you are comfortable with the tool and the fact that you’ll have to turn the gas on or off yourself during the process, I see no problem for you in choosing a basic torch.
For shielding gas, argon comes handier than others. Argon is not only versatile but also suitable for mild and stainless steel, and aluminum which are the materials of choice as long as you stick to the TIG process. Get an argon bottle/tank with a connector and a gas hose.
Hook the bottle up to your torch and use a flow meter. This process requires a lot of gas. Many people go light on argon hoping to save some bucks. But I wouldn’t say you should do the same. After all, you have a very urgent task which is to protect the joints completely as you weld one.
For the filler rod, I suggest “ER70S-6 3/32 X 36” which is a good welding wire for mild steel. You’ll have more options, but that requires a more in-depth discussion which I’ll avoid here.
Oh, hold on, I just forgot to mention Direct Current Electrode Negative (DCEN) which is particularly required by this application. It is a kind of polarity where the electricity is led to flow out of the welding rod and concentrate one-third of the generated heat on the welding rod.
It results in less penetration which is something you would need while working with thinner steel or stainless steel plates. In TIG welding, that is what we usually see people do.
Preparation and Setup
At the end of the torch, a power cable adapter should be connected so that the shielding gas moves through it. Keep the ground connected to the positive terminal while hooking the electrode to the negative side. Hook your electrode holder into the power cable adapter.
It is time for you to do some cleaning and prepare the metal. Examine the metal piece(s) and grind or sand them down to remove any impurities. You shouldn’t leave any contaminants on the metal. Don’t forget to keep a grinder at your workshop.
Don’t forget your safety outfit. This is where you need your welding gloves, sleeves, and an auto-darkening helmet. Put them on as you would do before starting any welding project.
Steps Showing You How to TIG Welding Using a Stick Welder
Frankly speaking, this section is not going to be a typical step-by-step guide. Rather, I’ll discuss the steps in plain paragraphs so that you understand what is involved without being restricted to tasks in a sequential order.
Basically, I’ll be talking about “scratch start” as it offers some advantages over other methods like “lift start”. You need to scratch the surface and hold the torch up to initiate the arc. Try to remember how you start fire using a match stick.
Make sure the amperage of the welder is set 125 for 1/8-inch metal pieces, and the gas is on and flowing at 20 cubic feet per hour (CFH). You can flip your electrode around as it has been stricken on the metal. You can also turn to grind the head of your tungsten electrode into a sharp and pointy one before striking.
Given that the metal being used in the process has been free of impurities/contaminants, keeping the electrode clean shouldn’t be a problem. Remember that the electrode must be kept clean, which is I think a crucial challenge for anyone trying to TIG welding with a stick welder.
At this point, I’ll shed some light on the welding technique. Most professionals believe stitch welding is preferable to seam when it comes to scratch start. Stitching the weld bead means you’ll initiate the weld to cover a certain part of the joint length and then terminate the weld. After that, you’ll restart it along the joint keeping the previous weld apart from the new one.
Often called intermittent welding, stitch welding is ideal for flat and corner welds. With this technique, you can have a control over the heat in terms of its amount transferred to the targeted part. Since you don’t want to cause distortion and disturb the mechanical and chemical properties of the metal being used, intermittent welding is the right one to adopt.
With a water-cooled torch, you can leave the gas on after terminating the weld because the shielding gas, argon in this case, can protect the tungsten as the electrode cools off.
Should You Choose Lift Start Instead of Scratch Start?
Despite scratch start being more useful, the lift start method is not an awful one either. All you need to do is rest the cup and bring it down slowly. Then, you can touch the tungsten carefully to get the angle right only to take it off. Once the arc starts; you shouldn’t lift the torch any higher than 1/4 inch off the surface.
Warnings to Remember
- Maintaining an optimal gas flow throughout the process is critical. Keep the flow between 15 and 20 CFH to avoid turbulences in the arc and porosity in the weld.
- Increase or decrease the amperage considering the material thickness. Too high amperage may cause defects like holes or burn-through.
- Don’t let yourself drown in disappointment to see grey welds. In fact, it is one of the limitations of this method. A few minutes of post welding clean-up may remove the ugly appearance.
In fact, the whole process that I’ve explained so far is mostly about a DC power source. If you can produce enough power (heat) to melt the metal into a clean puddle in a smooth manner and control it with the basic welding skills, you should have no problem using a stick welder as a TIG machine.
Now that each step of the operation has been stated, I would like to offer a few tips to wrap this discussion up. The hardest part of this job as many welding professionals think is the lack of easy handling of the amperage.
Well, adding a foot pedal may seem like one of the optional accessories, but I think a foot pedal lets you have a little longer duration with argon instead of waiting for the torch to regulate the flow of the gas.
For those who love to have the simplest of setups, this one thing may seem too much. However, you should use this component because keeping the weld puddle from any contamination is something you can’t ignore.
Another problem you might experience is the quick consumption of argon. Truth be told, you barely have anything to prevent it for the welder doesn’t help with this. With a lot of practice, you can only expect to get better and faster at turning ON or OFF the valve between your welds.
There you got all I wanted to inform. I hope things will go easy and you won’t end up having poor welds. Should you need further assistance, I’ll be happy to help with this job and anything that involves welding.