Are you wondering if you can convert stick welder to TIG?
Here is the truth.
You can convert a stick welder or any DC welding machine into a TIG welder, provided that you have the supplies, including a TIG torch and Argon gas.
If you want to try TIG welding and don’t want something that will cost an arm or a leg, you’ll like the fact that you can TIG weld with a stick welder and save some money that you’d otherwise spend on acquiring a separate TIG welder.
In this blog post, we’ll explain to you exactly how you can convert your old stick welder lying in the tool shed into a TIG welding machine. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Why do you need to turn a stick welder into a TIG welder?
It saves you money. As we have already mentioned, this is one of the most viable options, especially when you are starting out in TIG or just want to learn the technique and you already have a stick welding machine in the garage.
It makes you more flexible. A stick welder allows you to use a separate gas hose, meaning you can be more flexible when welding. Also, stick welder cables are longer than those used with TIG welders, so you can be a bit more relaxed than when using a custom TIG welder.
Most of the advantages of TIG welding with a stick welder are ideally attributed to the simplicity of the setup. However, it may be nearly impossible to achieve the quality of a dedicated TIG welding
Also, if you intend to do TIG welding more frequently or you’ll be working with thinner and delicate materials, it would be more sensible to invest in a TIG welder. One of the advantages of a TIG welding machine is the ability to weld thin materials, and this will be nearly impossible when you use a stick welder for TIG welding.
The results will also not be as clean as when using a TIG welder, so you’ll need to do more post-welding cleaning work. However, as long as the metals to be welded are free from contaminants, keeping your work clean should not be a challenge.
What do you need to get started?
At this point, we want to assume that all you have is a stick welder with a DC connection. Your stick to TIG conversion kit will include;
- a TIG torch
- TIG cup/nozzle
- shielding gas, preferably 100% Argon
- a gas hose to connect the shielding gas to the torch
The cup size and tungsten diameter will depend on the type of project you’ll like to perform, material thickness, and joint types. Regarding the TIG torch, consider one with a valve or opening on its handle to help with gas regulation and improve the usability of the torch.
Also, consider an air-cooled to a water-cooled torch as the former is designed to handle more heat output as you weld while enabling you to simplify the process.
If you’re a beginner or just starting your welding career, the Miller Dialarc 250 TIG conversion kit is a good place to start. It will get the job done, and it allows great control over the welds.
Setting up stick welder for TIG welding
After gathering all the required items, the next step will be setting up your gear before you get started with welding. The first thing you’ll need to do is connect the gas cylinder to the TIG torch using the gas hose. However, don’t turn on the gas flow as yet.
The next thing you need to do is to make sure that every component is connected properly to avoid hitches along the way. First, connect the electrode lead to the negative connector and the ground clamp to the positive terminal of your stick welder. This kind of connection is what is referred to as DCEN (Direct Current Electrode Negative) or straight polarity. The setup results in a higher deposition rate but less weld penetration.
Finally, connect the TIG torch to the electrode stick clamp and ensure to close the valve on your torch. Don’t forget to put on a welding helmet, gloves, welding jackets, and other PPE before doing any welding job.
TIG welding with a stick welding machine
After everything is set and connected, you are now ready to kick off. Before you started welding, ensure that you set the weld settings depending on the type and thickness of the material you’re using.
If you set the amps too high, you risk burning through the materials immediately you start welding. To avoid burning through your material, reduce the power and the amount of time you pass the torch on one particular spot.
If the arc fails to start, check if the connections are correct and always ensure that the torch is plugged to the negative output. Also, ensure the torch is positioned safely to ensure the welding is much more manageable.
At this point, you can now turn on the shielding gas. The flow rate is going to depend on job requirements. If the flow volume is too high, it might create turbulences that might eventually absorb oxygen. On the other hand, you risk porosity if the gas is flowing too slowly. As such, ensure the flow is sufficient to completely protect the weld area while working.
While most TIG application requires a high frequency and lift TIG function, the case is somewhat different when using a stick welder for TIG welding. Welders prefer to use the scratch start technique, which involves touching the workpiece very quickly to start the arc. This method also lets you scratch the metal, or adjust the angle of movement either up and down depending on the position of the metals.
As mentioned earlier, this method is primarily applicable if you already have a DC stick machine or AC to DC welder conversion kit. And since stick welder is exceptionally portable, most welders depend on scratch TIG welding to create clean and reliable welds. The technique is also cheaper than when using a TIG machine, especially when doing basic repairs.
The main drawback of scratch start TIG welding is keeping the weld area and the electrode clean. As such, you’ll want to strike the arc as quickly as possible while making sure that your metals are completely clean. You can do a practice run on a thin metal plate before you start on your workpiece. This will ensure you produce a much better weld appearance.
The Bottom Line
TIG welding is costly than other welding processes, and you need specific welding equipment to do it right. Using a stick welder is an inexpensive way to get into the practice, but it translates to an extra hassle of handling a stick welder. If done right, you can really produce great look welds without spending a lot on a native TIG welder as long as you have the required parts. However, if you are not happy with the results or plan to do TIG jobs more frequently, the best decision is to invest in a TIG welding machine.