If you are already a seasoned TIG(Tungsten Inert Gas) or (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding) welder, or if you want to be a TIG welder, I’m going to give you a few things to think about. A good TIG welder can command a very good living. Sometimes six- figures or more.
The GTAW (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding) process of welding requires a high degree of skill, that’s one of the reasons why it pays so well. Not only do you have to manipulate the torch and maintain a tight arc length, but when using filler metal, you also have to feed the filler rod into the puddle with your non dominant hand. On top of that, if you’re using water-cooled equipment, you’ll have to use a rheostat to start the arc and gas flow. Usually, this would be a foot pedal or switches on the TIG torch. Plus, you have to read the puddle and follow the 5 essentials of welding, which are: electrode size: current: arc length: travel speed: and: electrode angles. This must be done in order to produce a quality weld.
So, there is a lot going on when you are welding with the TIG process. You must have a very high degree of concentration, similar to meditation. Then, if you are welding pipe, using the free-hand technique or walking the cup, (which are 2 techniques I will talk about in a future article), then for most people it becomes even harder. I say for most people because, welding is a skill, and just like athletes, some are naturals, and some have to work a little harder to hone that skill. I will go into the technical ins and outs of this amazing process in a future article.
For now, I just want to give you an overview on the process and talk a bit about the many benefits and rewards associated with this process. There are very few drawbacks to GTAW. The most important one to think about is: It’s not very portable. Another one to consider is: It’s a slower process. And wind, and drafts could affect the welding. This may be true, but the benefits far out-weigh the disadvantages. TIG is super-strong, it makes use of argon or helium or a mixture of the two as shielding to protect the weld zone. There is no slag, so a properly deposited weld bead has a lot less chance of having discontinuities or defects. Filler metal is not always required, without filler metal is called Autogenous welding. The arc and weld pool are clearly visible to the welder. There is no filler metal carried across the arc, so there is very little spatter or none at all. Pulsing may be used to reduce the heat input and give the welder more control, especially useful on thin metals or exotic metals like stainless steel, inconel, monel, hastalloy, etc. And of course, welding can be performed in all positions. It is very aesthetically pleasing to look at. Another thing about TIG is its very versatile and you can weld just about any metal, in fact, it was first developed for the Aerospace industry for welding of magnesium. When done right, it is a very pretty, attractive weld.
So if you have considered TIG welding as a career, and think you have what it takes, then I suggest getting some quality training. There’s only a handful of quality welding schools in the world, and in my opinion, The Hobart Institute of Welding Technology in Troy, Ohio is without a doubt the best. Great training, and a lot of hands on practice, that’s what it will take to get you to an employable skill level where you can earn an above average wage right out of school. Add a few solid years of experience to that and you could be earning $25 – $45 an hour or more, depending on your skill level, location, type of application and whether you show up to work on time.
Jennifer L. Jenkins