Scratch Start Tig Welder – How to Tig Weld With an Old School Stick Machine

A “scratch start” tig welder is the simplest kind of tig welder there is. An air cooled tig torch, argon cylinder, and a regulator/flowmeter is all you need to turn any DC stick welding machine into a crude tig welder.

Scratch Start tig units, also called “dry rigs” are used all the time by pipefitters and boilermakers because of their low cost and portability. Many high quality welds are made every year on pipes that go into things like Nuclear plants and Battle Ships using old school scratch start tig welders.

What are the drawbacks?

  • no amperage control
  • tungsten must come in contact with weld in order to start the arc
  • no ability to taper off amperage and shield hot weld metal when a bead is terminated

What about the pluses?

  • very portable – you are limited only by the feet of welding lead and argon hose you have as to how far away from the machine you can work.
  • very simple – not much can malfunction
  • very inexpensive – you can score an air cooled tig torch and flowmeter off E-bay for about 100 bones

What about for Shop welding?

For shop welding, you are definitely going to want a foot pedal amperage control.

In a job shop environment, the variety of different metal types, and varying thicknesses make a foot pedal amperage control an absolute must.

Here is the good news:

Tig Inverter machines are available that come complete with foot pedal amperage control, tig torch, flowmeter, ground clamp, and even a stick electrode holder for roughly 650 bones.

That’s the best way to break into tig welding in my opinion.