topic for discussion: Tig welder

Hey All,
Was talking to Jim Shealy about this today at the hive and wanted to open up a discussion forum for purchasing a Tig welder. This was brought up about 2 weeks ago at a meeting.

Please respond with any comments and thoughts.

You can give an untrained ape a mig and let it play with it for a few hours and it will have metal stuck together.

You cannot do this with a TIG.

There are greater safety concerns - it’s a lot easier to shock yourself.

There is a considerably greater degree of finesse and precision required.

The machine is considerably less forgiving. If you touch a tungsten to the puddle, you have to clean it off and grind it down. Tungstens aren’t cheap.

In summary: someone who doesn’t know what they are doing with a TIG will quickly destroy expensive supplies and may hurt themselves. Someone who is just unskilled using a TIG will use up a lot more expensive supplies than they like.

Unlike the mostly idiot-proof MIG, a TIG needs SKILL. I was planning on buying a Miller Synchrowave 210 when I had funds. It’s a 120-240 convertible machine like our current MIG. Several friends have purchased them. Good for 1/4" material easily, 3/8" if you really push it.

I think there needs to be a lot more welding skill to justify it. What’s the motivation for this anyway? Aluminum? Now you’re talking about a whole different level of skill, too.


I personally wouldn’t dream of trying to tig stuff without an auto-darkening helmet, but I’m also at the skill level “mostly dangerous” as opposed to “professional” or “skilled.”

Also, it should be brought up that the breaker to the mig no longer has a lock on it. We should remedy that so the only people who can use the mig are indeed certified on it (as we had it before)


The welder no longer has a lock on it because that box/fuse panel no longer feeds the welder’s power – we (Jon, Hutch, Ryan, Brandon, and myself) ran new power back to the breaker panel in the electrical room bringing it up to code.

I believe that we can lock up the power plug in lieu of having a physical lock on the breaker based on a conversation that Hutch and I had a few months ago.


Gotcha. I think that would be a good idea to make sure people are getting the proper training before attempting to use the mig. What does the rest of the hive think? Thanks for responding.

Two thoughts:

  1. Until such time as we have PROPERLY DOCUMENTED AND IMPLEMENTED certification procedures, I don’t think we should be locking people out of equipment. If any such lockouts are discussed at meetings, members who rarely attend meetings such as myself need a method to stay in the loop. FYI, a search for “certification” as well as “welder” on the wiki failed to bring up a list of certified folks or any explanation of where this information could possibly be found along with no information on becoming certified on the many pieces of equipment that require certification. While I am not suggesting that anyone should be able to use tools without training, I am suggesting that you need to have a formal certification system in place that people UNDERSTAND and USE before you go locking them out of equipment. Document procedures, set the expectation that they will be strictly enforced (this has certainly NOT been the case in the past. i.e. “you have until 10/1/14 to get certified on anything you need to before we will start having access controls”) It’s totally not fair IMHO to be strict about enforcing certification without making the process a lot more transparent.

  2. Proper training on a TIG would be much, much, much more involved than the MIG that we have.


In my perfect utiopian world, our door system would track things like certifications and your hive RFID card would get you access to materials that you’ve certified on.

Now that I’ve talked about utopia, let’s talk about reality.

In the beginning, it was just generically locked out/up as a part of ensuring those who had either taken Ryan 2.0’s class or had experience with welding could weld. When we moved it over, I think the lockout part was entirely overlooked.

While I’m sure this is a completely different conversation, I really, really want:

→ Better Documentation and training materials, and tighter integration with the Hive13 door system. I’ve got certifications and training working for the Door Controller, and I’m working on a new module for liability waivers and membership applications so that we can be “digital first” with them.
→ Lockout/Tagout training and system in place. It’s my fear that someone’s working on something, and someone else turns the power on resulting in either an electrocution or accident.
→ Emergency stop buttons on the power lines for the welder and power tools. Emergency stops aren’t primary risk reduction points, but, if someone gets injured or hurt, hitting the emergency stops will help the people who are coming in to assist ensure that the power is de-energized.

I’m done semi-ranting now. I promise.


My two cents is that TIG produces much better welds than MIG or any other process.

I’ll say up front that I’m not a member. I’ve been coming to meetings for maybe two years, though. I’ll join eventually.

I and about 15 engineers from my office just took a welding class for aerospace materials. It normally would be a two week course, intended for people who already knew gas and stick, but it was really a custom one-week long class (35 hrs) for us where most people were new welders. I had taken a stick class at Sharon Oaks about 15 years ago, but I truly sucked at welding.

Also, full disclosure, I own a very rudimentary TIG/stick set-up, DC only, so no aluminum. I had done a couple hours of TIG before this class.

I see the wisdom of having a MIG set-up, especially for large stuff like a welded table.


You really need TIG. Yes, you’ll need to monitor gas usage and what-not. But as a hackerspace, you’re not really capable unless you can do TIG.

One good alternative might be to find a good local weld shop and take difficult stuff there. I’m designing some titanium bike accessories, and for the prototypes, that’s what I’m doing.

TIG appears to be very difficult. It’s weird to even hold the torch until you figure out why it’s shaped like it is. You dip the tungsten in the pool over and over, each time requiring removing the tungsten to grind off the contamination. Learning to dip the filler rod is probably the most difficult single thing to learn. It’s hard to pick the right amperage. It’s hard to maintain the right orientation and gap of the tip of tungsten relative to the pool. Yes, you shock yourself through your fingers as you dip the fill rod, shorting against the tungsten, and it frickin’ hurts, especially with the high-voltage start turned on.

The non-consumable electrode, tungsten, and the shielding gas make TIG the easiest way to learn welding. It makes sense. The shielding isn’t related to the feed rate, like in stick. You can actually see and react and control the puddle without oxidizing the puddle, unlike stick and MIG, where you can if you’re really good; but if you’re a beginner, it’s more like you’re along for the ride but you don’t have the steering wheel.

In the class I mentioned, I learned a lot and did some (a few) really good-looking welds in carbon steel, aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium. Most of mine weren’t that good.

But even the rank beginners, who had never welded, did amazingly well. It was a 35-hour class, and we welded just under half of that, so say 15 hours. I’m guessing I was actually welding (argon flowing, striking an arc) for maybe three hours.

What Hive-13 won’t have is the instructors, who saved us a lot of time, and who did amazingly skillful demonstrations, that we could try to copy.

But you also (in general) won’t have the tuition fees that work picked up for us.

My gut says the Hive needs a TIG. The types of projects you do, or at least half of them, will benefit from TIG. Anyone who seriously wants to learn passable welding will do a lot better on TIG, at least in the long run. And they will do it much cheaper than welding school. I think a TIG makes a huge amount of sense if the funding and interest are there.

My biggest welding interest is bicycles, and I’m almost certain that every high-quality bike that has welds is TIG welded. I’d guess that a Walmart aluminum frame might be MIG welded.

I will try to attend this weeks Tuesday meeting and bring some of my class welds. I tried to keep enough to show a progression of how much I improved. Surprisingly, my best welds all week were in titanium, but there are non-skill-related reasons for that. (Some of my absolute worst welds were also in titanium.)


Fortunately, we have several trained apes at the Hive. We even have a few of that rare variety that enjoy training themselves.

I believe Jim was interested in acquiring a TIG because we’ll need to weld a frame for the power series racer, and he’s already familiar with TIG. Additionally, there’s been some interest in aluminum welding. Personally, I’ll admit that I don’t have an immediate need for a TIG welder. The MIG has been an incredibly useful tool, and I suspect that it will suffice for most of our upcoming projects, including the racer frame.

What I do have is the familiar mix of curiosity and frustration that presages the acquisition of a new skill. I’m already running into cases where the MIG’s lack of precision causes problems. Welding thick stock to thin stock, or simply welding thin metal becomes difficult when the arc cannot be controlled independently of the filler metal. Primarily though, as with learning to use the laser cutter, TIG seems like the solution to a host of problems I hadn’t even considered attacking before. I’d like to learn how to do it.

I’d also like to reject the argument that we shouldn’t attempt things at the Hive simply because they’re difficult, or can be dangerous if carelessly approached. We’re all adults who hopefully understand and accept the hazards implicit in working in a shop environment. Many of us, myself included, come to the Hive for access to tools and education that are unfeasible at home, or prohibitively expensive through other venues. Shrinking from obtaining better tools and improving the space due to fear of incompetence would be greatly disappointing.

With that said, if you’re planning on leaving a TIG at the space and okay with members using the machine, there is certainly no shortage of viable uses for our tool budget. But do consider that a Hive welder purchase would leave a significant amount of money in your own pocket. Collective tool purchases like this are kind of what we’re about.

In either case, it’s probably reasonable to expect that people will provide their own consumables.

- Ry