Can you TIG weld outdoors?

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Having family with a farming background, I can tell you from experience that there is no lack of repair jobs in daily farm life. In case you are considering to weld outdoors or would like to look into alternative welding processes for your outdoor jobs, this article should give you a brief overview if moving your TIG plant outside is a good idea. 

Can you TIG weld outdoors? TIG welding is especially sensitive to any draft in comparison. It is therefore very important to protect the Argon gas shield from the wind with a protective measure like a wall or tent.  

 If you are still on the fence about the trying TIG outside, let me give you a quick rundown when and why it could actually make sense to TIG weld outdoors despite the obvious disadvantages of the process compared to electrode welding or MIG/MAG welding.

When to use TIG welding

In this paragraph, I will mention a couple of applications that will make the TIG welding process shine. TIG welding is a delicate process which can create very clean and precise welding results. Therefore it is often first choice when class is more important than mass (mass meaning weld volume). In contrast to MIG/MAG or Electrode welding, it is furthermore possible to weld without any filler material at all. This allows you to add only a very fine amount of materials to your weld or no material at all. Especially when repairing wholes in a thin-walled container, this might come in handy.

Thin-walled is the keyword for the next big advantage: While TIG welding is one of the welding processes with the smallest heat input, joining or repairing thin base materials is possible where other welding processes would only widen the already existing hole. Therefore it can make sense to get the TIG welder outside if you can’t get the sheet inside. For example for a roof cover or on fence elements.

While we are on getting the TIG welder outside, TIG plants are, generally speaking, more compact and

Also, TIG welding makes it possible to weld Aluminium. Just be aware that not all TIG welding plants come with this feature. Important is that the welding plant is able to weld AC. I have a whole post about welding Aluminium here, so check it out if you would like to know more about the special process around this material.

After having said all this, using TIG welding in general needs a high level of skill. If you are starting fresh on the welding front, you might jump down to the alternatives for solving your outdoor welding problem.

Three easy ways to avoid the draft

  1. Use a welding wall: Either a special welding screen or every other solid sheet of wood, plastic or metal will do the job. Materials that protect bystanders from the welding radiation are preferable, but unless you are welding in a busy spot or with kids around, not necessary. The wall should be on a solid stand and close enough to your welding area. Ideal draft environment for TIG welding is a wind speed of 1 mile an hour or preferably less. When using a metal sheet, be aware of additional arc reflection, magnetism and current shortcuts that might be dangerous. More information is available in my article about grounding.
  2. Getting a welding tent: These tents are build for purpose to allow all weather welding on construction sites. Depending on what you are working on, they can be build over the welding environment. Generally, they do a decent job in keeping any kind of draft out, however for the occassional repair job, they might be overkill. And when welding in a closed tent, don’t forget the fumes!
  3. Avoid welding in a storm: When we are talking about welding outdoors, you should still have an eye on the weather conditions. Even though a wall, roof or tent might protect you, strong winds and rain can make TIG welding not only hard but also very dangerous when you are standing in a puddle of water.

Setup for successful TIG welds

A couple of tips to increase the odds for a successful outdoor weld:

  • Use a windscreen as mentioned above, even if it does not seem necessary on first glance.
  • Properly ground your working environment. Remember: electricity takes the route of least resistance, and if that is through your body, welding becomes dangerous! See my grounding article if you are looking for more information on that topic.
  • Use a bigger cup size and a higher Argon flow: Some draft-related issues can be mediated with some more Argon. This is an expensive cure though, as Argon does not come cheap!
  • Have all tools and equipment on proper, even and dry ground. Beware of creating a short circuit!

Things that can go wrong

These points are not only for TIG welding but for welding outdoors in general. When you are working in a tent or have another protective setup in place, make sure that you still get enough fresh air! This seems self-explanatory, but since you are most likely not working on an easy accessible worktop or welding bench, an akward welding position might expose you to harmul fumes. Even when welding outdoors!

Also, when welding outdoors, chances are higher that you are welding some galvanised or painted metal. Again, same rules apply here than for normal welding, but based on what I saw on my girlfriends family farm, a word of warning seems in order. Especially when welding galvanised or painted/coated materials, toxic fumes are created. In case of galvanised steel, zinc oxides are created that causes fume fever. Some paints contain zinc as well.

Fume fever is very unpleasant and can be lethal. As the name suggestes, the symptoms are similar to a very strong fever, with temperature, vomiting and nosia as only a few of the possible side effects. Fume fever can last for quite a while, and it is not necessary to be exposed to a hugh amount of fumes to catch the fever. So be extra careful when doing a repair weld, as the surface must be cleaned thouroughly beforehand. Not only to avoid porosity but also to protect your lunges.

Easier (welding) processes to master outdoors

First choice for a simple outdoor weld would be probably electrode welding. Which is easy to learn, easy to start and quite robust regarding though environments. Most pipe welding in deserts or the arctic would be electrode welding. The welding plant is cheap to purchase, and the welding results for beginners are decent enough to experiement with your own first repair job. So clear recommendation if you start fresh and have enough base material left for the higher heat input.

Bit more sophisticated would be MAG and MIG welding. The difference between these processes is mainly the gas, and can be both welded with the same plant. MIG welding is the closest to TIG welding, since you have considered using TIG, I will leave MAG welding out of the comparison. MIG welding has a continous feed of fillermaterial, because the filler material is the electrode at the same time. A good welding plant makes this process more robust to environmental challenges. Especially if you need to weld bigger joints, MIG welding would be worth a though if you have ruled out electrode welding.

Honorouble mentions are glueing, rivetting, drilling and screwing, gas welding, spot welding and good old duck tape. You probably have a good reason why you are considering TIG welding, but just have an open mind to some of the, maybe more suitable, alternatives.

After telling you all the pros and cons about TIG welding outdoors, you might have concluded for yourself that riveting will do the job just fine. Generally I don’t want to discourage you from TIG welding outside, just it will be more challenging than most of the alternatives. And if you don’t really need the advantages of the TIG welding process, you might be better of with some other joining method.

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If you liked this article, have a look at my other articles I wrote about the topic!

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