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What is your favorite hobby? Welding is a unique and fun hobby that many people around the world enjoy participating in. With it, you can do amazing things and create some great projects after you get the hang of this technical craft. Whether you are building a small, creative project for yourself or making a business out of the things you produce, there are endless opportunities for your welding journey. Welding offers you many methods to get the job done, including TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding.
If you’re a beginner, you may be asking, how do I get started with TIG welding on brass materials? To get started welding brass metals with the TIG process, you will need to learn the basics of welding, learn about metal melting properties, gather your materials, join a class or community of welders, then practice your precision.
If you are interested in taking up welding brass with TIG, keep reading this article. In this complete guide to TIG brass welding, you will learn many of the basics of TIG welding, as well as what it takes to weld with brass materials. Before you know it, you will be a master of TIG welding!
What Is TIG Welding?
In the welding world, you have a ton of options to get the job done. There are over sixty methods welders use to join and meld metals together. Each process is defined by the type of heat, pressure, and equipment you use to get the job done. Some are more simple to master than others, and some require a little bit more effort and mastery.
TIG stands for tungsten inert gas. This process is also known as gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW). The TIG welding method uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to deliver the current to the welding arc.
TIG welding is a popular method that many people consider the most pleasurable in welding. This is because it allows you more control and precision than many others. This can come in handy when you are welding a project that’s an odd or round shape.
One of the cons of TIG welding is that the required materials often tend to be more expensive than the materials needed for other processes. There is also a steeper learning curve involved. However, there are also great benefits to this process.
For example, with TIG welding, you can incorporate the weld beads as a part of your design. You also have the ability to weld more exotic materials. This poses many great benefits in sheet metal work, as the welds are small and relatively soft. This makes it easy to work with a hammer and dolly.
The TIG Welding Process
The welder will make an arc between the base metal and the tungsten electrode, which does not melt. The molten weld pool will form at the point where the arc hits the base metal. While you are working, you will hand-feed a thin wire of filler metal slowly into the weld pool where it will melt.
During this process, an inert shielding gas will protect the tungsten electrode and the weld pool from being contaminated by oxygen. The welder will get a finished product of a slag-free weld that shares the same corrosion resistance as the parent material.
The tungsten and weld puddle are cooled and protected by an inert gas, which is usually argon. It’s similar to oxyacetylene welding, as in both processes, you use a filler material for build-up and reinforcement of your weld.
TIG welding is most often used for welding thin sections of stainless steel and other non-ferrous metals like aluminum, magnesium, and copper alloys. However, skilled welders can use this method for other materials like brass with much precision, practice, and skill. It simply requires you to understand the material you are working with and use the proper settings on your torch and TIG unit.
Exploring the History of TIG Welding
To understand TIG welding, let’s start from its humble beginnings. The history of TIG welding began as early as 1800. This was when arc welding was first developed after the discovery of the short-pulsed electric arc and the continuous electric arc.
Soon after that, C.L. Coffin came up with the idea to weld an inert gas atmosphere in 1890. Unfortunately, welding non-ferrous metals still remained difficult for welders. This is because they react quickly with the air, which results in porous welds.
To remedy this issue, bottled inert gases started being used in the 1930s. Since then, technological advancements and other developments continued to arise. Such advancements worked to make welding even easier and a smoother process.
Getting Started: Understanding the Parts of a TIG Unit
Before you start creating your first TIG welding project, you must make sure your work area is equipped with the proper materials. Here are some of the things you will need when you’re getting started with TIG welding:
- Tungsten electrode: the non-consumable material used to develop your weld; these can have either a clean finish or a ground finish
- Welding machine: your power source; this power supply gives your welding a constant current of power flowing; can be DC or AC
- Torch: designed for automatic or manual operation to deliver heat to you work; they include many different parts that can be disassembled
- Work lead: also known as the ground cable with a clamp
- Welding lead: has an electric TIG torch on the end
- Shielding gas supply: these gases protect your welding area from atmospheric gases that could cause fusion defects; welders often use 100% argon or a mixture of argon and another gas
- Tungsten rod: located in the electrode; it can be sharpened to a point or ball shape
- Copper collet: holds the tungsten and adjusts the length of the tungsten protruding from the cup
- Ceramic cup: can be replaced as needed
- Personal safety equipment: always wear a mask, leather gloves and shoes, safety glasses, etc.
How the TIG Welding Process Works: An Overview
All welding processes include applying heat to metals to join them together in a controlled manner. TIG does this by using a tightly focused electric arc that’s shielded from the atmosphere by an inert gas. You can make continual adjustments as you weld your project, which makes the TIG process so precise and enjoyable.
TIG is different from other methods of electric welding because it allows you to soft start and stop the heat smoothly and quickly. This helps prevent the temperature from shocking the metal. Other welding processes can cause thermal shock that results in brittle welds. And we don’t want that!
High-quality TIG machines allow you to change the heat quickly with either a foot pedal or knob or slider remote on the torch itself that is accessible with your fingertip. Choose the materials and heat control, depending on the position you’d like to work in. Select the materials that make you feel the most comfortable while you are working.
In TIG welding, you will hold the torch in one hand and feed the filler rod with the other. You can use an auto-darkening welding hood to start your weld more accurately.
To get started with TIG welding, follow these steps below:
- Set up your work station with either a metal tabletop or a metal plate clamped firmly to a table.
- Gather your supplies, including some clean metal scraps.
- Grab a stool and place your foot pedal within easy reach when you’re seated.
- Wear protective gear like a long-sleeved shirt, a welding helmet, leather gloves, and leather shoes.
- Set your welder to the proper settings for the material you are using.
- Select the appropriate welding rod, then make sure the gas bottle is turned on.
- Make sure your tungsten has the proper point for the metal you’re welding. It should protrude from the cup by about an eighth of an inch.
- Hold the torch away from your body, then press and release the foot pedal. You should hear gas flowing.
- Now, you are ready to get started TIG welding!
Learning the Process of TIG Welding with Brass
Ready to learn how to TIG weld brass? Brass is the name of a pretty common metal that describes a wide range of copper alloys that contain additions of zinc. You will find that brass has a bunch of applications in both commercial and personal industries. Brass can be found in decorative pieces around the home, pens and pencils, jewelry, electrical terminals, locks, and more.
TIG welding with brass is often used to repair castings and joining phosphor bronze sheets. If you are interested in learning about this process, read on.
Why Is TIG Welding Brass So Difficult?
TIG welding brass is a complicated process—many say it cannot be done. What makes TIG welding on brass so difficult? Brass is a difficult metal to weld because it contains zinc. This metal tends to have a low melting point, which affects the way you work with and weld the material. When the zinc boils, it will often jump onto your electrode. This will cause you to have to stop, grind your tungsten, and continue working. Also, brass is very thermally conductive, which means it requires a lot of heat input to weld.
These complicated aspects of TIG welding on brass can turn away a lot of beginners—and even experienced—welders. It requires you to learn and understand the properties of these metals, and practice until you learn the proper temperature, TIG unit settings, and more to create the ideal product. It’s a challenging process to master.
However, all brass metals can be silver soldered, MIG, and TIG welded successfully with the right practice, technique, and precision.
Protect Yourself from Zinc Fumes
When you are using gas shielded arc welding, and you add lead for free cutting brass and gunmetal, it can result in porosity and fume problems. Some do no recommended gas welding brass, since the zinc tends to vaporize and cause fumes and porosity. However, with the proper preparation and the right safety materials, you can use this method successfully.
Because brass has zinc in it, you must be careful not to breathe in the fumes when TIG welding. It is recommended that you have adequate ventilation in your working area. Also, wear a respirator or use a fume extractor to get the zinc fumes away from your breathing zone.
When you are TIG welding, use a shielding gas of 100% Argon or an argon/ carbon dioxide combination.
Tips for Heating Your Metal
Brass melts very quickly, so it is important to know the properties of the metal before you start working with it. Start by finding out the zinc content of the particular brass you are working with. This can help you determine how strong a flame you will need to use.
If you are using a preheat, start by preheating the metal to no higher than 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit. Some welders will recommend you go even lower than that. If the heat is too high, the structure of the brass may become altered. It’s also important to remember to use a steady rest for your torch hand as you work.
Regularly Pulse Your Weld
Senior welders recommend you regularly pulse your amperage during the TIG welding process. You can set your TIG unit to pulse automatically, or you can choose to manually pulse by using your foot pedal.
Pulsing applies a change in amperage from high to low regularly to your welding work. This allows you to weld thinner metals or metals with high heat conductivity like brass without burning through them. To get started, try pulsing at 30 pulses per second with your amperage set to 200.
Use a Brazing Alloy
It is also recommended that you use a brazing alloy with TIG welding brass. These brazing alloys melt at a lower temperature than your brass. Thus, as you work, you will never reach the melting temperature for the brass you are working on. If you do reach the brass’s melting temperature, it may bubble and result in porosity, which can be unattractive in your finished product.
Remember These Guidelines when You’re TIG Brass Welding
As you are learning more and more about the process of TIG welding and using brass materials, you will learn what works best for you and your workspace. You will find that you may want materials and settings on your TIG unit similar to what you would use for TIG welding aluminum. Note that you can also use stabilized AC, direct current, and electrode negative for this process.
Here are some more tips that you may find useful as you continue your welding journey:
- Ground your tungsten electrode to a very sharp tip.
- Keep your heat on the base metal, instead of the weld metal.
- Maintain a travel speed that is as fast as is practical. Continue to regularly add your filler material in a smooth, even manner.
- Make sure your metal is clean. Wipe it down with acetone or another cleaning solution before you get started working.
Other Important TIG Welding Tips to Keep in Mind
TIG welding is a process that allows for more versatility and flexibility when compared to other methods. However, with these benefits comes a tad bit of complexity for the beginning welder, requiring more practice to ensure they are comfortable with the equipment.
TIG can be a challenging process if you are just getting started, but it doesn’t have to be! By learning the proper techniques, ensuring you have the right equipment, and practicing regularly, you can master this exciting welding method. Take the following tips into consideration when you’re getting started with TIG welding.
Hold Your Equipment at the Proper Angle
If you ever have issues with your TIG welding, you can most often solve your problem by making sure you have the proper angle for holding your torch and your filler material as you are adding it to your molten puddle. It is also important to keep in mind that the torch melts the base material, and the molten base melts your filler rod.
If you’re right-handed, hold the torch in your right hand and work from right to left. If you are left-handed, you’d work from left to right.
- Position your torch about an eighth of an inch from your work surface.
- Then, tip the torch about 15-20 degrees away from the direction of travel. This allows you to see the puddle better, as well as allowing you better visibility of your filler material.
- Next, move the torch along the seam, making sure to keep it centered.
- If you need filler material, bring it in at as low an angle as you can, making sure to avoid touching the tungsten.
- Progress the torch along the seam, adding your filler material as needed.
Don’t Let the Tungsten Touch Your Workpiece
When you are TIG welding, the tungsten should never touch the piece you’re working on. If it does, you’ll hear a different sound and color. This means the tungsten may be contaminated. To remedy this issue, loosen the back cap and slip the tungsten out. You must do this with caution, as the tungsten will be hot.
Go to the grinder and clean the end of the tungsten. Reshape the end of the tungsten as needed. As you learn the TIG process, dip the tungsten often. With practice, you will be more precise and steady, and this mistake will happen less often.
Prepare Your Tungsten Electrode with the Proper Point
Working on different surfaces will mean you require different types of tungsten. For instance, when you work with aluminum, you may need green tungsten. Steel is often associated with red tungsten. As you progress, you will discover your tungsten will perform better with certain materials. Experiment as you practice to learn what works best.
Depending on the material you are using, you’ll need to properly prepare your tungsten electrode. However, before grinding your tungsten, make sure you’ve read your owner’s manual for specific safety instructions and to learn about the proper grinding technique for your equipment.
It is recommended that you use a diamond grinding wheel when working with tungsten, as it’s a very hard metal. You can use a traditional grinding wheel, but you won’t be able to get as good a point on your tungsten, and you may wear out your wheel sooner.
To begin, hold the electrode parallel to the wheel, as opposed to perpendicular. You want the grind marks to run the length of the tungsten, rather than across it. These aides the flow of turning down the electrode.
Ensure you have a steady grip as you slowly rotate the electrode to form a point, similar to how you would sharpen a pencil. Try to get a point that’s about two and a half times the diameter of the electrode. Creating this sharp point is the best method for working with mild steel, stainless steel, and Chromoly. For aluminum, you’d add one more step: take the sharpened tungsten and grind off the tip to create a flat spot.
Practice Makes Perfect
Continue to practice TIG welding with scrap materials as you’re learning. And make sure to consider these simple tips as you learn:
- Weld with the minimum power. This helps you create a puddle that you can sustain as you are getting the hang of the process.
- Make sure your metals are clean. This ensures your work is effective and you’re able to create a strong arc and weld.
- Be consistent with your welding process. Maintain your focus from start to finish in order to create an even weld.
- Understand the effect of various shielding gases. Each will have an impact on the temperature, and in turn, the finished product of your weld.
- When ending your arc, do it slowly, rather than suddenly. Shutting down your arc too quickly may increase your risk of cracking.
- Use filler metal charts. These can help you determine the correct rods for the materials you are working with.
- Always wear the proper safety gear! Try thin gloves to give yourself more control of your work.
Consider an Alternative Welding Method, like Oxyacetylene Gas Welding Method for Brass Materials
As you’re reading through this guide on TIG welding for brass materials, it may seem a little challenging, and even a little overwhelming if you are just getting started. Don’t worry! There are many more methods to weld brass that you should try that may have a less steep learning curve.
As you are trying to determine which welding method is best for you, check out the following:
- Metal-arc welding
- Carbon-arc welding
- Gas metal arc welding
- Shielded metal arc welding
- Oxyacetylene gas welding
Oxyacetylene gas welding requires you to invest in some oxyacetylene gas to create a protective shield around your brass as you work.
- Mix a flux with water to create a paste. Then, brush this onto the brass surface you are working on.
- Use a braze-welding flux or one specifically created for oxyacetylene welding.
- Start your acetylene gas on low, and then adjust it as you work and figure out what the best setting is. You want to achieve a strong oxidizing flame that is sufficient to develop a coating on your brass material.
- It is crucial to have enough oxygen in your workspace. This ensures that the zinc fumes are not released from the brass. If you have too much oxygen, however, it will make the welding process more difficult.
- Ensure that the welding tip you are using is at least a size larger than the one you would choose for steel of the same or similar thickness. Brass has a high heat conductivity, so this will make welding the brass a lot easier.
Welding does not have to be a difficult or stressful process at all! It can end up being a fun and relaxing hobby to take up once you practice and master your favorite technique. Try out some different welding processes. Then, make sure you practice, consult with veteran welders and discover what works best for you!
Enhance Your Welding Knowledge and Skills
Welding is a great hobby that many people are enthused to take up! As you may already know, there are many ways to get started with welding and to improve your skills. TIG welding is only one method available to you, and there are many other materials to use outside of brass. You can do almost anything once you master the basics.
Consider some of the projects you might want to make in the future. Then, keep learning and practicing to make your welding dreams come true.
If you want to continue learning about welding as a hobby, keep reading articles or books to enhance your knowledge. It is also helpful to join a local class or community of welders in your area. These resources can help you learn by demonstration and learn by doing, so you can create even more detailed and creative projects. This is only the beginning!