A viewer who just bought an AHP AlphaTIG 200X asked what he needs to get before the machine arrives so he can play – work! – as soon as his new TIG welder arrives.
First, get a bottle of ARGON GAS, because that’s what TIG welders run on. There are several different sizes of bottle; Kevin shows two different sizes. He likes what he calls the 5-foot one, although you can also get a 3-foot bottle of welding gas. It’ll depend upon what size cart you have and how much you are going to be welding. He gets about 3 weeks to a month of continous use out of the larger bottle, and about 2 weeks out of the smaller one.
If you’re wondering if you can just use the mixed gas (argon and CO2) you use for your MIG welder, the answer is no. You won’t like the results. You need to use straight argon gas for TIG welding.
You’re going to need a WELDING CART, too. You can get around using a cart – some guys will just put the welder on their workbench – because they’re going to work just at the bench. Kevin is all over his studio, so a welding cart really comes in handy.
He built his own cart. And now you have a welder, that’s a great first project: make your own cart. Or you can sometimes buy one from whoever you buy your welder from. You can also buy them at Harbor Freight or your local welding store, but he urges you to make your own.
You’re also going to need some TIG welding GLOVES. Make sure you get TIG welding gloves, not the heavy stick and MIG welding gloves. You want something that is a little thinner so you have more manual dexterity. You need to be able feed filler rod and feel what you are doing. Remember, you have your welding helmet down, so being able to feel is really helpful. Kevin prefers Tillman’s 1490 gloves.
You’re going to need FILLER ROD, too. You can buy it in 10-pound or 1-pound tubes. The rod looks just like straightened coat hangers. Ask for them at your welding store, based on what you are going to be welding – they come in many different types for different types of metal and welding. Kevin recommends starting with steel, then moving into aluminum, stainless, etc. “You’ll have dozens of these tubes around,” he says.
While you’re at the welding store, pick up a decent welding HELMET. Kevin likes the auto-darkening feature on his helmets. You can get fixed shade helmets that are much cheaper, but then you have to be able to get everything set up for TIG welding, then flip your helmet down so you can start welding. “You won’t be able to see anything until you strike an arc,” he says.
You’ll also need a WORKBENCH or WORK TABLE. You can buy a welding table or make your own. If you make one, it should be a steel table, someplace you can have red hot metal, smoke, flames. You want something flat, straight and smooth. You need someplace flat to start, so whenever you build something, you know it’s going to stand up straight. It can be something as simple as a couple of cinder blocks with a piece of steel across them.
You need something to hold your work down with, so you need some CLAMPS. There are lots of different kinds. Some do specific jobs. Kevin shows two kinds he uses: the Kant Twist clamps, which are built to keep the work straight; and heavy welding clamps that have a long throat.
Kevin also recommends WELDING PLIERS. He admits that the ones he uses are for MIG welding. He uses them while TIG welding, too, for picking up hot parts like pulling tungstens out of the torch as well as for retrieving filler rod from the floor. They also have a wire cutter for trimming filler wire.
While you’re at the store, buy a 4-1/2″ GRINDER and some softpads – you’re going to want the grinder for prepping your metal and cleaning up your welds as necessary.
Grab some SAFETY EQUIPMENT, too: safety glasses or a face shield, some hearing protection and a dust mask also can come in handy.
With the AHP TIG welder, you get a little kit with different diameter cups for your torch that help the gas coverage when it comes out of the welding torch. You also get tungstens with your AHP welder, but you’ll need to sharpen them. You’ll want a DEDICATED TUNGSTEN GRINDER for that. You can buy an expensive grinder made for tungstens, but Kevin shows the $10 one he got at Harbor Freight as well as some diamond wheels for sharpening. He cautions not to use your regular bench grinder, which is a good way to wear out its wheel and contaminate your tungsten, which leads to bad welds.
The AHP AlphaTIG 200X and many other TIG welders now also have a stick welder, or arc welder, built in. So you may want to pick up a 1-pound box of STICK ROD at your welding supply store, too. If you’re not going to use the stick function right away, though, Kevin recommends waiting to buy welding rod for it.
Once you have everything you need, set up your TIG welder, play with it, learn how to use it. Run it for a month of actual use, and then figure out what you want from there.
Well, you might want to stick around for another minute for another moment to see things get a little crooked ….