OT? Lift Start TIG for small inverter welder, thoughts?
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    Default OT? Lift Start TIG for small inverter welder, thoughts?

    A couple years back I bought a small 120v inverter stick welder from Northern. As an accessory they sell a TIG torch which can be used in lift start mode with that welder.

    As my need for TIG would only be occasional (home shop/hobbyist) I have no desire to invest in a fancy TIG unit. I already own a small ac unit with stitch welder, panel spot welder and carbon arc, plus a small inverter flux wire welder. They serve fine except for a very few small projects where I need the control of a separate torch and filler rod.

    I am considering buying that TIG torch or a similar unit and a 2-stage regulator. I already own a small (roughly scuba size) tank that once held Co2. To conserve gas I intend to add a solenoid so I can flow gas shortly before starting the arc and for a few seconds after extinguishing the arc. At first I would use a foot pedal to directly control the solenoid but if it works well for me I would likely add a low-voltage switch to the torch handle and a relay with delayed opening after being de-energized.

    I think the whole setup could be had for about $200-$250 using some parts I have on hand.

    Any thoughts? (besides spending a couple grand)

    Also, this would be for steel only. Argon or Co2/Argon?

    Thanks in advance

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    I think you are actually talking about scratch start- "lift start" requires the welder have a circuit built into it to do lift start, and I kinda doubt a cheapo Northern unit would have it.
    Scratch start is perfectly do-able. Takes a bit of learning, and, at the beginning, you will be sharpening the tungsten pretty often, but it works just fine.

    I have done scratch start with a wide variety of power sources, including gas drive machines, little stick welders like you have, and big inverters.

    One thing to consider- is your welder DC? While Tig with AC is possible, its usually done with a much more complicated and expensive HF starting machine.
    You will need to run the torch DC.

    If you are only doing small projects, I think you would be better off buying a tig torch designed to do this, with a gas valve built into the handle. Yes, you have to turn the gas on and off, but you can just plug and play. I have a torch like that I use when I need to use an oddball power source. It has a gas hose integrated into the lead, so you just plug the lead into the welder, and hook the gas line up to the flowmeter or gauge. Works just fine. Again, a little practice, but building your own solenoid gas valve should wait until you see if you can learn to scratch start well enough to make it handy.

    A torch like that is maybe $150. something like this would work. Weldtec 150 Amp Air Cooled TIG Torch with V 25' for sale (WT-17V-25R) - Welding Supplies from IOC
    you may have to do some searching to find one that either has a connector that will fit your welder, or buy an adapter.

    Remember- this will be an air cooled torch- which means a somewhat limited duty cycle, as the torch will get hot. But I kinda doubt you will be running continuous 8 foot beads anyway.

    Tig welding is something that, once you learn, is easy enough to do scratch start, lift start, HF start, AC, DC, or whatever. But not everybody can master it, some people just never get it.

    I have been tig welding for 35 years, currently own 3 tig machines- and scratch start, or lift arc, are quite possible to master, and, while annoying when you have gotten used to a water cooled High Freq start unit with foot or hand pedal, will do the job just fine.

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    Ries,

    Thanks for the reply. It actually does have lift start capability built in to the inverter circuitry. Yes, it has a dc output (only). I bought it to supplement my little Schumacher 120v ac only unit.

    Klutch ST80i Stick Welder with TIG Option | Shop Tool Reviews

    I want the TIG capability only for occasional light use. Average welding time would probably be in seconds, not minutes. One of the uses would be things like rebuilding a broken half cock notch on the tumbler of an antique muzzle loader. It's far easier to weld up and reshape rather than make a new tumbler from scratch, a chore that requires cam grinding in addition to quite a bit of machining. Welds must be clean and of a suitable filler rod so the piece can be re-casehardened after final shaping and polishing.

    I first learned to weld with oxy/acetylene and like the controllability. Unfortunately my home shop is in the basement and I can not/will not bring such equipment into the house. My gas rig is in an unattached building and only gets used outdoors. Not wishing to bring that rig indoors is one reason I have a carbon arc torch for heating.

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    Use Argon, the shielding gas protects the tungsten as well as the weld and CO2 will mess up your tungsten.

    I can thank my BIL and harbor freight's instructions for that bit of wisdom.

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    Straight Argon, yes. Scratch start is only a pain once you have used high freq. start. When it's all you have, you get used to it!
    I scratch start welded two complete tube chassis drag cars before I got my invertor machine. Pre flow and post flow gas as you mentioned are a must for keeping the tungsten alive, and having a clean piece of copper to start your arc on will also help keep your tungsten from being contaminated, if you can make it work...

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrHook View Post
    Straight Argon, yes. Scratch start is only a pain once you have used high freq. start. When it's all you have, you get used to it!
    I scratch start welded two complete tube chassis drag cars before I got my invertor machine. Pre flow and post flow gas as you mentioned are a must for keeping the tungsten alive, and having a clean piece of copper to start your arc on will also help keep your tungsten from being contaminated, if you can make it work...
    Actually the unit IS designed for lift start rather than scratch start. On a closer look the torch from Northern has a gas valve on the handle so that issue is resolved for now. Eventually I might use a solenoid for gas control, probably with a foot pedal. I already have a 15A 120v pedal and a couple of suitable 24v transformers.

    I just ordered the torch and regulator. (previous tank comments deleted)

    I've decided not to fool with the older small tank. A filled new one (100% Argon) is cheap enough and won't need to be pressure tested again for years.

    Thanks to all for their help.

    PS: DRHook, I have copper sheet on hand already. I use it for backing on thin stuff to prevent burn through. However with lift start there is no need for scratch starting.

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    lift arc is pretty easy to get used to. you will still dip your tungsten and need to resharpen pretty often. I often sharpen both ends at the same time, that saves a trip to the grinder. I chuck my tungstens up in a cordless drill to sharpen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ries View Post
    lift arc is pretty easy to get used to. you will still dip your tungsten and need to resharpen pretty often. I often sharpen both ends at the same time, that saves a trip to the grinder. I chuck my tungstens up in a cordless drill to sharpen.
    Another good tip - thanks.

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    Been there and done that. You are wasting your time and money. There are very good Chinese made TIG AC/DC HF start inverter welders available that work as good as any professional American and European welder at a lot less money. In point of fact, many of these name brand welders are actually made in China now. I still own a scratch start TIG machine, but I only use it as a portable stick welder now. I know you think you are saving money by going this low dollar route, but you are not. You will eventually get exasperated using the Micky Mouse machine and graduate to a pro machine. I did and so will you.

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    Maybe someone can tell me the difference between "Lift" start and "Scratch" start?? I was thinking they are the same thing... If it doesn't have HF start, one will have to touch the tip to the work to establish arc, right? If so, that will ultimately lead to contamination or damage to the tip, especially if it is sharpened correctly for light material.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrHook View Post
    Maybe someone can tell me the difference between "Lift" start and "Scratch" start?? I was thinking they are the same thing... If it doesn't have HF start, one will have to touch the tip to the work to establish arc, right? If so, that will ultimately lead to contamination or damage to the tip, especially if it is sharpened correctly for light material.
    That is my experience as well.

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    I have not used it yet because I am waiting for the stuff to arrive but this is what it says in the manual.

    "Touch the tungsten that is installed in the TIG torch, to the work piece and quickly pull away approximately 1/4" to create an arc."

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    Same thing, different name.
    Clamp a piece of copper next to the weld (where/when practical) and use it to start the arc. Your tungsten will last longer.

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    I was under the impression that lift arc use high frequency to start the arc after continuity was lost. Where scratch start was more like striking an arc with a stick welder.

    But I don't know that for sure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kenton View Post
    I was under the impression that lift arc use high frequency to start the arc after continuity was lost. Where scratch start was more like striking an arc with a stick welder.

    But I don't know that for sure.
    No, actually it uses a low current until you touch the electrode and then pull away, and then full current is switched on and the arc created as the TIG or rod pulls away. I love that starting an arc is so easy when stick welding and that is a major reason I bought it plus the ability to add basic TIG later. I sourced a filled tank locally and am now waiting for the torch ($100) and regulator ($40) so I can play with it. Man, I HATE waiting!

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    I have used both lift arc and scratch start for over 20 years. They most definitely are two different things- in fact one of my machines has settings for both, so you can see the difference with every other factor the same.
    Scratch start require literally scratching the tungsten across the metal. As soon as you get a decent electrical connection, you get an arc. Its trickier to learn, as its pretty easy to stick the tungsten.
    Lift arc allows you to touch the tungsten to the steel, without it initiating an arc until you lift it up off the metal. You can still stick it if you are too slow, indecisive, or touch adjacent metal, but, generally, its easier and slower to destroy tungsten tips.

    My cheapest current tig machine is around $1800 new, and my other two machines would cost $3000 to $6000 or so to replace. So when I looked at the catalog from Northern at the machine Scott has, I realized I have more invested in torch hoses for a single machine than his whole setup.
    But if it works, and he only does a few small welds a few times a month, why not?

    I believe in very high quality tools, and spend the money on em- but I also have been working daily with welding machines for a living since about 1982.
    Hobby machines have their place.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ries View Post
    I have used both lift arc and scratch start for over 20 years. They most definitely are two different things- in fact one of my machines has settings for both, so you can see the difference with every other factor the same.
    Scratch start require literally scratching the tungsten across the metal. As soon as you get a decent electrical connection, you get an arc. Its trickier to learn, as its pretty easy to stick the tungsten.
    Lift arc allows you to touch the tungsten to the steel, without it initiating an arc until you lift it up off the metal. You can still stick it if you are too slow, indecisive, or touch adjacent metal, but, generally, its easier and slower to destroy tungsten tips.

    My cheapest current tig machine is around $1800 new, and my other two machines would cost $3000 to $6000 or so to replace. So when I looked at the catalog from Northern at the machine Scott has, I realized I have more invested in torch hoses for a single machine than his whole setup.
    But if it works, and he only does a few small welds a few times a month, why not?

    I believe in very high quality tools, and spend the money on em- but I also have been working daily with welding machines for a living since about 1982.
    Hobby machines have their place.
    That is exactly the case. Sometimes my welding equipment sits for months until I need it for a project and these days my little Forney flux wire welder gets the most use for steel work. Nothing I do is heavy/structural. My main desire for occasional TIG are those few projects where I need the extra control or totally flux free and of course I may try a few small things with stainless. It's just one more tool and if I buy something more sophisticated later I'll already have the cylinder and regulator.

    For years just about anything I didn't do with the torch setup was done with a little buzz box from Eastwood that I bought as a package with a stitch welder and spot welder. The stitch welder uses a solenoid and spring to oscillate the rod and has a diode that can be connected for pulsed dc at half the current. It works great on thin sheet metal with the 1/16 rods. The spot welder uses a carbon. You relax the trigger till the carbon touches, lift slightly to create an arc and then lift higher to break the arc. It works great for welding patch panels. I even welded a few mounting points onto the frame of my Harley with that old buzz box for things like a horn and oil cooler. A little black engine enamel and they looked like it was made that way. For hobby work we use what we've got 'cause we can't justify spending thousands for occasional use.

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    I like the idea of using lift arc to start stick rods, never thought of that one...

    Starting the arc with scratch/lift isnt the problem, trying to stop it cleanly is. One method i've read about (never had occasion to try it) was to run the arc up the filler wire and snap both away at the same time...
    Especially on small parts or fussy materials, having the foot/hand control to back the arc down is a bigger help than having the HF to start it.
    The part you're describing almost sounds like a better candidate for oxy/fuel than tig...

    For the record, the AHP alpha tig is only around $800 and can put out 200ish amps on AC and DC. I've gotten to run one a few times and it produces results on par with any red/blue machine of similar size. Cant speak to longevity of the machine or parts for it, just got to run a buddy's a few times and had no real complaints.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ries View Post
    I believe in very high quality tools, and spend the money on em- but I also have been working daily with welding machines for a living since about 1982.
    Hobby machines have their place.
    As a hobbyist, I respectfully disagree. There is no substitute for quality tools. . . . . .ever!

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    Quote Originally Posted by PlasmaOnTheBrain View Post
    I like the idea of using lift arc to start stick rods, never thought of that one...

    Starting the arc with scratch/lift isnt the problem, trying to stop it cleanly is. One method i've read about (never had occasion to try it) was to run the arc up the filler wire and snap both away at the same time...
    Especially on small parts or fussy materials, having the foot/hand control to back the arc down is a bigger help than having the HF to start it.
    The part you're describing almost sounds like a better candidate for oxy/fuel than tig...

    For the record, the AHP alpha tig is only around $800 and can put out 200ish amps on AC and DC. I've gotten to run one a few times and it produces results on par with any red/blue machine of similar size. Cant speak to longevity of the machine or parts for it, just got to run a buddy's a few times and had no real complaints.
    The smallest welding machine I own now is a 320 amp machine and it is a TIG with the single exception of the scratch TIG that I use as an emergency stick welder only.. It isn't about max current. It is about stability and duty cycle

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