A good reason to wear a pair of gloves is that the light emitted from the arc is so strong. The lack of smoke from the weld makes a "sunburn" very likely if your skin isn't well protected. This means long sleeves with the collar and cuffs buttoned, gloves and long pants, in addition to a good welding helmet. Of course, nonflammable welder's clothing is always the best choice. Finally, although it's difficult around a race car, try to keep your welding clothes clean from grease and oils. That stuff increases flammability, which is never a good match for welding.
Get to Work
Now that you have gotten this far, it is finally time to do a little welding. Unlike MIG welding, in TIG welding there is a favorable method for holding the torch relative to the material to be welded. Weyenberg recommends holding the torch at approximately 75 degrees to the weld, always moving in a "push" direction. Pushing means moving the torch forward over the weld area. This is important in TIG welding because it allows the shielding gas to blow away impurities.
Miller's new Dynasty Series...
Miller's new Dynasty Series TIG welders are only a fraction the size of comparable older-style TIG welders. In addition to being portable, they also use considerably less energy, which means you can plug them into your gas-powered generator and use them at the track in an emergency.
Cleaning the weld area is very important, especially when welding aluminum. Although it doesn't rust, aluminum forms a surface oxide relatively quickly, so it is always a good idea to at least brush the weld area clean with a stainless steel wire brush. You should also do this before welding steels, but do not use the same brush for both. Also, when welding aluminum, always make sure the welder is set to AC. The AC also helps to blast away impurities. For steels, the machine should be set to the DC setting. If the material is oily, you may also need to use a lacquer thinner or other solvent.
If you are welding exceptionally thick metal, you may need to preheat it. Preheating can be done with an oxyacetylene torch and helps move the material's temperature closer to its melting point. Just be careful to not overheat the area and cause warping from localized expansion.
When starting your weld, you can tack the pieces together using just the torch to create a small weld puddle in the joint. This is called fusion welding when no filler is used, but it isn't as strong. After your pieces are tacked into place, begin your weld by creating a small weld puddle and adding filler metal. Move the torch along slowly, maintaining a consistent amperage and adding filler metal as you go. Hold the filler metal rod so that it is in the same line as the weld. When touched to the weld area, the filler metal will melt into a droplet shape with a concave center. Overlap these drops to fill in the concavity of the previous droplet, which will create the strongest weld.
Of course, as with anything else in life, this is a lot easier said than done. Many books have been written on the topic of welding, and covering how to weld every type of material and joint is well beyond the scope of this article. Luckily, the best way to learn is to go out there and do it. Practice welding different materials using scrap, and check your progress by performing your own weld tests-once you've finished a weld, crank it down in a vice and beat it to death with a hammer to see how well the weld holds up. It may sound a little unsophisticated, but a hammer can tell you plenty about your progress as a welder.