June 25, 2013



A lot of people ask me where to get materials to use for TIG welding. While I mostly build things from re-purposed steel such as bike parts and bed frames, it’s good to know where to get new materials.

Wick’s Aircraft Supply

This is the cheapest place I can find for 4130 chromoly steel, which is used heavily in SCUL, and is used for practice material for my TIG welding class. I typically get 1.125″ x .058″ for TIG class, as well as SCUL. It sleeves nicely over 1″ tubing with a .0045″ gap between the tubes, which means that it slides in easily with almost no rocking. Be sure to remove the burr on the inside diameter, and paint on the inner piece if you are chopping a bike frame or fork.

Turner Steel

This is a great place to get mild steel. If I were to build something big and heavy, I’d probably start with Turner. I’ve had excellent service with Turner. Will deliver by truck on any order over $150.

Yarde Metals

Never ordered from Yarde, but a few trusted friends recommend them.

The Streets

Why not reuse items being discarded? Old metal bed frames may be structural enough to use. Keep in mind, however, the quality of the frames vary greatly. Sometimes the metal is hardened enough to smoke your drill bits, so you may have to bust out a plasma cutter to get the job done. There’s also steel bicycle frames for tubing. steel bicycle rims work too.

Weld Supplies

For tungsten electrodes, collets, weld wire, and gas, I typically visit my friendly local weld supply shop. Igo’s in Watertown is convenient, and Airgas in Central Square, Cambridge are close by to the Artisan’s Asylum. The Asylum provides ER70-6 weld wire in .045″ diameter, 3/16″ thoriated electrodes and argon.

When it comes to helmets, leathers, gloves and filters, I order through Cyberweld.

Welding Wire

For dissimilar metals, I use stainless: 309L stainless wire Рmore nickel is better. Low carbon 316L and 213L are good too. This wire is not good for objects subject to stress or vibration, such as a bicycle frames, but perfect for Astrobots. Often I use a stainless steel bicycle spoke for high-amperage welding.

Weld Machines

There are two basic types of TIG welding machines: transformer and inverter. I have an old Miller Syncrowave 250 transformer. It’s powerful and enormous and ridiculously heavy.¬†Transformer machines are very heavy and easy to care for, but the inverter machines do a much more efficient job of doing the same job. Some of the ones I’ve used even run on 110 voltage.Expect to pay a lot more for the inverters.

As far as brands go it comes down to red or blue: Lincoln or Miller. Although I’ve been surprised with the capability of a Chicago Electric (Harbor Freight’s brand). It had no foot pedal and I don’t think it had the capability for an upgrade. but I had great success welding a Ferrari chassis: since there was no pedal to worry about I was able to scurry around into tight spots and get things done.

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