Article By: George The Painter
Originally Published In The April 2019 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
I’m not a welder, fabricator or even a grinder for that matter. I’m just a guy that has assembled a little shop to wrench on my bikes and any cool projects that might need to go under the knife. During most of my post-adolescent years I’ve been riding and wrenching on old bikes on the side of the road, this is my first shop, or at least the first one that has more tools in it than the tools that are in the tool roll on my handlebars. On the side of the road, I am the roadside fix king, in a shop, I am an amateur at best, but I’m open to improvement. I got the bug when I built my damn near ten-foot-long chopper in my second story apartment somewhere in Appalachia. Dummying the two foot over front end to a stock configuration hardtail frame was done with chunks of wood, a plumb bob, a level, and jack stands. Considering that the building that the apartment was in was well over 100 years old and barely up to code I just took it as fact that a MIG a sparks and old tinderboxes wouldn’t mix. I had no way to hold two pieces of metal together short of duct tape. So I did what I could and just took the measurements and gave them to a competent welder. It seemed like I did all the work and he had all the fun, and when I set up this shop, I kept that in mind and would consider my options when I got there.
My shop is now on the ground floor of the same block of termite approved, damn near explosive old wood and doesn’t have a thought to fire prevention in its design. I had more bike metal to hold together, and although it all worked out in the end, jerry rigging’ another frame configuration for someone else to weld just didn’t seem to be the logical next step. I knew little about TIG welding except it was alien technology reverse-engineered and now implemented by wizards with machines that cost thousands of dollars. I’m just a regular guy with a little extra money and absolutely no wizard skills. Initially, I felt daunted by learning the witchcraft that others were perfecting and the thought of forking over big money that I didn’t have for something I didn’t know how to use seemed like a bad idea.
Determined to get to the bottom of all these misgivings of my own personal condition I hit the internet and planted myself there until I was as close to understanding this TIG welding thing without trying it as I could get. I had to learn what it was, how to do it and what machine was best suited to what I was doing. I’m not a big fan of the internet but, if used with moderation it can be used as the greatest learning tool to come our way. Topping that list is YouTube, and it became my mentor. After reading as much as I could about the definition of TIG welding and what was involved in actually performing all that wizardry that up until now was nothing but myths and legends: the basic definition, as I understand it, is TIG welding is an arc welding process that uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce the weld. The weld area and electrode are protected from oxidation or other atmospheric contamination by an inert shielding gas (argon), and a filler metal is normally used, though some welds, known as autogenous welds, do not require it. A constant-current welding power supply is needed to produce electrical energy, which is conducted across the arc through a column of highly ionized gas and metal vapors known as a plasma. The process grants the operator greater control over the weld than competing processes such as shielded metal arc welding and gas metal arc welding, allowing for stronger, higher quality welds
The process requires you to hold the torch in one hand, filler rod in the other and a foot operated pedal that controls amperage, as needed, as you weld. This is the part that, no matter how much you read about it, you just won’t understand until you try to do it yourself. Being an entry-level consumer choosing my first machine was a big decision and being that it wouldn’t be bringing in any money; price had to compete with quality and I had to get the right machine to learn on. I had a pretty good idea what I would need from my machine and what options I could do without just to start layin’ beads. I doubt I’ll ever be doin’ welds that separate cold water from radioactive cores or even close, but the machines I was looking at were still well over a grand. That seemed like it was a bit pricey for someone just starting up so I started a search for a machine that had enough features to get me welding competently but without all the extra bells and whistles that were not required to build a strong learning foundation and one that I would not outgrow easily. I knew I could expand later with other options as my needs increased
There were a few things that I definitely wanted. I wanted my machine to have the ability to operate with either 110v 15-amp circuit or a 220v AC 30-amp circuit; a welding capacity that wouldn’t leave me limited in the thickness of the material being welded, a high-frequency start (as opposed to the limiting ‘scratch start’) and a unit that came with everything to get started (except consumables) right out of the box. A few friends in the business suggested that I look at the analog TIG200 AC/DC welder. If the description was any indication of the machine’s capabilities, this unit was a perfect contender… The Eastwood TIG 200 welder offers industrial TIG features at a DIY price for home auto fabricators or pro technicians. This specially engineered 200-amp Eastwood TIG Welder offers affordable, professional-quality TIG welding on aluminum, stainless steel and mild steel (sheet, tube or bar stock), and precise welding of thinner-gauge materials up to ¼-inch thick. With its versatile design, powerful welding capabilities and guaranteed quality, this welder is the last one many auto restorers will ever need.
The stats are: Operates on either 110vAC, 15-amp circuit or 220vAC, 30-amp circuit. 1/4”-thick welding capacity on 220VAC. High-frequency start for precise arc control. Square-wave inverter for accurate aluminum welding. “WP-17”-type torch accepts common cups and collets with up to 1/8” electrodes. TIG Welding AC Duty Cycle (%): 120VAC 60% at 145 amps, 220VAC 60% at 190 amps) Stick Welding Feature – welds in AC and DC Positive/Negative. Backed by Eastwood’s no-hassle return policy and 3-year warranty.
After an exhausting search of other comparable units, I found that the Eastwood analog TIG200 AC/DC welder came in a few hundred dollars cheaper than other brands……. complete and out of the box. With a decent welding helmet, the Eastwood tungsten grinder, a few pounds of welding rod and a tank full of argon I was off to the races in my quest to become my own TIG welding wizard. I talked to the good folks over at Eastwood and placed my order for the Eastwood TIG200 AC/DC welder. I also ordered the Eastwood Tungsten Grinder because I knew that if fouling the tungsten was a problem for beginners I would need either this or a grinding wheel but with its rod mitering slots and double sided diamond grinding wheel it would take pointy tungsten out of the learning process. I also ordered the Eastwood Panoramic Welding Helmet. Probably too much helmet for what I needed but not very expensive, so I went for it.
After receiving the equipment, I inspected each component, learned what each part was and was satisfied with the apparent quality of the unit and its associated parts. At first, knowing it was made overseas, I was not expecting the level of quality I noticed in each part that I inspected. I was pleasantly surprised with the fit and finish, and the quality was equal to other units that were double the price. The only surprise I received, in my new venture, had nothing to do with my experience with Eastwood at all. I found out that a $200 refundable bottle deposit was required for my Argon. It was not an elaborate expense and once I scrounged it up, it’s an expense that I will never have to repeat. I assembled the torch, foot pedal, and Argon and hastily made a few passes creating some truly unimpressive welds just to make sure everything was working as expected and it was. I knew I needed a ton of hands-on experience just to get myself familiarized with the process and the machine. Unfortunately, my normal job picked up for the holiday season and I wasn’t able to put in the time I wanted to learn how to lay a good bead and be confident in the welds I do make. However the lean period that comes right after the holidays will give me the time to gain the practice I so desperately need.
the practice I so desperately need. Over-all I have been pleased with my purchase and the support offered by Eastwood. Their YouTube channel helps me move toward my TIG welding goals. It’s now time to put in the work that will make me a better welder with a firm grasp of technique and materials learned through the process. When I am confident with my own welding skills, I’ll have another installment on my experience learning to TIG on the Eastwood AC/DC 200 welder and how it applies to the work I’m doing on bikes. Let me just leave you with this, the price of the Eastwood AC/DC 200 is such that there is now a realistic entry level welder for those that may not be familiar with TIG welding or, like myself, no welding experience at all. The price isn’t as daunting as I had expected and with the small investment, I am now on the path to welding glory. To up your building game, check out Eastwood for this and other tools. Until next time… happy choppin’!