Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 1: Lincoln Electric's GTAW (TIG) welding class

Hi everyone,
As part of my long-term plan for Zanconato Custom Cycles, I am attending Lincoln Electric's 1-week TIG welding class this week. I love lugs. Let me get that right out there. I want to build lugged bicycles for the rest of my career. They are uniquely beautiful, and that beauty was one of primary motivators that drove me to build my first frame back in 1998. But I've wanted to learn to TIG weld for a long long time. Welding opens up so many options. From being able to build frames in different materials to having a more cost-efficient steel option, welding is an extraordinary process for building sweet bikes. And when I look at my mission statement, the focus is putting great fitting, great handling, and great riding bikes in the hands of as many people as possible. This is the next step in accomplishing that mission.

Lincoln Electric has a world renowned welding school on their monstrous Cleveland, OH campus. The company was founded in 1895. At the time, they were building electric motors. They introduced their first welding set in 1909 and they began training welders in 1917. The welding school grew from there and now they have offerings that range from a basic 1-week intro to welding class to a 16-week comprehensive course that offers the student intensive training in all common forms of welding. Other interesting courses include two different motorsports TIG courses that focuses on some of the more exotic materials such as titanium, magnesium, and inconel. I'm taking the 1-week Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (TIG) class. The focus of the course will be welding carbon steel, stainless steel, and aluminum.

Day 1 began at 8am with a class introduction and a quick safety discussion. Our instructor, Bob Gardner, gave a bit of his background. He's been associated with Lincoln for nearly 40 years and has been a teacher for 28. Talk about experience. He did a fantastic job all day explaining concepts and techniques at a level everyone could understand. Great stuff. The class has 11 students. We went around the horn introducing ourselves. There are eight of us that are here for career reasons and three doing it more for recreation/hobby reasons. Seven have zero TIG experience. So it is a good mix and nobody should feel tentative about coming to the class due to lack of welding experience.

After the intros, we spent about an hour going over some basic concepts and the differences between DC and AC welding. We also had a high level discussion on AC frequency, balance, and waveform, AC and DC pulse, and purging/backpurging techniques. That all took about 2 hours and we were out on the floor doing some demos by 10am.

The setup out on the floor is pretty sweet. There are huge bins of pre-cut coupons in various sizes and thicknesses ready to go. And there are rows of separate booths for each student. There's plenty of room in the booth. They have a variety of machines that they use depending on what the students will be using after the class. I got set up on an Invertec V205 because I plan on using an inverter machine for building bicycle frames. The machine had a 9 series torch. The guys who are going to be using transformer machines got set up on Precision TIG 275 machines. Very nice all around.

I'll bring my camera with me tomorrow to get some photos. We started on some 12 gauge carbon steel coupons and did some butt, lap, and T joints. Bob was cruising around and was looking over each of our shoulders, gave out tips and advice, and did some demos in each of our booths. I also focused a bit on 16 gauge material because I wanted to start getting some time with some thinner material. I also have some tube samples that I brought with me, but I want to get some booth time in me before attempting those. We had a 30 minute break for lunch in the middle of the day. I stayed until about 3:45, even though the class officially ended at 2:30. Nobody was kicking me out, so I took advantage of the time.

So that's a wrap for day one. The rest of my updates will be more photo heavy and have less text, but I wanted to get this info out there. It covers a lot of the questions I had in my mind going into it. There isn't a ton of info on their website, so I figure this might help you in your decision making process if you are considering attending the class.

Thanks for reading!


Clarisa said...

Wish I could be in that class. I love to weld. I was instructed by the best! My father is a retired welder. I learned arc and tig. I could never get close to what he could do but I do OK. I just finished with body work on my 58 chevy apache truck. It was good to see you in Austin. Have a blast with the welding school.

Cesar A

Carl S said...

That's awesome Mike. I'm sure you'll love it. It's always hard to explain to the public why you're stepping outside of the process (lugs) that you're known for but for some of us range and flexibility is what turns our crank. Good luck, I wish you the best and I'm sure you'll be killing it in no time.

Brian said...

Mike, you're in my neighborhood! I know you're in for an intense week of long days, but if you have a chance... want to visit the shop, grab some beers, etc...

Actually, contact me regardless, please.


Anvil said...

Sounds great, Mike! Hell, I wish I was there with you!

Slater said...

I did this class last July. It was excellent. The only things I didn't like?

1) when the full-time welding students run the ear-splitting arc-gougers.
2) the cafeteria fare downstairs took me back to 4th grade 1981. Grilled Cheese sandwiches and cartons of chocolate milk.

henry said...


Would the first frame you built in 1998 be the one Joe Alachoyan was racing on in 1999 UMass Cyclocross race? Could be a collector's item by now.

Video link
Audio link