It seems TIG Framebuilders fall into two categories, Before Don Ferris (BDF) and After Don Ferris (ADF). For those of you who don’t know who Don Ferris is, he’s the guy that owns Anvil Bikes. Don was the one that brought professional Framebuilding tooling and fixtures to the masses. He is also a very accomplished Framebuilder and fine welder. On the Anvil site he has tech papers on welding. While in general most of the TIG framebuilders had all pretty much settled on the same way of doing things Don upped the ante. Don’s welding advice included three things you didn’t see many TIG builders doing. Those were back-purging steel, using heat sinks and using 880t rod. All if these things make welding frames much easier and a builder without a ton of experience can get better results faster following Don’s advice. Myself, I’m a bit more old skool. I’ve been building frames for almost 18 years so I’m a BDF builder and have pretty much established my own ways of doing things.
One of the benefits of having an apprentice is that they bring a fresh perspective to the shop, have an open mind and are willing to try everything. Erik being a bright eyed and bushy tailed ADF builder was experimenting with 880t and gave me a pound of the filler to try. I’ve used the stuff a little here and there but never really enough to get all that excited about it.when he gave me the rod it sat in my rack for a couple months and finally I decided to give it a try. I was building a bike for NAHBS so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to really roll up my sleeves and build through an entire frame with the 880t. Because I’ve been using the same rod for almost 18 years and thousands of frames the 880t was different and at first a little frustrating. But I stuck with it through the frame and in the end it really started to grow on me. So on the next frame I used the 880t again and now I can say I’m a convert.
I’ve use ER70S2 for as long as I can remember. It’s great stuff and produces weld results second to none. So what is it about the 880t that makes it better? Well the overall product isn’t any better but what the 880t does is make it easier for a welder to produce great aesthetics much sooner in their learning curve and provides a larger margin of error to more experienced welders. I’m not sure why but I think it’s the way the stainless flows. It’s much smoother and has a tenancy to flatten where ER70S2 might leave a bump or indentation. I noticed if I missed a dab, normally what would happen is a ball of filler would occur on the end of the rod and leave a slight indentation in the weld. Then on the next dab the extra material would then create a larger bead producing a high spot. With the 880t, when that occurs it smooths itself out.
So to make a short story long, I’m now an 880t guy, thanks Erik. For any newer builders struggling with TIG aesthtics I recommend using 880t. It offers a big margin of error and makes producing good looking welds a lot easier than ER70s2.