Walking the cup is a simple, but very effective way to TIG weld. It produces a very consistent weld with a very uniform appearance. The reason behind this is simple. The arc length and the pattern used are almost always the same. Walking the cup eliminates most handshakes and wobbles because the cup of the TIG torch is always leaning on the metal.
To begin, you need to understand what type of equipment is used to TIG weld pipe in the field and how it affects welding techniques. TIG welding pipe in the field is mostly done with air cooled torches, no high frequency starts, and no foot pedals or controls to regulate the heat! To start the arc, you either bump start the Tungsten, or quickly flick your filler rod between the Tungsten and pipe to get the arc going (just like striking a match). The second is controlling your heat. Once the pipe heats up and the puddle gets fluid, you simply start moving faster to keep up with the puddle. That’s about it! No fancy or expensive equipment, and in many cases the TIG power supply is just a Stick welder with a TIG torch added on to it!
There are two ways to walk the cup. The first is wobbling the cup side to side like a heavy barrel being wobbled across a floor. The second way is to ratchet the TIG torch handle like you are tightening a bolt. The end result between both ways is almost the same. A very uniform and consistent weld pattern!
Wobbling the cup is a little easier then ratcheting it! To wobble the cup simply lean the TIG torch cup on the pipe and strike an arc. After that just wobble the cup side to side like a barrel and keep moving forward with it. When it comes to adding filler wire most people (including myself) simply lay the filler rod in front of the Tungsten and walk right over it.
Ratcheting the cup is a little harder to do but produces a better weld. This is because the arc length is more consistent. Ratcheting the cup is done just like wobbling the cup but at the same time requires more skill. Once the arc is started, start turning the torch back and forth like a ratchet tightening a bolt. The trick to getting the cup to move forward is to have a slight twitch of the wrist when reversing the motion. You need to build a rhythm that has a consistent twitch of the wrist at the end of each turn. That is all there is to walking the cup besides it takes a lot of practice to learn.