My hobby of welding started with Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding, as it is perhaps the easiest welding method to learn. However, in some time, my interested also shifted to sealing a joint and making a tricky weld.
Such a weld is usually a T-joint, round curve, and s-curve, all of which need to be really clean and tidy, much more than what a MIG welder renders. This task involved a variety of thin and thick metals.
I also had my old motorcycle whose chopper frames made of titanium need some refurbishment through welding. Obviously, even here, I was not ready to compromise with the appearance.
Because a great finished outcome was my top priority here, I knew Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) is the most appropriate welding method for these home projects. This is because I had researched about it while I was learning the basics of MIG welding.
To ensure that TIG is the right kind of welding, I started by listing all the priorities or expectations from it.
- 1 My Expectations from TIG Welding
- 2 Step 1: Research Based on Expectations: Decision-Affecting Findings
- 3 Step 2: Buying Factors to Consider for Choosing the Best TIG Welder
- 3.1 Your Needs
- 3.2 Power Input
- 3.3 Amperage Capacity
- 3.4 Arc Stability
- 3.5 AC and DC Welding
- 3.6 Polarity
- 3.7 Duty Cycle
- 3.8 Size and Weight – Portability and Transportability
- 3.9 Metal Thickness
- 3.10 Heat Control via Pulse Welding
- 3.11 Arc Start
- 3.12 Torch
- 3.13 Manual versus Remote Start
- 3.14 Shielding Gas
- 3.15 Electrode Type
- 3.16 Tungsten Electrode Diameter
- 3.17 Resilience
- 3.18 Adaptability
- 3.19 Ease of Use/User-friendly
- 3.20 Other Features and Utilities
- 3.21 Brands
- 4 Top 5 TIG Welders
- 5 Conclusion
My Expectations from TIG Welding
For the aforementioned projects, my priorities were:
- Versatility; welding a variety of very thin metallic surfaces
- Minimal distortion
- Maximum precision
- Little to no slag or splatter (not at least like MIG)
Well, the middle three expectations are certainly not in the control of MIG welding. Although it results in fewer distortions, it is comparison with stick welding that is infamous for its ability to generate fumes and resulting in poor aluminium welding. Further, MIG is mostly not recommended for exotic metals such as titanium.
Based on these expectations, I took some time to research about TIG welding and ensure that it will fulfill the aforementioned expectations. I decided to follow the below three steps:
- Research on TIG welding in detail
- Find out the buying factors for getting the best TIG unit
- Prepare and compare top 5
Step 1: Research Based on Expectations: Decision-Affecting Findings
I finally found that TIG welding was the most suitable welding method for my above projects. Below is what I exactly found:
- TIG welding is high quality, precise process offering cleaner welds with least smoke and no splatter or distortion. This is why it is ideal for aesthetically pleasing applications such as sculptures, automotive repair and production, aviation products, and for several home-hobbyist tasks.
- TIG is popular for projects that involve thin-gauge parts of metal; exotic parts of metal or hard surfacing alloys such as titanium; components of lighter and heavy metals such as steel, nickel, aluminum, brass, and copper alloys; and chrome-moly tubes. Of these, the heat-sensitive, thinner metals require very precise heat control to keep warping or burning via the metallic bottom away. TIG is highly capable of such control, as it runs efficiently at a lower amperage level.
- TIG is reliable for tricky welds and joints such as s-curves, t-joints, butt joints, lap joints, and fillet welds.
The above findings were convincing enough for me to choose TIG welding for my tasks. With this, my next step was to understand TIG welding in detail.
Research’s Knowledge-Imparting Topics
I, now, started researching about TIG welding in detail, the topics of which I have shared below on this page. If you are experienced welder, you can directly skip this section and move on to the top 5 TIG welders.
Nevertheless, if you are a beginner, I recommended going through them for having a better understanding of the TIG process, benefits, and factors to consider for buying the best TIG welder.
Well, these research topics are those that even you would consider before learning and investing in TIG welding!
Some Aspects of TIG Might Disappoint But…
Aim: To caution you to not ignore TIG despite some limitations seen at the first once
When I started looking for TIG welding in detail, I came across disappointing characteristics, which are listed below.
- Needs more skills and practice than MIG or stick
- Has a lower deposition rate
- Requires a really clean surface of metal for welding
- Is costlier for welding thick metal surfaces
- Is slower than MIG
Although TIG is a commonly used process, these points seen in the initial research can disappoint. However, let me tell you frankly, that there is no need to get disappointed with these facts. This is because the impact of their repercussion is not that significant in front of the best quality, cleanest, and optimally precise output it gives.
The aforementioned facts are actually limitations, and not bothersome facts. So, you should not mind having them as a part of your TIG welding expertise.
Overview of TIG Welding: What is it?
Aim: To know what is TIG welding and why it takes time to master it
Also termed as Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), TIG is designed for joining different metals other than common steel, working on thinner metals, and especially welding titanium and other exotic metals. It is the choice for having small, precise welds.
TIG welding is called GTAW, as it employs an electrode usually composed of tungsten and an inert gas for protecting the weld pool to prevent oxidization or contamination from the gases in the atmosphere. The latter is essential while joining reaction metals of high strength and alloys for high quality weld joints.
Why More Time and Skill Required: The process requires you to use both your hands, which is the reason why it takes more time to master, than stick and MIG welding. What separates TIG from other types of welding methods is the manner in which the arc is created as well as the filler metal is included.
While one hand holds the TIG torch for generating the arc, the other hand adds the filler metal to the joint. Due to the involvement of both the hands, TIG is a bit tough to learn.
However, it is also the most versatile when it is the matter of welding or joining different metals. Yes, the process is gradual but gives the highest quality output when done right.
With TIG welding that mostly uses an inert gas, you can weld almost any metal. This is because the chief gasses in use are noble inert gasses whose properties do not affect the welding properties.
Another reason why higher dexterity is required for proper TIG welding is allowance of welding a myriad of different metals varying in thickness. If you learn this art smartly, you will know that the welding outcome is much accurate and better than other welding types. You are ensured of the best bead and consequently the best weld.
While a majority of other welding processes employ a chemical or flux additive to the filler metal, TIG relies only on pure heat for forming the joint. This facilitates any metal to melt and join, provided the filler wire is compatible.
TIG welding can even weld dissimilar metals by implementing different options. Many of these options rely on the filler wire’s design.
Note: TIG was originally known as Heliarc, which even today many shop welders call it. This name has highly esteemed history. So, if you come across a skilled professional who refers to TIG by this name, know that she or he is a TIG master.
The Working of TIG Welding: How TIG Welds?
Aim: To know how TIG welding works
TIG welding uses a tungsten electrode, which is a non-consumable pole (meaning is covered a bit later in this section). Tungsten is a hard metal that is capable of enduring temperatures of up to 6200 degrees Fahrenheit after which it starts to melt.
This is why tungsten is ideal for directing the current via a welding arc. The tungsten rod conducts the current and is protected by a collet.
MIG vs TIG Process: The tungsten electrode does not dissolve or burn off during the process due to which it is termed as non-consumable. On the other hand, MIG welding uses a wire as an electrode that dissolves once the weld is over. While MIG welding is useful for welding non-ferrous and aluminum metals, TIG welding is for welding the thin layers of aluminium, stainless steel, magnesium alloys, and aluminum.
Components: TIG welding needs three components: Filler metal, shielding, and heat. The electricity passing via the electrode generates heat by forming an arc to the metal. A compressed bottle of gas ensures shielding, which flows to the region of weld for protecting it from air. The filler metal is a wire that you dip into the arc for melting it.
This is how these components work: Initially, the welder activates the gas flow, mostly via a valve on the TIG torch. The gas starts doing its job of protecting from the air. You then hold the torch over the joint such that the former does not come in contact with the metal.
Next, you press a foot pedal after which the electrode initiates an arc. With this arc, the two metal surfaces start melting and form a pond of metal. When this pond or puddle is set, you fill the joint with the help of the other hand. For this, you dip the wire into the arc. Finally, you get a single metal piece.
During the process, the arc tends to jump between the electrode and the work piece, which welds the current and raises the temperature. The shielding gas accumulates around the weld through a ceramic cup known as a nozzle that retains most heat.
The size of cups differs from one welder to another. Each size caters to different job capabilities. A smaller size is for smaller tasks and harder to reach sites, while a larger size is for larger beads and enhanced current.
One can fully control the length of the arc. Usually, the length is retained between 2 and 5 mm. The arc’s heat is reliable on chosen current type.
The TIG torch consists of the tungsten electrode, nozzle, and collets. The nozzle forms a rigid but uniform stream of inert gas in the region of arc, electrode, and weld pool. The normal flow rate of the gas ranges from 5-50 liters per minute.
Filler Wire: This is not typically used for TIG welding a thin sheet. Welding a thick steel plate for critical applications needs a filler metal for stuffing the groove. You can feed the wire manually or via some mechanism.
The filler metal should be similar to the base metal. If the right filler metal is not chosen, it leads to cracking of weld metal even if it might be similar to the base metal. Usually, Al-5-12%Si filler is a general purpose option, while Al-5%Mg filler is for aluminium alloys.
Shielding Gas: Argon, helium, and their mixes are the common options. Choosing one of them depends on the criticality of application, metal to be welded, and affordability. 1-2% of hydrogen or helium is at times included in argon for a particular purpose such as increasing the welding speed, penetration capability, and boosting arc stability and its voltage for raising the heat level of the arc.
Carbon dioxide is not a reliable choice in a high temperature environment, as it adversely affects the joint’s quality and alleviates the electrode’s lifespan. Argon and helium ensure high quality for welding ferrous and reactive metals.
Who Uses: TIG welding is what an experienced professional uses to have finished beads on various metals differing in thickness.
Benefits of TIG Welding
Aim: To know how beneficial TIG welding is and ensure that it is fine for my projects
- For all metals, including the thin ones
- No defective output
- Superior weld quality
- No slag or splatter at all
- Lowest distortion
- Flexibility to use even without the filler metal, as per the application
- Superb control over penetration, heat input, and filler metal inclusions
- For inexpensive fusion welds with decent penetration
Worth Knowing Facts of TIG Welding
Aim: To know its more capabilities and limitations
The tungsten electrode is smaller than a rod used in stick welding. As a result, the process is capable of welding on highly heat-sensitive or very thin metals such as aluminium or stainless steel as well as gives more precise welds.
Once you master the process, it becomes easy to conclude that TIG welding is unbeatable in terms of neatness, ease of use, and a smooth bead output. However, this is only possible if the work plates are clean. So, they need more cleaning, furnishing, ad heat treatment before welding.
This pre-cleaning is a bit time consuming, but is essential for having a spotless weld. A clean surface is indispensable for obtaining a clean weld, as any leftover such as moisture or residues tend to stain the weld. This is another reason why TIG welding takes more time than other welding methods, but it also gives a superior weld.
Step 2: Buying Factors to Consider for Choosing the Best TIG Welder
Although TIG welding gives you the best quality weld, much of it is dependent on the TIG welding machine or the TIG welder device. So, it is necessary for you need to choose the most suitable TIG welder.
The market is filled with different TIG welders, each varying in terms of features, specifications, brand, and price. Whether you are buying it for the first time or for third time, it can be confusing and overwhelming to choose the best model from a big assorted collection.
Usually, you should look for a unit that is capable of performing the desired tasks as well as fulfilling your priorities or expectations. For example, you need to know whether the unit can weld the chosen metals, give the desired joints or curves, and is portable enough to be carried anywhere, if you need to move with it.
So, in short, it is best to choose a unit as per your requirements. For this, you need to map your requirements to the following factors and match them further with the features or specifications of the apparently promising TIG welders.
Here’s what I did: I spent some time to find the buying factors, which guided in comparing the various promising models belonging to the different brands. I also read some reviews. Based on comparison and these reviews, I could easily choose the most suitable TIG welder for me.
It is a wise idea to go through some customer reviews about the various models and find out which one best fits your requirements as well as your budget. To help you out, here are the different relevant factors to consider for buying a TIG welder.
Before you even go ahead and look for different TIG welders along with their specifications, it is essential to know your requirements. This includes knowing the purpose of using the welder, kind of task or project, location of usage, and type of metals along with their level of thickness.
Knowing these details will help you choose the desired specifications. Nobody would like to have a TIG welder that is more or less powerful than what is desired for the job.
In the list of specifications, power input is what you need to look for, first. However, this will be as per the kind of project or task undertaken. For example, in case of small projects related to home or farm, an 115v TIG welder is suitable.
Similarly, for a professional, industrial, heavy-duty, or a larger project, 220v is what you need. If you have taken up a high precision industrial project, 230v or more input power is essential.
If you know that you will be undertaking a variety of projects, you can choose a TIG welder with dual voltage input. Most digital TIG welders come with this option. Most decent models operate with both 110v and 240v inputs.
Having a unit with dual power capabilities tends to boost its versatility, as you can use it almost for any task and anywhere. However, more input power means consuming more electricity. So, it is better to stick to low input power if you will not go beyond smaller or hobby projects.
If the plus supports both 110 and 220v outlets, it makes the unit most flexible as you can now use it anywhere. While a few offer switchable plugs, you need to purchase a separate outlet plug for the rest.
In case you will be using the unit where no electrical outlets exist, you will require a model that can plug into a gas generator.
You should always consider the amperage range for choosing the most suitable TIG unit. It is rational to choose a TIG welder supporting a wide amperage range for which you can spend money. This is because with such a welder, you can weld more types of metals than the one with a restricted range.
A TIG welder with the range of 5 to 230 amps is perhaps the ideal one for welding all types of metals as well as all metal thicknesses. This means you can do more jobs without relying on another model.
This welder is flexible enough to weld on thin surfaces such as 24 gauge stainless steel and even up to 1/4-inch thick aluminum. So, the more the amperage range, the more are the tasks you can perform. A too narrow amperage range simply restricts the metals for welding
Note: For welding aluminum, you will always require a higher amperage level than for welding steel. It is unwise to have a welder whose amperage is below 200A because that will demote the metal’s thickness. It will restrict the maximum thickness from 1/8 to 3/16 inches.
Each metal has its own requirement for the desired amperage level. So, if you are likely to work on different metals, a wide amperage range is indispensable. If you are not going to work aluminium, you can stick to a lower amperage range, as a higher range is likely to cost you more.
Along with a broad amperage range, the TIG welder should have good arc stability of less than 10 amps. This low amperage of the stability ensures that the weld is warp-free while working with thinner metals.
It is also essential for better control over the arc, easier and stress-free startup, and improved crater filling capability when the welding is about to get over. Crater is the concave area at the bead’s end.
Usually, TIG welding is performed on thin materials. This would require you to start the arc without a too hot start or without a very high frequency. A few welding units come with starting technologies for setting the arc but these technologies generate only a hot start.
In such a start, a higher amperage level is initiated to establish the arc for some milliseconds. This arc due to higher starting amperage can be very intense to burn through the metal on which you are welding.
Further, such a start does not contribute to arc stability at the time of welding. It also does not aid in sustaining a good arc control while filling the crater. It is a fact that you need decent arc stability at the time of welding. Otherwise, the arc might move away from the surface’s edge.
Stability at low amps is crucial while finishing the weld. It is common in TIG welding to decrease the output amperage when the weld is about to get over. This occurs for filling the weld crater. In case of aluminium, forming a big concave crater may result in cracking, as the surface tends to cool down.
However, controlling the arc while slowly reducing the amperage reduces the concave shape of the weld crater and allows the puddle to cool down gradually, which bring down stress that invites cracking.
The models with an exclusive background circuit gear facilitate a highly stable, low amperage startup along with improved welding and crater filling abilities for welding with Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC).
AC and DC Welding
AC and DC are the two types of power outputs that a TIG welding unit delivers. If you can spend well, consider a unit that can work on both, as it ensures more versatility to avoid looking for another TIG welder. Having such a unit is also essential if you wish to weld different metals.
Still, if you are on a budget, you can make a choice. Consider an AC TIG welder for welding self-oxidizing, soft metals such as magnesium and aluminium.
With AC, the present cycle swaps between a positive and a negative half. While aluminum needs the positive half to remove oxides, penetration into the base metal needs the negative half. In simple words, the negative current welds and the positive current cleans.
At the time of comparing AC welders, look for the distinguishing feature of AC balance control. It is not a significant feature but is helpful for choosing the best AC model.
AC cleans the weld while joining the two pieces. With the AC balance control, you can select the extent to which the unit cleans against its penetration level. It allows setting the level of cleaning versus penetration by controlling the length of positive and negative currents. This also results in better appearance as well as in the quality of the weld.
A unit with a fixed AC balance control does not permit to adjust this level for an apt amperage level or for a more oxidized aluminum. So, at least, choose a manual AC balance control if not for auto balance technology that sets the level on its own as per the welding amperage.
While it is not essential to have AC balance control, it imparts more process control for a better weld. Conversely, DC is preferable for hard metals such as deoxidized copper and steel. So, knowing the metals with which you will work regularly will aid you in selecting the most apt TIG welder.
TIG welding uses two types of polarity when welding via DC namely, DC Electrode (-) and DC Electrode Positive. In the former state, the welding handle or electrode is the circuit’s negative side and that the current flows from the torch to the metal. In the positive state, the electrode is the circuit’s positive side and the current flows from the metal to the torch.
The polarity affects the amount of heat applied to the tungsten electrode. The negative one focuses around 2/3rd of the heat onto the work piece, which ensures deep penetration. The positive one focuses around the same heat onto the electrode to give a shallow weld. This output is ideal for sheet metal and for a cleansing action.
To understand the DC flow, just imagine the flow of water when you bend a jug to fill a glass. This glass receives most friction, as it gets the water and is, thus, the positive side. In terms of welding, this is the side with most concentrated heat.
This is a technical specification but is worth knowing and measuring it, as affects the performance and productivity of the TIG welding unit. Duty cycle refers to the amount of load a unit can bear without any interruption during a span of 10 minutes.
When these 10 minutes are over after every cycle, you need to cool down the unit prior to restarting it.
By knowing the duty cycle, you come to know about the minutes that are available for welding in that cycle of 10 minutes.
For example, if the duty cycle of a welder is rated as 80%, it means that it welds for eight minutes and cools down for the next two minutes to reduce the heat. In other words, you can get more productive with this welder than a unit offering 50% duty cycle, which means it works for only five minutes.
Usually, units offering 50 to 60% duty cycle are of good quality, while those offering 80 to 90% are of high-end quality for meeting the goal of improved productivity.
Duty cycle is always stated with the highest current, for example, 60% at 140 amps. It means that the TIG welder welds for six minutes at its highest current of 140 amps. If you use the unit for more than six minutes, the unit heats up such that it can burn the internal circuits
Just ensure that you do not go for too low duty cycle. For instance, a discounted or a low-priced unit may have a duty cycle of 10% at 60 amps. This means you can weld only for a minute out of every 10 minutes without any equipment becoming too hot.
The TIG welder devices for light industrial/hobbyist tasks usually fall into one of these categories: 20% (low), 40-60% (medium), and 60-80% (high). The makers have, however, changed the formula to give you a longer duty cycle.
They now base the duty cycle percentages on a lower amperage setting. For example, a unit welding with 10% @ 140 amps can now weld with 30% @ 115 amps. It is possible to use this unit at a lower duty cycle if at all you need to do so.
As a tip, go for a model offering a higher current level than what is needed. Doing so helps in improving the duty cycle quite efficiently.
Size and Weight – Portability and Transportability
This is what you need to consider after power output and duty cycle. The welder size should be such that your room can contain it. In case of a big room, there is no need to move frequently with the device due to which the size and weight then does not matter.
Nevertheless, if you need a TIG welding unit for outdoor jobs, both the factors are important. For such a situation, weight of up to 50 pounds will ensure portability for moving around with it.
Such units are smaller. However, they still are very versatile and powerful enough to finish smaller tasks demanding shorter duty cycle. Larger models weight over 100 pounds and require a cart to move.
In short, think about the places where you will use the unit and whether or not you will be carrying it within or outside your working place. In case of frequent indoor use, portability might not be a priority for you. Otherwise, it is an important factor to consider.
You can choose from a variety of engine-driven and inverter TIG welders, of which the latter ones are more portable and lighter. The engine-driven one usually unites a welder and a generator in one.
Whether portability is a priority or not, you should always look for ease of transportability. This comes from a really good handle apart from the weight. If there is a well designed handle, you can easily transport the machine even within your working room.
If the unit is heavy, you may need one more person for moving it. On the other hand, a light model is actually not designed for industrial applications, but for hobbyists and do-it-yourself home tasks.
TIG welding is ideal for thin metals because while welding, they need precise heat control, which no other welding method provides. So, if you choose TIG for welding a metal having a thickness of half inches, it is not a rational choice.
In TIG welding, you need around 40 amps per 1 millimeter or one amp per 0.001 inch of thickness. As a rule, you should permit 30 amps for per 1 millimeter thickness of aluminium and 25 amps per 1 millimeter thickness of mild steel.
For welding pieces in the range of five-thousandths inches, MIG or Stick is not ideal, as both penetrate too much heat into the metal. Similarly, you will not consider TIG for welding a metal having a thickness of 1/2 inches, as MIG would do so much faster.
Heat Control via Pulse Welding
This is perhaps the most critical ability of a TIG welder, regardless of the type of metal you need to weld on. Welding is a significantly hot process due to which some heat control is essential to keep things cool and safe.
Thin metals warp easily or burn quickly when the temperature is high. So, heat control is especially more significant for thin metals such as aluminum.
Thus, it is essential to control heat. This is best done by pulse welding, as it controls the heat input to the weld without compromising the penetration. Pulse welding does so by oscillating between high and low currents. This also controls the arc.
The latest models are capable of generating a considerably more number of pulses per second. For example, it can be as high as 4,500 pulses per second.
TIG pulsing is ideal for both thin metals and tough joints, where a high probability of burning or heating exists. The higher the pulses, the stronger will be the weld due to the control over its puddle. Such pulsing restricts the arc due to which the amount of heat applicable to the weld is reduced.
As a result, the unit is able to move faster along the metal and removes less additional material, thus resulting in a cleaner weld. It is essential to keep in mind that TIG welding is nothing but regulating the heat applied to the material to be welded.
Whether you are welding a lot of thin material or you are welding for a superb appearance, the best pulsing mechanism is likely to save both material and time apart from giving you excellent welds, great arc stability, and cooling ability at a safer temperature level.
A few models come with an integrated TIG pulser that you can adjust for timing the insertion of filler metal into the puddle. In simple words, you should dip the filler into the puddle during the peak amperage, and withdraw it when it is the lowest. This gives a consistent bead appearance.
There are three ways to start an arc namely, High Frequency, Scratch, and Lift Start. A start is essential to defeat the tungsten’s resistance for allowing the current to flow via the metal. Each operator prefers to start in a distinct way.
- High Frequency: Utilizes a high frequency of energy to establish the arc between the metal and tungsten electrode. It is ideal for TIG welding units supporting both AC and DC options.
- Scratch: Scratches the electrode against the work piece for triggering an arc. It is easy to master but it leaves some tungsten behind to pollute the weld.
- Lift: Works similar to the scratch start technique but prevents electrode scratching. This results in increased lifespan of the tungsten electrode. The output is of x-ray quality. With the lift-arc start, you can make the tungsten touch the piece, pick it up from the piece, and then allow the full welding current to flow. Herein, the electrode is hot the moment it touches metal.
Usually while welding on AC or DC mode, the current needs to flow from the electrode to the piece. A start triggers an issue, as the current needs to beat the tungsten’s resistance. In other words, the current should heat the tungsten for it to be a good releaser of electrons.
At this point, the arc tends to jump from the tungsten to the metal. A conventional solution to overcome DC arc starting issues and boost the AC arc start is placing over a high frequency current on the welding current. The former current paves way for the welding current to follow for establishing an arc.
However, the high frequency interferes with the other electronic equipment. However, an inverter-based TIG unit with a high frequency start only bursts the high frequency at the beginning of the weld and does not face much difficulty with starts due to quick operation.
Actually, all decent inverters do not need incessant high frequency when the work piece is a non-ferrous metal such as aluminum.
You can choose from two types of torches namely, air-cooled and water-cooled.
- Air-cooled: Is most feasible and least costly. However it heats up a bit and much of it is wasted. With such a torch, I can literally weld for 10 minutes! At a higher power, torch is warmer but is fine with me.
- Water-cooled: Is the most efficient type with a smaller head for finer work in tight areas where air-cooled torch cannot reach. However, you need a water cooler and further maintenance.
Manual versus Remote Start
After selecting a TIG torch, you have two options for starting the arc, manual versus remote. When you turn on the TIG unit, the TIG torch also turns on. Now, you need to start the by striking the metal with tungsten. This is a manual start.
For a remote start, you can choose either a switch on the torch or a foot pedal. In the former, you simply have to press the switch on the torch with a finger to trigger welding. The remote start cable associated with the power supply then triggers the high frequency start utility.
A foot pedal for a remote start controls the high frequency start as well as the amperage. The further you push down, the more is the power obtained.
Such a start is usually for shop work where the welding operator can sit. Otherwise, it is tough to weld with such a device in the standing mode. However, you get full heat control to prevent the puddle from getting too big, which is the plus point.
The best pedal will not incline at too high angle or else the operator suffers from foot fatigue. Further, it is highly responsive to the operator’s foot while adjusting the heat input. You can even pick the best welding machine and add a foot pedal to it.
Argon and helium are the most used shielding gasses for TIG welding. These are noble inert gases due to which you get what you weld with. In some applications, a mixture of argon and hydrogen, argon and helium, or argon and nitrogen is used.
The argon and helium mix is for thicker metals where deeper penetration is required. Otherwise, pure argon fulfills all the welding requirements.
As a fact, tungsten is the main element in the electrode. However, the percentage of other metals changes for generating the preferred arc characteristics. Along with tungsten, the other common metals included are zirconium, lanthanum, and cerium.
Practically, the following four tungsten mixtures are commonly used:
- Pure Tungsten: Is usually coupled with AC for welding only magnesium and aluminum. The tip is in green and bears the classification code of American Welding Society (AWS) as EWP.
- 1/4 to 1/2% Zirconium Tungsten: Is similar to pure tungsten in terms of properties. It comes in a mix form ranging from 1/4 to 1/2% of zirconium oxide and tungsten. This electrode is also used with AC for welding of magnesium and aluminum. The tip is in brown color and comes with an AWS classification code as EWLa-1.
- 1% and 2% Thorium Tungsten: Is used with DC as well as with the polarity of electrode negative. The included thorium oxide facilitates the electrode to bear more current at a lower temperature and makes starting of the arc easier. Thorium tungsten can weld most metals, except for magnesium and aluminum. 1% of it features a yellow tip and the code of EWTh-1, while the 2% one has a red tip and a code of EWTh-2.
Tungsten Electrode Diameter
When it comes to TIG welding, the size of an electrode is not that significant part of the process, provided the electrode is within its amperage rating. In fact, it is the tip’s shape that matters, as it establishes the arc’s characteristics.
In most applications, an electrode with a diameter between 1/16 and 1/8 inches is fine. The other common sizes are .04, 3/32, 5/32, 3/16, and 1/4 inches.
It is obvious to choose a durable and sturdy TIG welder. Nobody wants a unit that breaks during the first application. A resilient TIG welder has a few special features that increase its overall lifespan.
One such feature is a fan that cools down the machine, as heat can damage it. The cooling fan prevents overheating to retain a normal temperature. Many TIG units have incessantly running fans, which shorten the life of the unit by attracting much dirt and dust.
On the other hand, a few units have a fan that runs only after the unit heating up and trips a thermostat. A thermostatically regulated fan permits the internal parts to cycle between cold and hot, which put them into stress. So, preferably, the fan should be such that it provides cooling only when needed.
Another feature to look for is an automatic thermal overload protection. It shuts down the unit instantly when it becomes too hot and disallows you to use the unit until it cools down fully.
You will always want a welder that allows you to perform more jobs with less equipment. If you can afford a high-end welder that can do basically any job you need done, you will ultimately save money on the multiple cheap machines you will have to buy and you will save time shopping for these units as well as the space it takes to store and transport them.
Ease of Use/User-friendly
If you think that a TIG welder will be complicated to use just because TIG welding is a standardized and highly skilled process, kindly re-think again. It is not necessary for the machine to be difficult to use. In fact, the best TIG welding devices come with easy to understand and simple to use controls.
Such models have clearly labeled or color coded controls, or minimal controls. Such a quality design helps in getting what you are looking for and specifies the right settings for the task in hand. You can even look for a model with a digital display to ensure correct settings.
Having the auto save feature is also time saver and is seen on a few higher end units. It helps in restoring the setting automatically when you need it again.
Even a durable foot pedal control simplifies the process by facilitating you to increase or decrease the amperage, especially during the aluminium weld when the metal heats up. This allows retaining a constant speed of travel and uniform bead shape.
There are hand amperage controls but a foot amperage control is equivalent to a foot pedal accelerator in a car.
Other Features and Utilities
- Multiple input voltage ability for more efficient operation
- Plasma cutting and stick welding capabilities for maximum versatility
- Removable TIG torch if you wish to use a longer, smaller, or a pencil torch for obtaining difficult to reach welds, replacing it, and/or changing the torch as per your growing skills
It is a natural tendency for most operators to go with the reputable brand for choosing the best welding device. So, it is worth knowing some of the most famous and esteemed brands. Well, these are:
Miller, ESAB, Lincoln, Everlast, Longevity, and Hobart (in no particular order)
Each of these brands offers a variety of welders that are suitable for different tasks. So, you need to choose accordingly.
Top 5 TIG Welders
Finally, it was no time to implement all the aforementioned knowledge for choosing some of the most promising TIG welders. Following is the list from which I also chose my TIG welder! These welders have customer ratings of above 4.
EVERLAST PowerARC Lift Start TIG / Stick IGBT Welder (Dual Voltage):
It is the most affordable DC TIG welder in this list. It is capable of welding mildly. The welder is portable and efficient enough to be taken anywhere and consume low power. You can easily obtain smooth and stable DC arc. The IGBT technology ensures a long lasting and the most reliable power source.
- Features: Automatic hot start for minimized electrode sticking, adaptive arc force control, lift start DC GTAW setting due to IGBT inverter, 17V series with a physical gas valve in torch handle, digital display, DINSE 25mm connectors for simple connection
- Weight: 25 pounds
- Power Input: 120/240v dual voltage (DC)
- Output: 2-250A
- Duty Cycle: 35% @140A
- Material Thickness: 3/8″ steel, stainless steel, no aluminium
ESAB Thermal Arc W1003203 95 S Inverter Portable DC Welder Stick/TIG Package:
It is a bit costlier but more economical than the aforementioned welder. It is ideal for DIYers, beginners, and hobbyists who need high quality welds easily as well as affordably. In its class, it is the only welder with Stick and TIG welding capabilities. The welder is ideal for a variety of repair and light maintenance tasks along with light fabrication.
- Features: Lights indicating overheating, power, and fault indicator; stick/lift TIG process switch, weld amperage control knob, negative and positive weld output 25 mm DINSE receptacle
- Weight: 9.7 pounds
- Power Input: 115v (DC)
- Output: 95 amps
- Duty Cycle: 20% @ 60A
- Material Thickness: 14-20 gauge stainless steel
2016 AHP AlphaTIG 200X IGBT AC DC TIG/Stick Pulse Welder:
It is a new model with new torch, AC balance control, and pulse as well as AC frequency. The IGBT technology gives quality welds for thinner-gauge materials. It is designed for both a hobby and a professional welder. It is an affordable choice for even a part time user. For the price, the welder is considered to be highly versatile.
- Features: Power Width Modulation (PWM), AC cleaning control, pulse features, standard TIG torch consumables, separate TIG control switch for adding to the torch, metal foot pedal control, and HF start
- Weight: 38 pounds
- Power Input: 110-220v (dual voltage) AC/DC
- Output: 10-200A
- Duty Cycle: 60% at 150A and 100% at 116A
- Material Thickness: 1/4″ aluminum and 3/8″ mild steel
Hobart 500551 EZ TIG 165i Inverter-Based Welder:
It is a costlier model than all the above ones, but is a lightweight inverter-designed model with two carry handles ensuring portability. With a distinct knob control, it is the simplest as well as quickest welder to set up and operate. The welder is also commended for its superior weld performance.
- Features: One knob control, fan-on-demand to alleviate dust/debris, inverter-based power source for efficient and consistent arc, infinite amperage control, HF start, auto-post flow for optimum shielding, automatic high temperature shutdown, remote amperage control, 17 Weldcraft TIG torch, gas regulator, gas hose, foot-operated control, work cable with clamp
- Weight: 50 pounds
- Power Input: 230v AC/DC
- Output: 10-200A
- Duty Cycle: 20% @ 150A
- Material Thickness: 22-ga. – 3/16in. steel (mild and stainless), steel/chrome moly, and aluminium
TIG Welder Maxstar 150 STL:
It is the costliest model in this list but is a dual voltage model. It comes with an inverter for TIG welding steel only. It is both a Stick and TIG welder.
- Features: Lift start, built-in valve
- Weight: 14 pounds
- Power Input: 115/230v (DC)
- Output: 5-150 amps
- Duty Cycle: 30% @ 120A
- Material Thickness: 0.020″ to 3/16″ mild steel
Selecting the most suitable TIG welder means much more than only looking for the lowest price. I hope the above points and other shared stuff have given full clarity to you. I know how disappointing it is to invest heavily in a wrong unit. So, I always go with the research for shopping a TIG welder, and now, even recommend you to do so.