Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding, also known as Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) is so precise and clean that you need not clean most of the time, after use. There is also no need to smoothen it or do anything else with it. For short run structural welds, having a TIG welder is essential to ensure highly technical output. TIG is certainly high-end welding that offers neater and stronger welds than other welding processes.

TIG WeldingVia Expert Infantry

Overview of TIG Welder: How it Works

TIG welding demands more skill level than several other forms of welding but it is highly versatile, as it can work with a big range of metals varying in terms of thickness. The process is neat and precise enough to deliver a well-finished bead.

In this process, the arc tends to jump between the work piece and a non-consumable electrode of tungsten to weld the current and shoot the temperature. Weld oxidation does not occur due to the presence of inert gas shield that often has argon. Moreover, no spatter or slag exists and that thin metals are promptly joined.

A TIG unit differs from an AC/DC stick welder, as it has a non-consumable electrode of tungsten, which conducts the current and is protected by a collet. The shielding gas is intended to be around the weld via a ceramic cup, also called a nozzle that is designed to ensure the extreme heat.

Cups of different sizes are produced that make each TIG welder unique from the other. These sizes include smaller cups for minor and smaller welds as well as helping for access to tough to reach portions, and larger cups for bigger beads and improved gas flow.

TIG Welders: Capabilities versus Limitations

An important aspect to know about the convenience of not cleaning a no-slag weld is that it is slightly compromised by the mandate of TIG for having a clean surface as a priority for quality welds. This means any contaminator such as residues or moisture can stain the weld. Further, TIG welding is slower than the rest arc welding techniques, which means the time consumed is relatively high.

Although costlier than a modest stick welder, it is worth spending if you want matchless compactness, striking ease, and smooth bead after mastering the welding technique. Nothing can challenge or surpass the preciseness of TIG welding, which always ensures very clean welds, without much smoke or any spatter.

This is why TIG welding is best for highly cosmetic applications such as automotive, sculpture, trial aircraft, and several hobbyist tasks. It is also famous for executing projects related to thin-gauge metal parts, especially lighter metals such as copper alloys, aluminum, and chrome-moly tubing.

This is because these materials demand exact heat control to prevent burn off or warping via the metal bottom. This control is efficiently ensured by TIG welders that run at lower amperages needed for the control. In short, although slowest, TIG welding is most precise, versatile, and most controllable welding technique.

TIG Welders: How to Choose the Best TIG Welder

Tig Welder Via Ryan Neuls

The market is full of several TIG welder types such as small TIG welder, portable TIG welder, aluminium TIG welder, and so on. However, not all welders are for everyone. For choosing the most suitable, a probable customer like you needs to choose the best TIG welder as per the requirements and budget.

Further, it is also advisable to go through some TIG welder reviews to know about the strengths and weakness of various models from different manufacturers. However, before that, you need to know what to consider before buying the best model.

Amperage Range

This is a critical factor to keep in mind while choosing a TIG welder. It is best to choose the one that has the widest range available for your set budget. Too narrow amperage range usually restricts the variety of metals on which the tool can weld.

A welder with 5 to 230 amps offers maximum flexibility for welding on a variety of metals as well as thicknesses. This is because aluminum needs higher amperage than stainless or steel. Anything lower than 200 amps restricts the maximum thickness of aluminium. The wider the amperage range, the more projects you can finish without buying different welders.

Arc Stability

It is recommended having a TIG welder with arc stability that is below 10 amps. This ensures better warp-free outcome with thinner materials, easier starting, improved crater fill capability, and better arc control. Often performed on thin materials, TIG welding should start the arc without hot start or much high frequency.

Those welders that come with starting technologies for establishing the arc result in a hot start featuring higher amperage for starting the arc that can burn through the material. For finishing the weld, stability at low amps is equally critical. TIG welders with exclusive background circuit equipment ensure highly stable as well as low amperage starting.

Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC) Welding

You will need both AC and DC options in case you wish to weld other materials than only steel or stainless. For instance, AC option will be required on self-oxidizing soft items such as magnesium and aluminum, while DC will be essential on hard items such as deoxidized copper and stainless steel.

In case of AC, the current cycle swaps between the positive and negative halves. While aluminum needs the positive half for cleaning the oxides, the negative half is for penetrating for welding the base metal.

Duty Cycle

This factor refers to the amount of uninterrupted welding that the machine can tap in an interval of 10 minutes. Duty cycle actually refers to minutes borrowed from a 10-minute duration wherein the welder can weld at the highest possible current after which it should be kept away for cooling down.

Represented as a percentage, duty cycle is calculated by multiplying percentage points by 10, which shows the available minutes for welding per 10-minute cycle. If this time is exceeded, the tool heats up and its circuits fry up. For example, an affordable TIG welder with 70 amps may offer a 10% duty cycle, which indicates welding of one minute out of each 10 minutes without burning out or getting too hot.

The TIG welders for light hobbyist or industrial jobs have 20% low, 40-60% medium, and 60-80% high duty cycle. However, nowadays, you can have a longer duty cycle. For instance, a 140-amp welder with 10% duty cycle can weld at 115 amps and 30% duty cycle. Having such a tool with greater optimal current than what you require can be a highly practical solution for improving the duty cycle.

Portability

A portable TIG welder is required in case you will not be welding at one specific location repeatedly. You can use a TIG welder as a portable tool in two ways: Using inverter or an engine-driven welder. With around 10 pounds, the inverter operates at 115 & 230 volts and is powerful enough to render a welder of smaller size and lighter weight than the normal ones.

On the other hand, an engine-driven welder is utilized every time the tool uses no power for welding. Therefore, engine-driven models are ideal for on-the-field upkeep, construction jobs, and pipeline welding.

Heat Control

This is a critical factor responsible for successful welding. In case of thinner materials, heat input control alleviates metal warpage, which is done through pulse welding without losing weld penetration. In pulse TIG welding, the tool swaps between a lower background and higher peak currents for maintaining the arc as well as cooling the welded joint.

A few welders have a built-in TIG pulse regulator for the desired heat input control. Such a welder allows dipping the filler metal into the puddle of weld while at the peak amperage as well as taking out the same during background amperage. This ensures a consistent stacked bead appearance, which is an indicator of good TIG weld.

AC Balance Control

Do look for an AC balance control, which is essential for an AC TIG welder. The control allows setting the level of cleaning versus penetration, which welders with fixed AC balance control do not permit. If not more, a manual AC balance control is also a smart choice.

A few TIG welders such as those of Lincoln Electric have a manual balance control as well as Auto-Balance technology. This technology allows automatic setting of percentage value of cleaning versus penetration as per the amperage. This eliminates any chance of errors or miscalculations as well as enhances the quality and look of the weld.

Ease of Use

Although high skills are essential for TIG welding, the welder should be such that it is easy to use. The best TIG welder is user friendly through its easy to comprehend controls for operation. Look for a lasting foot pedal for amperage control (metallic) for simplifying the procedure to increase or decrease the amperage. For aluminium welds, it is essential to have foot amperage controls.

A reliable foot amperage control allows alleviating the amperage while aluminum is heating, which ensures maintaining a constant speed as well as consistent bead shape. Such a control is analogous to a foot pedal accelerator whose benefits are seriously commendable.

Durability

Several TIG welders come with additional features that add to its lifespan and durability. For example, welders do come with a cooling fan that runs incessantly, or after heat up. Avoid choosing the former fan, as it can reduce the lifespan by attracting much dust and dirt. Similarly, a thermostatically controlled fan puts stress on internal parts for cycling between hot and cold phases.

Therefore, choose a welder whose fan only offers cooling when you need the most. For example, Lincoln welders have a fan that runs for several minutes at the weld’s end, if the arc is struck. This alleviates the intake of dirt as well apart from eliminating the thermal cooling cycle and continuous running process.

Manufacturers such as Lincoln have stringent design and manufacturing practices for ensuring increased lifespan of their welding tools. Their TIG welders, therefore, come with double-dip varnish, environmentally coated PC boards, and non-wooden transformer windings.

Versatility

While a TIG welder is versatile enough to work on different metals, it can also be versatile in terms of removable TIG torch. It is better to choose a welder with flexible torch that you can change to a longer, smaller lightweight, or pencil torch to achieve those tough to reach welds. You might not need this capability now but it is extremely useful once your skill level increases.

Similarly, prior to buying a TIG welder, find out whether you will need to use other welding processes in near future.  If yes, consider buying a model that supports a stick mode that allows expanding welding competencies. Stick welding is usually for welds of heavier construction type where spatter and look are not significant.

Top 5 TIG Welders

Keeping in mind the above buying factors, we have picked the ideal TIG welders for you. Here are the top 5:

Hobart 500551 EZ TIG 165i 230-Volt Inverter-Based AC/DC Welder

Hobart 500551 EZ TIG 165i 230 Volt Inverter-Based AC DC Welder

This one is the easiest to use and setup AC/DC TIG welder ensuring superior weld performance for auto repairs, fabrications taken up as hobby or as a task of metal art, and vocational training. It has all features required by an amateur as well as a professional.

  • Offers: Knobs-based control panel, AC and DC output, foot-operated or hand control, pulse for welding stainless steel, AC balance control, finger control of the torch, Stick welding, T2 and 4T modes, HF start, Fairchild IGBT inverter for full-rated output, dual voltage operation, good arc stability
  • Weighs: 40 lbs
  • Power Input: 110/220v
  • Output: 10-200 A
  • Duty Cycle: 150A @ 60%
  • Material Thickness: Up to 3/8 in

AHP Alpha TIG 200X IGBT Welder with PULSE

AHP Alpha TIG 200X IGBT Welder with PULSE

This affordable model is ideal for quality TIG welding onstainless steel, aluminum, and thinner-gauge materials by both hobbyists and professionals alike who wish to perform a variety of tasks.

  • Offers: Knobs-based control panel, AC and DC output, foot-operated or hand control, pulse for welding stainless steel, AC balance control, finger control of the torch, Stick welding, T2 and 4T modes, HF start, Fairchild IGBT inverter for full-rated output, dual voltage operation, good arc stability
  • Weighs: 40 lbs
  • Power Input: 110/220v
  • Output: 10-200 A
  • Duty Cycle: 150A @ 60%
  • Material Thickness: Up to 3/8 in

Lincoln Electric Precision TIG 225 K2535-1 Welder

Lincoln Electric Precision TIG 225 K2535-1 Welder

This one is perfect for stick and TIG welding tasks related to auto and motorsports, general fabrication, serious hobbyists, and vocational schools.

  • Offers: Widest welding range in AC/DC 208V category, Micro-Start II technology for extremely stable and low amp starting, AC and DC welding and cratering, fan-on-demand, AC auto-balance, Built-in TIG pulser, digital meter
  • Weighs: 192 lbs
  • Power Input: 208/230/1/60
  • Output: 5-230 A
  • Duty Cycle: 90A @ 100%

Everlast PowerTig 250EX TIG Stick Pulse Welder with Inverter

Everlast PowerTig 250EX TIG Stick Pulse Welder with Inverter

This one is a portable TIG welder that is lighter in weight and is capable of working in almost any industrial and home setting and on any metal including aluminium.

  • Offers: Stable and smooth start with elite 5-amp ‘Easy Start’ for AC and DC operation, 2t/4t remote operation, expanded AC cleaning range for optimum aluminum welding, high pulse frequency (.5-500Hz) for less heat input without burning or warping, digital display, arc force control for Stick for spatter reduction and improved arc quality, compatibility with 10,000W clean power generator for portability, foot pedal, argon regulator
  • Weighs: 60 lbs
  • Power Input: 240v/1/3 Phase
  • Output: 5-250 A
  • Duty Cycle: 250A @ 60%
  • Material Thickness: 0.007 – 1/2 in

LONGEVITY Tigweld 200sx TIG/Stick Welder

LONGEVITY Tigweld 200sx TIGStick Welder

This one is the most affordable and portable TIG welder that can be plugged into a 5000W generator unit for welding in different regions where there is no electricity. It is ideal for both professionals and hobbyists. The unit has all essentials except for filler rods and argon gas.

  • Offers: High frequency start, foot pedal control, AC/DC modes, pre- and post-flow capabilities, clearance effect, excellent heat control
  • Weighs: 41 lbs
  • Power Input: 110/220v
  • Output: 5-200 A
  • Duty Cycle: 200A @ 60%
  • Material Thickness: Up to 3/8 in

Conclusion

Here, we have listed and reviewed the most trustworthy and famous TIG welders. However, kindly note that these picks are not applicable to all, as not all tend to have same requirements. Therefore, it is our suggestion to be acquainted with all models and features to reach up to the right mode as per your distinct requirements. Remember, there is no best TIG welder that can handle all types of jobs in any condition. Your welding surrounding and the types of jobs are the indicators that shall aid you in selecting the best TIG welder.