TIG welding aka Tungsten Inert Gas welding is a popular welding technique that uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode and inert gas to create a precise and high-quality weld.
It is a versatile welding method that can be used on a variety of metals and is mainly used to weld non-ferrous metals that cannot be welded using conventional methods.
If you are a beginner in the field, TIG welding can seem a bit intimidating at first. However, with the right tools and some practice, anyone can become a TIG welder.
In this post, I will be walking you through each step that can help you use a TIG welder like a pro.
Setting Up the TIG Welder
TIG welder is not ready for use right out of the box. You have to set it up properly before you can start using it.
So, to set up your machine here’s what you have to do:
Gather Your Tools
First of all, you will need to get all the tools in one place. Here’s what you will need for TIG welding:
- TIG Torch
- Tungsten Electrode
- Gas Regulator
- Welding Table or Surface
- Metal or Item you will be Welding
- Filler Metal
Choose the Right Tungsten Electrode
This is one of the most crucial steps. You have to select the right electrode for the job. The type of tungsten electrode mainly depends on the metal you will be welding.
A pure tungsten electrode is best for welding aluminum. However, if you are welding stainless steel or titanium, you can opt for electrodes that come with a small amount of thorium or zirconium.
For welding particular alloys of metal, you will need to select an electrode that is uniquely suited to the task.
Grind the Tungsten Electrode
The next step is grinding the electrode to get it into shape. This step is mainly required if your electrode is brand new.
Remember, you must grind the electrode radially around the circumference, and not from the tip directly. You should turn the electrode’s tip into a ball shape for AC welding and a pointed tip for DC welding.
The tip automatically becomes rounded after welding and needs to be ground again even if it was in use before.
Related: What is a TIG Welder?
Insert the Electrode into the Collet
Now you must insert the selected electrode into the collet. For this purpose, unscrew the back of the electrode holder and insert the rod.
Then you can screw it back in its place. The electrode is fitted into a collet and the collet tightens up inside the collet body.
You can adjust the length of the electrode which sticks out of the holder by loosening the end cap, which will loosen the collet.
You can adjust the length then, and when you tighten the length cap back, the collet will grip it again.
Remember, the distance between the protective sheath and the tip of the electrode should not be more than 1/4th of an inch.
Connect and Adjust the Gas Supply / Regulator
There are three types of gas you can use. The choice resides in the type of metal you are working on and the type of weld you want. You can use pure argon, helium, or a mixture of argon and helium.
First of all, you have to remove the plastic cap from the gas nozzle, and then empty out the body of the valve. You can do it by opening and closing the valve quickly which will remove any foreign matter.
Then, you have to tighten the regulator screw and connect the gas hose and flow meter. Next comes with an open tank valve.
Last but not the least, you must check that there is no gas leak. You can do it either by placing your ear near the fittings or by spraying the detector products.
Adjust the gas flow on the regulator. The setting also depends on the nature of the welding.
The purpose of the inert gas is to protect the weld area from any form of contamination. Without the gas, the metal will rust or oxidize at higher temperatures.
Connect and Adjust the Welding Torch
In the next step, you have to connect the pedal to the welding station. The pedal is mainly used for controlling the amperage or the heat during the welding process.
However, you must keep in mind that not all TIG welding setups come with a foot pedal.
Those that don’t come with a foot pedal will contain a thumb wheel on the torch.
The TIG torch is equipped with three main components; a ceramic nozzle for gas supply, a copper sleeve to hold the electrode, and a cooling medium.
You can secure the torch by using the adapter that is included in the TIG welding kit.
Adjust the Settings
Once you have set up all the equipment, next comes adjusting the settings. This includes selecting the polarity and adjusting the amperage or intensity of the current.
Commonly, a TIG machine will have three options for polarity; AC, DCEP, and DCEN.
AC is Alternate Current that is used mainly for aluminum. AC current alternates the positive and negative nodes between the electrode and the work metal.
This puts more heat on the tungsten electrode, which is necessary for working on aluminum.
DCEP means Direct Current Electrode Positive, and DCEN means Direct Current Electrode Negative. The former is used for stick welding and the latter is for welding steel.
DCEN is also known as straight polarity. It puts most of the heat on the work metal and hence is not suitable for use with aluminum.
The main difference between the two DC settings is the direction in which the electricity flows. It is significant in determining the depth and width of the weld.
Then you have to select the welding amperage. It will depend on the type of metal you are welding. You must set the max amps limit, which for aluminum is around 250. For other types of materials, you will have to check specific settings.
Other settings include cleaning/penetrating adjustments that can be adjusted from a scale of 1 to 10.
You also have to select the “Air On” settings, which mainly adjusts the amount of time the gas stays on after you have stopped the arc. You can adjust it to around 5 seconds as a beginner. The gas is responsible for keeping your weld from oxidizing/rusting.
Selecting the Filler Metal
Selecting the filler metal is optional in TIG welding, a luxury that you don’t have in other types of welding.
In TIG Welding, the filler metal is just a filler rod that is fed to the weld pool externally.
You just have to make sure of two things. One that the filler metal alloy is of the same nature as the metal you are welding. Second, it has enough strength for the job.
Prepare the Welding Table / Material
You will need a large metallic area to allow the electricity to properly flow during the welding process.
For that purpose, you can either use a dedicated welding table or just use a large sheet of metal. Both will work perfectly fine.
In case you are using a welding table, you can spray the anti-spatter on the table so that if any metal leaks off during the welding process, it doesn’t stick to your table.
Clamp the metals that you will be welding, so they will stay in one place and not move when you are welding.
Wearing the Safety Equipment
Welding is a dangerous task and the use of safety gear is a must. Here are the safety precautions you must take into account before starting the welding.
Safety Goggles or Welder’s Mask
The eyes are one of the most sensitive parts of your body and are at high risk from dangerous rays and sparks of welding.
You must never weld without safety goggles or a welder’s mask, as you can get exposed to flash burns or a specific eye problem known as a welder’s eye.
The welder’s eye disorder is the feeling of having sand in the eyes. It has multiple symptoms including eye tearing, reddening, sensitivity to light, and more.
You must wear leather boots as they are resistant to electricity and won’t allow your body to ground the current. They act as perfect insulators between your feet and the ground.
Leather boots protect you from getting electrocuted and are a mandatory safety tool for welding purposes.
Welding gloves are specially designed to be flame resistant. Hence, they are capable of enduring high heat without getting damaged.
Not only this, but they also protect your hands from flame, cuts, and sparks.
Full Sleeves Shirt and Pants (Flame Retardant)
The welding spatters are harmful to the skin and can cause a lot of problems in the long term. So, you must wear full-sleeved shirts and pants to protect your skin.
Remember, your clothes must also be flame retardant, or they might catch fire.
Sunscreen is basically worn to protect your face and is specially designed with zinc oxide to block all forms of radiation.
So, the UVA, UVB, and UVC radiations will be blocked by sunscreen and your skin will remain protected.
Using a TIG Welder
Now that you have taken care of safety and set up the TIG welder, it is time to start welding.
Here’s what you have to do:
Clean the Metal
First of all, clean the metal that is to be welded with sandpaper or a wire brush. This will ensure a stronger and cleaner weld.
Clamp the Metal
If you haven’t already clamped the metal on the welding table, you must do it now. I am repeating the steps to emphasize its importance. An unstable surface can really mess up the weld. Point the pieces together.
Start the Arc
You can start the arc by pressing the foot pedal. Hold the torch at a 75-degree angle above the metal and move it slowly along the joint that is to be welded.
Keep the Electrode from Touching
The electrode must be within a centimeter of the joint, but must not touch the metals. The arc will do the job. Touching the tungsten electrode will contaminate the weld.
Add Filler Material
As you are welding, you may need to add filler metal to weld the joint. Keep the filler metal in your other hand on standby and ready for use. Use where necessary.
When adding filler material, you must hold it at as low an angle as possible which can be between 30-45 degrees. Remember, the torch creates the weld pool by melting the metal, and the weld pool melts your filler material.
The process is also known as registering the beads. Using filler material is not a must but may be required during welding.
Extend the Weld Pool
Now, you must move the arc in the right direction to extend the weld pool. Unlike MIG welding, you must move the weld pool in a direction opposite to the torch.
Control the Heat
A TIG welder produces a lot of heat, which is necessary for the weld. However, you must keep the heat in check and adjust the amperage when it gets too hot.
Shutting Down a TIG Welder
When you are done with the welding, you need to shut down the TIG welder. Here’s what you have to do to shut it down properly.
Turn off the Gas and Amperage
First of all, turn off the gas welder and welding amperage to stop the flow of gas and current.
Allow the Welder to Cool Down
Now, leave the welder machine to cool down for a bit. Don’t start cleaning or put it in storage immediately.
Clean-up and Store
Once the welder has cooled down, you must clean up the work area and put away your tools in storage.
Expert Tips for Better TIG Welding
Looking to improve your TIG welding skills, here are some tips that can help you out:
Practice Makes You Perfect:
TIG welding might involve a bit of a learning curve. It is very different from other types of welding and also a bit slower. So, you will have to do plenty of practice before you get the hang of it.
The best way is to practice scrap metal a bit before starting on the actual project.
Keep a Consistent Angle:
During the welding process, keep the torch at a consistent angle to avoid misshaping the weld pool. It will only come through practice that you are able to maintain the angle of 75 degrees.
Be Quick with Filler
You must use the right type of filler material and be quick with the filler material during the welding process.
You must fill the joint using rapid hand movements to avoid forming bulges. The more you practice, the cleaner the weld you will get.
Using the filler material smoothly with the fast movement of the arc will perfect your welding technique and give you beautiful results.
Don’t Heat the Metal for Too Long
You must not heat the metal for too long and fill the joint as soon as the weld pool forms.
If you heat the metal for too long, it will start warping. So, you must strictly keep the temperature in control.
If you are experiencing material warping, especially while working with steel, you can use a special technique to avoid the problem. You can reduce the amperage and increase the travel speed of the arc to decrease the heat in the area.
If you are using a filler material, reducing the diameter of the filler rod might also do the trick.
It takes more amperage or heat from the weld pool to melt a thicker filler rod than it would take to melt a thinner one.
So, using a thinner filler rod might solve the warping problem for you.
Aluminum Brush and Acetone
If you are working on a DIY project and are concerned about how the weld will look, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure a cleaner weld.
Keep a dedicated aluminum brush to clean and scrub the surface of the metal. Keep it separate from other brushes you use.
Also, you can wipe down the welding rods with acetone to make the welds look even more beautiful.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to set up a TIG welder?
Setting up the TIG welder will take a bit of time. You must select the appropriate components including tungsten rod, gas type, and filler material, and then set up the tools to start the weld.
How to set up a TIG welder for aluminum?
To work on aluminum, you must select a pure tungsten rod, use high-frequency start settings, and grind your tungsten electrode into the ballad tip. You can use online tools or smart apps to calculate exact settings based on the type of metal you are welding.
How to set up a TIG welder for steel?
For steel, you will have to use DC current. Start with low-frequency and grind your tungsten electrode to a pointed end. You can use online tools like to calculate exact settings based on the type of metal and the type of weld you want to create.
How to set up a TIG welder torch?
To set up a TIG welder torch, you must start by selecting the appropriate tungsten electrode. Remove the collet by unscrewing, inserting the rod, and then screwing it back on. Connect the gas nozzle with the torch.
How to use a TIG welder for beginners?
To use the TIG welder, you must first learn the basics of a TIG welder. After that, you can start by preparing your equipment and practicing on scrap metal before you start working on the real project.
Can I teach myself to TIG weld?
Yes, you can teach yourself from online guides and YouTube tutorials. However, it is always considered better to seek guidance from experienced professionals and learn about safety precautions.
How to use a TIG welder on aluminum?
For welding aluminum, first of all, you have to adjust the welder to the specific settings. You must use a pure tungsten rod, with a clean filler rod, and keep your hand steady to maintain a uniform arc.
How to use a foot pedal on a TIG welder?
You can use the foot pedal to control the amperage. First of all, you must set it in an appropriate place where you can use it comfortably. Connect it to the machine and use it when necessary.
How to TIG weld steel?
TIG welder is used the same way for everything, however, the settings must be adjusted to steel. So, adjust the heat and amperage, and use the appropriate filler rod, gas, and tungsten rod that is suited for steel.
Is TIG welder stronger than MIG?
TIG welding is known for creating stronger and cleaner welds. Because of their preciseness, TIG welds are considered stronger than MIG welds and are often preferred in professional applications.
To sum it all up, using a TIG welder has a bit of a learning curve. You have to select the right components, make the necessary preparations, set up the TIG welder, and then start using it.
If you are new to TIG welding, then you have got nothing to worry about. We have covered everything you needed to know in the above post.
Remember, safety should always be your first priority. Never compromise on safety equipment.
Also, there is nothing better than practicing with the TIG welder itself. The more you practice, the better you will get at creating welds.
Got something on your mind? Drop it in the comments section below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Happy Welding!
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