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What to Look for In A TIG Welder? Ultimate Guide

Tungsten Inert Gas welding aka Gas Tungsten Arc Welding is a versatile and precise welding process that has vast applications.

However, you can’t use one TIG welder for all purposes. Choosing the right TIG welder is crucial for achieving optimal results.

In this guide, I will be discussing all the aspects of choosing the perfect TIG welder for your needs that can help you enhance your welding skills and expand your project capabilities.

With the right TIG welder, you will be able to work more efficiently and effectively on a wide range of materials and projects.

So, without any further ado, let’s get right to it.



Understanding Your Needs

While looking for a TIG welding, the very first thing you need to assess is identifying your needs and experience.

You should evaluate your current skill level to determine whether you should be considered a beginner, intermediate, or advanced welder.

This will help you select a TIG welder that is best suited for your needs and allow for further skill development.

Next, you will have to identify the material you are going to weld. Different materials might come with different requirements and a TIG welder might not have the capability to deal with all sorts of metals. I will discuss this point later in more detail.

Last but not least, another factor that is crucial in determining what kind of TIG welder you should get is determining the complexity of the project. Some TIG welders come with more advanced features and controls to ensure more precise welds.

What Key Features to Look for in a TIG Welder?

When looking for the ideal TIG welder for your needs, you should keep the following factors in mind:

Input Power and Amperage

These are two of the most critical factors that you must consider when getting a new TIG welder. The welding machine with a broader amperage range is more versatile as it can deal with materials of varying thicknesses.

If you are just welding thin sheets of metal, then you don’t need a TIG welder with a higher amperage range, but if you are going to be welding thicker metal sheets then you will need a more advanced and expensive TIG welder.

AC/DC Welding Capabilities

The choice of this feature depends on the type of material you are welding. If you are going to use the TIG welder just for welding steel, stainless steel, and copper, then one with DC capabilities would serve the task.

However, if you are going to weld aluminum or magnesium, then you will need a TIG welder with AC capabilities. An alternating current is required to break the oxide barrier that forms on the surface of these metals.

Keep in mind that TIG welders with AC capabilities are a bit more expensive but also serve versatile functions.

Pulse Welding Feature

The Pulse welding feature provides you with better control of the heat input and significantly improves the arc stability.

The feature is optional and is available in some of the advanced TIG welders. It reduces distortion and is very useful for welding materials that are heat sensitive.

So, if you are going to weld any such materials, then you will need to consider this feature.

Adjustable Balance Control

The AC balance control feature allows you to adjust the ratio of the Electrode Positive to Electrode Negative cycle in the AC waveform.

With this feature present in your welding machine, you will be able to fine-tune the cleaning action and penetration to get the desired clearance effect.

Balance control is one of the more advanced features that are not available in all TIG welders. So, whether you should get it or not depends on your needs and applications.

Digital or Analog Controls

This is more of a personal preference, but yes digital controls are more precise. Yes, older welding professionals do prefer analog controls, but I find digital ones to be more accurate and easier to monitor.

Duty Cycle

This factor refers to the time a welder can operate on a specific amperage without overheating.

So, a higher duty cycle means you can use the welding machine consistently for extended periods on the desired amperage.

Whether you should go for a welding machine with a higher or lower duty cycle will depend on your use and the complexity of the project itself.

HF Start or Lift Start

Another significant factor that must be considered before getting the ideal TIG welder for your needs is the arc initiation method.

High Frequency (HF) and list start are two of the most common methods that are used in TIG welding.

The former provides you with a non-contact arc initiation which completely eliminates the risk of tungsten contamination and ensures consistent starts.

On the other hand, the lift start requires the tungsten to touch the workpiece for a brief moment which may increase the risk of contamination but only minutely.

The lift start method is more economical and also has specific applications where the HF method cannot be used.

Related: How Hot Does a TIG Welder Get? TIG Welding Temperature Guide

Inverter or Transformer-Based Technology

You have two choices when purchasing a TIG welder. Either you can go with a transformer-based option or an inverter-based one.

The former is a rugged and durable choice used by most welders. They are difficult to move but offer much higher amperage and welding capabilities.

The inverter based TIG welders are lighter and more energy efficient. They provide better arc control but come with limited functionality and also a limited amperage range.

Torch Options and Compatibility

You have multiple torch options to choose from. Modern technology has really taken your ability to choose to a whole new level.

There are TIG torches that come with water-cooling capabilities and there are some that are air-cooled.

Similarly, there are multiple options available for amperage and heat input control as well. Modern TIG welders come with controls on charges that will allow you to control several aspects of the welding right on the torch.

Integrated or External Water-Cooling System

When choosing a water-cooling system, you will also get two options. You can either choose to go with a built-in water-cooling system or an external water-cooling unit.

If purchasing the external unit seems a bit expensive at the moment, then you can also choose to build your own external water cooler for the TIG welder.


Last but not least, the portability of a TIG welder is also an important factor. If you are going to be working in your garage or a dedicated workspace, then a fixed TIG welder is your best bet.

But, if you will be working on the go and traveling with the TIG welder constantly, then a portable one would be a better choice.

Significance of Material Being Welded

The material or metal you are going to weld plays a significant role in the choice of the TIG welder. You should definitely look for specific requirements of the metal inside the welding apparatus.

For example, when welding aluminum and magnesium, you will need a welding machine with AC capabilities, adjustable balance control, and high amperage range.

When welding stainless steel and other metals, you will need a machine with DC capabilities and a high amperage range. The pulse control feature can serve as a good enhancer in this case.

The choice doesn’t only depend on the nature of the metal but also on the thickness of it. For thicker metal sheets, you will need higher amperage while for thinner sheets, low or limited amperage can suffice.

Related: What Can You Weld With A TIG Welder? Ultimate Guide

Importance of Brand and Warranty

Selecting a TIG welder from a reputable brand ensures the reliability and durability of the tool. Trusted brands offer high-quality products, comprehensive warranties, and satisfactory customer support.

The warranty gives you mental relief about the quality of the tool and even if you run into some problems the brand will either repair or replace the welding machine for you. You won’t get that option with cheap knockoffs.

Adding to this, the customer support from a reliable and well-reputed manufacturer is excellent. If you run into any problems, you can always ask for guidance and assistance. They will address all your concerns.

Essential Accessories for TIG Welding

TIG welding is often considered an expensive welding process, but that is not just because of the high cost of the welding machine itself. The accessories and consumables that come with a TIG welder are also contributing to this factor.

Here’s what you need to know about them, and their choice is also significant when choosing a TIG welder.

Tungsten Electrode

These are the most crucial components of this welding process. They are available in various sizes and types. You can get a pure tungsten electrode or thoriated one depending on your needs.

Filler Metals

The choice of filler material depends on the base metal you are going to weld. You will use metal of the same nature to weld the joint. However, some welders do mix one with the other to create the desired effect.

Shielding Gas and Regulator

Shielding gas is also necessary for this welding process. It is responsible for protecting the welding pool from contamination. The choice of shielding gas also depends on the base metal and the specific project. You will also need to choose a suitable regulator.

Additional Accessories

Additional accessories may include a foot pedal, torch amperage control wheel, tungsten grinder, and other accessories that might come in handy with the TIG welding process. Getting them is more of a personal choice.

Safety Gear

Safety is paramount in any welding process. Regardless of your budget, you should never compromise on safety.

Invest in high-quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that will ensure that you remain free from any risk of harm during the welding process.

The equipment will include a welding helmet, gloves, leather shoes, and flame-resistant clothing.

Budget Considerations

Before starting your search for a TIG welder, you need to establish your budget and decide how much you are going to be spending and specifically on what.

First, invest in a good quality machine that specifically addresses your needs and the accessories or consumables that are mandatory for the welding process. Once you get them sorted, then move to additional accessories and extra features.

To find the best value, you must compare the features, performance, reliability, and other factors side by side of all the options that are available in your budget range.

Remember, take all the time you need. TIG welders are expensive and once you get one, it will stay with you for years to come. So, you must make a decision that is backed by profound thought.

You can also discuss with professionals in the field and ask welding experts for advice.

Related: Best TIG Welder under $1000 in 2023 Tested

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my TIG welder is good?

That is a subjective question. If your TIG welder is functioning properly then it is good. You must choose one that is suitable for your needs and has the capabilities to perform the specific task you have purchased it for.

What is the best type of TIG welder?

I personally find portable HF TIG welders to be the best type. They are easy to carry around and travel with. Yes, they have limited application but as a traveling TIG welder, they help me take care of plenty of tasks with ease.

What are the 3 disadvantages of TIG welding?

TIG welding is a slow process as compared to other welding processes. It has a higher price point both for the welding machine itself and for the consumables and mandatory accessories. It requires a high level of skill to operate.

What is the best TIG tungsten size?

There is no one tungsten size, diameter, or type that can be considered best. It depends on the type of metal you are welding, the type of joint, and also the complexity of the project.

Is AC or DC better for TIG welding?

TIG welders with AC capabilities can be considered better if not for the higher price point. In simple words, TIG welders that come with AC capability also have DC function, but it doesn’t go the other way around.

Wrapping Up!

To sum it all up, selecting the right TIG welder requires a lot of consideration. We have discussed some of the most important factors in the above guide that will help you make an informed decision.

Remember to take your time and consider all the factors before you finally decide on one TIG welder. It is also important to consider additional features and accessories.

I hope the guide was helpful to you. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments section below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Happy Welding!

Sheila James

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