Whether participating for a personal hobby or for expert heavy industrial use, welding is considered to be a highly advanced process in the world of fabrication. It becomes much less complicated through knowledge and experience but choosing what machine to invest in can feel intimidating for welders of any experience level.
Identifying your needs and comparing against the available options is the first step in the buying process. Discussed here are the factors to consider when looking for a new welding machine along with our top recommendations to ensure you have the information needed to choose the best TIG welder for your specific welding requirements.
Why TIG Welding Matters
There is an array of available welding processes and techniques which are suitable for different purposes and industries. TIG, or Tungsten Inert Gas welding is an extremely versatile method of arc welding. It is used for joining most metals such as aluminum, titanium, copper, magnesium and steel.
Although TIG welding can take longer and may require slightly more energy than other available welding techniques, it remains one of the most common. It is often preferred for its diversity in ability, stability and strength, production of high quality welds with nearly no smoke or residue, and a very low occurrence of defects. It can be used with or without filler wire in all welding positions and the process can even be automated.
Considerations When on the search for the Best TIG Welder
TIG welding machines can provide control over all the aspects of your weld such as filler speed and amperage. There are several high-performing TIG machines that will produce reliable welds but there are a variety of features, settings, and sizes they may offer. That means there are many considerations to keep in mind when looking to purchase a new TIG welder.
Type of Metal
TIG Welding is appropriate for joining a large variety of metals but different machines have different capabilities so knowing what you will be working with may affect your purchase decision. TIG friendly metals include brass, copper, gold, steel, aluminum, magnesium, stainless steel, and bronze.
TIG welding can handle a range of thicknesses, but when comparing against other welding methods it is especially preferred for the thinner metals as it can maintain stability and precision at low amperage operation.
Required Power Source
It is common for TIG machines to have both alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC), but not all do. They type of metal you use will determine which current you set to so if you are not sure or just want the option of variety, you may want to consider purchasing a dual current machine.
Features to Compare When Shopping for the Best TIG Welder
There are several components to a TIG welding machine and depending on your purpose for welding, certain features may be more important to you than others. Here are some main aspects to compare amongst potential purchases.
Welding machines can range from under 30lbs to over 100lbs making some much easier to move around your shop than others. Smaller size does not necessarily equate to less capabilities as many lightweight designs, while keep portability in mind, still provide you with great versatility and high power.
You will likely want to have a reliable foot pedal as controlling amperage is a critical component to welding. An ideal foot pedal will have a low-angle slope to avoid foot fatigue and be sensitive to your adjustments of heat input. You want to remain comfortable as possible while your equipment remains reliable over long periods of extensive use.
The convenience of adjusting controls is as important as their reliability and how secure they are on the machine. You want to easily make adjustments without it being too easy to accidentally bump into the machine and accidentally switch settings. Choosing the proper control setup is a personal preference but still important to keep in mind for your unique welding situation.
Avoid problems with the structure and look of your weld by insuring you have a high-quality and steady arc. Pulsing capabilities assist in controlling the amount of heat applied to the metal and are needed for difficult joints or with thinner metal. Models that do not cater to such stability can affect quality and visual integrity of your weld.
Versatility Multi-Function Options
Many TIG Welders offer the ability to switch between multiple welding types. Choosing a model with plasma cutting, MIG or stick welding options enhances the proficiency and therefore enhances the value of your machine. If these are not features you will use it may not be worth investing in the extra features, so keep your intentions for potential projects in mind when evaluating TIG welder capabilities.
Common Operating Mistakes with TIG Welding
An awareness of the common issues TIG machine operators often run into may help you analyze your circumstance, enhancing your ability to pick the best welding machine for you.
Too Much Power
Power levels are important, especially when first beginning to practice. You will want to start off using the minimum power until you can sustain your puddle. TIG welding is based on penetration, so you can burn right through if you get too much.
Lack of Cleaning
TIG welding is very reliable, but requires the metal to be clean in order to be effective. Contamination can also lead to poor arc formation. Maintaining a clean work or shop environment will only help as well.
Using Incorrect Tungsten
Different metals are associated with different tungstens, so you will have to find which one performs best according to your surface metals to join and the work conditions you are in.
Using Improper Grinder
Using an all-purpose grinder instead of a tungsten sharpener or even a bench grinder will contaminate your electrodes.
Our Top 5 Recommended Best TIG Welder Options
Powerful and versatile while maintaining a reputation for a high level of quality in the world of welding machines makes it hard to go wrong with this unit. It has dual voltage and allows stick weld functionality making it appropriate for different experience-leveled operators, different project types and multiple materials.
It comes with a reliable metal foot pedal and a CK17 flex head torch and CK flex tubing for a consistently easy to start arc with just the pull of a trigger.
- Commonly used for aluminum and steel but welds many metals well
- Both HF start hand tourch and precise foot pedal welding heat control
- AMPS: Start AMP 10-225 with Pulse End AMP 10-225
- Pulse Frequency .10-225/ 0.5-10 hz
The range of settings is the main contributing factor that lands this machine on our list of top TIG welders. Offers AC and DC outputs, doubles as a stick welder and has pulse features. Easily improve your welding for specific applications through the many easily adjustable settings.
You will have impressive control over power and heat delivery and its multiple capabilities just enhance its appeal. As it is on the larger and heavier side of the spectrum, this is a machine that is well suited for industrial work and can join delicate thin materials or weld ¼” aluminum and other metals with the DC output.
- Can be used to join any TIG material
- Start AMP 10-200 / Pulse AMP 10-200 / End AMP 10-200
- Pulse Frequency: 5-200 / Pulse Time On: 10-90%
- Doubles as Stick Welder
No Top Welding Machine list is complete without a Miller unit. We love Miller Electric‘s welding options in the MIG welding arena. This model’s compact size may seem deceptive but any level user is sure to be please with its sophistication, consistency and stable arc. It is ideal for precision with delicate steel as thin as .020”, but can handle up to a thickness of 3/16”.
It comes with a large torch, full function remote control and protective case and weighs in at only 13.7lbs. Although only offering AC output, its ease of use, portability and reliability still often attract hobbyists over other machines and brands.
- Dual voltage for easy connection to 120 or 240 volt outlets
- Shoulder strap and lightweight design allows easy portability
- 100 A at 14.0 VDC, 100% duty cycle. 100 A at 14.0 VDC, 100% duty cycle.
- Perfect for precise welds of thin material
This unit is equipped with the versatility and power that is ideal for heavy commercial use. It has both AC and DC capabilities and is dual voltage allowing easy set-up. This TIG welder is praised for its extensive set of adjustable settings and features such as post- and pre-flow control.
A CK torch option with an independent trigger switch is now available for this unit and it also includes a user-friendly foot pedal for immediate amperage control.. The level of power and wide amperage range make it suitable for handling a wide range of thickness – up to 1” of material.
- Ideal for joining aluminum, magnesium and other oxidized metals
- Dual voltage with maximum power delivery but still desirable operation at low amps
- 185AMP @ 35% duty cycle on 220v / 105AMP @ 35% duty on 110v
- Lightweight and portable
Efficiency of performance and user control were large considerations in the creation of this machine. These factors make it an ideal option for both enthusiasts just starting out and appreciating simplicity or for industry experts with advanced techniques with the desire for ultimate control.
This thoughtfully designed inverter based machine doubles up to be both Stick/TIG capable. Its performance will be impressive in a variety of applications, such as for aluminum or magnesium. Although there is no lift start, operators of this machine are not disappointed with the easy high-frequency non-touch start. It offers the sought-after fully adjustable pulse arc capabilities and comes with a comfortable high-end foot pedal.
- 40% duty cycle at full amperage for DC TIG / 60% duty cycle for AC TIG.
- Operator control over 2T-4T touch control, start amps, end amps, upslope, downslope, pulse, AC Balance
Our Final Thoughts On TIG Welders
As you can now see, TIG is often a preferred choice when it comes to welding, especially if the project demands a high level of quality and precision. The capabilities, power and performance you will find amongst the current best TIG welders of 2020 can be overwhelming to compare and feel confident in your decision of which one to invest in. The best value will be based upon a combination of evaluating individual circumstances and knowledge of the available features to choose