Compared to other welding processes like MIG (gas metal arc) and stick welding, TIG (tungsten inert gas) offers greater flexibility and versatility.
TIG welders can work with a range of materials like steel, stainless steel, aluminum, magnesium, copper, brass, bronze, and more.
Whether you are trying to complete a project at home or looking for a career in welding, understanding how to properly execute TIG welding will be a valuable asset.
To help you get a handle on this fundamental welding skill, we’ve put together this list of top TIG welding tips!
Mastering TIG Welding
There is no doubt that TIG welding is a difficult skill to master for beginner welders. With so much versatility comes greater complexity.
To get good at TIG welding, you need to spend time practicing. It takes a great deal of patience to learn how to make quality TIG welds every time.
There are so many different variables that go into making a quality TIG weld. Amperage, the type of material, the type of tungsten electrode, and more all need to work together to get the job done right.
Luckily, with enough practice, anyone can get good at TIG welding.
10 Top Tips for TIG Welding
To master the skill of TIG welding, you need to know how to control the weld puddle, hold a consistent arc and have your hands (and sometimes feet) work together in unison.
Here are ten quick tips to help improve your TIG welding skills!
- Thoroughly Prep Your Materials
For this welding process to be truly effective, create a strong arc and quality weld—the metal must be clean!
TIG welding is versatile and can be done on several different metals. But, certain metals can react if they become contaminated by other metals.
So, we can’t stress this enough—you need to make sure your workpieces are thoroughly prepared and cleaned before starting TIG welding.
You’ll also want to make sure you don’t contaminate the metal as you clean. Ensure that you have one dedicated wire brush that is only used on aluminum and one that is only used on stainless steel.
- Use the Correct Tungsten Rod
All tungsten electrodes are made of at least 95% tungsten and a combination of another alloy. And there are six types of tungsten electrodes in total, each with its own color to identify them.
The different electrodes have unique qualities that make them beneficial to different types of projects and materials. Specific electrode colors last longer than others, and some burn faster or perform better at lower amperages.
If you want to get good at TIG welding, take the time to learn about the different colors of tungsten electrodes. Knowing when to use (and not use!) different tungsten can make a big difference in the quality of your welds.
Different types of metals will require the welding machine to be set up differently. The same is true when it comes to which tungsten electrode you use.
- Don’t Contaminate the Tip
It’s natural for a lot of beginners just starting to have trouble holding the tungsten. You need to make sure it stays just a few millimeters above the weld pool.
As you learn to move your hands in unison through the process, you may find that you bump the tip of the tungsten into the weld pool.
When this happens, metal covers the end of the electrode and contaminates it. This happens to everyone when they’re first starting. Even seasoned pros get a little clumsy now and again.
If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll need to cut or grind the tip of the electrode to get it ready to use again.
Stopping to clean the electrode could really slow your projects down. Keep a few backup tungsten electrodes close by so you can swap in a clean one as needed.
No matter which route you go (cleaning or replacing the tungsten), be sure to do it and avoid contaminating your weld.
- Know When to Repair the Tip
A contaminated tip isn’t the only time you’ll need to cut or grind your electrode. Over time the tip of tungsten can develop a ball. This ball causes the arc to wander and can greatly reduce the quality of the weld.
When this happens, you need to repair it. More experienced welders will often use a tungsten sharpener to repair the tip and remove the ball, but a bench grinder will also work.
If you do end up using a bench grinder, make sure that you don’t use an all-purpose grinder. Just like with the wire brushes you use to prepare metals, the tools you use to repair your tungsten also need to be dedicated to certain types of metals.
Using an all-purpose bench grinder that’s worked with any and every type of metal will just end up further contaminating the tungsten that you’re trying to repair.
- Pay Close Attention to Your Rod and Torch Angle
You always want to be feeding the electrode into the welding pool as you work. When you do, it’s important that you pay attention to the angle of the torch and the electrode.
Hold your electrode about 15 degrees from horizontal. Keep the tip just a few millimeters above the weld pool and avoid bumping it into the pool.
Additionally, the torch should be held about 15 to 20 degrees from vertical and be pointed in the direction of travel.
If you hold the torch and electrode properly, you’ll lay quality and consistent beads each time.
If you keep the rod and the torch at the same angle, you’ll cause the heat to bounce around as you work. This causes problems and will melt the rod before you want it to. The result will be an inferior bead that will need to be ground away and redone.
- Use The Right Shielding Gas
Other welding processes may require you to use different types of shielding gas to weld different materials.
When it comes to TIG welding, you’ll be using 100% argon shielding gas the majority of the time. This is the most common shielding gas used on TIG projects.
However, some welders will mix in some helium as well. If you’re welding aluminum or something thin that can be burned through easily, you may want to use some helium to regulate temperature. Using an argon and helium blend of 75% to 25% is very popular, but note that adding helium to the mix causes the temperature to drop.
Some people think using more shielding gas is better. But the reality is that too much shielding gas can cause issues with the arc and weld quality.
Your shielding gas should be set to a flow rate of 15 to 20 cubic feet per hour.
Don’t forget to test your lines and regulators frequently. If you find that you’re going through shielding gas quickly, you may have a leak in the hose or regulator. To test the hose, rub some soapy water all around it and look for tiny bubbles to find the leak. If you don’t see any, you may have a problem with the regulator and need to replace it.
- Try Wearing Thinner Gloves
Some welding gloves are thicker and can feel bulky, making it hard to get a feel for the tungsten electrode and move it as you need to.
But TIG welding is all about the feel and moving smoothly. Make this feel easier by switching up your gloves.
Try holding the electrode the same way you hold a pencil to write. Then switch to a thinner glove (specifically on the hand you hold the electrode in). Using thinner gloves will feel more natural and make it easier to keep the tip of the electrode where it needs to be.
- Limit Your Amperage
When you’re first learning how to TIG weld, try and practice with the lowest power setting required to create a puddle.
Controlling that puddle is key to making a successful weld. By starting with a lower setting, you’ll be able to get better at sustaining a weld puddle.
If you let the power get too high, you could end up burning right through your material. This is especially true with aluminum! So, remember that when it comes to amperage, less is better!
Learning which power settings you use is just as important as teaching your hands to work together when TIG welding. In TIG welding, the penetration ability to control your weld pool is extremely important. An easy way to learn the feel of this is by limiting the amperage or amount of power you use.
- More Current Means Faster Welding Speeds
Certain metals like aluminum require more heat to melt and create the weld pool. And when you’re working with certain materials, you may need to increase the heat by increasing the amperage.
As the heat from the machine increases, your travel speed must also increase. As the temperature is increased, the likelihood of distortion or burn-through also increases.
To stop this from happening, you’ll need to be able to control the puddle and complete the weld without damaging the piece you’re working on.
Be careful not to move too quickly. If your travel speed ends up being too quick, you’ll lay an ineffective bead that is more likely to break or crack.
The secret here is moving quickly and smoothly. It takes a lot of practice to get this right. But, if you practice working with different materials and amperages, you’ll be able to stay in control, work smoothly, and lay a consistent bead regardless of how hot the arc gets.
- Slowly Reduce Your Arc
You’ve got workpieces set up and ready to go. The machine is dialed in perfectly. You start the weld puddle, and everything is going perfectly. You start to get to the end of a quality weld bead, and then it happens—your weld cracks.
This is a common occurrence for beginners, and the crack usually forms because the arc was abruptly shut down at the end.
Trailing off is easy, especially if you have a foot pedal that controls the arc temperature or a button on the torch. On either model, keep the foot pedal or button pressed down about ¾ of the way. As you start to near the end of the bead, you can gently let off it.
Gently trailing off your arc will greatly reduce the risk of cracking welds.
- *Bonus Tip – Keep A Chart Close By At All Times
There’s a lot of things to remember when you’re first learning to TIG weld. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep any reference material you need in a folder next to your TIG welding machine.
This is something that welders with decades of experience do. Having reference materials ensures you never have to guess about something and feel more confident working on a project. Not only will this help your skills and knowledge progress faster, but you’ll also make more quality welds and waste fewer materials in the process.
Keep current and amperage charts close by to quickly determine the current and amperage for your materials and thickness.
Also, get charts explaining when to use different types of tungsten electrodes as this will cause fewer issues and prevent mistakes.
Get More TIG Welding Tips Inside Welder101
If you want even more tips to perfect your TIG welding skills, enroll in Welder101. This comprehensive course combines 30 plus years of welding experience into 50+ training videos, resources, and more.
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No matter where you are in the learning process, Welder 101 can help. Enrollment carries lifetime membership so you can learn at your own pace or revisit tutorials when you need to brush up on a specific skill. The program can help you complete those dream projects (like building a rat rod!) or upgrade your skills for a new career or job promotion!
If you’re serious about improving your welding skills and becoming a master at TIG welding, Welder 101 can help you get started.