Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welders utilize a non-consumable electrode to deliver the current to the welding arc. What makes TIG welding more challenging, compared to say MIG, is that two hands are required for the welding process.
However, this extra effort pays off with cleaner and more aesthetic welds. With TIG welding, the weld area is shielded from contamination by an inert gas such as helium or argon, thus eliminating oxidation and other unwanted chemical reactions.
The Best TIG Welder
Regardless of its higher skill requirements, it doesn’t take too long to get the basic premise of TIG welding.
1. Best Overall
Miller Electric TIG Welder
Here we have the Miller Maxstar 150 STL. This portable and lightweight welder is a DC output machine that utilizes Lift-Arc technology which means high frequencies aren’t required to get the job done. TIG and stick welding can both be done with this machine.
The Multi-Voltage Plug that comes with the 150 STL allows you to connect to both 115V and 230V outlets, without requiring any tools to complete the switch; place the plug onto the power cord, and you’re done. This is especially useful for those who may conduct work in different workshops or warehouses, as it gives you flexibility.
Weighing only 14 lbs, this welder can be taken anywhere with ease. We already spoke about the flexibility of its power options, but its low weight truly seals the deal here. It even comes with a shoulder strap. Due to the inbuilt gas solenoid, the 150 does not require a bulky TIG torch.
All in all, this is a fantastic TIG welder that will benefit any ability level and job requirement.
- Pros: Very lightweight. Compact size with shoulder strap. Supports stick welding.
- Cons: Works better on 230V. Can’t work with aluminum.
2. Best Value
AHP AlphaTIG TIG/Stick Welder
The AlphaTIG 200X from AHP is tungsten inert gas welder that can handle steel and aluminum of between 1/4inch and 3/8inch. It can run off of AC and DC, which is why aluminum can be welded. What’s likable about this unit is that you get a foot pedal packaged with it. Foot pedals give you more control over your weld.
The duty cycle is high on this machine; at 200V, it has a duty cycle of 60%. This allows you to create heavy-duty welds with ease. Due to the large range of capabilities that this welder has, it’s ideal for someone who either knows that they will have different welding requirements in the future or for someone who doesn’t want to be limited in what they can weld.
Concerning weight, it’s definitely on the heavy side. At 69 lbs, it’s a lot heavier than some other units on this list. It’s best that if you decide on the AlphaTIG 200X that you don’t intend to move it too often. Its size is relatively substantial also, at 19x23x12 inches. However, this weight and size are why this TIG welder is so powerful.
Concerning the settings, there are a few presets, but you also have complete control to tweak them as you wish; giving you full control.
- Pros: Dual-input power. Suitable for small and large jobs. Display screen.
- Cons: Large and heavy. While the foot pedal is sound, it isn’t ergonomic.
3. Best for Smaller Jobs
Everlast Power Equipment PowerTIG Welder
PowerTIG 250EX from Everlast is perfect for smaller welding projects as it can start off of 5 amps, allowing the user to conduct a duty cycle at under 200amps, which in turn will allow you to produce a thin and smooth weld. Utilizing both AC and DC, this TIG welder can work with steel and aluminum.
The unit allows you to adjust AC frequency, balance control, and pulse with ease. It even comes with a spot weld timer, which will enable you to make perfect spot welds every single time. The digital display will show the current voltage.
Its 250V input power allows this welder to perform heavy-duty welds, while still being usable for smaller welds too. If you configure the unit specifically for it, you can achieve a 100% duty cycle, making it perfect for smaller jobs.
This machine weighs 65 lbs, which makes it only semi-portable. It will be easy enough to move this unit around periodically, but for continual movement, it may be too heavy.
- Pros: Low amp start up. 100% duty cycle possible. Spot weld timer.
- Cons: Possibly too many options for a novice. Not light.
4. Best for Beginners
Amico MIG/TIG Welder
Here we have another dual-input TIG welder, the MTS-205. What makes this machine great is that it can work with aluminum, flux, and solid wire. Not only is it TIG, but stick too. You will be able to work with welds of up to 1/2inch, making it ideal for hobbyists, or professional auto body shop use.
Due to the arc ignition, your welds should be clean with limited splatter. There are lots of voltage protection features, and the unit will automatically compensate for any fluctuations. Inside the welder, an automatic control gas solenoid valve has been installed.
It weighs 50 lbs, making it about average. However, it is quite a small machine at 18x9x14inches. This does improve its portability somewhat, even if it isn’t the lightest welder out there.
There are not too many options on the dials, and with its small size, this is a perfect machine for novices.
- Pros: Medium weight and size. Novice-friendly. Voltage protection.
- Cons: Limited options. 8 ft cord, rather than the standard 10 ft.
5. Best on a Budget
HITBOX TIG Welding Machine
Last on the list is the TIG200 from HITBOX. This small machine weighs less than 16 lbs, making it the second lightest on this list. It’s also one of the smallest, at 17x10x13 inches. As you can guess, these dimensions and weight make it a fantastic welder for those who need a portable option.
What makes this unit unique is that it is 220V only. You need to factor this in if you do decide to purchase this product. It’s also DC only, which means that higher frequencies aren’t possible; therefore, aluminum welding is not possible.
It’s worth noting that this TIG welder does not come with a regulator or flow meter; if you want one, you will need to buy one separately. Although there is a place to hook up argon without them, it will be unregulated, which defeats the purpose.
Despite everything we have covered, the TIG200 is a fantastic budget option. If you want a welder to learn on and don’t want to break the bank, you can’t go far wrong.
- Pros: Smooth arc. Budget option. Very light and portable.
- Cons: Can’t weld aluminum. No option to add a pedal.
What to Look for in a TIG Welder
When purchasing a tungsten inert gas welder, you first need to identify it’s purpose. Larger welding jobs are better suited to stick welding, so if you’re planning on welding thicknesses higher than 1/4inch of aluminum or 3/8inch steel, you should look into alternative welding methods.
The majority of hobby projects will fit into this category though, so unless you are planning on starting an industrial welding firm, a TIG welder should do you well.
The benefits of TIG welding, compared to MIG, is that you are able to create smaller welds with more precision. You might even become surprised at all of the different applications TIG welding can have on your projects or workshop.
We have elaborated on some of the specifications that you are likely to come across when browsing different TIG machines, as well as how to interpret them. This will hopefully give you enough knowledge to pick out a welder that will fit your requirements, needs, and budget limitations.
First on the list is weight. Some may completely overlook this, but it may be necessary, depending on what you need the welder for. If you intend to do all of your work in a static location, like a small home workshop, weight doesn’t become a factor. However, if you think you may need to move about with your unit constantly, it would unquestionably be beneficial to have something that doesn’t weigh a ton.
Luckily, TIG welders are on the light side, compared to their counterparts. They can range anywhere from 14 lbs to over 70 lbs. If you do wish your welder to be as portable as possible, we would recommend a weight under 30 lbs. Not only does this mean that it’s small, but it usually indicates smaller dimensions too.
Welding Material Restrictions
Welding limitations will depend on what make and model you’re thinking of buying, but not all units are equal. For instance, all TIG welders should be able to work with steel, but not all will be able to weld aluminum. If you want no restrictions, look for models that are listed as AC and DC.
Welding thickness is also something that should be considered. TIG welding works best when the scope is small, so for anything over ½ inch, you should probably reconsider if a TIG welder is the correct choice for your needs.
This video from Weld.com discusses some of these restrictions. It also explains how to get started with TIG welding. We strongly encourage watching it.
Input power is the number of volts that your unit is capable of running off of. While most can, not all TIG welders can run off a standard household outlet. Between 110V and 140V means it’s safe to run off of the mains electricity without additional equipment.
Welding units that require 220V need a specific outlet. Most 220V welders are dual-purpose, but some aren’t.
For those new to welding, you’ll probably be utterly clueless on the ‘duty cycle’. Luckily, it isn’t complicated at all. It refers to the efficiency of the welder at certain amps.
For example, let’s look at the AHP AlphaTIG 200X. It states that it has a duty cycle of 60% at 200 amps. This means that if you set your welder to 200 amps and looked at a 10 minute period, you should only be welding for 60% of the time (6 minutes), with 40% rest (4 minutes). This allows the machine to cool down and will improve your weld quality.
Thermal overload refers to overheating. If your welder has this function, it will mean that it will turn off or reduce amps when it’s getting too near an undesirable temperature, so that it doesn’t get damaged. This will also improve your weld quality.
Following the duty cycle of your specific model will also reduce overheating too.
What will definitely come at no surprise is how hot molten metal can get. Also, the UV light that is the byproduct of welding, is harsher on our eyes than the sun. Therefore, it’s an absolute requirement that you equip yourself with the correct PPE, which should include a welding mask and gloves.
Occasionally you may find welding packages that provide everything needed to start welding straight away, but most won’t. Never skip on buying the appropriate protective equipment, as they are somewhat inexpensive if you look at some of the budget options. Failing to do so will drastically increase your chances of severely hurting yourself.
Whether you’re a welding novice or a seasoned professional, a tungsten inert gas welder is an excellent piece of machinery. Although the skill level is slightly higher, compared to MIG, for instance, it will take the average person only an hour before they are well on their way to producing some good welds.
The limitations to TIG welding should be treated with respect, though. Bigger jobs are better suited to stick welding, so if you think you may need to weld more substantial metal in the future, try and at least purchase a unit that has dual-capabilities.
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