welder working on metal piping using TIG welding

TIG Welding 101: A Beginner's Guide

What is TIG welding? TIG welding is one of the most common types of welding, especially when working with metals such as stainless steel, aluminum, and common steel.

This type of welding isn’t easy to navigate and isn’t the best option for beginners. However, with a bit of information and a lot of practice, anyone can learn how to use a TIG welding machine for every job safely.

An Introduction to TIG Welding

In the 1930s and ‘40s, the TIG welding process was developed by the aircraft industry for the use of welding magnesium.

When MIG welding, you create an arch between the non-consumable tungsten electrode and your base metal. Here a weld pool will form, then a thin filler wire is fed by hand into the pool and melted, thus creating a joint or bond.

TIG welding doesn’t use any fluxes. Instead, an inert shield gas protects the weld pool and the welding electrode from contamination.

There are various benefits of using TIG welding, with one of the most notable being your control over the weld. This precision allows for detailed and beautiful designs you would not be able to get from other types of welding.

Another bonus benefit is the lack of slag, providing a much cleaner result.

Equipment and Materials Needed for TIG Welding

One disadvantage to TIG welding is that the equipment can be costly. However, these parts ensure you get the best outcome on every project as long as it is a quality machine and well-maintained.

  • TIG welding machine: This includes the body, tungsten rod, gas lens, collets, gas hoses, welding torch handles, power cables, and insulators.
  • Tungsten electrode: The TIG welding electrode creates the arc and weld pool. This welding electrode is required as it can withstand extremely high heat with little to no erosion or melting.
  • Welding filler material/filler metal: The filler material or filler metal, typically steel, is added metal that is melted to the joint to help strengthen the weld.
  • Shielding gas: This gas protects the welding area to keep it from damage and corrosion due to water vapor or oxygen.
  • Other necessary equipment: TIG gloves, auto-darkening helmet, TIG goggles, protective jacket, rods, jacket, sander, and grinder.

To perform a clean weld, you must gather the proper materials and equipment. Ensuring you have everything you need before starting up your machine will keep you from stopping mid-weld, creating imperfections, or even destroying your project.

TIG Welding Technique

working in machine shop welding strip of metal

To safely operate a TIG welding machine, you have to understand how to use the welder and the techniques required for the best results.

  • Setting up the equipment: Before you start welding, you have to set up the welding equipment. This means preparing your space and materials, calculating the torch parameters, assembling the torch, setting the gas flow, and setting the work clamps.
  • Starting and maintaining the arc: There are three ways to strike an arc in TIG welding: scratch start, high-frequency start, and lift arc. You can maintain the arc by ensuring the gas is flowing correctly and using the current tungsten.
  • Filling the weld joint: With a TIG welder, you should fill the weld joint with a straight line of beads, moving slowly across the middle of the joint.
  • Finishing the weld: To correctly finish a TIG weld, stop softly, not overheating, overlap the joints, and protect the weld.

A common mistake made when TIG welding is not prepping your material well. Oil, rust, and mill scale on metal will be problematic for your weld. Make sure you clean the front and back of your metal before you begin working on it.

Another mistake often made is welding too slowly. While you should keep a steady and slower pace than with other welding machines, going too slow can lead to inconsistent and messy welds.

Lastly, weld control is extremely important. You have to have quick hand movement and excellent hand-eye coordination. You will eventually need to add foot control to the pedal, occupying your feet and both hands. How you control feeding the filler rod is also crucial to ensure a smooth outcome.

TIG Welding on Different Metals

steel sheets stacked in a warehouse

The TIG welding process can be used to weld a variety of materials. However, there are many to steer clear of, including zinc and lead.

Materials that are TIG-approved include steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. Each of these metals requires different welding requirements.

Base Metal

Welding Current

Electrode Type

Shield Gas

Color Tip



2% Thoriated (EW-Th2)



75 Argon

25 Helium


Stainless Steel


2% Thoriated


75 Argon

25 Helium


2% Ceriated


75 Argon

25 Helium

1.5% Lanthanated


75 Argon

25 Helium

When welding thicker metals like steel, you will need a welding machine with a high average rating. A common rule of thumb is to use 1 amp per 1/1000th of the thickness of your material, then subtract that number by 10% and a pulse rate of between 100 and 500 PPS. The flow rate (on average) in TIG welding is about 35-50 cfh.

TIG Welding FAQs

What is the difference between TIG and MIG welding?

TIG welding has a higher-quality weld, is more precise and detailed, slower, and doesn’t leave spatter or smoke. MIG welding is quicker but leaves imperfections and isn’t as precise. 

Can TIG welding be used for heavy-duty welding jobs?

TIG welding can be used for heavy and light-duty jobs. However, this type of welding is much better on thin, metal, or smaller jobs, like aluminum.

What are the safety precautions to take when TIG welding?

Before you begin welding, you should always ensure the equipment is set up correctly and never touch a lead while the power is on. You should also always wear safety gear when working with a TIG machine, such as gloves, goggles, and a face shield.

What are the recommended amperage settings for TIG welding different metals?

The most common amperage for TIG welding is 10-25 amps when welding thinner materials like stainless steel or aluminum and 20-35 for thicker metals like steel.

Can TIG welding be automated?

Yes, you can typically use TIG welding machines in both manual and automated modes.

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