How to Learn TIG Welding for Beginners

Newcomers to welding have many different techniques to master, including stick welding, MIG welding, and TIG welding. Most beginners stick to MIG or stick welding because it is easier to master if you are a newcomer to the craft, but TIG welding has its advantages. Learning TIG welding as a beginner welder is easy once you follow the right steps.

To learn TIG welding, first you need to understand the differences between this type of welding and other types, such as MIG or stick welding. Then, figure out a TIG welding machine and start using it for smaller projects.

We’ve prepared more detailed instructions for learning TIG welding, so keep reading to learn more.

What Is TIG Welding?

Before you touch a TIG welding machine, you should understand what this type of welding is.

TIG welding, or Tungsten Inert Gas welding, is a type of welding that uses a tungsten non-consumable electrode to start the arc. The inert gas is a type of gas that creates a shield around the metal. 

TIG welding is popular in manufacturing, among professional welders, and even among some amateurs who appreciate the delicate properties of the welding process.

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How Does TIG Welding Work?

TIG welding works in a similar way to other welding machines. The electrode creates an electric arc between the welding machine and the metal. The heat from this arc melts the metal, creating the weld pool. The inert gas creates a shield around the weld to prevent the molten metal from oxidizing.

However, TIG welding is a bit more complex than other types of welding. First, you strike the arc, usually by striking it against the surface like a match. Once you strike the arc, you use one hand to hold the arc close to the surface and move it along the joint. 

With the other hand, you feed in the filler metal rod. Since the TIG welder uses a nonconsumable electrode, you need to get the metal for the weld pool from somewhere else. Finally, you use a foot pedal to continuously control the length of the arc and how much power you supply to the welding machine.

TIG welding is a bit more complex than MIG welding or stick welding because you have to use both hands and a foot to operate the machine. You also have to coordinate the filler material yourself. It does take time to master this coordination, especially if you are a beginner, but once you do, you’ll be TIG welding in no time.

When to Choose TIG Welding

If TIG welding is so complex, you might be wondering why you need to learn it in the first place. The truth is that TIG welding is much better than other types of welding for certain applications. Here are some situations where TIG welding is the best choice:

  • Welding thin metals, such as metals used in medical equipment
  • Pipe welding
  • Welding complex projects such as airplanes, automobiles, and spacecraft

What Metals Does TIG Welding Work On?

TIG welding works on almost every type of welding. However, there are certain metals for which TIG welding is the best choice. For example, TIG welding is the best choice for nonferrous metals, which are metals that don’t contain iron.

Here is a list of metals you can use TIG welding for:

  • Steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Aluminum
  • Bronze
  • Copper
  • Titanium
  • Magnesium
  • Nickel and its alloys
  • Precious metals such as gold

How to Learn TIG Welding

TIG welding fills a gap in your workshop that other forms of welding, such as MIG and stick welding, cannot meet. You might be really excited to learn this new welding technique to fulfill your mastery of welding.

However, you shouldn’t learn TIG welding alone. Either take a workshop or class at a local technical school or apprentice with a master welder. 

There are a few reasons why you shouldn’t learn TIG welding from online tutorials and videos, which is how you might have mastered other welding techniques. TIG welding is much more complex than these other techniques. It requires a level of coordination you don’t have if all that you’ve done before is MIG or stick welding. Teaching yourself these coordinated movements is a lot harder than learning from a professional.

Another reason is safety. Since TIG welding is so much more complex than other types of welding, the chances that you will accidentally injure yourself are much higher. It’s safer to learn TIG welding in a supervised environment, where a professional can stop you if it looks like you are on the way to injuring yourself.

Finally, TIG welding setups are a lot more complex than MIG or stick welding setups. To get the welding machine working properly and follow codes for safe TIG welding use, you need to have certain conditions in your workshop. Kitting out a DIY home workshop to TIG weld properly is logistically difficult and expensive. Plus, it makes no sense to go to that effort if you don’t even know if you like TIG welding.

For all these reasons, if you’re interested in trying out TIG welding, it’s best to seek out a professional to teach you. Once you have a professional instruct you, it will be easier to turn TIG welding into a job if you wish.

How to TIG Weld

Here are the basic steps to TIG weld. Remember, if you’ve never done this before, learn from a professional first. Don’t just follow the steps laid out in this post.

1. Prepare Your Setup

Make sure that your TIG welding machine has the right electrode inserted. Grind the electrode to a point, as most electrodes come with a rounded tip when you first open them, and this is less precise. Insert the electrode into the collet, which is the holder for the electrode.

Once your electrode is set up, you can prepare the rest of your welding machine. Check the levels for the inert gas so that you have enough shield gas. Adjust the settings on your TIG welding machine so it is right for your project. You can choose the current type (AC, DCEP, or DCEN), amperage, and other settings.

Last but not least, make sure you have taken all the safety precautions you need before welding. Clear the surface of your welding table. Clamp the metals in place so they don’t move as you’re welding. Put on all your protective gear, including a helmet, gloves, boots, and long welding clothes.

2. Strike the Arc

Finally, you’re ready to weld. You can strike the arc by striking the electrode against the metal. If you can’t do this because you’re worried about contaminating the base metal with your electrode, most TIG welders have a button you can use to start the arc.

3. Create the Weld Pool

Focus the electrode on one part of the metal and add your filler rod. Melt the metal to create the weld pool. Pump your foot pedal to increase the amperage levels (you will decrease them later, this is just to get the pool started). Once the weld pool forms at an edge, move quickly. You don’t want to focus the heat for too long on one part of the metal.

At this step, you can do a quick tack weld to help hold your metals in place.

4. Weld along the Joint

Decrease the amperage you are putting in with your foot pedal slightly. Move the electrode along the joint while consistently feeding in the filler rod to create a consistent weld pool. This should create a steady bead.

You will either “lead” or “follow” the electrode. Leading is when the rod moves down the line, followed by the electrode. For “following,” the order is reversed. This order depends on the type of metal you are welding.

The type of weld you make will depend on the purpose of your weld as well as a few different factors. You can make strength, cosmetic, lap, and fillet welds, just to name a few. 

5. End the Weld

Once you reach the end of the joint, taper off the amperage of the machine. Add a bit of filler metal and keep the shield gas on for a few seconds to make sure oxidation doesn’t happen. Finally, you can turn off the machine and let the weld cool. Clean up later.

TIG Welding Projects for Beginners

Once you learn the basics of TIG welding, the best way to perfect those skills is with a few simple projects. Some good projects to start off with include:

  • An aluminum tote tray
  • Welding tools such as a bronze hammer
  • A picture frame

Use simple techniques and small pieces to get the hang of TIG welding.

Final Thoughts

TIG welding is a useful welding technique to have because it is one of the best ways to weld thin and nonferrous metals. However, it is difficult to master for beginners, so we don’t recommend trying to teach yourself. Go to a course or complete an apprenticeship instead.