With the cost going down and the quality going up on TIG welders in the last 5 years we are getting a lot more beginner welders asking questions about what a TIG can do and where it can be used. Understanding how the welding process works with a TIG welder will allow you to understand if one is the best welder for your shop. TIG welding is the preferred method among most high end weld shops but it does have its limitations.
Do you need to weld outside where shielding gas isn’t an option or you can’t afford a bottle of gas? Welding without a shield for the weld puddle isn’t really possible with ANY type of welding. The difference is that some welding methods (like TIG welding) require an actual welding gas and others use a flux or coating on the filler wire that burns off creating the shield that the weld puddle needs to keep contamination out of the molten metal. When welding with a TIG welder you are using a piece of bare, uncoated filler wire and a Tungsten that jumps an electric arc to the work piece to create a puddle. This method of welding requires every piece of the process to be VERY clean and 100% Argon is required as a shielding gas. Without a shielding gas you will burn the Tungsten, contaminate the weld, and won’t get any penetration into the work piece.
Now don’t throw away your hopes and dreams of owning a TIG welder because of the gas issue! The good news is that many modern TIG welders are inverter, multi-process machines that can TIG weld and Stick weld with the flip of a switch and swapping a couple fittings. The process for TIG welding and ARC welding is VERY similar where you have a lead with a electrode holder or “torch”. With either process you either touch the electrode to the work piece or get it close enough for the arc to jump and you’re welding. The differences end there though, ARC welding uses an electrode that is a consumable. It wears many hats, it’s the filler rod, creates the electrical circuit to weld, and is also coated in a coating that creates the shielding gas needed to keep the weld puddle protected while welding. With TIG welding you hold the filler rod in one hand and the torch/tungsten in the other and you add the filler rod to the puddle with a shielding gas flowing from the torch and over the molten weld puddle.
So if you’re looking to weld without gas, but could see yourself jumping into TIG welding at a later point, we’d suggest getting a multi-process TIG welder that allows you to ARC or Stick weld also. We offer numerous TIG welders and most of them allow you to ARC weld without gas as well. Find our entire TIG welder line here: http://www.eastwood.com/welders/tig-welders.html .