Our Verdict

Your needs will ultimately dictate what type of machine you require. Below we have split up our choices into a number of categories to give you the best all round machine to suit your needs.

 

Best Small TIG Welder

Miller Maxstar 161 STL

 

Introduction

The Maxstar 161 STL delivers exceptional TIG and Stick performance in a compact machine, ideal for users who need a small and lightweight package.

Weighing an impressive 13lbs, this unit can be carried over your shoulder between jobs thanks to its inverter technology. There is also a shoulder strap for convenient carrying over your shoulder.

 

Who is this machine ideal for?

Ideal for individuals who depend on a portable machine, and don’t want to compromise on performance. This small unit can deliver up to 160A using 240V Input Voltage and a minimum output amperage of 5A for thinner metals.

Therefore this unit can weld steel from 0.020 in. to 3/16 in. which is perfect for mobile tasks such as automotive repairs.

Pros

  • Lightweight, small therefore easily portable.
  • Compatible with both 120V and 240V Voltages.
  • 5A Minimum and 160A Maximum so you can tailor the parameters for your work material.
  • 3 Year Warranty.
  • Has both a handle and strap for easy transportation.
  • Can weld Stick (SMAW) and TIG (GTAW)
  • Can run with difficult electrodes such as E6010.

Cons

  • Can’t weld Aluminum
  • Doesn’t offer pulsed functionality, which requires the Maxstar 161 STH

 

Specification

Height: 13.2 in. (262 mm)
Length: 5.6 in. (142 mm)
Width: 13.5 in. (343 mm)
120V Duty Cycle: 130A/15.2VDC/30%
240V Duty Cycle: 160A/16.4VDC/20%
Input Voltage: 120V/240V
Process Type: TIG (GTAW), Stick (SMAW)
Product weight: 13 lbs. (5.9 kg)
Steel Thickness Range: 0.020 in. – 3/16 in
Amperage Range: 5A – 160A

 

 

Best TIG Welder for Beginner

 

Hobart EZ TIG 165i

 

Introduction

This model is a 230V AC/DC TIG, which can weld materials from 22 Gauge to 3/16 inch (.81 mm to 4.8 mm) in both AC (Aluminum) and DC (Steel, Stainless, Chromoly).

The EZ TIG 165i gets its name from the single knob control, which controls the material and thickness selection and will take care of the fine tuning for you. The design of this model makes it easy to setup and use without the hassle of fine tuning on test pieces.

It’s also extremely light at 50lb (23kg) which is light enough to carry around between jobs without being a problem.

 

Who is this machine ideal for?

This machine is a great purchase for a TIG beginner who has prior welding experience, or is determined to learn. A lightweight model like we’ve seen in our previous example, with a similar specification for a lower price point. Great for individuals who want a well-equipped, reliable unit without an extortionate pricing.

 

Pros

  • AC/DC TIG welding, can weld Aluminum
  • Simple setup interface
  • Infinite amperage control
  • X Warranty
  • Fan on demand, will only run when needed eliminating noise and contaminants drawn through the machine
  • Only weighs 50lbs (23 KG)

Cons

  • 230V Only

Specification

Height: 17 in. (433 mm)

Length: 23 7/8 in (608 mm)
Width: 9 7/8 in (251 mm)
Duty Cycle: 150A @ 20%
Input Voltage: 240V
Process Type: TIG (GTAW), Stick (SMAW)
Product weight: 50 lbs. (23 kg)
Amperage Range: 10 – 165A

 

 

 

Best Cheap TIG Welder

AHP AlphaTIG 201DX

 

Introduction

The 201DX is a TIG and Stick machine, with a wide range of features adjustable by knobs on the front of the machine. Its 120V and 240V compatible, as well as AC and DC functionality. A versatile machine with an impressive array of features.

A limiting factor of cheaper welders is their duty cycle or amperage output. However the AlphaTIG has an impressive 60% duty cycle at 200A, and 35% Duty Cycle at 155A Stick. Its maximum output is 200A on 240V, or 140A on 120V.

 

Who is this machine ideal for?

If you infrequently weld but still require the specification of a higher priced machine, this is a great purchase. It’s reasonably priced, easy to use and well featured. The appearance of the control panel does feel cheaper compared to higher range Miller units, however I find this model hard to fault considering the price.

Pros

  • Well priced for the specification
  • Powerful 200A output
  • 60% duty cycle at 200A
  • Can weld TIG or Stick for versatility
  • 3 Year warranty
  • 6 month consumable warranty

Cons

  • Regulator isn’t well calibrated
  • Display doesn’t display accurate amperage the machine is set on

 

Specification

Height: 20 in.
Length: 22 in.
Width: 9 in.
TIG (GTAW) Duty Cycle:
200 A, 20 V @ 60% 200 A, 18 V @ 60%
Stick (SMAW) Duty Cycle: 200 A, 28 V @ 35% 155A, 26.4 V @ 100%
Input Voltage: 120V/240V
Process Type: TIG (GTAW), Stick (SMAW)
Product weight: 50 lbs.
Amperage Range: 10A-200A

 

 

Best TIG Welder for Home Use

Amico TIG-160DC

 

Introduction

The TIG-160DC is Amicos answer to a 120/240V DC model, aimed at casual users without the compromise on functionality. Despite it’s pricing, this model is still well featured with a maximum output of 160A @ 60% Duty Cycle.

It’s compatible with 120V and 240V input voltages, weighs only 14.5 lbs and is shipped with everything you need to start welding, aside from gas and safety equipment. For the home user this model is a great fit, has a low enough price point to leave room for safety equipment whilst it’s specification

 

Who is this machine ideal for?

Ideal for home users considering the price, 1 year warranty and included consumables. The range of applications this model can be used for will be enough for home usage, and won’t become obsolete should your demands from this model increase. It doesn’t weld aluminium due to it being a DC only model, if your usage requires Aluminum then it may be wise to choose a higher range model from Amico or the AHP AlphaTIG.

Pros

  • Well priced
  • Comes with all the consumables you need to start welding (apart from Gas and Safety Equipment)
  • 1 Year Warranty
  • 120V and 240V compatible
  • Lightweight and small, perfect to carry around and store at home
  • 60% Duty Cycle at maximum output

Cons

  • Can’t weld Aluminum
  • No pulse functionality

Specification

Processes: TIG (GTAW), STICK, ARC, MMA

Input Power: 110/230V/1phase/60Hz

Output Range: DC 20-160 Amps

Input Current: 37A(110V) & 25.8A(230V)

Rated Output: 25.2V & 26.4V

Duty Cycle: AC 230V/160A@60% & AC 110V/130A@60%

Length: 16.6 in.

Width: 7.5 in.

Height: 11.8 in.

Weight: 14.5 lbs (6.5 kg)

 

 

Best AC/DC TIG Welder for the Money


Miller Diversion 180

 

Introduction

The Diversion 180 is a great all round machine, which is why it’s awarded the Best AC/DC Welder for the money. Its auto set features takes the guesswork out of setting up this machine, helping you perform better without the guesswork.

As it’s an AC/DC model therefore it can weld Aluminum, making this an easy to use and versatile unit with a maximum output of 180A (240V Input required). Great for all thicknesses of metals, which will satisfy the vast majority of users – even in a commercial environment.

Who is this machine ideal for?

If you weld a variety of metals and depend on your equipment for a living, Miller is a known brand of easy to use and versatile pieces of equipment. A comprehensive warranty paired with their build quality means your equipment will last, and makes for a brilliant investment.

This machine and various equipment may be over budget for some home operations, however it still has its place

Pros

  • 120V and 240V input voltage, tool less design
  • AC/DC
  • High maximum output amperage
  • Fairly lightweight and easily portable
  • Millers true blue warranty
  • Fan on Demand reduces contaminants drawn through the machine
  • Easy to use interface, doesn’t require any documentation to learn
  • Auto post flow reduces shielding gas waste, whilst still providing weld pool protection
  • High Frequency start which eliminates tungsten contamination

Cons

  • High pricing compared to others on the market
  • Fan can be noisy
  • Ground clamp could benefit from a stronger spring

Specification

Height: 17 in.
Length: 23.87 in.
Width: 9.87 in.
Duty Cycle: 150A @ 20%
Input Voltage: 120V/240V
Process Type: TIG (GTAW)
Product weight: 50 lbs.
Amperage Range: 10A-180A

 

 

Qualities of a Good Welder

Buying the best equipment for your needs is the top priority in any situation, when it comes to finding the best welder it’s no different. TIG welding is a versatile method of welding, providing your welder is capable you can weld anything from ¼” aluminium to 24-gauge steel.

 

Amperage range

One of the first things to consider when picking a welder is the amperage range. The wider the amperage range, the wider spectrum of applications you can use the machine for. Some metals such as Aluminium are generally thin and require lower temperatures from the welding arc. For example, if you buy a 200A welder without the ability to control the output amperage, you will blow holes in the material you wish to weld as the arc is too hot.

It’s also important to ensure the arc is stable when welding at a low output amperage. At lower temperatures its common for the arc to get bouncy and unstable, which may be tempting to increase the output amperage to stabilize the arc. However, this can damage the material you wish to weld and will result in poor weld quality and appearance if the welder can’t maintain a stable arc.

 

AC/DC Compatibility

Some welders on the market only support AC (Alternating Current) or DC (Direct Current), which will limit your ability to weld certain metals such as steel or aluminium. DC is preferred as AC has much fewer use cases, however having the ability to use both will prevent you from being limited depending on your desired applications.

It’s important to remember your needs may change over time, whilst the capability of the machine wont. Future proofing your welder will make it much more cost effective, and less problematic should you run into a job requiring the extra features.

Generally DC is used for harder metals such as Copper or Steel, whereas AC is used for soft metals such as Aluminium or Magnesium. Depending on your needs you may only need to look for a welder compatible with one type of current, however it may be worth considering a welder that’s compatible with both so you don’t limit your capabilities in the future should your requirements change.

When looking for an AC welder a useful feature is AC balance control. Alternating Current can clean the weld whilst also creating a weld pool to join both materials together. The balancing feature allows you to choose the amount of penetration versus cleaning ability.

 

Long Duty Cycle

A duty cycle is the time within a 10 minute window a welder can operate at its maximum output before having to be rested. Usually signified as a percentage, this number represents the amount of useable time within 10 minutes that the welder will operate at maximum output. The longer the duty cycle, the more you can get done within a specified window of time. If the power output is decreased the machine can be used for longer periods of time, using the maximum output is a good benchmark to compare different machines against each other.

 

Heat Control

Many modern units include a pulse module or pedal which modulates the heat produced by the arc. Pulsing allowing you greater control when welding thinner metals such as Aluminium or Magnesium, preventing you from melting holes in the material as you can maintain the arc at a lower temperature. Depending on your desired application I wouldn’t advise buying a unit without heat control as thinner materials such as Aluminium will be extremely difficult to weld.

 

Cooling System (Water or Air)

Cooling your torch is necessary due to the radiant heat from the welding arc. The cooler you can keep your welding torch the more arc time you have, increasing the amount of welding you can do. Welders generally come equipped with either an air cooling system, or a more expensive water cooling system, below we will outline the advantages/disadvantages of each – as this decision comes down to personal preference.

Air Advantages

Air cooling is a lot simpler and cheaper to implement compared to water cooling. Air cooled guns also allow you to move the unit between worksite locations, making air cooling much more versatile and cost effective for smaller operations. Air cooling is much better suited towards lower amperage applications and will allow you to better spend money on welding masks, gloves, boots and protective suits.

Air Disadvantages

Air has a lower cooling capacity compared to water, which means the torch will become hotter much quicker compared to water cooling (at the same output amperage). If you’re running high amperage there is a large duration of interruption whilst you wait for the torch to cool, as it has to rely on ambient air temperature in order to cool the torch this can take considerable amount of time compared to a water-cooled solution. In an environment which requires high productivity you may find this undesirable and instead choose a water-cooled torch.

Water Advantages

When you’re running long beads or elbow deep in some intricate work, you don’t want to be rushed to finish your bead before your torch is too hot. Water has a much better capability to absorb heat compared to air, therefore keeping your equipment at a lower temperature for much longer. There are kits available that can handle over 600 amps, allowing you to increase commercial productivity and use higher rated equipment. Not to mention a water-cooled gun is much lighter and smaller compared to an air cooled gun, reducing fatigue and increasing productivity throughout the day.

Water Disadvantages

Water cooling requires a lot more equipment, which increases cost as well as limiting its portability. Carrying a whole system filled with water to different sites is impractical, and these systems weigh a lot more compared to air cooled units. The added need for a radiator, shielded cabling and separate guns make water cooling more expensive, ideally used in an environment that requires little movement.

 

Type of arc start

There are multiple ways manufacturers use to strike an arc when welding. Welders may use different ways, so it’s important to check your preferred method is used when purchasing a welder.

High Frequency – This method generates a high frequency arc that will ionize the surrounding air and bridge the gap between the tungsten electrode and material. This is a touchless method that creates a near instant arc, works best when welding Aluminium.

Lift Start – A relatively clean method of starting an arc, involves contact with your working material. This involves bringing the tungsten quickly and lightly in contact with the metal, then in one motion lift the electrode. This method works by the OCV of the welder cuts to low voltage when contact with metal has been made and will shift to a higher output voltage once the contact has been broken. The point of the tungsten will be preserved when performed correctly and is near contamination free. A much better alternative to scratch starting when welding Steel and Stainless steel.

Scratch Start – The oldest method of starting an arc, not so commonly used due to its nature of potential contamination and damage to the tungsten. Similar to striking a match against a matchbox

Common Mistakes when selecting a TIG Welder

Choosing a model loaded with features

Customers getting lured by new features included with welders that they may not necessarily need means less money for other necessities. As technology advances more welders have features that help you expand your welder’s capabilities and create better welds. It’s easy to get carried away and think these features are a must have, in reality you may not need them. Getting the top of the range model which is loaded with features will be a waste of money if you don’t use them. For example a TIG machine offering AC balance control serves no purpose if you won’t weld Aluminium or Magnesium.

Cooling Equipment

A mid-range welder must have some sort of cooling system such as a Fan on Demand system to prevent overheating and extend the life of your equipment. A cheap machine that requires you to purchase additional cooling will add to your expense and may make that cheap machine more expensive than a unit with higher build quality. If you’re on a budget it pays to compare different welders and whether they include cooling build in.

Miscalculations of power requirements

Although it’s difficult to know what you’ll be doing with your welder in a years’ time, you should future proof your purchase by allowing yourself some ability to expand. Whether you’re a beginner or established in the field, requirements from your machine can change which could mean a new purchase if your current purchase can’t meet the requirements. Establish what you want to do with your welder currently, then give yourself some breathing room with higher output amperage to take on a wider range of metals.