TIG Welder Settings Explained: How To Set Your TIG Welder (With Chart)

TIG Welder Settings Explained: How To Set Your TIG Welder (With Chart)

The growing popularity of TIG welding means a lot more people are using TIG machines nowadays. That’s awesome, but there’s one potential drawback…

There are folks out there with TIG welders who don’t have formal training on setting the proper parameters. Some of the finer details that welders learn in school may be missed.

One of those key details is dialing in the right settings on your new TIG welder for the job at hand. You’re probably here for that very reason, so let me break down the main TIG settings and how to adjust them properly.

Now let’s get that TIG machine set up right…

Before Adjusting Your TIG Controls

This is about more than just twisting the knobs on your TIG welder. Like any welding process, your TIG settings heavily depend on the specific job you’re tackling. There’s no one-size-fits-all setting that always applies. Welding is a custom craft with many variables.

What Material Are You Welding?

Different materials have unique characteristics related to heat and electricity conductivity. The material makes a massive difference. The behavior of mild steel contrasts sharply with aluminum’s traits.

Aluminum melts at different temps and conducts electricity/holds heat differently than stainless steel or titanium. Before starting, you must choose the right process, setup the equipment properly, select the proper tungsten, filler rod, shielding gas, etc. The settings all hinge on the metal type.

The most common TIG metals are mild steel, aluminum, and stainless/nickel alloys – the typical metals around homes/autos.

Metal Thickness Matters

Know the thickness so you have enough amperage capacity, can choose the right tungsten diameter/filler rod, and make plans for clamping, angle of attack, cooling needs, duty cycle limitations, etc.

You set amps based on thickness, so you must know that measurement. A rule of thumb is 1 amp per 0.001″ of steel. Stainless needs 10-15% less current, aluminum 25% more.

A 1/8″ mild steel plate is 0.125″ thick, so roughly 125 amps is a start point. But what about 3/8″ (0.375″)? You don’t necessarily need a whopping 375 amps. Manufacturers fudge by beveling joints to reduce effective thickness and required amperage.

Tungstens and Filler Rods

Using the proper tungsten diameter and filler rod (matched to base metal) is critical for good TIG results. These choices depend heavily on material type and thickness.

Some common tungsten diameters are:

0.040″ – Up to 100 amps

1/16″ (0.062″) – 70-150 amps

3/32″ (0.094″) – 115-210 amps

1/8″ (0.120″) – 160-310 amps

Equipment Considerations

Quality TIG gear makes things easier. For aluminum, an AC machine with a high-frequency arc start and alternating current output is ideal. Make sure the gas flow is properly set and connections are tight.

Some digital TIG units can automatically set parameters once you input the metal type, thickness and tungsten size. You just load the proper tungsten and filler rod.

Check our TIG Welders Guide for these automated machines.

Prepping the Workpiece

To get consistent, quality TIG welds, your metal needs proper preparation:

  • Cleaning
  • Degreasing
  • Removing mill scale
  • Grinding bevels/grooves
  • Clamping for rigid setup

The fitup and cleanliness of your workpieces are crucial for achieving repeatable results.

Setting TIG Parameters

The three main adjustable settings on a TIG welder are:

  1. Amperage
  2. AC Balance (aluminum)
  3. Downslope/Pulse Settings

Let’s cover each:

  1. Amperage This directly controls heat input and weld penetration. The thickness of the material determines your amp range as mentioned earlier. Adjust within that range based on the specific tungsten diameter, joint design, fit-up, and position.

Pay close attention to signs of overheating or underheating the puddle. Make small incremental changes until you find the sweet spot.

  1. AC Balance (Aluminum) When TIG welding aluminum, you need an AC output to create enough cleaning action to sustain an oxide-free puddle. The AC Balance control sets the percentage of Electrode Positive (EP) vs Electrode Negative (EN) cycle portions.

More EN (higher % Balance) provides more oxide cleaning. But too much can cause tungsten erosion and weld contamination. More EP focuses more heat in the workpiece.

Finding the right balance based on thickness, position, and alternation frequency takes practice. Start around 65-70% EN and adjust from there.

  1. Downslope/Pulse
    The Downslope ramps down the amperage and cools the weld crater for a clean finish. Pulse settings create a controlled ripple pattern that works well on some materials/thicknesses.

Both help manage heat input and prevent craters/undercut. Adjust based on bead appearance.

TIG Welding Settings Chart

While there’s no universal chart, here’s a general amp range guide to start:

Material MaterialThickness Polarity Amperage Tungsten Color TungstenDiameter Filler Metal Filler Metal Diameter Pre Flow (sec) Post Flow (sec)  Torch Cup Size Gas Flow Rate
Aluminum 1/16″ AC 55-75 Green, Red 1/16″ 4043 1/16″ 0.4 5 1/4-3/8” 15 -3 to 0
Aluminum 3/32″ AC 70-100 Green, Red 1/16″ 4043 1/16″ 0.4 5 1/4-3/8″ 15 -3 to 0
Aluminum 1/8″ AC 90-140 Green, Red 3/32″ 4043 3/32″ 0.4 6 3/8-7/16″ 17 -3 to 0
Aluminum 3/16″ AC 125-180 Green,Red 3/32 4043 3/32″ 0.4 6 7/16-1/2″ 21 -3 to 0
Steel 1/16″ DC- 45-80 Orange, Red, White 1/16″ ER70S-2 1/16″ 0.4 5 1/4-3/8″ 12 0
Steel 3/32″ DC- 70-110 Orange, Red, White 1/16″ ER70S-2 1/16″ 0.4 5 1/4-3/8″ 12 0
Steel 1/8″ DC 75-125 Orange, Red, White 1/16″ ER70S-2 3/32″ 0.4 6 1/4-3/8″ 12 0
Steel 3/16″ DC- 110-200 Orange, Red, White 3/32″ ER70S-2 1/8″ 0.4 6 1/4-3/8″ 14 0
Stainless Steel 1/16″ DC. 50-90 Orange, Red, White 1/16″ ER308/308L 1/16″ 0.4 5 1/4-3/8″ 12 0
Stainless Steel 3/32″ DC 80-120 Orange, Red, White 1/16″ ER308/308L 1/16″ 0.4 5 1/4-3/8″ 12 0
Stainless Steel 1/8″ DC- 85-140 Orange, Red, White 1/16″ ER308/308L 3/32″ 0.4 6 1/4-3/8” 12 0
Stainless Steel 3/16″ DC- 125-200 Orange, Red, White 3/32″ ER308/308L 1/8″ 0.4 6 1/4-3/8″ 14 0

Judge and Adjust

Ultimately, watch your puddle, listen to the arc sounds, and inspect your weld beads as you go. Make incremental adjustments until you achieve the desired results.

The true mastery comes through practice, analyzing your work, and developing the hands-on “feel” for your TIG welder. Use these settings as a starting point, but be ready to tweak and tune as needed. With experience, dialing in your TIG machine will become second nature.