If you’ve purchased a TIG welder that comes with a standard TIG torch, you’ve probably realized that the stock torch is pretty useless.
I know how important it is to make sure you’re using the right TIG torch. It can be the difference between an enjoyable welding experience and a terrible one.
Perhaps you’ve found several TIG torch options but don’t know which one to choose. Or, you’re still trying to figure out what to consider before starting your search.
Read this guide to learn about high-quality TIG torches and how to select the right one for your welding projects.
Importance of a Quality TIG Torch
Think of your TIG torch as an extension of your hand. The quality of your torch plays a big part in your welding experience and the final outcome of your work.
With the right torch, you can:
- Create cleaner, precise welds,
- Work comfortably for longer periods, and
- Avoid potential safety issues
Plus, investing in a durable and reliable TIG torch can save you money in the long run. It’ll last longer and won’t need as many replacements or repairs.
Types of TIG Torches: Air-Cooled vs. Water-Cooled
When it comes to TIG torches, there are two main types to choose from: air-cooled and water-cooled.
Let’s go over the differences between the two, so you can decide on the right torch for your welding needs.
Air-Cooled Torch Styles: 9, 17, and 26 Series
Air-cooled torches use air to cool down the torch during use. They’re generally lighter and more affordable than their water-cooled counterparts.
The 9, 17, and 26 series are the most common air-cooled torch styles. The 9 series is the smallest and lightest and the 26 series is the largest and heaviest of the three.
As a rule of thumb, smaller torches are more comfortable to use for long periods. But they do become hotter at higher amperages.
Water-Cooled Torch Styles: 18 and 20 Series
A water-cooled torch uses a water-cooler unit to regulate your torch’s temperature. As a result, you can weld for longer and your torch won’t heat up — even at higher amperages.
The most common water-cooled torch styles are the 18 and 20 series. Think of the 18 series as the water-cooled version of a 17-series air-cooler. For the 20 series, its air-cooled equal would be the 9 series.
Water-cooled torches tend to be more expensive than air-cooled torches. But, they’re worth the investment if you plan to weld at high amperages or for extended periods.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a TIG Torch
Choosing a TIG torch isn’t a decision to make lightly. And it’s definitely not just about picking the shiniest or most expensive torch on the shelf.
There’s a lot to consider here, from the kind of work you’re doing, the metals you’ll be welding, down to the level of control you want over the weld.
Now, I can tell you that the right torch can make a world of difference in the quality and efficiency of your work – and you’ll see it for yourself.
So, let’s dig a bit deeper and look at the factors you need to consider when choosing a TIG torch, so you can get your hands on a tool that’s not just good, but right for you.
Compatibility with Your Welding Machine
First, you need to make sure the TIG torch you’re eyeing is compatible with your welding machine.
Take a look at its torch amperage requirements as well as the power cable & gas hose connections.
Every TIG torch is designed to handle a specific range of amperages. You’ll want to make sure that the torch you choose can handle the amperage output of your welding machine.
For example, if your machine can output up to 200 amps, you’ll need a torch rated for at least that amperage.
If you go beyond your torch’s rated amperage, the torch will overheat and incur damage.
Power Cable and Gas Hose Connections
Next, make sure the power cable and gas hose connections on the torch match the ones on your welding machine.
DINSE is the most common type of connector. They are cylindrical in shape and come in various sizes, they push in and twist to lock.
TWECO shares similarities with DINSE connectors. But it uses a cam-lock style to twist and lock instead of using a key mechanism.
Here’s how you check the compatibility of your TIG torch and welding machine:
- Identify the type of connector used on your welding machine by looking at the power supply’s receptacle. If you don’t know what that looks like, refer to the user manual instead.
- Ensure that the TIG torch has the same connector type. If not, you’ll need to buy an adapter. The other option is to pick a different torch.
Don’t forget that air-cooled and water-cooled torches have different connector styles.
TIG Torch Duty Cycle
The next thing to consider is the torch’s duty cycle.
The duty cycle measures how long the torch can operate at a given amperage without overheating.
Understanding Duty Cycle Ratings
Duty cycle ratings are displayed as a percentage and you’ll see they’re based on a 10-minute time frame.
For example, a TIG torch with a 60% duty cycle can operate at its rated amperage for 6 of every 10 minutes without overheating.
After those 6 minutes, the torch must cool down for at least 4 minutes before you can use it again at the same amperage.
Selecting a Torch with an Appropriate Duty Cycle
When choosing a TIG torch, you’ll want to select one with a duty cycle that matches your welding needs.
If you’re going to be welding at high amperages or for long periods, you’ll need a torch with a higher duty cycle. Water-cooled torches work better for this kind of work.
But if you only want to work on small projects that don’t need long periods of welding, go for an air-cooled torch instead.
Torch Amperage Ratings
Amperage rating determines the maximum amount of current a torch can handle without overheating. As I mentioned earlier, different torch sizes come with different amperage ratings.
You’ll need to make sure you pick a torch that has the right ratings for your projects.
Standard Amperage Ratings for Different Torch Sizes
Here’s a quick rundown of the standard amperage ratings for common air-cooled and water-cooled torch sizes:
- 9 Series (air-cooled): 125 amps
- 17 Series (air-cooled): 150 amps
- 26 Series (air-cooled): 200 amps
- 18 Series (water-cooled): 350 amps
- 20 Series (water-cooled): 250 amps
Matching Amperage Ratings with Your Welding Requirements
To choose the right TIG torch, you’ll want to match the amperage rating of the torch with your welding requirements.
Consider the materials you’ll be welding, the thickness of those materials, and the welding machine’s output amperage. Make sure the torch’s amperage rating is equal to or higher than the amperage you’ll be using for your welding projects.
Keep in mind that using a torch with a lower amperage rating than required can lead to overheating, reduced torch lifespan, and potential damage to the torch components.
Torch Head Options
Another key consideration is the type of torch head that best suits your welding needs.
Each torch head offers unique benefits and is suited for different welding applications.
Let’s explore the three main torch head options: standard rigid head, flexible head, and flexible valve head.
Standard Rigid Head
The standard rigid head is the most common torch head option you’ll come across.
It’s designed for straightforward welding tasks and is suitable for a wide range of applications. This type of head offers a solid and stable grip, allowing for consistent and precise welds.
This torch head is a good fit for beginners or welders who only work on simple joints and flat surfaces.
The flexible head torch, or “flex-head” as it’s commonly known, is great for hard-to-reach areas and unconventional joint configurations.
It features a bendable neck, allowing you to adjust the torch angle to access tight spots or navigate around curves and corners.
This type of torch head is a great addition to your welding toolkit, especially if you work on projects that need flexibility and adaptability. Because of its flexibility, it’s quickly becoming the default option for a lot of welders.
Flexible Valve Head
The flexible valve head combines the versatility of the flexible head with the added convenience of an integrated gas control valve.
This torch head is particularly useful for welders who use power sources without an internal gas solenoid, such as engine-driven welders.
The built-in valve allows you to control the gas flow directly at the torch, eliminating the need for a separate TIG foot pedal.
The flexible valve head offers the same bending capabilities as the regular flexible head, making it an excellent option for those who need both flexibility and on-the-fly gas control in their welding setup.
Popular TIG Torch Brands and Models
There are a lot of brands and models to choose from. Each brand comes with its benefits and you might find it hard to choose just one.
Here are a few of the most popular TIG torch brands…
CK Worldwide is one of the leading brands in the TIG welding industry. They’re known for their high-quality products and innovative designs.
They also offer a wide variety of air-cooled and water-cooled torch options.
CK9 and CK17 Air-Cooled Torches
The CK9 and CK17 models are popular air-cooled torches.
The CK9 is a compact torch with a 125-amp rating, making it ideal for tight spaces and simple welding tasks.
The CK17, on the other hand, is a versatile, all-purpose torch with a 150-amp rating. If you need a torch to handle different types of projects, this could be the one for you.
|CK9 Air Cooled TIG Torch Kit, 125A, 12.5', 1-Pc,...
|See Latest Price
|CK17 Air Cooled TIG Torch Kit, 150A, 12.5', 1-Pc...
|See Latest Price
CK20 and CK18 Water-Cooled Torches
For more demanding welding tasks, you have the CK20 and CK18 water-cooled torches. Both are designed for long welding sessions at higher amperages.
The CK20 is a lightweight, 250-amp rated torch, while the CK18 is a heavy-duty torch with a 350-amp rating.
|CK20 Water Cooled TIG Torch Kit, 250A, 12.5',...
|See Latest Price
|CK18 Water Cooled TIG Torch Kit, 350A, 12.5',...
|See Latest Price
Weldcraft, by Miller Electric, is another trusted name in the welding world. They offer a range of reliable, user-friendly TIG torches.
A-150 (WP-17) & A-200 (WP-200) Air-Cooled Torches
The WP-17 and WP-200 models from Weldcraft are among their most popular options, given most people don’t need more than 200amp rated torch.
The WP-17 is a compact medium-duty torch and is great for tight spaces. It’s rated up to 150amps and is an all-arounder that you can use for a wide variety of projects which is great for most people.
The WP-200 is those that need the extra power and is more of a heavy-duty torch.
W-250 (WP-20) Water-Cooled Torches
And if you prefer water-cooled torches, you can look at the WP-20.
The WP-20 is the most popular water-cooled option and has a 250-amp rating. It’s a small but powerful torch that will meet the requirements for most people.
Lincoln Electric is known for durable, high-performance welding equipment.
PTA-9 and PTA-17 Air-Cooled Torches
For air-cooled options, Lincoln Electric provides the PTA-9 and PTA-17 models.
The PTA-9, like other air-cooled options, is compact and works well in tight spaces. The PTA-17 is another versatile, all-purpose option to consider. You’ve probably noticed that these torches share a lot of similarities — and they do.
|Lincoln Electric PTA-9 Ready to Weld TIG Torch -...
|See Latest Price
|Lincoln Electric PTA-17 TIG Torch - for Air-Cooled...
|See Latest Price
PTW-18 and PTW-20 Water-Cooled Torches
The PTW-18 and PTW-20 are water-cooled TIG torches, designed for heavy-duty welding applications.
The PTW-18 features a 350-amp rating, while the PTW-20 is rated at 250 amps.
|Lincoln Electric PTW-18 TIG Torch - for...
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|Lincoln Electric PTW-20 - Rigid Head - 12.5 ft -...
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With the brands I’ve mentioned, you can find a TIG torch that matches your budget and welding needs.
Conclusion: Making the Right TIG Torch Choice
So, as you can see, selecting the perfect TIG torch for your welding projects involves considering multiple things. From making sure the Torch is compatible with your welder to finding the right torch size, amperage ratings, and duty cycles.
Let’s not forget evaluating balance performance, comfort, and budget to make the best choice for your specific needs.
Remember, investing in a high-quality TIG torch from a trusted brand will pay off in the long run. While it might be tempting to go for a cheaper option, that’s often not the best way to go.
View this purchase as an investment. An investment that will lead to better welding results and a more enjoyable welding experience.