GTAW Process: Torch Selection

Almost all TIG welding units come with a base model torch or you must purchase a torch package at the time of purchase to suit your needs. For the beginner, the base torch package may work just fine, however, many people find that no one torch suits all their welding needs. The small shop will usually have a need for at least two different torches for any TIG unit.

Usually the TIG torch that is included as part of the standard package will not hold up to the full amp and duty cycle capability of the welder. Everlast takes a different approach with supplying a torch capable of the full maximum amps of the machine. However, this presents a problem for some because of the torch size required to handle the maximum amps, it is more difficult to to maneuver. Its hard to know exactly which torch will be best for all customers because of all the different variables that the customer may face. It’s up to the customer to decide which is ultimately best. The following information can be used to help with new torch selection.

1) Decide what amps you will need. This can be done by deciding what metal and what thickness will be typically welded. Use the 1 amp for every .001” as a general scale rule to decide the maximum amp of the torch. For example 1/8” (.125) would require about 125 amps. This is may actually put the amps required on the high side, but it’s a safe number.

2) Take a look around the shop for any other torches…Selecting one that uses consumables already in stock may be an important factor.

3) Decide if flexibility is key. A flex neck torch may be in order. Flexible necks can reach into tight spots and make things more comfortable while welding.

4) Consider the cost. Torches range in price. Some high end torches can exceed 200-300 dollars.

5) Decide if you will need a torch/remote switch included on the torch or if you want amp control built into the handle. A torch switch makes use of the panel programming on the welder. If a foot pedal is used exclusively this is not a consideration. But there are times in out of position welds that may require the flexibility of having a remote switch or amp control at finger’s reach.

6) If welding over 200 amps, a watercooled torch and water cooler will be necessary to keep the torch from melting and hand temperature tolerable. Even if welding is sustained over 120 amps, a watercooler may

7) While there are newer series of TIG torches, there are 5 basic sizes for most commercial welding: 9, 20, 17,26, and 18. These torches may have some prefix such as “WP” or “SR” but the consumables and basic torch design is usually the same for the same series torches. An F after the torch number indicates a flexible neck. A V indicates a gas valve for scratch start tig rigs. Here is a brief summary of each torch series:

  • A) 9, air cooled with maximum amps of 125 and duty cycle ranging from 60-100%. Uses same consumables as the 20. Standard whip design with bare cable running inside the argon hose. The smallest typical torch with the lightest feel.
  • B) 20, watercooled with a maximum amps of 250 and duty cycle ranging from 60-100%. Uses same consumables as 9 series. The smallest water cooled torch for general use.
  • C) 17, air cooled with maximum amps of 150 and duty cycle ranging from 60-100%.Usually sold with standard whip design, though it is available with a separate gas and power line. A good medium sized torch though not the size of the 26, even though it uses the same consumables as the 26 series and 18 series.
  • D) 26, air cooled with maximum amps of 200 and duty cycle ranging from 35-100%. Usually sold with a separate, two piece gas/cable design. A fairly large torch with nearly the size and bulk of the 18. It shares the same cons as the 17 and 18.
  • E) 18, water cooled with maximum amps of 300-350 and duty cycle ranging from 60-100%. The largest torch commonly used that most welders will own. There are larger sizes of course, up to 600 amps, but these are in a whole different class.