GTAW Welding: Touching on the basics

Explore the basic theory of GTAW, basic welding and setup tips.

Another difference in the two gases is their cleaning ability. Both helium and argon allow for good cleaning action when using DC. However, when using AC, argon provides for better cleaning action. Argon also provides better arc stability than helium when using AC.

Proper Gas Selection

You want to make sure to use the right gas with GTAW. Usually, pure argon is used, although thicker welding may require an argon/helium or other specialty mix. If you use the wrong gas mixture, such as a 75 percent argon/25 percent CO2 that is common for GMAW, the tungsten electrode will quickly be consumed or deposited in the weld puddle.

Gas Flow Rate

Setting a proper gas flow rate is another important element to successful GTAW. Contrary to what may seem to be common sense, more isn’t better. If you are welding in a flat position, a flow rate of about 15 to 20 cubic feet per hour (CFH) is typically adequate. For overhead welding, you can start at about 20 CFH and increase the flow by small adjustments of about 5 CFH if necessary.

So why is too high a flow rate a bad thing? Well, if the gas flows out of the torch at too high a velocity, it ends up bouncing off the surface being welded and starts a swirling motion parallel to the torch cup called a venturi. This venturi effect will suck air into the gas flow, creating an impure weld atmosphere. This results in pinholes in the weld.


The GTAW torch can either be air cooled or water cooled. If most of the welding you do is at 200 amps or less, an air-cooled torch is adequate. If welding above 200 amps, a water-cooled torch should be considered.

Controls are also offered in either foot pedal control or torch control. Foot pedal control tends to be more popular where work is done in an area that affords mobility. A fingertip control can be beneficial when working in an awkward position or where less mobility is available.


Many different electrode types are available including thoriated, lanthaniated, ceriated, and pure tungsten. When choosing an electrode, follow manufacturers’ recommendations and choose the one that is best for you. Some characteristics to consider in an electrode are good ignition and re-ignition properties, constant arc, long lifetime, and high current-loading capacity.

As a safety note, 2 percent (thoriated) tungsten contains thoria, a radioactive element. When grinding on these electrodes, it is advisable to use some sort of collection device in the form of a vacuum or a liquid bath so that the grinding dust does not become airborne.

Good Welding Practices

You want to get in as comfortable a position as possible. Brace your arm to allow for steady torch movement. Many GTAW welders hold the torch like a pencil to afford the best control.

You want to hold the torch at the proper angle. If the torch is perpendicular to the work piece, it will be difficult to view the welding process. The angle of the torch relative to perpendicular should be about 15 to 20 degrees. If this angle is exceeded too much, it can lead to less penetration, poor shielding gas coverage, and general arc instability.

In regards to travel direction, the torch should be pushed away from (ahead of) the weld puddle. This ensures proper gas coverage of the weld puddle and offers the welder a good view of the weld puddle.

Get comfortable with your welding equipment. Practice welding on scrap metal. This is a good way to become familiar with the welding equipment, allowing for more confidence when doing the actual welding.

This article touched on some basics associated with GTAW. For more information, or to inquire about training opportunities available, contact the equipment manufacturer.

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