TIG Welding Polarity: The 1 Chart You’ll Rely On For Every Project

Getting your TIG welding setup right is the first step toward a great welding experience. If you’re still looking for a good rig, then the best TIG welder reviews is a great place to get started.

If you’re ready to get to work, then the information below will help you get the most use possible out of your new equipment.

Setting Up Your Equipment

Your TIG welder requires a specific setup to maximize its productivity. The owner’s manual is the best place to find the instructions for your make and model. If you don’t have that information available, then here is a basic diagram to follow for gas-cooled torches.

If your TIG welder is a water-cooled torch, then here is a basic diagram for you to follow as well.

You have three choices of welding current when TIG welding: DC straight polarity, DC reverse polarity, and AC with high-frequency stabilization. Each option has its own advantages, disadvantages, and applications.

Once you have figured out that part of the setup, you’re ready to determine your shield gas flows, cup selection, and current settings. The chart below will help you determine which generic options are appropriate for your current setup and the work which requires completion.

Electrode Tip Shapes and Current Ranges for TIG Welding

You’ll find that ceriated, lanthanated, and thoriated tungsten electrodes aren’t going to ball as well as zirconiated or pure tungsten electrodes. That’s why the former is typically used for DCSP welding. They maintain a ground tip shape better than the pure electrodes.

On the other hand, lanthanated and thoriated electrodes like to spit when using AC with your TIG welder. Regardless of what your tip geometry happens to be from your tungsten grinding, you must maintain configuration consistency to drive good results. Changing your geometry will change your bead width, the penetration depth, and the overall quality of your work.

Electrode changes will also alter the characteristics of the arc with which you’ll be working.

The guide below will give you an idea of how to prepare your electrode tip for a range of sizes, along with suggested current ranges to use.

How you position your rod and torch are also important to the overall welding experience with your new TIG welder. The torch should be held somewhere between 60 to 75 degrees from the metal surface being worked, which means holding it 15 to 30 degrees from vertical.

The rod should be in the shielding gas during the welding process.

How to Select the Correct Torch Nozzle

You’ll find that most nozzles used for TIG welding are manufactured from ceramic, lava, or alumina, which are white and pink respectively. They are made in several different lengths, including very short and extra-long designs.

For TIG welding, alumina nozzles are the most common. The density of the oxide used to create the nozzle will determine the overall quality of the product that is made. Because they offer better impact resistance than the other options, it is a good investment to choose this type over the others available.

The one exception to this rule is if you are dealing with high reflective heat levels. In that situation, your TIG welding improves with a lava nozzle instead. Excessive heat causes alumina nozzles to expand, which is not an issue with the lava cups.

The exit diameter of the nozzle is expressed in its diameter using 1.6mm increments. If you have a number 6 nozzle, then the diameter is 3/8-inch.

TIG Welding Electrode Polarity Chart

Understanding polarity will help you know what electrical current is being created by your equipment and run through your electrode. You must select the correct electrode for the polarity being used to create a weld that is strong.

As stated before, DC offers “straight” and “reverse” options. It would be more accurate to call them “electrode negative” and “electrode positive” respectively.

Polarity results from the fact that electrical currents offer positive and negative poles. Direct Current flows in one direction with a constant polarity – that’s why there are two options when TIG welding for DC, but there is only one option for AC.

Alternating current flows in one direction half of the time, then the other direction for the remainder. With a 60-hertz current, AC will change its polarity 120 times per second.

To have proper penetration, the correct polarity must be used with any metallic electrode. Using the incorrect polarity will create a poor bead, added spatter, minimal penetration, and you’ll have trouble trying to control the arc. Rapid burnout of the electrode and overheating are common issues you’ll see with an incorrect polarity too.

Many of the best TIG welder brands are clearly marked as to what the terminals are or how they should be set. You may have a switch available which allows you to change the polarity. Older machines require you to swap out your cable terminals.

How to Test Your Polarity

You can determine your polarity by using either a carbon or metallic electrode.

For the carbon electrode, you’ll need to clean the base metal, then position it so that it is flat. Then shape the points of two carbon electrodes with a gradual taper which runs about 3 inches from the arc tip. Your electrodes must be identical.

Set your amerate at 135 to 150, adjust to either polarity, then strike an arc that you hold for a short time. Change the arc length from short to long as this will allow you to see the arc action.

If the polarity is negative, then your arc will be stable. You’ll find that it is easy to maintain, conical in shape, and uniform. Should the polarity be positive, the arc will be difficult to maintain, leaving carbon deposits on the base metal.

Now change the polarity. Strick an arc with the other electrode for a similar length of time, observing the arc action once again.

The electrode used with negative polarity will burn off evenly, while the other will quickly burn off the tip to become blunt.

If you have a metallic E6010 electrode, then you can test the polarity as well by cleaning your base metal, then positioning it so that it is flat.

Set your amperage at 130 to 145, assuming that the electrode is 5/32.

Adjust to either polarity, then strike an arc. Hold your normal arc length and standard angle to run a bead. As you’re working, listen to the sound of the arc.

When you are working with the correct polarity, there is a crackling sound which can be heard. The incorrect polarity will create a sound that is similar to popping and will be irregular, like when you cook a bag of microwave popcorn.

Adjust to the other polarity, then run another bead. The sounds should be different. If they seem very similar to you, then clean the two beads and examine them. You’ll find that the bead you ran on the incorrect polarity will have numerous poor bead characteristics.

It may require several attempts to get right. At the end of the day, the practice will help you be able to spot the correct TIG polarity right away, allowing you to make sure your work is always up to the best possible standard.


Images in this content is from documentation provided by CK Worldwide. For more than 50 years, CK Worldwide has produced high-quality TIG torches and accessories as a family-owned company which is based in Auburn, WA/