The TIG Welder Foot Pedal Explained

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If you’re new to TIG welding, then you may not know everything you’ll need to know about one of the essential parts of your TIG welder, the TIG welder foot pedal. Many newbies to the world of TIG welding don’t initially understand the importance of the foot pedal or how to use the foot pedal during TIG welding. However, learning how to use the foot pedal correctly can not only make you become a better welder; it can also increase your productivity and lead to better welding business profits.

So, what’s the purpose of the TIG welder foot pedal? While TIG welding, many people use foot pedals to control the amperage while working. People also typically find that by using the foot pedal when TIG welding, they have more control, better accuracy, and improved weld quality.

Since there isn’t a lot of information available on the Internet today covering the importance of the foot pedal when TIG welding, we created this article to help you out, below we’ll cover how foot controls can bring up your productivity and quality when welding, how to use the pulse technique with your foot pedal, and when to use it in welding, and how to TIG weld without a foot pedal using the lift start process.

TIG Welding and Foot Controls

If you are new to TIG welding and you are wondering why so many welders use foot pedals and foot controls that seem like a nuisance to learn, then you are in for a surprise. Determining the foot controls when you TIG weld will benefit your welding performance greatly. That’s because the foot pedal on your TIG welder gives you a lot of accuracy and power over your welding process.

If you’re looking for the best type of accuracy and control around, then you might want to think about purchasing a TIG welder with wireless foot controls or installing the wireless foot controls into your TIG welder yourself. That’s because wireless foot controls make it much more comfortable to TIG weld, meaning you’ll boost your efficiency and also demonstrate better accuracy and power while you weld. By keeping so many wires and cords away from the floor, you have more room to operate your foot pedal with more accuracy, as well.

If you’re new to TIG welding, then you may not know how important it is for you to find your comfort level. The comfort level of the welder is a crucial part of success when it comes to TIG welding. The easier it is for you to maneuver the metal and weld it, the faster you’ll perform while you also produce better quality welds. 

Before the introduction of wireless welding machines, most TIG welders felt very limited by the cords on their devices. The cables and leads to any TIG welding machine can make the process feel more cumbersome, making it more difficult for you to be as productive or to produce excellent welds. However, technology is now providing us with the option of wireless foot controls, which will make it much easier for you to move as you weld.

Foot Pedals and Amperage

Now that you understand the importance of trying to obtain wireless foot controls on your TIG welding machine, we’ll cover more about what the foot pedal can do for you, how foot pedals get damaged, and why you might want a wireless TIG welding machine.

So, why do we have foot pedals on TIG welding machines, anyway? The purpose of foot pedals on TIG welding machines is to give the welder the opportunity to control amperage as he or she welds. While amperage control is hugely important to your productivity level, the way TIG welding machines were designed in the past restricted the use of the foot pedal. That’s because, in the past, foot pedals required several cords for use, making it difficult for the welder to have as much freedom of movement.

Foot Pedal Cords: Additional Issues

Another part of the problem with corded foot pedals is how much clutter they can create around the workspace while you are TIG welding. Also, because of the way the cords are generally used, they become damaged after time, and you’ll need to repair them. Unfortunately, when a corded foot pedal stops working in TIG welding, it can be challenging to figure out precisely what’s wrong with it.

More recently, foot control cords have been designed to be much thinner. The purpose of this concept was to bring down the amount of clutter around the welder. However, these smaller cords also became much easier to damage while you are in the process of welding. Since these thinner cords aren’t so durable, you can wind up damaging your wires on edges, tables, or even your workpiece.

When you think about it, you’ll realize it can be effortless to damage a cord while TIG welding by simply dragging it over an edge that’s too sharp. Or your wires can be damaged when a heavy work table winds up rolling over the cord. Also, since you’re dealing with a lot of heat while you weld, contact and exposure to the high heat can also damage your foot pedal cords.

If you wind up damaging a foot control cord, you’ll end up with several problems. If the foot control cord becomes damaged, you might wind up losing your connection completely, meaning you can no longer control your welding machine with your foot pedal. When that issue happens, you’ll wind up with costly repairs and expensive downtime away from your job. Sometimes, this type of damage winds up being very expensive and requires you to replace the entire unit. Regardless, the price of cord repair costs, as well as replacements, can wind up costing you a good deal of money over time.

Probably the most significant problem with foot pedal cords on a TIG welder is that the more wires you need to use, the greater the amount of clutter you’ll be dealing with in your workspace while you try to finish your project. If you don’t have the space you need to get the job done, you’ll probably wind up tangling your cords more easily.

So, it might be worth it to purchase a wireless TIG welder foot pedal because you’ll experience fewer problems, won’t have to worry about cords tangling and wearing down. Since you won’t need to worry about untangling wires, you’ll have more time to weld, so your productivity will be increased.

Wireless Solutions

One optional resolution you have for the foot pedal cord problem is to purchase a wireless foot pedal. While wireless foot pedals on TIG welding machines do typically cost more, if you factor in how much it would cost you over time to maintain and replace those cords, you’ll notice that you’ll probably wind up saving money in the long run if you can afford to opt for a wireless TIG welding machine instead.

With a wireless foot pedal, you’ll have a transmitter in the base of the foot pedal’s control that interacts with the receiver on the pedal. Much like traditional foot pedals, wireless foot pedals are used to control the amount of amperage you’ll have as you weld. You’ll discover that wireless foot pedals work just like traditional foot pedals, so you won’t need to learn anything new if you want to get a wireless foot pedal instead. The significant difference between these two types of foot pedals is that the wireless foot pedal lacks cords.

Benefits of Wireless Foot Pedals

Wireless foot pedals offer us several benefits, including:

  • Less downtime, meaning less money lost since you don’t need to worry about cords breaking.
  • You’ll wind up saving time because you won’t need to worry about untangling cords each time you weld. Instead, that time can be re-invested into more welding projects, increasing your productivity level. 
  • You’ll have far less clutter in your workspace, which means you’ll likely experience fewer accidents and stay a lot safer this way. 
  • Also, getting rid of the control cord means you’ll feel more comfortable when you weld because you won’t need to use odd positioning techniques because of a cord’s length. 

Limitations of Wireless Foot Pedals

As with any technological improvement we see on the market today, wireless foot pedals have their advantages, but they also have their limitations. We’ll cover some of the limitations of wireless foot pedals below.

  • If you have to weld in a small metal enclosure, like the hull of a ship, you might discover the wireless signal doesn’t transmit well if there isn’t enough room for the wireless signal to easily travel through. 
  • You’ll still be limited to where you can set-up your welder because of the way wireless technology works. You’ll have to keep the spot of the weld in the line of sight from your power source when you use wireless foot pedals. So that means wireless foot controls only work well when they are a certain distance from their power source. 

While you will have some limitations when it comes to using a wireless TIG welder foot pedal, you can overcome these issues and still get a lot of control over your weld. For instance, you can do things like use a 14-pin control cord extension. With a 14-pin control cord extension, you’ll be able to increase the wireless receiver’s reach while still giving yourself the accuracy you’ll want when you weld.

Selecting a Wireless Foot Pedal

When deciding on the type of wireless TIG welder foot pedal you want, you’ll need to take a look at a few additional factors. Some brands use standard batteries on their remote foot pedals to make things easier. If you want a wireless foot pedal that uses standard batteries, then keep an eye out for them. The beautiful thing about remote foot pedals that use standard batteries is that the cost of conventional batteries is cheap, so you won’t wind up having to spend a lot of money on your energy source.

Another option you’ll have when it comes to wireless foot controls is picking a wireless foot pedal that can prevent signal interference so that you can pair it more easily with the machine. Usually, the foot control you’ll want will stay attached to the same unit until you move it away to pair it with something else. Having this automatic capability means you’ll be able to match your foot pedal with your machine easily.

Now that you understand the advantages and disadvantages of using a wireless foot pedal for your TIG welder, we’ll move onto discuss how you can pulse with your foot pedal to improve the quality of your welds.

Pulsing with the Foot Pedal

As we already mentioned above, when you are TIG welding, you generally use the foot pedal to control the amperage output after you’ve adjusted the maximum amperage you’ll want on your welder. While you weld, you’ll put your foot on the pedal and keep the push with your foot consistent because you want a steady stream of amperage. You’ll need to adjust your foot ever so often to add more heat or reduce it. Remember, how far down the pedal is pressed influences the output of your TIG torch.

Pulse welding works similarly. You’ll use the foot pedal just like you always have. However, you’re using a pulsed waveform as the output from the TIG torch. You are no longer using a steady amperage. Instead, you are using pulses. Still, like when you use constant amperage, when you are pulsing, you can even make the same modifications to your foot pedal and add more heat, or take the heat down a level or two as you see fit.

You can also use pulse welding with AC welding, which works best if you are welding aluminum.

Using Pulse Settings

As you get experience using pulse settings, you’ll probably come up with your personal preferences about the pulse settings you like to use. However, for now, let’s assume you are a newbie. If you are starting, we recommend using a pulse frequency that is about 1.2 Hz to 2.0 Hz with a background amperage of 35% and a duty of 35%. Typically, you’ll want to figure out the amperage you usually use when you aren’t pulsing on your welder. Then, you double it with the above settings in mind.

To help you better understand the pulse settings you’ll want to use with your foot pedal, we’ll break it down in more detail below.

  • If you aren’t sure what 1 Hz means while welding, it refers to a single pulse per second, continuing with this idea, 2 Hz means two pulses per second. So, a 1 Hz pulse needs a full second to finish. On the other hand, a 2Hz pulse needs 0.5 seconds to finish, breaking down to two pulses each second. So, you are using the Hz setting to figure out how fast you want the pulses to work.
  • If you’ve never heard the term “background amperage percentage,” it refers to the lower part of the waveform. When you set-up your waveform, it will move from its high to low settings to create the pulse.
  • On the other hand, a duty cycle percentage means the amount of time the waveform spends being “high” versus being “low.” If you use a higher duty cycle, then the amperage will remain higher for longer. That will result in more heat going into the material being welded. So, if you need more heat when welding, you’ll want a higher duty cycle.  

Determining Amperage

Now that we’ve talked about how to address your waveform profile above, you’ll then need to move on and figure out the amperage you’ll need to use on your welder. When you aren’t pulsing with your foot pedal and instead are using a steady amperage, you’ll need to follow one simple rule.

  • If you are welding mild steel or aluminum, then you want to know, in thousandths, the thickness of the material you are using.
  • Once you know that, you’ll also use that number as the number of amps you’ll need when making a butt joint.
  • Take the number of amps you’ll need when making a butt joint, and multiply that number by 1.3. That will tell you the number of amps you need to do a corner fillet weld. So, for instance, if you are using steel that is 1/8″ thick, or 0.125″, you’ll want to begin at 12 amps.
  • If you’re doing a corner fillet weld, then you take 125 and multiply it by 1.3, which gives you 163 amps.
  • However, if you are welding stainless steel, you’ll use your initial thickness number, multiply by 0.7, and then use that. Keep in mind that welding stainless steel doesn’t require you to use as much heat compared to welding some other medals.

Now, for all of the formulas we used above, we were assuming you’d need a consistent level of 100% amperage, which means no pulsing. However, as you start adding in the pulsing, you’ll notice you’ll be using less amperage with the metal.

For instance, let’s say you set your background amperage to about 0. Then, you added a 50% duty cycle, meaning the total amps going into the metal will be halved when you pulse versus when you don’t pulse. So, each time you pulse and then return to consistent amperage, you’ll have to double the amount of amperage you are getting on the welder to balance the whole thing out.

On the other hand, if you had a higher background amperage of about 50% and you still had a 50% duty cycle, then you’d be using 75% of the amount of heat when pulsing versus without. So, you’d need to up your amps by 25% to even things out here.

Amperage Calculations

Unfortunately, working with amperage calculations isn’t always the most natural thing. We recommend estimating on the high end when you first start and begin welding with your foot pedal at around 75% of the throttle. Starting at this level gives you some space to move around in as you figure out the amount of heat you’ll need. If you need more heat, remember you’ll only be putting about half the heat into your workpiece, so you’ll need to make up for that by doubling the amperage on your welder and keeping the foot pedal at 75% throttle.

If you need to modify the Hz setting, it won’t affect the amperage setting you already have going on your welder. Also, if you wind up using a slow pulse setting, like 0.5 Hz, then you might need to take the amps down a bit. On the other hand, 1 Hz and more won’t affect the amperage that you are using as much.

Why Use a Pulse?

So, what’s the purpose of welding with a pulse, anyway? Welding with a pulse and using your foot pedal to control that pulse offers you several benefits, including the following.

  • You’ll achieve a similar weld penetration while using a lower amount of power and less heat. You’ll realize that using less heat will give you an advantage pretty quickly, because the more heat you use, the more likely it is for your material to warp while you make it through the welding process. If you weld sheet metal often, then this will be the case more often than not for you.
  • You’ll need to use a working duty cycle rating and figure out what you need based on the amperage used and the time the welder needs to cool off so that you can weld again. If you use less power and less heat when you weld, then you won’t need to wait as long for your machine to cool off again. So, that means you can boost your productivity substantially.
  • Using pulse means you’ll make a uniform weld quickly.
  • Using pulse when you weld means you’ll create more aesthetically appealing projects that look like you’ve created the perfect weld.
  • Also, you can use the pulse setting when you weld to go back over earlier welding projects you feel need to be corrected.

Now that you understand the advantages of using a TIG welder’s foot pedal, we’ll cover some alternatives to using the foot pedal, which means talking about the lift start function offered by some welding machines.


Alternatives to the Foot Pedal: Lift Start

Using a TIG welder without a foot pedal or high frequency is known as “lift start.” Different types of TIG welders have different ways to make the arc, which typically includes the foot pedal, the welding torch, a lift start, and a high-frequency start. With a high-frequency start, you can get very close to your workpiece using the torch and then push your button or foot pedal down. After that, the arc will start, and you’ll be able to weld.

On the other hand, with a lift start, you aren’t using a pedal or any high frequency. It doesn’t matter how many times you try to push the button; you won’t see the arc jump. Instead, you’ll need to push the button and touch the metal to get the arc going. Once you pull back the torch, you’ll see the welder send its power out to start the arc. Then, the arc is formed, and you’ll be able to weld. After you’ve finished, you’ll need to hit the button again and turn the welding arc off.

Why Use Lift and Not High Frequency?

Using high frequency on a welder does have a few disadvantages. High frequency can interfere with electronics like televisions and computers, but even things as necessary as pacemakers. So, if you have any electronics around that have to work around the clock, using high frequency may not be your best bet.

Lift Start Steps

Below we’ve included the steps on how to make a lift start so that you can use this process in the future.

  • When using a lift start, you’ll first click on the button and realize nothing is happening.
  • If that’s the case, you then hold the button, touch the tungsten to the metal quickly and then pull it back to the point you want to be at when you weld.
  • You’ll then have the arc, and you can weld.
  • After you are done welding, you’ll need to touch the button to stop the arc.

If you can use high frequency and the foot pedal, or the lift start, you’ll wind up with the same quality and appearance with your weld.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve covered the importance of the TIG welder foot pedal, why you should consider a wireless foot pedal, how to pulse, and how to use the pedal, you should have an excellent understanding of TIG foot pedals and how important they are to the overall welding process. The foot pedal on a TIG welder allows you to have better control and accuracy over your welds. That means with a high-quality foot pedal, you can increase your productivity and create more appealing welding projects. 

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