Instructables

Perfectly sharpen tungsten for TIG welding!

Picture of Perfectly sharpen tungsten for TIG welding!
Anyone who has TIG welded has experienced contaminating the tungsten.  Whether you dipped the hot tungsten into the molten weld puddle, or touched the filler rod to the tungsten, you're guaranteed a trip to the grinder to clean up that electrode!  Today, I will show you a fast and easy way to clean up and sharpen your electrode, so you can get back under the hood and lay those beads!  I do all my TIG welding at TechShop in Menlo Park, CA.  They have a great facility full of tools, and knowledgeable instructors to teach you how to use the machines and equipment! 

Tools required:

Bench grinder
Hand drill (preferably cordless)
Belt sander (optional)
 
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Step 1: Chucking up the tungsten in your hand drill

Picture of Chucking up the tungsten in your hand drill
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Here are some examples of some pretty contaminated tungsten.  What you wanna do now is chuck the tungsten up in the hand drill just as you would a drill bit. 

Step 2: Grinding the tungsten

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Remember, only grind tungsten on a bench grinder that is dedicated to tungsten.  If you grind your electrode on a wheel that is shared by steel, you run the risk of embedding contaminants in the tungsten.  Now, just as you would normally grind your tungsten (always leaving the grains from grinding, lengthwise) and making the length of the pointed cone about 2x the diameter of the electrode.  Remember to nip the tip off the pointed cone so it doesn't blow off into the weld pool and further contaminate your welds.  On a side note, you can further polish up the tungsten on a belt sander (also dedicated to tungsten) to get some of the grains out.  This isn't totally necessary, unless you're maybe building a spaceship...
Burnt Metal (author) 1 year ago
If the tungsten was cut with dikes or any type of snips, it will make tiny fractures that will shatter with the vibrations from grinding. Use a clean cut off wheel to cut off the contaminated tip
nthomas121 year ago
Cool idea, just trying out TIG for the first time in about 15 years, just got the welder at school up and running again. Wondering though, today I took the Tungsten out to sharpen it, and it shattered on me!!! Any advice as to why this happened? Thanks,
Noah
AR10NZ2 years ago
Hi All :
Have not switched on my TIG since 2005, hope it still works, as I may use it soon. Not sure of all current "good TIG welding practices", as I am out of it, & mostly retired. For stainless, I have allways preferred a long taper on the thoriated tungsten, & lots of sharp ones in stock, for good controll of the arc.
A few years ago, I found out that the thoriated tungstens are radioactive, and the grindings are carcinogenic. In NZ, at least, there is a limit of how many of these can be stored at 1 location.
Have not done much TIG welding of Ali, but was taught to use a zirconated tungsten, started on thick copper, forming a "ball" on the tip.
Have a bit of thin wall titanium tube in hand, 19 mm O/D, 0.019 " wall, and have welded some. Suppressors are not regulated, here in NZ, and I have been involved with the use, and manufacture for many years.
Cheers.
pfred22 years ago
When you grind a TIG electrode don't run the wheel into the rod, run it backwards, or you'll embed impurities into the electrode. Also, don't use that wheel for anything but grinding electrodes. Again, to minimize impurities.

When you are done sharpening your cone should be three times longer than it is wide, and score marks in it should be radial, not spiraling.

Other than that you're doing a good job though :)
Burnt Metal (author)  pfred22 years ago
pfred2,

I've never seen anyone grind an electrode backwards.
I stated that a dedicated grinding wheel be used.
I'm pretty sure AWS spec is 2x diameter, at least that's what it was when I was trained by an AWS CWI (stands for American Welding Society Certified Welding Instructor).
The tooling marks are left lengthwise, spiraling isn't an issue unless you spin the drill too fast, so I'll give you that one ; )

-BM
I got all of my information with my Miller welder. Maybe Miller doesn't know what they're talking about though. Actually I'm pretty sure that they do.
TIGguy pfred22 years ago
Miller does know their buisiness. And doing it this way is ok most times. But, if your doing anything that requires real control or a perfectly pure tungsten, there are better ways. Grind lines should be straight, running through the grind to the tip. And the poster above is very correct about grinding so that the sparks fly off the tip instead off back towards you. If you grind so that the sparks are going back towards your tungsten then you are contaminating it. Ive been welding for 20 years, most of that TIG welding. I also prefer my tip to be about 3 times longer than the width, I get better heat control on fine sheetmatal this way. Its not wrong, its a personal preference that doesnt hurt a thing. I only grind at 2X width when I am going to do aluminum. By the way lol, I can definately see spiraling grooves on those tungsten...
pfred2 TIGguy2 years ago
Yeah I come to this site for entertainment. More fun, and less sense than a barrel of monkeys!
TIGguy pfred22 years ago
Lmao, Ive learned some cool stuff on here. I hope it didnt bother anyone that I included my 2 cents. I just hate "one size fits all" answers especially in welding. I had welding instructors who said if your welding this, it has to be this voltade, this travel speed and so on. After welding for an aircraft company and doing nuclear welding you realise everyone welds different and thre are very few rules set in stone. Its all about weld purity and penetration.
pfred2 TIGguy2 years ago
This thread has turned into a classic. The only difference being someone else agreeing with me. That is rare. Thanks for the support!

There's always three ways to do everything, the right way, the wrong way, and the Navy way!
TIGguy pfred22 years ago
Agreed, with spiraling grind lines you dont get the fine heat control you need especially for fine sheetmetal.