There are multiple ways to taper the end of tungsten electrodes for your welding application. In this article, we will show you the different ways to sharpen tungsten electrodes and the best tools for the job. We will also discuss the best type of tungsten grinder for the type of job you are working on.
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Tungsten grinding: Methods and tools for the job
Unorthodox ways of tapering your electrode
If you have no other tools, you can actually use a cutting torch to sharpen your electrode. To do it, you need to get the electrode red hot using the torch. After that, you can squeeze the lever and move the flame up and down the tip of the electrode. The flame should taper the end of the tungsten.
This method is only used in construction jobs where the welders already have a torch ready. However, it is not advised to use this method for home applications because it uses up a lot of fuel for such a simple task. The finished product also has a charred color to it.
Crude grinding solutions
There are multiple types of tungsten grinders. For example, you can just use normal grinding tools like a rotating rock grinder. As the rock rotates, you just let the tip of your tungsten rod touch it. You should control the position of the rod to the grinder to get the ideal grind angle.
You can also use a regular belt sander if you already have one at home. Just like with the rock grinder, you will be able to control the desired taper by controlling the angle of the rod to the belt sander.
When using these crude ways of grinding, you will need to attach the tungsten rod to a drill so that you will get a uniform grinding at all sides of the electrode.
You can use any type of grinding tool to sharpen your tungsten. However, you need to choose the grinding material properly. If you use the grinder for different types of materials, the residue in the grinder from past jobs may become embedded on the tungsten. If you are in the semiconductor or aerospace industry then, these methods of grinding tungsten should not be used.
Chemical sharpening solutions
You will also find chemical solutions to sharpening your tungsten electrode. Chemical tungsten sharpeners work with all types of tungsten electrodes. All you have to do is to heat the electrode up and dip it in the powdered chemical.
To heat the electrode up, you can use a propane torch or just grind it against a piece of metal. Once the electrode is red hot, you just need to dip the heated end to the powder. By dipping it in and out of the chemical, the end of the electrode will begin to taper. You can get a long taper by dipping a longer tip of the electrode. The length that you dip will taper.
When using this method, expect some fumes to come out as you dip the electrode into the chemical. It is best to work in an open space as you do this to minimize inhalation of the said fumes. You will also want to scrub the finished product with a rough sponge to remove the chemical residue.
This type of tungsten sharpener works and it is cheaper than buying electrode sharpening tools. However, the chemical used is consumable. That means that you will need to keep buying the stuff if you need more of it in the future. If you constantly need to sharpen tungsten, you will want something that will last.
Using diamond wheel heads
Diamond wheels are also effective for this type of task. You can create a makeshift tungsten grinder by attaching a diamond wheel head to the tip of a regular drill and use it to sharpen your tungsten.
You can get various types of diamond grinding wheels for whatever tool you have at home. You will still need to attach the tungsten electrode to a drill to use this method. Getting a new diamond wheel for your drill or cutting wheel will cost you less than $10. You can use these new wheels exclusively for grinding electrodes to minimize the amount of impurities embedded in the electrode.
Just like with the other makeshift methods discussed above, you will need a steady hand to make this work. You should also expect dust to be all over the place.
Types available tungsten sharpeners
You need to be experienced in using wheel grinders to be able to use them to sharpen your electrodes. While the methods suggested above can be done easily, most beginner welders will not be confident enough to do it.
For most beginners, it can be tricky to get the right angle you want when sharpening tungsten by hand. You need a steady hand to get the right angle. Any mistake will affect the consistency of their weld.
For professional welders, only the ones with years of experience actually grind their electrodes by hand. The rest of us need to use electronic grinders to ensure welding quality.
If you are a beginner at this, it is best to use the best practices when grinding your tungsten electrodes. You should use the commercially available tungsten grinders from hardware shops or online stores. The prices of these tools vary depending on the brand and the features they offer.
Here are some of the types of tungsten grinders available in the market.
Hand-held Electrode Grinder
Most of casual users prefer to use hand-held grinders. This grinding tool is perfect for users who are just starting to weld. Some beginners may not have the steady hand to use the methods described above. This tool allows them to get a consistently good angle for their electrodes. It minimizes wastage and it is safer to use because the grinding happens in an enclosed system.
To use handheld grinders, you only need to insert the electrode into the machine and turn the grinder on. You may want to practice using it so that you will know how to manipulate the angles properly. For some brands, you just need to hold the tungsten steadily. Others may require you to turn the electrode as you sharpen them.
This type of sharpener usually has a diamond-grinding wheel. Check if the tool has a dust collector. If it does not, you may want to check where the dust comes out. If you work away from your home, you could also bring this type of tool with you. They are also cheaper compared to benchtop grinders.
Before you buy any brand of this type of tool, you should first check the replacement diamond wheels on the market. You need to make sure that there are available replacements in the market because there will come a time when you will need to buy them. You should avoid buying phased out models for this type of tool. They may come cheap but the company may not be producing the replacement diamond wheels anymore. If this is the case, your handheld grinder will be worthless after a few years of using it.
Benchtop Electrode grinders
Certain industries require consistent angles for their electrodes. If you work in such an industry, you may need to invest in a benchtop tungsten sharpener machine. This type of grinder has a compartment where all the dust from the grinding is collected. This is perfect for semiconductor welding where any amount of dust is unacceptable.
These types of grinders are also more precise than the handheld version. Most importantly, the wheels of benchtop grinders are more likely to last longer than the handheld version.
The only downside with the benchtop grinder is that it is more expensive than the handheld version. If you work outdoors, this may not be the tool for you because they are not portable. Just like the handheld version, you need to practice using it before you can consistently get the right angles for your electrodes.
You should only use the crude ways discussed earlier in the article if you have no other options. If you are just starting out, you may want start with cheaper brands of handheld tungsten sharpener welding tools. However, if you work in an industry where your work area needs to be dust free, you may need to use the benchtop varieties. The best tungsten grinder for you depends on your specific needs and your budget.