The welding industry has been around for ages but the portable tungsten grinder has been making a big splash only fairly recently. In fact, there were probably over 50 brands and designs of handheld tungsten grinders in the American Welding Society in the past year.
All the major manufacturers of welding equipment like Esab, Miller and Lincoln had their own versions of portable grinders in their booth demonstrations. In fact, there are overseas manufacturers who joined in on the fray. So, is this tool really necessary? Or are they just some kind of marketing stunt for manufacturers to make more money out of?
Let’s just look into the 2 most popular designs of tungsten sharpeners to figure out if it is really a necessary tool. We will be focusing on the 2 main designs of tungsten grinders, bench-top, and handheld.
Table of Contents
1. Bench-top grinders
These types of tungsten grinders usually make use of a coolant to keep all the dust down and also keep the actual tungsten electrode cool when grinding. Most people think that this is a plus but it can actually make such a mess especially if not cleaned properly.
- The best thing about this type of tungsten grinder is that it can be more precise compared to other designs. This type is a better option, especially when sharpening a large bit of tungsten.
- It is also a better option when it comes to dust because the liquid coolant keeps the dust manageable. The dust sticks to the liquid coolant, therefore, making it easier to breathe while working.
- Even though the liquid coolant keeps dust away, it can be a bit messier. Users must constantly be able to clean it properly in order to avoid the buildup of dust particles in the tungsten grinder itself. If users neglect cleaning the sharpener, it can become dull over time.
- Also, given that this type of grinder is a bit bulkier than portable tungsten grinders, it can be more expensive. There are bench-top models that can come with a price of over 1500 dollars.
2. Portable tungsten grinder
Just as the name implies, these are tungsten grinders that can be brought anywhere. This handheld equipment can be easily transferred from one project to the other without worrying about other overhead costs for labor. Anyone can pretty much carry it to any location any time of day.
Aside from being handy, it can also be more affordable especially for welding companies that are just starting out. The prices for portable tungsten grinder range from only around 150 dollars up to 700 dollars which is pretty much over half of the price range for bench-top tungsten sharpeners.
Dust is also pretty much manageable when it comes to portable tungsten grinders because they have a small container for the dust to get into. But this too must be continuously checked by the user. Dust comes out whenever the portable tungsten grinder’s trigger is pulled and the container is full. So, users must clean the container periodically to avoid any kind of a mess.
- They are definitely cheaper but this does not mean that they’re of lower quality or has significant performance issues. They have limitations but they can do as much as bench-top grinders especially when dealing with smaller pieces of tungsten.
- They don’t make as much mess as bench-top grinders because there is no need to use oil or coolant to keep the dust off. It is also generally easier to clean and maintain because of this fact.
- Initially, this equipment is pretty affordable. But once broken, it can take at least 50 dollars just to replace the diamond wheel part that is used for grinding the actual tungsten.
- Due to its size, it can be very portable but one downside to this is that it can easily be lost. There are a lot of people who want this equipment and since it can easily fit into a lunch box, it also means that it can be easily stolen. So, it is a must to keep an eye on it at all times.
Some tips when using portable tungsten grinders
- Don’t use the product without reading the manual because any other use not described in the manual may lead to injury.
- Dusk inhalation can lead to long-term breathing problems. Hence, it is important to use an ANSI approved dust mask when using the equipment.
- It is also important to protect the eyes when using the equipment with safety glasses approved by ANSI.
- Tungsten dust must be disposed of on a regular basis. It is also important to dispose it in an approved location because it can be very dangerous to people’s health.
- It is important to remember that this sharpener was manufactured to take care of tungsten only. Trying to sharpen other materials may lead problems to the diamond wheel which can be very expensive to replace.
- Never use this sharpener near water because it can result in electric shock.
Portable tungsten grinders are the better option especially for most welders that need to travel places for their projects without added costs for shipping and handling the equipment itself. However, when it comes to the actual sharpening, it is still better to use the bench-top grinder if you are very meticulous with the precision of the cut. This, however, does not mean that the handheld grinder does not do its job well. The portable grinder is cheaper but its benefits are abundant.