If you have dabbled in TIG welding to any level or degree, then it’s pretty sure that you have contaminated the tungsten one time or another. Maybe you touched the filler rod to it or perhaps you accidentally dipped it in weld puddle. It happens to everyone, don’t worry, but that definitely means you need to make that trip (again?) to your trusty tungsten electrode grinder and get that electrode cleaned.
Tungsten electrode sharpeners have become one of the tools of the trade in TIG welding. Well, some folks argue otherwise, but it can’t be denied that a lot of folks who weld making use of the TIG process use them. The hobbyists and professionals who use them include shop fabricators, tube welders, boilermakers, pipe welders, and heat exchange fabricators among others.
Are these electrode sharpeners absolutely necessary? Not exactly – it basically depends on what you’re actually working on. To help you understand what you can get out of a grinder for tungsten electrodes here are the details, pros, and cons of the different types of tungsten sharpeners that are in regular use nowadays.
Table of Contents
- Handheld tungsten electrode grinder
- Bench Top tungsten sharpeners
- Stilo TIG
- Final thoughts
Handheld tungsten electrode grinder
At the top of the list of popular tungsten sharpeners are the handhelds. There are a lot of different brands you’ll find in stores today, which includes Arc Zone, CK, HTP, Stilo, and Weldcraft. The price varies from brand to brand but they are generally quite affordable. It won’t be that hard to find a handheld tungsten grinder for $200 or somewhere around that price point.
Pros of using a handheld tungsten electrode grinder
- They are portable and really compact. You can fit them in your tool bag or just carry them anywhere. They’re perfect for folks who tend to move from one job site to another.
- Electrode grinders of this type don’t have coolants. You don’t need to fuss about coolant replacement.
- Performance-wise, these tools are pretty consistent. You can rely on them to do a perfect job over and over.
Drawbacks of handheld tungsten grinders
- Handheld units tend to gather a lot of dust, which means they need to get cleaned up frequently.
- Expect diamond replacement wheels to be quite pricey. On average, get ready to cough up $45 or more for just one of these bad boys.
- Some brands are just way too expensive. Not to badmouth Weldcraft or anything, they have models that are sold for at least $700 apiece. However, the expensive ones come with a full set of pretty much everything you will need, so the price is somehow justified.
Bench Top tungsten sharpeners
Bench tops are pretty common in shops where welders tend to use them every so often. They’re also perfect if you work in a clean room where you have to make sanitary welds. If the job site requires minimal to zero dust then this is the tool you need—handhelds will never match it.
Pros of using bench top tungsten sharpeners
- Produces zero dust, which is why they’re perfect for clean rooms or if you need to do some welding in areas where sanitation is paramount.
- Its wheels tend to last much longer compared to handhelds and other smaller units. That means you don’t have to buy replacements that much – replacement wheels are also slightly more affordable.
- Most precise type of tungsten sharpener.
Downsides of this type of tungsten sharpener
- They’re usually pretty huge and not really portable. That means you need to choose where you put it carefully. You don’t want to move it around the job site frequently—laborious work right there.
- They’re really expensive – expect to pay $1,500 or more to get one unit. But if you have the money for it and you do need to use it a lot then why not? You can consider it as an investment.
- These things work comparably slower compared to other types of tungsten electrode sharpeners.
- It will also take some practice before you can use this type of electrode sharpener efficiently.
This is a type of handheld grinder for tungsten electrodes. Yes, it is a handheld tungsten grinder but it is in a league of all its own, which is why it is placed in a different category. Unlike the other tungsten sharpeners we have gone over so far, this one actually doesn’t need electricity. No batteries to replace or recharge.
Note that it the Stilo will work well for 1/16 or even a 1/32 tungsten (some welders who have also used it say it can also work well with 1-inch tungsten).
Advantages of the Stilo TIG
- First off, it’s really cheap. You can get one from eBay for only $30. You can order it directly from their distributor’s website.
- It is also lightweight and easily portable. You can slip it in your pocket and pull it out only when you need it.
- It’s fairly easy to use and it sharpens tungsten rather quickly.
- It is useful for people who have rather clumsy fingers since it allows you to feed the filler little by little using the little wheel on the outside.
- Works with different filler wire diameters ranging from 1.0 to 3.2 mm.
Now here are its disadvantages
- There’s a bit of a learning curve before you can become efficient at using it – just a few practice sessions and you’ll get it.
- You need to position it properly or else it won’t do a good job – remember it is manual and you need a sanding disc/wheel/belt to get it to sharpen your tungsten. You tend to get flat spots if you don’t position it properly, which means you need to setup a holder at the right angle every time.
A tungsten electrode grinder is an absolute must if you are using a more automated welding process. For instance, if you primarily do orbital TIG welding, then a tungsten grinder will be very useful to you. You shouldn’t be without one.
In fact, they are pretty useful even if you just practice manual TIG welding. Well, some guys may say that they don’t really need it, but it definitely makes the work a lot easier.