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Thread: Sharpening Tungsten Electrodes

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    Default Sharpening Tungsten Electrodes

    I get quite a few emails from folks asking for tips on the best way to sharpen their tungsten electrodes for TIG welding.

    Rest assured, it is not necessary to spend a thousand dollars on a portable tungsten sharpener (a fancy Dremel tool with diamond bit and angled channel) to get consistent results.

    A few pointers to keep in mind...

    Avoid using sanding belts or stones that are available for general shop use. These mediums will accumulate debris from other operations and embed that into your tungsten, contaminating your electrode and subsequently your work piece. Instead, dedicate a diamond grinding wheel specifically for use as an electrode sharpener and use it for nothing else. If you are patient, you can find deals on these wheels, such as this... Enco - Guaranteed Lowest Prices on Machinery, Tools and Shop Supplies

    When sharpening an electrode, the striations left behind affect the ease with which the electrical current will travel down to the work piece, so the more you can keep those striations traveling along the length of the electrode (parallel) the more low current and start control of the arc you will retain. This is the primary reason it is ill advised to use the side of a grinding wheel with the electrode perpendicular to it's position, as it creates lateral rings that will inhibit the flow of the current.

    I try to keep the length of my tips about 2.5 times the diameter of the electrode, forming to a nice sharp tip at the end. I prefer the sharpened tip to a flat tip due to the tight seams and low profile beads we tend to use in the bicycle industry.

    Always wipe down your electrode with a bit of alcohol or acetone before placing it back into the torch to keep your electrical interface as tidy as possible.

    Here's a quick video I put up to illustrate the process I use...

    Rody Walter
    Groovy Cycleworks...Custom frames with a dash of Funk!
    Website - www.groovycycleworks.com
    Blog - www.groovycycleworks.blogspot.com
    Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Groov...s/227115749408
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    Default Re: Sharpening Tungsten Electrodes

    Thought I might add a comment. I use this same method but I've turned my grinder around so the direction the wheel spins is away from me. This prevents the possibility of the tungsten getting caught, breaking, and ending up in your hand.
     
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    Default Re: Sharpening Tungsten Electrodes

    Quote Originally Posted by John Winston View Post
    Thought I might add a comment. I use this same method but I've turned my grinder around so the direction the wheel spins is away from me. This prevents the possibility of the tungsten getting caught, breaking, and ending up in your hand.
    Two things wrong with that, grinding away can often leave little slivers hangin off the point, and every once in a while the tungsten will get pulled out of your grip and end up going inside the wheel, getting shot out the other side of it's not long enough to get caught.
    Eric Doswell, aka Edoz
    Summoner of Crickets
    http://edozbicycles.wordpress.com/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/edozbicycles/
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    Default Re: Sharpening Tungsten Electrodes

    I see what you mean about the possible slivers but haven't noticed that yet. I would think wiping down the tungsten after shaping would remove any such slivers. I've yet to experience the tungsten being pulled from my grip and ending up inside the wheel though I have had the tungsten break and end up in my finger from running the wheel as shown in Rody's video, hence my 2 cents. I suppose there is some element of danger in any method.
     
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    Default Re: Sharpening Tungsten Electrodes

    Surely you need a 1200 dollar tungsten Sharpener.....bank balance danger, that's it?
     
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    Default Re: Sharpening Tungsten Electrodes

    Quote Originally Posted by edoz View Post
    Two things wrong with that, grinding away can often leave little slivers hangin off the point, and every once in a while the tungsten will get pulled out of your grip and end up going inside the wheel, getting shot out the other side of it's not long enough to get caught.
    I've never seen evidence of slivers, but I do hit my tungstens on an EXL buffing wheel after grinding so maybe that removes them. I have had the tungsten tip dig in when holding the tungsten against the wheel the way shown in the video. Shattered the tungsten and sent fragments all over.

    I hold the tungsten so that the wheel is running away from it. No danger of it being sucked into the wheel because it's chucked into a drill and the drag force that's tending to pull the tungsten out of the chuck is light.

    Alistair.
    Alistair Spence
    Seattle, WA,
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/duncancycles/
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    Default Re: Sharpening Tungsten Electrodes

    Doesn't anyone just use a cupped diamond wheel? Or a wetstone grinder?
     
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    Default Re: Sharpening Tungsten Electrodes

    Quote Originally Posted by John Winston View Post
    This prevents the possibility of the tungsten getting caught, breaking, and ending up in your hand.
    Quote Originally Posted by Alistair View Post
    I have had the tungsten tip dig in when holding the tungsten against the wheel the way shown in the video. Shattered the tungsten and sent fragments all over.Alistair.
    20+ years and I've never had this happen...it's all about the angle of introduction.

    Introduce the tungsten to the diamond wheel at the full diameter of the electrode (behind the tip), on the 3' oclock aspect, and slowly tilt your position and taper forward.

    I see no absolute logic why running the grinder in reverse would not work, never have considered it as I use the other side too frequently to see a benefit. Proper approach and control have been very successful for me and those I've taught.

    Thanks for contributing guys. If you have knowledge to add to this section of the forum, please take time to share, I'd love to see this resource grow :)

    rody
    Rody Walter
    Groovy Cycleworks...Custom frames with a dash of Funk!
    Website - www.groovycycleworks.com
    Blog - www.groovycycleworks.blogspot.com
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    Default Re: Sharpening Tungsten Electrodes

    Quote Originally Posted by Rody View Post
    ...it's all about the angle of introduction.
    One of lifes many lessons...
    Will Neide (pronounced Nighty, like the thing worn to bed)

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    Default Re: Sharpening Tungsten Electrodes

    I just finished designing a piece to go on the end of a cordless dremel the had a rethink

    A simple block can also be used , some tool and cutter grinders use a vee set at 30 degrees, good for most jobs just put the tungsten in and rotate against a cup diamond wheel, perfect grinds everytime

    Its cheaper Tha the 100 quid tungsten grinder I just made to go on a dremel

    I'll draw the block up if anyone wants to try and make one
     
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