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Selecting the best TIG Welding Tungsten Electrode

Selecting the best TIG Welding Tungsten Electrode

As always, the answer all depends. The type, shape and thickness of the tungsten will affect your weld quality and appearance. In general, I tend to prefer to use 1.5% Lanthanated (Gold tip) for DC TIG and 0.8% Zirconiated (White tip) for AC, but that’s just what I’ve done for the last 20 years. Many people suggest that 2% Lanthanated (Blue) can weld everything you can just buy those and not have to worry about what tungsten you’re using when the tip gets ground off! I can’t fault their logic, I guess I’m just set in my ways.

Here’s a handy comparison table if you want to compare the difference between the different tungsten types, in case you want to try a few different things.

Tungsten Type 2% THORIATED (RED) 0.8% ZIRCONIATED (WHITE) 1.5% LANTHANATED (GOLD) 2% CERIATED (GREY) PURE (GREEN) 2% LANTHANTED (BLUE)
AC/DC DC AC DC AC / DC AC AC / DC
Amp Range Medium Medium/High Medium Low Low / Medium Medium / High
Erosion Rate Medium Low Low Low
Spitting Medium Low None None Medium
Power Source Transformer Inverter or Transformer Inverter or Transformer Inverter or Transformer Transformer Inverter or Transformer
Best Used On Non corroding Steel
Titanium Alloy
Nickel Alloy
Copper Alloy
Aluminium Alloys
Magnesium Alloys
Non corroding Steel
Titanium Alloy
Nickel Alloy
Copper Alloy
Low Alloy Steel
Non corroding Steel
Aluminium Alloys
Magnesium Alloys
Titanium Alloy
Nickel Alloy
Copper Alloy
Aluminium Alloys
Magnesium Alloys
Low Alloy Steel
Non corroding Steel
Aluminium Alloys
Magnesium Alloys
Titanium Alloy
Nickel Alloy
Copper Alloy

TIG Tungsten Size

As a general guide, tungsten diameter should be roughly half the thickness of the material being welded. A thicker tungsten will be able to handle high amperage and heat much better than a thinner one.

Tungsten Grinding

Keep your tungsten sharp! If your tungsten dips into the weld puddle, stop and sharpen it (or swap for another one you prepared earlier). When you first start welding, you will be stopping all the time – but as you progress you will quickly learn how to keep the tungsten uncontaminated.

Note that the thoriated (red) tungsten on the list above is radioactive! The radioactivity is not strong enough to go through your skin, however if you must not breathe in the grinding dust. Special care should be used when grinding these – only do so in a well ventilated area, preferably use a mask and clean up the dust after you have finished. Because of this, and the fact I like the 1.5% Lanthanated better anyway, I rarely use thoriated tungsten any more.

The tungsten should be ground lengthways (end to end), using a flat conical grind – exactly like a sharpened pencil. If you use an electric drill to spin the tungsten while grinding, you will tend to get a more unstable arc as the arc will ‘follow’ the grinding marks.

When welding AC, the tungsten needs a ball on the end. There is no benefit to trying to grind a ball – the welder will ball the tungsten in the first few seconds of starting an AC arc.

AC vs. DC in Welding – What Is It? Difference Explained
TIG Torch Parts: How Orbital Weldheads Compare

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