Pure tungsten vs thoriated electrodes for tig welding aluminum

thoriated electrodes

Pure tungsten vs thoriated electrodes for tig welding aluminum

Pure tungsten has never been my first preference for tig welding aluminum!

I have never liked it. All the old welding books I have read (and I have read a bunch of them) stated that Pure tungsten electrodes were the best for tig welding aluminum. But every time I would use pure tungsten I wound up swapping back to good ole 2% thoriated electrodes. As soon as I pumped up the volume on the amperage, the pure tungsten would quiver and dance on the end and finally if I went too hot, would take a tungsten dump in my weld. Who needs that? 

And to avoid the quivering ball on the tip, the only fix it to use a larger tungsten... so I would be  using one or two sizes larger than I do  with 2% lanthanated or thoriated...and I dont usually have any 5/32" in my tool box.

Thoriated electrodes may not ball up evenly but they carry much more amperage without taking a tungsten dump in your weld. That often means using one size smaller electrode and that is a very good thing. 

The Radioactive thoriated electrodes scare

For thirty years, I have welded alloys loaded up with chromium, cobalt, manganese, and a host of other elements known to cause cancer in 48 states. And they think I should be worried about a slightly radioactive element in my electrodes I have been using for 30 years?

I worked in a metallurgical lab for 5 years and we had a Geiger counter available to check for radiation leaks. I ran the Geiger counter over several packs of 2% thoriated electrodes and guess what? Zilch! Nada! Bupkis!

Of course its not the best thing to work with hazardous materials. But it is reality.

I guess I should have listened to Mom.

I should have studied harder. I should have gone to college. But I was immature. It just wasn't for me. I felt lost and useless in college.

I cut class a lot and even got my picture in the school newspaper for catching a big Bass. I was fishing in the college lake when I was supposed to be in class. Maybe it was a bad decision. But it was mine to make. Then I went to welding school and became a welder...and at least I felt like a man.

No one here gets out alive so make things right with the Big Man now.

If you are concerned about thoriated electrode radioactivity, try 2% lanthanated electrodes. They are just as good as thoriated electrodes and cost about the same.

But stay away from little pieces of crap called pure tungsten.

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done with thoriated electrodes?


2% lanthanated are good too. If you are at all concerned with the thorium issue, just use 2% lanthanated for everything