(San Antonio, TX)
What is really important about what sharpens your tungsten tig electrodes really depends on what you are welding. The sharpening angle of the tungsten electrode has a lot to do with how the bead behaves on the material, especially the thinner metals. Don?t try to sharpen a tungsten electrode on a regular grinding wheel when you are getting ready to weld an exotic metal that will be getting x-rayed for defects and impurities. That is when the correct grinding wheel comes into place and the correct angle. A consistently sharpened electrode will (should) keep your welding consistent as this is just one factor that effects the shape or size of the puddle. Now that being said, I learned from an old 70 year old Cambodian welder that the sharper the electrode, the better! We called him ?The Machine? because his welds were consistently perfect and were better that any machine welded bead. His tungsten electrodes looked like needles and if they had eyelets, you could have sewn with them. What a difference it made in the molten puddle and control of it during welding. He hand sharpened his on a white tool sharpening diamond stone with the grain, not on the side of the wheel. He had to sharpen them by hand because no sharpener would sharpen it at the angle he did. When it is critical to eliminate all possible contamination of the weld, (and you should try to do that in all welding anyway)? say welding monel, or you are welding something as thin as .003 monel, then yes, by all means, use the right wheel. A wet sharpener does have the advantage of washing away any leftover material from the wheel and reduces eating up unnecessary tungsten; hence, it eliminates any foreign material on or IN the tungsten from contaminating the weld and saves you $. (Note: the grinder can put its material in the electrode's metal make up). If the tungsten has an impurity introduced into it, the sudden burning of that impurity when it gets hot enough can blow a hole in your weld as well as contaminate the metal, now you have the fun job of grinding it out of the weld and taking the chance to further contaminate the weld again. So, unless you are welding x-rayed parts, I would not go to the expense of buying a sharpener. Hand held sharpening? The old Cambodian who hand sharpened his electrodes, never had one weld fail X-ray examination for over 20 years! Hope this helps!
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