by Grey Smith
I did a search and found very little regarding the product Chem-Sharp, so I thought I would chime in. The one quote I found regarding this product states that it works ok, and mentions the fumes. Well I was worried about the fumes as well, so I looked up the MSDS. First of all the manufacturer claims that the product is biodegradable, non-flammable, and non-toxic. On the MSDS, it shows a .1% (one-tenth of a percent) carcinongenic content, making it probably less toxic than AIR if you live in or near a city, LOL!
So I tried some out. I'll preface by saying that I'm new to TIG welding (only about a year of experience), and most of my experience is in the lab at school. We have a good lab, and I was spoiled, being equipped with a Pirahna tungsten sharpener, various pedestal grinders equipped with diamond wheels, and a couple belt sanders. So I bought a TIG welder, and found myself sharpening my tungsten at 11:30 at night, in my front yard, using a 4-1/2" angle grinder. Well, out of respect for my neighbors, I decided I needed another solution, so I started looking at sharpeners, and was shocked to find that something comparable to the Pirahna would likely cost as much, or more, than my TIG welder itself! So an employee of a local welding supply store suggested I try the Chem-sharp product, and at ~ $8.00 a jar, I gave it a go.
At first I was pretty disappointed, it didn't really seem to work too well, but as it turns out, there is a bit of a learning curve. After using it for about 6 months now, I'm sold. I can make a perfect needle point, everytime, with a beautiful progressive taper, as long or as short as I need it, in about 1/3 of the time it takes with a traditional sharpener.
One disadvantage is that it's a consumable, but at $8 a jar, and a jar being good for 500 dips (according to manufacturer, variable), it would take 24 jars of this stuff to equal the cost of even the least expensive grinder, which will require a $40-100 diamond wheel replacement every 6-12 months. Another issue is the spatter, I generally use a gas lens, and if you don't use enough stick out when dipping (I use about 1.25"), the spatter can eventually clog up the diffuser screens, and does not readily come off. Last, after dipping enough tungsten to consume about half a jar, I did at one point over-heat a tungsten, causing it to split for about 1/2 an inch. This occurded after I had made contact between the electrode and the fill wire, leaving a large ball of filler metal on it, and using the salt to clean it off. In hindsight, it would have been appropriate to grind that metal off of the tungsten before resharpening it.
A tip on use for anyone interested in experimenting with this product:
The instructions say to arc your electrode until it heats up (glows red), dip it into the salt, and repeat as necessary until you get the desired shape. Well, I found that for best results, you should dip your hot electrode into the salt, and leave it there for a couple seconds until a little puddle is formed (salt becomes a liquid), then kinda bob the electrode up and down in the puddle to get your desired shape. You'll notice right away that the chemical reaction caused by dipping the hot electrode into the salt causes it to be continually heated, and apparently even increase in temperature, as long as contact is maintained.
All in all, the product works a lot better than I expected, and I will continue using it because it is quiet, inexpensive, and clean. IMO the last major advantage that a traditional grinder has over the chemical, is perfect repeatability. Other than that, this stuff might be voodoo!
Thanks for reading,
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