What is the best method for sharpening tungsten electrodes?
Well, just like with most things, there is a best way...and then there are about 50 other ways that work too.
At the risk of sounding like a hack, I use those other 50 ways MOST of the time.
I have nothing against tungsten grinders. In fact, I think they are very nice to have.
Handheld tungsten grinders are very convenient, all around safer than other methods of sharpening tungsten, and consistent in the way they sharpen tungsten.
And, if you are doing certain types of tig welding like clean room welding, or orbital, or sanitary stainless tubing, a tungsten grinder makes perfect sense and is probably worth the spend.
But every time I think about spending the cash for a tungsten sharpener, I cant help but think of all the other things i would rather have.
How many other tools can I buy for 800 dollars ? lets see, ...how about a tubing bender, or tubing notcher, or a nice horizontal bandsaw, a drill press, more air grinders...or even maybe another welder.
If I had unlimited funds, I might very well buy the best tungsten sharpener available.
But I dont have unlimited funds.
2 tungsten grinders I have used are the Triad by WeldCraft and the CK worldwide Turbosharp...both worked fine but both are in the 800 dollar price range.
So how do I sharpen my tungsten?
I often just use a bench grinder along with a cordless drill motor.
Sometimes I use a belt sander...
I also like to use a 120 grit sanding disc on a 4 1/2" grinder along with a cordless drill motor.
For most folks, a cheap bench grinder with a 100 -180 grit stone will be fine. Not optimum, but fine.
But wont that contaminate the tungsten with other metals or embed particles of aluminum oxide in the tungsten?
Yes , it is possible that you might get a particle or two of unwanted material on your electrode.
and if you are working in a critical industry like Nuclear, Aerospace, Semiconductor, or Pharmaceutical, by all means, use a dedicated tungsten grinder.
A tungsten grinder is a good idea for critical applications. because it eliminates a variable...and that is always a good thing.