I was recently browsing youtube and came across several videos about how to sharpen tungsten. I thought about it and asked myself: “ How do I sharpen tungsten?” I counted about 9 different ways actually, but do you want to know the easiest way?
Well, here’s how to sharpen a tungsten: You take the tungsten and load it into a drill and tighten the chuck. Then you start an angle or bench grinder, and while it is running, you place your tungsten at a 45-degree angle against the stone while gently rotating the tungsten by squeezing the trigger of the drill.
Now, that’s the most economical method and it produces very good results in the field or in the shop. However – there are several methods of sharpening a Tungsten that we can use – some more precise than others.
#1 Dedicated Tungsten Grinder
This is probably the best method to use if you want the most precision and safest method. A possible. A dedicated grinder will give you a precise, sharp edge because the tungsten is supported when you insert the tip and spin the electrode. This is essentially a welding tungsten sharpener.
Also, since some electrodes are Thoriated, they are 1-1.5%+ radioactive. There is an entire discussion about that here, which you can read about if you want to dive a bit deeper. – but the short and skinny is this: you don’t want to breathe that stuff in! A machine that captures the dust is very helpful.
The downside to this machine is that it costs anywhere between $300-$800 dollars, depending on the model. For $800 could buy a really sweet welder and still have some cash left over for my favorite hood too!
By the way, if you’re interested in reading about a really sweet welder, check out this review.
#2 Chemical Sharpener
Now a chemical solution can be a good option for you.
So you can see there are some Pro’s and Con’s to consider. Especially the fact that you have to heat the tungsten with your welder first
And, aside from the odors being terrible for you, you still need to clean the electrode with scotch brite AFTER it’s sharpened to remove the contamination.
The only real reason I like the chemical sharpening technique is the portability. If I really have concerns about weight (I’m carrying my tools and equipment up a lot of stairs in a construction site, I’ll opt for the little jar of the compound.
#3 Oxy Torch Method
This method is used by boilermakers and pipe welders because they have access to the equipment and the gas
Not economical because gas can be expensive – there are cheaper ways to sharpen your tungsten.
How does this method work exactly?
Well, I’m glad you asked:
You want to get the torch real hot
and run it up and down your tungsten, tapering it downward
It Will be oxidized,
so you’ll need to light your tungsten on a piece of scrap to off-gas the electrode (basically heat the electrode and let the chemical gases escape).
But remember, this is most useful for boilermakers and pipe workers because they have open access to this equipment. For a regular DIY welder or even a shop welder, this would be a super expensive method!
# 4 Grinder Wheel And Cordless Drill
Talk about a cheap tungsten grinder! This is the method I mentioned above and it works very well.
You place your grinder on a stable surface like a workbench or table and turn it on. (A grinder with a fixed switch is really helpful for this )
Then, take your cordless drill with the electrode secured in the chuck, and lay it so the electrode drags counterclockwise while the drill spins the electrode.
This is a good method because you’re hitting the sweet spot. Your electrode is getting a good sharpening and the cost is minimal. Also, here is a good article about cordless drills you should check out.
#5 Grinder Wheel On a Bench
I like this method a lot because it produces a good result and I don’t have to fumble with two powertools. When I am in my shop, I have my trusty bench grinder and this is my preferred method.
And, here is a quick pro tip:
this is the correct way to run your tungsten
this is the wrong way to do it, you’re not going to get a “clean” grind your arc will bounce around on your workpiece.
#6 Grinder Wheel On a Bench Or Angle With a Dedicated Pad
This is the same as #5, but with a dedicated stone.
The reason it is separate is that when you share a stone or a grinding disk you risk getting some other material transferred to your electrode. This can cause contamination and lead to a poor weld.
#7 Belt Sander
If your working in a shop and someone is using the bench grinder, a belt sander is a good method to use in a pinch.
Just make sure that you use a high grit sandpaper, like 100 or 120 grit. If you use a lower grit, like 36, you’ll be trying to make points on your electrode all day since the paper is way to abrasive.
With the right grit, you’ll get a nice point quickly.
#8 Diamond Wheels
I’ve never used this method myself, but I’ve heard it works well.
And you’ll hold both the grinder and the drill, and sharpen your tungsten.
This method is a both clumsy, and for me, I really like to have my equipment on a flat surface and as stable as possible.
#9 Diamond Wheel
This method is the same as #4, but with an upgraded diamond wheel
Note that this wheel we use with the grinder facing down
Some guys I know have poked a hole in that rear guard to poke the electrode through, but I find resting the electrode on the guard is just as effective.
What Is The Best Method?
Really the best method is the one that works best for you.
Notice these results with sharpening our electrode
On the left, you can see how you can manipulate the electrode with a belt sander for a high taper, and the right is completed with the grinder and a diamond wheel.
So really you need to know what exactly are you welding. Maybe It is razor thin material? Then a belt sander can work very well. If you’re working with a heavy gauge material then a blunt edge from a bench grinder can work well.
For most welders and fabricators the method that is most common is #4 because it’s a cheap tungsten grinder and you’ll get a very good result with the process.
So we’ve answered the question “How to sharpen tunsten” with 9 different methods! The method you select will be based off two things: the tools you have available to use and the material you want to weld. If you keep that in mind you’ll be successful with any of the methods you chose. Now, let’s weld!