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What to Do When You Stick Your TIG Tungsten



Kevin shows what happens when you contaminate your TIG tungsten. A viewer who just bought an AHP AlphaTIG 200X TIG welder had just written him recently about whether he needed to regrind his tungsten every time he dipped, or stuck, it to the metal or touch the tungsten with a filler rod. "Yeah, you do," says Kevin.

When you dip the tungsten into your base metal, it creates a crater and a soot outline. Now your tungsten is contaminated. So it doesn't matter how much more welding you do, you'll keep putting that contamination right back into your weld.

If it's a structural weld - something that is going to be getting stress - it's not going to be as strong if everything is clean, straight and square. So pull your tungsten out, walk over to your grinder and regrind your TIG tungsten, what Kevin calls the "walk of shame."

One important caution: With a lot of these TIG welders that use points for their high frequency start, like the AHP does, when you stick that tungsten into the weld, the high frequency points in the machine go active again. They think you've stopped welding and start dumping all kinds of current through to restart the welder.

Doing that, you can blow the boards out and burn the points out a lot faster. If you're sticking your tungsten frequently, stop it. If you're just getting started with TIG welding, be careful not to develop that habit.

Always keep your tungsten about 1/8" to 1/4" away from your metal, and keep your distance the same as you weld. Don't hop along or move your tungsten around as you work. This is really, really important for the weld and for the machine.

If you have to, put your other hand under the hand holding the torch to brace yourself, or drag a finger like Kevin does. Get your gap and keep it as you make your weld.

Kevin steps over to his little Chicago Power Tools grinder, which he got at Harbor Freight along with some diamond wheels. The whole thing cost about $20. He likes to put his tungsten into his cordless drill so it spins while he sharpens it. Rather than try to sharpen the hard tungsten on a soft stone on a regular bench grinder, it's easier to use a diamond wheel because it's harder than the tungsten.

He sharpens the tungsten, with the drill spinning it as he holds it against the running diamond wheel, taking it back to a point again. Kevin likes put a taper on it that goes down 2/3 of the diameter of the tungsten. He sharpens the tungsten almost to a point, because at the higher amperage a needle point just burns away too quickly. If you do sharpen it to a point, you can just blunt it a bit. That's what seems to last the longest for Kevin.

If you're thinking about just sharpening a whole pack of tungstens and having them ready, don't do it. Having to keep one sharp and take that "walk of shame" when you screw up teaches you real quickly not to contaminate it!

Kevin is ready to go back to work, so before you go, you might want to see him, uh, screw up (or is it down?) ....

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