Ask the Experts: How to Choose the Proper Electrode

Grainger Editorial Staff

Hello and welcome to another edition of Grainger Ask The Experts.

Today we're talking about selecting the right electrode for your TIG welding application. Let’s look at what goes into this decision.

With the highest melting point of any metal, tungsten electrodes come in a variety of sizes and lengths. Choosing the right electrode of “filler metal” for TIG Welding in stainless and aluminum starts with knowing the type of material that you’re working with, and the characteristics of that material.

All filler metal manufacturers publish charts showing the different grades of electrodes that you can use. (Show an example of the Hobart charts, pg. 47 and pg. 49 from Grainger/Miller training guides.)

Here are your basic options...

  • Pure tungsten electrodes contain 99.50% tungsten, have the highest consumption rate of all electrodes, and are typically less expensive than “alloyed” counterparts.
  • 2% thoriated tungsten electrodes contain a minimum of 97.30% tungsten and 1.70 to 2.20% thorium. They are the most commonly used electrodes today and are preferred for their longevity and ease of use.
  • 2% ceriated tungsten electrodes are made with a minimum of 97.30% tungsten and 1.80 to 2.20% cerium. These electrodes perform best in DC welding at low current settings but can be used proficiently in AC or DC processes.
  • 1.5% lanthanated tungsten electrodes include at least 97.80% tungsten and 1.30 to 1.70% lanthanum. These electrodes have excellent arc starting, low-burn-off rate, good arc stability, and excellent re-ignition characteristics.
  • Finally, zirconiated tungsten electrodes contain at least 99.10% tungsten and .15 to .40% zirconium. A zirconiated tungsten electrode produces an extremely stable arc and resists tungsten-spitting.

It’s important to note that the guidelines for the electrodes are based off the AWS specifications for filler metals.

As a starting point, follow the TIG welder manufacturer’s recommendations for the frequency and amperage settings for the specific electrode and material that you select.

Then, make the necessary adjustments to fit your style and/or application.

Thanks for watching this edition of Grainger Ask The Experts. For more helpful tips and videos, check out the full series.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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