How to Choose a TIG Welding Electrode

TIG welding offers a wider range of welding options and the ability to make precise welds, but with those advantages comes a steep learning curve for the best set up. Whether welding with AC or DC welding, welding uncommon metals, or working with particular shielding gases, you’ll have your work cut out for you when it comes to choosing the best tungsten for your TIG welding machine. Today we’re going to run through each of the tungsten options and break down the different situations that call for each one, as well as the advantages and disadvantages each brings to the welding table.  

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TIG Welding with a Pure Tungsten Electrode

If you’re welding on an AC machine, a pure tungsten electrode (with a green label) is one of the tried and true options. These electrodes are made of 99.50 percent tungsten and have excellent arc stability when TIG welding metals such as aluminum alloys or magnesium alloys. Welders ball the tip of this electrode when working on AC power.

The downside of pure tungsten is that they are consumed faster than other electrodes and they won’t start well on DC power. If you’re welding aluminum, keep in mind that you’ll need a slightly larger electrode than you may expect.

TIG Welding with a Thoriated Electrode

These durable electrodes with a red label are the most popular electrodes for DC TIG welding applications and some limited AC welding projects. Welders frequently use these electrodes to work on copper alloys, nickel alloys, titanium alloys, and non-corroding steels.

While welders should take the manufacturer’s recommended safety steps to protect themselves from the radioactive elements in the thoriated electrode, thoriated electrodes are recognized for their value and durability since they weld at temperatures that are below the electrode’s melting point. Welders who sharpen these electrodes will be able to effectively weld thin steel or in narrow gaps and will deposit significantly less tungsten in the weld puddle.

Ceriated Electrodes for TIG Welding

If you need an electrode that can weld with a lot of heat without the risk of radiation and lasts a long time without melting down quickly, ceriated (grey or orange labels) electrodes are a popular choice for welders. They are ideal for DC welding welding at lower amperages with a sharp point, but you can also weld AC projects.

Besides their lack of radioactive elements, these electrodes also offer a significant amount of flexibility since they can weld titanium alloys, copper alloys, magnesium alloys, aluminum alloys, nickel alloys, non-corroding steels, and low-alloyed steels.

TIG Welding with Lanthanated Electrodes

Welders will enjoy excellent arc starts and similar welding properties compared to thoriated electrodes when they use lanthanated electrodes (gold, black, or blue labels). Arcs will remain stable, the electrode itself will last a long time due to its durability, and conductivity characteristics are comparable to other electrodes.

You can weld with DC and AC currents, but AC welding should be done at a low voltage. In addition, lanthanated are ideal for welding steel and stainless steel. Overall, lanthanated electrodes increase the current  carrying capacity by 50 percent.

TIG Welding with a Zirconiated Electrode

For AC welding projects with a balled electrode tip, zirconiated electrodes (brown labels) are highly stable and resist tungsten spitting. They carry a current that is comparable, if not better than, thoriated tungsten electrodes, making them another safe option for welders. They are never used for DC projects, making them ideal as an alternative to pure tungsten for aluminum and magnesium welding projects using an AC current.

Rare Earth Electrodes for TIG Welding

Welders working with AC or DC power sources have sometimes turned to rare earth electrodes (purple label) as another alternative to thoriated electrodes. This electrode has a wide range of applications that includes: aluminum alloys, magnesium alloys, titanium alloys, nickel alloys, copper alloys, low-alloyed steels, and non-corrosive steels.

Some of the rare earth electrode advantages include a more stable arc, a more durable electrode, less tungsten spitting, and a higher current for welding.

Learn More about TIG Welding

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One thought on “How to Choose a TIG Welding Electrode”

  1. David says:

    Great article, sums up really well an area that is too often overlooked! Worth pointing out to readers that there are lots of other areas to think about as well – for example making sure you have the right shielding gas. Btw great prices as well on your welding machines!

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