What is the Best All-Around Tungsten Electrode for TIG Welding?
My quick answer is 2% lanthanated.
And here is why — I prefer to keep things as simple as possible.
Don't get me wrong, if I thought using several different types of tungsten would help my welding, I would do it. But if one single type will do, then I don’t want different kinds and colors of tungsten electrodes in my toolbox.
If you are like me, sometimes without thinking, I grind off the color code so I can have 2 sharp ends. If I have several different types of tungsten electrodes in my toolbox, I can't easily tell them apart without the color code.
Back when I worked in aerospace, the Safety Department required me to find a substitute for 2% thoriated electrodes because of all the negative news about thoriated electrodes being radioactive. So I did some pretty extensive testing to determine the best all-around tungsten electrode for both DC and AC that would work on all metals, steels, superalloys, titanium, aluminum, magnesium, etc.
For me, the three criteria that were the most important for TIG welding anything from razor blade thickness on DC, to thick, aluminum and magnesium castings on AC are:
1. Low amp crisp DC starts and restarts
2. Stability at 200 amps on AC with a 3/32” tungsten.
3. Works well with transformer TIG welders as well as inverters
If a tungsten electrode fits these 3 criteria, then its a good choice for an all purpose tungsten electrode.
So therefore, I tested:
- Trimix Blends
- 2% Ceriated,
- 2% Thoriated
- 1.5% Lanthanated
- 2% Lanthanated
- And several others
On DC, there were only very minor differences — they all worked pretty well. But on AC, the 2% lanthanated was much more stable up to 200 amps than the rest of them were.
The 2% lanthanated electrodes worked well on low 1 amp DC arc starts, and also worked better than the others on AC, whether using a transformer welder or inverter.
So that is why I recommend using 2% lanthanated if you are looking to settle on one, single best, all-around tungsten electrode.
I don't want to give the wrong impression that 2% lanthanated is the best for every single application, just the best single all-around go-to. You would need several different types of tungsten to get the absolute best for each application and sometimes the difference would be so small, it would be hard to tell.
With all the aerospace welding tests I have administered, all the job shop work I have done over the last 10 or 11 years, and all the YouTube videos I have made, I have only used 2% lanthanated electrodes for everything since around 2009.
And that sure made things simpler for me!
So if you are looking for the best all around tungsten electrode for TIG welding all metals, I hope this article helps simplify things for you.