With all of the different TIG machines around, with some offering inverter technology and all offering varying degrees of power, it can be tough to figure out the best tungsten for TIG welding aluminum. Welders have shared stories of 2% thoriated electrodes balling up and pure tungsten welds leaving a mess of metal to grind down for the rest of the afternoon. With that in mind, what is the best tungsten electrode for TIG welding aluminum?
The Tungsten you choose will depend in large part on your particular machine, the thickness of the metal you’re welding, and the settings you have available. Here are a few tips and general rules that will help you get started. Keep in mind that some of these tips may change based on your particular machine.
Learn About Tungsten for TIG Welding Aluminum
The following electrodes can be used for TIG welding aluminum, but there are a few rules and caveats that will need to be discussed below:
- Orange: 2% ceriated (on AC)
- Blue: 2% lanthanated (AC and DC)
- Gold 1.5 lanthanated (AC and DC)
- Red: 2% thoriated (DC only)
- Green: pure tungsten (DC only)
Don’t use green on the AC side since pure tungsten will ball up, especially if you’re using an inverter. Some welders have a particular favorite kind of tungsten. They may swear by thoriated or pure tungsten. The truth is that each kind of tungsten listed above can work if you have the right settings and the right application.
The tough part is that it’s easy to mess up when TIG welding aluminum, so there are plenty of other things to consider.
The Electrode Size for TIG Welding Aluminum
One of the most common mistakes for welders working with aluminum is they choose an electrode that is too small. You often need to consider a 1/8” electrode for welding aluminum in order to get enough heat and to create a stable arc. Too small an electrode will create a sloppy weld.
If you’re working on AC with a lanthanated electrode, you may be able to use a 3/16” or 3/32” electrode. The key is to match your electrode choice and size with the settings and the project.
The Best All Around Electrode for TIG Welding Aluminum
While each tungsten electrode has its advantages and disadvantages, one of the safest bets is 2% lanthanated that is ground to a point with a flattened tip. Many welders prefer lanthanated for both AC and DC because it holds up well and provides a stable arc for a clean weld.