Arguably the most important piece of the entire Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) or Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) effort, the tungsten electrode allows the energy to travel through the heat-resistant material and start the arc, which connects with the base metal. It’s a small and relatively inexpensive piece, but the entire welding effort depends on it and the type of tungsten alloy mixture can even alter the results of the final weld. It plays a critical piece in tandem with the filler material (if present).
Introducing a novice welder into TIG welding is not without its challenges. From learning the equipment, to the different type of welding techniques, to safety measures, the instructor has his or her work cut out for them. Furthermore, the apprentice usually has extensive experience in other welding areas such as MIG/GMAW welding or Stick/SMAW welding. One of the defining factors of an experienced welder is that he or she is extremely picky about his or her tungsten. The welder keeps an eye on attributes like arc strength, the extent to which the tungsten maintains its point after grinding, and the neatness of the weld ribbon after completion.
Schools have an ethical duty to introduce novice TIG welding students to the best tungsten rods possible, since it is critical to each student’s success and sets the welder up with a platform for continued excellence throughout their careers. Many welding educators fall prey to the old line, “Oh, this is what we’ve always ordered and it’s in the system, so we’ll continue with it.” Welding schools have a large opportunity to continue improving their curriculum and the student experience through higher quality and longer lasting tungsten.
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