Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) aluminum welding refers to the use of a non-consumable tungsten electrode to deliver current to the welding arc.
What most people find challenging about this type of welding is that you must use both hands while welding.
However, it’s worth the effort because the end results are exceptional, excellent and attractive welds.
To know the best tungsten for aluminum welding, it’s very important to understand what tungsten is all about.
In this article, we shall be discussing tungsten, its applications, tungsten electrodes for welding aluminum color coding and their types.
We will further go ahead to review the top 5 tungsten for aluminum welding. After reading this article, you should be able to tell which tungsten is best for aluminum welding.
What are the Applications of Tungsten?
Before we talk about tungsten applications, let’s briefly look at the history and discovery of tungsten.
The history of tungsten can be dated back to the 17th century when a group of miners in the Erz Mountains of Saxony observed that certain ores deter the reduction of tin mineral (cassiterite) and induced slagging.
These miners tore away the tin and devour it like the way a wolf devours a sheep. Hence, the nicknames “Wolfrahm” and “Wolfert”, meaning wolf froth.
Since then, many scientists developed interest in it and continued to make a lot of discoveries about this mineral element. Below are some of the applications of tungsten.
Cemented carbide also referred to as hard metal is the paramount usage of tungsten, its major constituent is tungsten carbide (WC) which is hardness is just slightly lower than diamond. Because cemented carbides combine the strength and hardness of tungsten carbide with the plasticity and toughness of a metallic alloy binder such as Ni, Fe or Co, it’s mostly used in the production of cutting and mining products such as drill bits, lathe tools, high-speed cutting tools and milling cutters.
Electronics and electrical industries
Because tungsten has a high melting point and a low vapor pressure, it’s mostly used in many high temperature applications such as light bulbs, vacuum tube filaments and cathode-ray tubes. And because of its relative chemical inertness and conductive properties, tungsten is also used in electrodes, e.g., in electron microscopes.
Because tungsten has a high tolerance to intense heat, it’s also an ideal material for electronics applications. It’s generally used as an interconnect material in integrated circuits, and also between transistors and silicon dioxide (SiO2) dielectric material.
Tungsten is used as pure metal and sometimes mixed with other metallic elements to make alloys. And because these alloys tend to be stronger, more flexible, highly resistant to wear & corrosion, and conduct electricity pretty good, they are used for so many applications. For instance, tungsten-steel alloy is used in the production of rocket engine nozzles, for any metal to be used for this purpose, it must have excellent heat-resistance property. Super alloys containing tungsten are mostly used in turbine blades, coatings and wear-resistant parts. Whereas, high density alloys containing tungsten with copper, iron or nickel are used in high-quality darts.
So many tungsten chemicals are used in the form of tungstates, tungsten oxides, tungstic acid, silicotungstic acid, tungsten sulfide and phosphotungstics. These chemicals are widely used in the oil, mining, lubricants, electronics and medical industries. For instance, tungsten sulfide is a high temperature lubricant and also one of the components of catalysts for hydrodesulfurization. Tungsten oxide may be incorporated into SCR (selective catalytic reduction) catalysts by coal-fired power plants.
Besides the above listed applications, tungsten has so many other applications. Its thermal expansion is similar to that borosilicate glass, thus it’s used to make glass-metal seals. Tungsten is also used in jewelry making as a platinum or gold substitute because its density is relatively similar to gold.
What Color Tungsten for Aluminum?
One of the most frequently asked questions about tungsten electrodes is “what color of tungsten is used for welding aluminum?” Well, before we answer this question, we would like you to know that TIG welding electrodes have a specific colour-coding that makes them easy to identify.
The colour coding is based on the chemical composition of these electrodes, and each has its applications, rules and advantages. The above-listed electrodes can be used for TIG welding aluminum.
However, there are a number of rules and regulations attached to using these electrodes.
- Orange: 2% ceriated (used for AC only)
- Green: is pure tungsten (used for DC only)
- Gold: 1.5% Lanthanated (used for both AC and DC)
- Blue: 2% lanthanated (used for both AC and DC)
- Red: 2% thoriated (used for DC only)
Warning: Never use green tungsten electrode on AC, since pure tungsten can ball-up especially if you’re using an inverter. All welders have their preferred kind of tungsten, some prefer to use thoriated while others opt for pure tungsten. Whichever your choice might be, all work perfectly so as long as you have got the correct settings and the right application.
Types of Tungsten for TIG Welding Aluminium
- Red Thoriated welding electrodes contains 2% thorium mixed with tungsten. These electrodes are commonly used for TIG welding aluminum. They are durable and versatile. Some welders do sharp the tip of these electrodes in order to enjoy a more stable arc. The final weld puddle is exceptionally clean because the electrodes leave a very minimal deposit. The 2% thorium mixture in these electrodes allows for easier arc-starts and higher current carrying capacity.
- Green TIG Welding electrodes are 100% pure Tungsten and are used for AC welding only. They are cheap and mostly used for aluminum and magnesium welding. Though the weld greatly, they burn-up much faster than alloy electrodes. So, make sure you have enough electrodes beforehand when welding.
- Ceriated electrodes: These electrodes are not recommended for TIG Welding at higher amps, this is because the heat may cause changes in the electrode composition. This type of welding electrodes is commonly employed for welding thin metals, pipe fabrication and on small, precise parts at lower temperatures.
- Orange Ceriated welding electrode contains two percent cerium; they are perfect for AC welding and lower current processes. Because it works excellently on carbon steels, nickel alloys, stainless steel and titanium, these electrodes can be used in place of thoriated electrodes.
- Gold Lanthanated Electrodes: These electrodes are used for TIG welding aluminum on both AC and DC settings. They can be balled or sharpened depending on the type of the project. 1.5% Lanthanated tungsten electrodes offers reliable arc starts and also maintains a smooth and stable arc all through. Due to their durability and versatility, many welding pros use them as a replacement for thoriated tungsten electrodes since there are no radioactive elements Contained in them.
Top 5 Best Tungsten for Aluminum 2019
1. TIG Welding Tungsten Electrodes
- PREMIUM ten (10) pack of blue EWLa-2 2% lanthanated tungsten rods for TIG welding
- HIGHEST RATED and most reviewed tungsten electrodes on Amazon
- UNITED STATES based manufacturing & customer service staff are here to help you
- ELECTRODE SIZE: 3/32" x 7" or 2.4mm x 175mm
- FREE materials safety data sheet (MSDS) and certificate of conformance provided below in the product information, adhering to American Welding Society standard A5.12M/A5.12:2009
Welders best friend!!! The Blue 2% lanthanated 3/32X7″ tungsten welding electrodes will perfectly get the job done for you.
Engineered to exact specs, you can count on these amazing electrodes to perform optimally even during the most difficult project, over and over again.
Because they deliver nice, stable arc, these premium quality 2% Lanthanated Tungsten Electrodes are ideal for TIG welding aluminum stainless and mild steels, and other special metals. With low burn-off rate and reliable arc-striking, these electrodes maintain high-quality arc while adhering to AWS and ANSI standards.
That’s not all, Lanthanated electrodes are renowned for their relative ease of striking an arc and lesser amperage requirements.
They perform exceptionally great for both AC and DC applications. The Blue 2% Lanthanated electrodes are designed to last; they burn at a lower rate while delivering the best welds ever. Lastly, the 2% Lanthanated Tungsten Welding electrodes are pocket-friendly.
Things We Like:
- Require lower amperage to function
- This product completely certified the American Welding Society standards
- It’s the most rated Tungsten electrode on the Market
- Maintains the highest quality of arc
- High-frequency arc start
- Excellent performances for both DC and AC applications
Things That Could Improve:
- Good product but the quality could be better as some tend to get eroded while welding aluminum
- Rods may splinter while trying to break off the contaminated bits
2. TIG Welding Tungsten Electrodes
- Premium Ten (10) pack of assorted sizes, WL20 2% Lanthanated TIG welding electrodes
- Electrode size .040"Ø (ref 1.00mm) 4 Count 1/16"Ø (ref 1.58mm) 3 count & 3/32"Ø (ref 2.38mm) 3 count, all 6.89" (175mm) long
- Great for Inverter welders (AC & DC), use on Steel, Stainless & Aluminum
- ANSI / AWS A5.12M98 ISO 6848
- Great starter pack for new welders
The WL20 2% Lanthanated tungsten electrode is a great aluminum welding electrode like no other. It functions smoothly on AC welding aluminum along with DC steel welding all with a long electrode life.
These electrodes are the best tungsten for aluminum inverter and can be used on custom car frames, Bicycle Frames, Motor Cycle Frames, Off-Road Buggy Frames, Exhaust Systems, Engine Mounts, Airplane Fuselages, Metal Part Repairs and Art Sculptures.
You see, the 2% Lanthanated Tungsten Welding electrodes are good starter for professional and first-time welders having a small Welding machine but looking forward to welding aluminum. Just as it’s expected of any good tungsten electrode, these electrodes deliver stable arc all the time.
What makes these electrodes more acceptable in the market is the low amperage requirements and their ability to perform exceptionally great for both AC and DC applications.
Though they aren’t recommended for welding thicker aluminum, they are rather suitable for welding thin and medium-sized aluminum.
Things We Like:
- Ideal for inverter welders
- Great starter pack for first-time welders
- Work as expected
- Suitable for welding steel and aluminum materials
- Low power consumption
Things That Could Improve:
- Not too good for welding thicker aluminum materials
- Welds fine, however, seems to ball up a bit quicker
3. GENSSI TIG Welding Tungsten Electrode
- TIG welding tungsten electrodes; 2.0% Lanthanated
- Premium quality
- 175mm Long or about less than 7 Inches
- 1/16 (1.6mm) inch Blue WL20 (Appears green, this is normal)
- Pack of 10
The GENSSI TIG tungsten welding electrodes are a premium quality tungsten electrodes well-made for TIG welding aluminum.
They are long-lasting tungsten electrodes with a decent concentric ground finish. Highly durable and design to deliver stable arc all through; the final result of which is clean, spatter free welds. The Genssi TIG welding tungsten electrodes are 2% Lanthanated and are perfect for welding, aluminum, carbon steel, stainless and mild steel materials.
If you are looking for the best tungsten for aluminum welding that can handle both AC and DC applications, Then Genssi TIG welding electrodes is exactly what you’re looking for.
This is because these TIG tungsten welding electrodes are capable of producing stable arc all the time regardless of whether you are a skilled or a first-time welder.
Above all, this unit is budget-friendly; you don’t have to break your account anyway.
Things We Like:
- Quality product
- Consistent Performance
- Concentric ground finish
- It’s multipurpose
- complete duty cycle at low amperage
Things That Could Improve:
- They don’t come in varying sizes
4. Amplify Brand 2% Lanthanated Tungsten Electrodes
- Amplify Brand High-performance
- 2% Lanthanated Tungsten Electrodes
- 1/16" (1.6mm)
- Package of Ten Each, 7" (175mm) Long Tungsten Electrodes
- Color Code: Dark Blue
The Gold Amplify brand 1/6″ 2% Lanthanated Tungsten electrodes are high performance TIG welding electrodes.
This new formulation is a general purpose non-radioactive replacement for thoriated tungsten electrodes. Also, it’s somewhat similar to 1.5% Lanthanated tungsten electrodes featuring excellent ignition/re-ignition properties.
Comes well-packaged in clear plastic tubes with black vinyl removable cap each containing ten pieces of 7″ long electrodes.
This greatly helps minimize moisture contamination while prolonging the electrode storage life. These high quality Amplify Brand electrodes does decent job welding steels and aluminum materials.
If a perfect aluminum weld is all you are after, then you need not worry anymore, these Tungsten welding electrodes are capable of producing consistent stable arc all the time. Whether it’s for AC or DC applications, these electrodes will handle it all.
The Amplify brand 2% Lanthanated Tungsten Electrodes have an excellent ground finish. Meanwhile, they are also capable of handling so much current while still maintaining high-quality performance all through.
Things We Like:
- Capable of handling both AC and DC applications
- High performance
- Excellent ignition and re-ignition property
- Maintains stable arc
- Works great on different aluminum grades
Things That Could Improve:
- Not too good for welding very thick aluminum materials
5. Kamas Stainless Steel Tungsten Electrodes Aluminum
- Material: 20 pcs
- Great Welding Effect - With full & smooth welding effect because of internal powder. With low melting point(647â„ƒï½ž658â„ƒ), great weldability and corrosion resistance, high thermal conductivity, high electric conductivity and excellent processing performance.
- No Need Solder Powder - You don't have to use other flux powder with aluminum alloy as the welding core and coating as the salt base. Very convenient and easy to weld.
- Widely Use In Life - Suitable for welding or surfacing welding alloy with high strength, good forgeability & good corrosion resistance.
- Very Wide Application - It is mainly used for argon arc welding and filling material for pure aluminum, connection with aluminium bus and guide rod of electrolytic aluminium plant and electric power, chemistry, food and so on.
The Kamas Stainless Steel Tungsten Electrodes are a kind of universal welding electrodes with wide applications.
These electrodes are lightweight and allow you to weld aluminum material with much ease. These electrodes allow for smooth welding process due the internal powder and remarkable processing performance.
Not only are the Kamas Stainless Tungsten Electrodes resistant to corrosion, they also have low melting point, high thermal and electric conductivity.That’s not all about the Kamas stainless steel tungsten electrodes!
They have a very wide range of applications; mainly used for argon arc welding, filling material for pure aluminum as well as connection with the aluminum bus.
In addition, these electrodes are also suitable for surfacing welding alloy with high strength, good corrosion resistance and good forgeability. Because they are lightweight designed, they tend to be very convenient and easy to use.
Things We Like:
- High electric conductivity
- Very wide applications
- Ideal for both AC and DC applications
- Great welding effect
- Very convenient and easy to use
- Resistant to corrosion
Things That Could Improve:
- ends easily
- The quality could be better
Lanthanated vs Thoriated Tungsten
You don’t have to think twice, Lanthanated Tungsten Electrode is by far better for a countless number of reasons. But don’t get us wrong, we didn’t mean the Thoriated Tungsten electrode is completely useless, it also has its own advantages over the Lanthanated Tungsten Electrode. However, we still go for the Lanthanated.
Advantages of Lanthanated over thoriated Tungsten
Lanthanated electrodes have the ability to handle more amperage than any other electrode you can find in the market. This makes them the most preferred Tungsten electrode for heavy industrial applications.
Also, when it comes to the type of welding machine, Lanthanated Tungsten Electrodes shows no discrepancies; they are compatible with TIG welding machines. Lanthanated electrodes use the least voltage in order to be broken down, and this makes the arc starts very easy.
Finally, unlike the thoriated tungsten and other alloys, the Lanthanated Tungsten Electrodes are not radioactive.
Thoriated Tungsten electrode and most alloys are can easily be found in the most local shops, but the case is different with Lanthanated electrodes; they aren’t common in our local stores. Again, you need a little more time and effort while grinding compared to the thoriated.
Finally, Lanthanated Tungsten Electrodes cost a bit more than Thoriated Tungsten electrodes. This may or may not be a problem for you, but if you do buy it, you will understand its worth the money.
Tungsten Carbide vs. Tungsten
Though Tungsten carbide is formed from little modification in chemical composition of Tungsten, Tungsten carbide and Tungsten are completely two different things. The former is heavier and is mostly used in conjunction with metal binders in the production of cutting and mining products. Whereas, Tungsten is lighter, less expensive and can be used in jewelry making.
These are completely different. Carbide tungsten is stronger and more expensive than ordinary tungsten. Tungsten carbide is heavy, but regular tungsten is light. People use tungsten for jewelry.
Does Tungsten Cause Allergy?
Well, this depends on the health status of your skin. If you’ve a healthy skin, there’s no problem, and you don’t need to worry. But if your skin is too sensitive, it may be somehow irritating.
For TIG welding aluminum, Tungsten has been a success. It’s suitable for both household and industrial applications. While each Tungsten electrode has its own pros and cons, one of the best tungsten for aluminum welding is the 2% Lanthanated Tungsten Electrode.
While most welders opt for this electrode because it holds up well and provides consistent arc for a clean weld, others preferred them for other reasons.
But if you are looking for the best tungsten electrode for welding aluminum, like any other metal enthusiast will tell you, “no tungsten does it better than the Blue 2% Lanthanated Tungsten Electrode.”
Caution: one of the most common but costly mistakes most welders make is choosing the wrong electrode. Never choose a tiny or too small electrode, because it will suffer you a lot and you may end up with messy welds.