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Monocrystalline (110) and polycrystalline tungsten and molybdenum converter surfaces have been tested in a surface negative hydrogen‐ion source, both with and without cesium added to the plasma. With cesium added to the discharge, no significant difference in H- yield is measured between the four converter surfaces. Energy spectra reveal that the contribution to the total H- yield from the backscattered hydrogen is negligible compared to the ion‐impact desorbed H- ions. The converter voltage required for optimum H- production increases with the amount of cesium added to the plasma. The measurements without cesium show roughly equal fractions of backscattered and desorbed H- ions in the self‐extracted beam. The presence of oxygen on the surfaces enhances the ion‐impact desorbed (sputtered) H- yield with respect to the reflected H- yield. This is attributed to the formation of OH on the surfaces.