5 Simple Tips for Welding Aluminum

Welding it togetherIf you ever stop to admire the structure of a building, the design of a car, or even just examine the pipes in your house, you can bet on one thing.  There was welding involved.  Welding is a fairly simple concept: joining two metal objects to become one strong, final piece. Welding aluminum, however, is an often tricky and frustrating process.  So why learn?  Well, aluminum has many advantages, including its light weight, ductility, corrosion resistance, and more.  And at the end of the day, practice makes perfect.  Anyone can weld aluminum if they’re dedicated.  Take a look at these five tips to help you through the beginning of the aluminum welding process.

Know Your Welding Process

MIG welder, TIG welder, Arc welder, which type to choose? They all have their advantages for certain metals, but for aluminum, you’re going to want to go with a TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welder.  TIG welding is the mostly widely used type for aluminum.  You can’t just pick up a TIG welder and know how to use it instantly, but it will create clean welds when those pretty “showroom” finishes really count.

Know The Difference in Alloys

In order to keep yourself safe, you should know what type of aluminum you’re welding.  Here are the heat-treatable aluminum alloys:

2000 series- Aluminum and copper.

6000 series – Aluminum, magnesium, and silicon.

7000 series – Aluminum and zinc

Cleaning

People who are new to aluminum welding are known to waste a lot of metal in practice.  Why?  The aluminum isn’t clean, and that makes for a poor welding process. If you want to avoid being one of these people, rinse and scrub your aluminum thoroughly before welding.  There’s a good chance oil, grease, and other contaminants are on there. Even if it doesn’t look dirty to you, it probably is.

Preheating

The general recommendation for pre-heating an alloy looms around 250 – 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  With aluminum, however, you’re going to need to play around a little bit to see what preheat temperature works for you.  Start lower.

When welding the aluminum, you’re going to need equipment that gets really, really hot.  Simple as that.  Don’t use pre-heating as a way to get around equipment limitations – it just won’t work!  Wear thicker gloves, and remember, aluminum is conductive to heat.

Tungsten Tips

Tungsten is a whole different ballgame when it comes to aluminum welding.  You could talk to 20 different people and they’ll all tell you something different about what tungsten to use.  You can use 2% Thoriated (Red).  You can use Pure (Green).  You could use 2% Ceriated (Orange).  Some electrodes will be cheaper, others will be more expensive.  You’ll have to test, judge, and see what you’re happy with.  When it gets contaminated, stop welding and fix it with your gloves on.

And remember, before you do any welding on your own, take welding classes and consult professionals.  Safety is the key in welding.

Chris Hill is the President and CEO of Framing Technology, Inc. Connect with him on and Twitter.

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