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Welding question.............(but not for pro weldors)

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  • Welding question.............(but not for pro weldors)

    It's happened. I finally got the coinage to purchase a TIG welder but am wondering just how hard it would be to learn to weld aluminum with? I can use O/A, MIG and my AC/DC buzz box but not fully versed in their usage, just familiar enough to do the simple projects I want to fool around with.

    I'd like to be able to weld 1/4" thick aluminum sheet to say a 1" 5x5" aluminum stock. My MIG is only a 120Volt unit so a more sufficiant TIG might be on my horizon but I'm just not sure about the learning curve.

    Keep in mnid I'm not the birghsett blub in twon I'd like to hear from an retired schoot teachers, retired news photographers or tree surgeons and not pro welders!
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    Thank you to our families of soldiers, many of whom have given so much more then the rest of us for the Freedom we enjoy.

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  • #2
    Depends, AC/DC tig or DC only tig? Afaik DC tig does not do aluminum very well.

    Other then that, it should be very easy to stick two peices of metal togethor. Little harder to do it with weld beads you don't have to grind down to not look fulgy. (Making ground aluminum look like aluminum stock is about 100x harder then mild steel, Plus you usally don't paint aluminum so scuffs/etc show up)

    Lot harder if its really thin metal and you don't wanna blow holes in it. And other things can incress diffaculty. Wind, Position of the metals (Not allways under your control. Consider welding things onto a huge machine), How clean the metal is, etc. How strong you want it to be. if you want it water/air tight or not, etc etc etc. Many people seem to sware by foot pedal control too, over the 'on torch' control. (For amprage, you really need to adjust amps on the fly with tig)
    Play Brutal Nature, Black Moons free to play highly realistic voxel sandbox game.

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    • #3
      Trick is Don't start out trying to TIG Aluminum

      Start out with mild steel. Some thing you can actually see turning red and starting to puddle. Get used to the whole Puddle Fill Puddle Fill Puddle Fill methodology of TIG welding first.

      Then you can try moving up to Al.

      Al TIG is very different then any thing else. You won't see any color change, nor any puddle either. The heat is being absorbed so quickly you don't really get to see any thing until it is too late. But as much as I've ever noticed is a slight texture change - thats the puddle

      Additionally "Don't Wait For It" thats right turn up the freakin dial. It takes Heat to weld aluminum. Some say 1 amp per .001" of thickness. With a good square wave machine some less but not much. You pour in the heat - stuff in your filler rod and hopefully it all flows together and repeat as necessary

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      • #4
        You'll be able to learn TIG no problem, it would help if you had an experienced tutor initially. If most of your aluminum welding is going to be 1/4" to thicker plate you are going to need a pretty powerful machine (lot of amps) and a good water cooled torch.

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        • #5
          Joe has posted some good advice. The only thing I have to add is TIG is similar to OA in that one has a heat source and a filler rod. So to me the eye hand coordination required for TIG & OA are quite similar.

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          • #6
            Old Dog,
            I signed up for a welding lab at a local community college. It was a hell of a deal. The cost was reasonable @100 bucks for senior citizens. I got to practice on multiple types of equipment and all the consumables and materials were covered by the tuition. I had to purchase a TIG torch set up, which I needed anyway. It was 2 evenings a week for a semester. I got a chance to TIG steel, stainless, and aluminum. I also got to try out their plasma cutter, an Iron worker, various saws and other equipment. I also got to dumpster dive for equipment and materials worth considerably than the price of tuition. In the end I got to be a pretty competent TIG welder.

            Try it, you'll like it.

            Randy
            Do yourself a favor and see if your TV carrier has America One News Network (AONN). 208 on Uverse. It is good old fashion news, unlike the networks, with no hype, bias or other BS.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by JoeFin
              It takes Heat to weld aluminum. Some say 1 amp per .001" of thickness. With a good square wave machine some less but not much. You pour in the heat - stuff in your filler rod and hopefully it all flows together and repeat as necessary
              Joe's advice is good. The other issue with TIG'ing aluminum is that you have to learn heat management. You need to really step on the pedal to get the puddle started, and then start sloping off as the piece heats up. The last 3 inches or so you really have to let up on the pedal, or you'll blow through it. Takes a lot of practice to terminate a good aluminum stringer.

              Heat management on stainless is much harder than aluminum
              "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

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              • #8
                Yea steel really spoils you with colour change and how poorly it conducts heat.

                Why is stainless hard?
                Play Brutal Nature, Black Moons free to play highly realistic voxel sandbox game.

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                • #9
                  YOD,

                  I did similar to you in that I bought a TIG rig and just jumped into it. I am still not capable of consistently pretty work, but I am able to weld aluminum. I have a Hobart TIGMATE (180 Amp) that is just short of having the amperage to weld anything over 1/4". I've done it, but it was a challenge. The heat just runs away from you.

                  I also found this website to immensely helpful in advancing my TIG skills (and stick welding steel for that matter). Take a look at Welding Tips & Tricks.

                  Dwayne
                  "When it comes to paradigms ... shifts happen" - Alain Rossman

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    You don't have a big enough welder or tig torch to weld 1/4" aluminum to 1" aluminum.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Black_Moons
                      Why is stainless hard?
                      There's no margin for error on heat control. There's a very small window where you get full penetration, but keep the stainless cool enough that it doesn't cook off the chromium.

                      If you're too hot, the bead will be gray, and the weld will be weak. If you have the right temperature, you get beautiful oxide colors:

                      Last edited by lazlo; 07-12-2011, 09:27 PM.
                      "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Bleeping aluminum.....

                        Even wire welding in class...... sheesh.

                        Spool gun, set up right, yah,gotta go faster with aluminum, fine, we'll go fast.... run it, brightest white light ever.... hope it's OK, can't see squat but the freakin son of the SUN while I'm running it......

                        Hey, where's the bead? nothin there but a lot of some kind of dross..... musta gone too fast.

                        Try again.... slower. now there's more nothin there...... that can't be right

                        OK, lets try really freakin fast, let's WHIP this dog........ Dang, that's a decent bead.... too bad I have NO idea what just happened, other than the bead is good.....

                        Seems like that is aluminum......

                        I can now stick weld, GMAW, and GTAW steel presentably, assuming I have not forgotten too much since last class in May.

                        Dat 'luminum done got me whupped, with steel there's something to watch, with aluminum there ain't much so far as I can see.
                        1601

                        Keep eye on ball.
                        Hashim Khan

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Like Jim says, need a bigger welder. Minimum 300 amp.

                          Wire feed aluminum can be tricky to set up. Not enough feed and the wire burns back and welds itself to the tip. Once that happens the tip is shot.

                          The one constant I have found is big heavy machines or inverters do the best job. And pulsing, if you have it, makes a difference.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            First of all I agree with the guy who said to practice with steel first. This will help you get a "feel" for torch angles and movement rates relative to heat.

                            You'll need AC current and more heat than you would normally use for steel. You can help yourself a lot by pre-heating the area to be welded by running the torch over it slowly just short of creating a puddle. You can also help yourself by cutting "weld preps" on either side of the area to be welded to concentrate the heat to just the area you want welded.

                            Think of a weld prep as a long, linear O ring groove. For example: let's say I have to weld two pieces of 1/2" plate together; mill a slot about 1/8" - 3/16" away from each of the edges you plan to weld. The milled slot, in this case, would be about 1/8" wide and about 1/8" - 3/16" deep. Put the two plates together with their edges touching. Where the edges touch the material will be at the original 1/2" height but will be only a total of 1/8 + 1/8 wide. The heat from your tig torch will be siphoned downward and localized in the area you want to weld. Without the prep the heat would be "robbed" by the material in the area where you placed your grooves. By reducing the mass in the local area of the weld you concentrate more heat right at the weld area.

                            I'd still preheat the entire line of the weld lightly though (do NOT puddle at this point) before I started to run a bead. Besides preheating the material the preheat run burns off contaminates that will pollute your weld with black oxidation. After a preheat run your area to be welded should have a whiteish look to it. At this point you are down to virgin aluminum with no oxidation present.

                            I have made high vacuum chambers using the techniques described above and high-vac is usually very hard to do with aluminum.

                            Your choice of aluminum is important too. Use 6061. Do NOT use 2000 series or 7500 series - they do not weld good.

                            EDIT: OH ... and be sure to use welding rod. You can get away with just fuzing stainless steel or regular steel but aluminum requires rod or it will be a very weak weld. Use argon as your inert gas but if you want greater penetration make it a mix of argon and helium.
                            Last edited by DATo; 07-13-2011, 03:14 AM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Your Old Dog
                              It's happened. I finally got the coinage to purchase a TIG welder but am wondering just how hard it would be to learn to weld aluminum with? I can use O/A, MIG and my AC/DC buzz box but not fully versed in their usage, just familiar enough to do the simple projects I want to fool around with.

                              I'd like to be able to weld 1/4" thick aluminum sheet to say a 1" 5x5" aluminum stock. My MIG is only a 120Volt unit so a more sufficiant TIG might be on my horizon but I'm just not sure about the learning curve.

                              Keep in mnid I'm not the birghsett blub in twon I'd like to hear from an retired schoot teachers, retired news photographers or tree surgeons and not pro welders!
                              You'll need a BIG machine - +300A, AC/DC with HF start & a water cooled torch, use preheat (propane gas gun) an infrared thermometer is useful to see when to start welding, build a firebrick hearth to help keep the heat in.

                              Keep every thing CLEAN,
                              have dedicated tools for Alu, only use SS brushes, Alu can be unforgiving but with proper prep it's a dodle. Depending on joint you may have to back purge.
                              Did I mention Keep every thing CLEAN

                              If you've never TIG'd - DON'T start with Alu , practice in steel to develop your technique, take a class if there's one local, look on THIS SITE for basic info.


                              john


                              PS- Disregard all the above as I'm none of these
                              retired schoot teachers, retired news photographers or tree surgeons and not pro welders!
                              John

                              I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure , but I'm not a complete idiot - some bits are still missing

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