A common metal that is welded is aluminum. Aluminum is everywhere. It is in soda cans for example. Aluminum has many uses and is relativity easy to weld. Many beginner welders have difficulty welding aluminum because the metal shrivels, cracks, warps, or just plain breaks. After some practice, every welder is able to easily weld aluminum. If you are just getting started, always try to learn as much as you can before you even start to weld aluminum. You will need more than just the manual that comes with your welder; look for as much information on and offline as you can find.
The tools that you need are basic, so you should not have difficulty finding them. A TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welder is most often recommended for welding aluminum. These are also called Gas Tungsten Arc Welders, or GTAW. TIG welders can be expensive. Unless you are already making money with your welding you may find it hard to justify the expense. The more expensive machines offer many more features than the cheaper ones, and these features make it easier to weld aluminum. Some of the features include water cooling, frequency adjustment, and more amperage. Even a low cost machine can be used successfully to weld aluminum, so do not think you have to buy the most expensive one out there. Some welders prefer to use MIG welders or stick welders to weld aluminum, and this may be the route that you wish to take.
Always make sure that you have the proper personal safety equipment. Wear good welding gloves, a helmet, leathers, and everything else you need to ensure that you will not be injured. Welding aluminum is just as dangerous as welding steel. If you use a TIG welder, keep in mind that it will produce more UV radiation than other welding processes do. This means that your skin will be burned to the point of peeling and blisters in just a few minutes if you do not take precautions, similar to a severe sunburn. A heavy work shirt with long sleeves will prevent this painful occurrence.
You need argon gas to weld aluminum. If you want to use a mix, the only one that you can use is a mixture of argon and helium. Other mixes will not work with aluminum. You also need a welding rod that is made for aluminum. You can find charts online that will tell you the recommended welding rods for aluminum. You should have a steel brush that is used only for aluminum to brush it off.
Before you begin, always clean the aluminum. Even if the aluminum looks brand new and clean. It is still dirty and needs to be cleaned. If you are wondering if your aluminum is dirty, there are several ways to tell, such as: the arc wanders, the filler won’t blend but rolls into a ball, the aluminum has surface tension and joining pieces curl away from each other. Spray the aluminum with acetone, rinse with water, let dry, and use a stainless steel brush to scrub it clean in the welding area.
Remember that aluminum is a very good heat transmitter. Try to clamp it to a heatsink when you work. When the area you want to weld is hot enough the rest of the piece may begin to melt as well. A heatsink will help with that. These can be made of something such as aluminum or copper.
Always preheat the aluminum before starting to work. It will make the job a lot easier. Some say the aluminum will get softer if you preheat it because it is already heat treated. Opinions vary, so do your research and make your own decision. Fit the parts as closely together as possible with no gaps. The fewer the gaps the easier the job will be to do.
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