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What Can Go Wrong When TIG Welding Aluminum?

TIG welding anything can be challenging for beginners since it’s a two-handed operation with both a torch and a filler metal, but when you’re dealing with aluminum, there are even more challenges for welders. You can run into all kinds of problems that will give you headaches if you don’t plan accordingly and know how to adapt when challenges arise. In addition, you need to learn how to spot problems early on so that you don’t ruin an important job. Here are a few of the things you need to look for when TIG welding aluminum:

Is the Welding Surface Clean?

TIG welding aluminum calls for metal that is especially clean, and that starts with a clean work surface. Oil, dust, and other impurities can build up on your welding table, so the first place to start is cleaning off your welding surface. Some welders suggest working on a solid chunk of metal that is large enough that you can’t weld the aluminum to it by mistake. If you can’t start with a clean workplace, then any work you do to clean your metal will be wasted.

Is the Metal Work Piece Clean?

If you don’t start your weld with clean metal, you’ll have a lot of porosity and impurities come to the surface after you’re done welding. TIG welding requires a clean, accurate weld with very little margin for error. Aluminum will be the most challenging metal to clean off, requiring a cleaner like acetone and a cloth that won’t leave lint on the weld joint.

Have You Made a Strong Tack?

TIG welding won’t use up filler metal like stick welding, but it does require a slightly larger tack weld than stick or MIG welding projects. You’ll need to build your tack up a little more than you may be used to since aluminum is typically a thinner metal and you’ll need to add filler to the tack to make sure it’s strong enough. If you’re working with a straight up butt joint where two pieces of metal meet together, give yourself a slight angle when you tack the metal together.

Are You Working at a Good Angle?

Welding at the wrong angle could put strain on your hands and arms, burn a finger, or lead your weld off center from the weld joint. TIG welds demand precision if they’re going to hold, and therefore it’s always a good idea to make a couple of dry runs over the weld joint before striking your arc.

Do You Have Enough Shielding Gas?

Shielding gas protects the weld puddle from impurities and keeps the weld smooth and even. If you see some sparks while you’re working, then you probably don’t have enough shielding gas to protect the weld puddle. You’ll end up with impurities in your weld and will need to smooth out the finished weld. The overall look of your weld will suffer if you can’t get the right balance of shielding gas.

Are You Welding with Too Much Power?

For a thinner metal like aluminum, you don’t want to burn through the metal by using too much amperage. Test your settings on some scrap metal to get a good sense of how hot you’ll need to weld. If you play it too safe and keep the amperage low, you’ll end up creating a spotty weld that doesn’t have good fusion with the metal work piece and the filler metal.


Ed Cyzewski


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