A lightweight, thin metal, aluminium is commonly used in welding workshops. Welding aluminium needs to be done at low temperatures. A reactive material, this metal forms an oxide layer when exposed which could be tricky as this results in porous welds.
Welding any material can be a challenging process, especially lightweight materials. This requires the utmost precision to ensure a strong bond. In order to successfully weld aluminium, you need to assemble the right tools, exercise caution and patience and, gain experience.
Assemble your tools
You will need:
- A Tungsten Inert Gas welder with AC capability (not only DC). This type of welder uses a tungsten electrode and an inert gas to shield the welding area.
- An aluminium filler rod. This tool is needed to bond the two pieces. Make sure that the rod is free of rust or dirt as this may lead to a weaker weld.
- A canister of argon gas. The gas’s purpose in the welding process is to shield.
- Protective clothing. Opt for a 100% cotton long sleeve shirt and long pants with no cuffs.
- Use safety equipment. You’ll need a heavy welding helmet, a thick pair of gloves and a respirator.
Get your workspace ready
- Clean away the aluminium oxide. Aluminium forms a thin coat of aluminium oxide on its exterior over time. This melts at a much higher temperature. You’ll need to do this mechanically by using a wire-brush, a grinder or filing away the oxides.
- Clean the filler rod. Use an abrasive cleaning pad with acetone to ensure the rod is free from contaminants.
- Clamp your workpieces together as tightly as possible.
- Preheat the aluminium workpiece. You can heat your workpiece by placing it directly into an oven or by using a propane torch. Benchmark a temperature between 300 degrees Fahrenheit and 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make sure that your workspace is ventilated and a cool environment.
- Always keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
- Set your welder’s amperage. Aim for 1 amp per 0.001 inch of your workspace’s thickness. It is recommended to set the welder’s amperage to a higher notch than you expect to need and then to tone the current back down with your foot pedal.
- Place your tools and workspace into position. Extend the tungsten electrode by no more than diameter of your torch’s nozzle. Press the button on the torch and use the foot pedal.
- Create the puddle. Begin melting the workpiece until you create an adequately sized puddle no wider than the diameter of your filler. Add the filler rod to fill in the joint and then move onto the next portion of the weld. Complete this process until the weld is complete.
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