Welding aluminum can seem daunting to a beginner. This is why we’ve put together the top 5 aluminum welding tips for beginners. Welding aluminum is a different process than welding other metals, and it requires a different set of skills. But don’t worry. We’re here to help. By following these tips, you’ll be able to weld aluminum like a pro in no time.
Top Aluminum welding tips for beginners
Aluminum welding can often be a challenge for beginners, as the material is soft and highly sensitive. This can be thanks to the property of aluminum to have a tough oxidized layer that can make welding difficult. However, with the right tips, anyone can learn to weld aluminum successfully.
Let’s have a look at some of the common factors that might affect welding aluminum:
An aluminum oxide coating sits on top of the metal, which melts at a significantly higher temperature than aluminum. To however melt through this layer without burning holes in the aluminum beneath, you must apply higher heat, running risk of burning through material underneath the oxide coating.
When aluminum is heated, it absorbs hydrogen faster than it does when it’s solid. As the metal cools back to it’s solid state, the hydrogen separates out and leaves behind bubbles in the material, making the metal porous, and leaving it thinner.
Because of its high vulnerability to oxidation, it may become tainted by dirt, air, and water during welding. Air that reaches the weld because of poor shielding or excessively long arcs can contaminate aluminum. Aluminum can be weakened by oxygen and form an oxide layer on its surface, which affects its look and makes multistep welding more difficult.
There may be many sources of hydrogen, whether it is from the moisture in electrode fluxes, humid air, damp weld joints, and more. Therefore it’s critical to clean and store aluminum properly before welding because of all of these factors.
Welding aluminum requires use of a variety of material thicknesses. Welders must understand how to prevent burning through thinner material while yet sufficiently piercing thick material to produce a strong weld.
Welding steel compared to aluminum
Even welding steel may seem more difficult than it appears, and understanding the tell-tale signs of steel display during welding can assist you in delivering on consistently good welds. When heat is applied, the material changes color, glows, and then melts. Steel delivers instructions for when to add components and continue. Aluminum, however, does not. As the material heats up, it becomes a liquid, and it is this aluminum liquid that you must weld.
Therefore, there are no or very limited visual markers to indicate the progress of the welding process, it might be tough to find the phases you’re looking for. It will become easier to detect these signals after you’ve worked with aluminum long enough. Welding aluminum is a whole new learning experience, to be honest.
Best practices and aluminum welding tips for beginners
Cleaning the surface of the aluminum thoroughly is the first step toward a successful weld. Aluminum is so permeable, that even minor contaminants can make a significant difference in weld quality. Before applying any oxide-remover or a stainless steel brush to remove the outer layer of aluminum oxide, clean the metal first with a degreaser. And make sure to only use stainless steel wool.
Remember to keep your prepped aluminum in a cool, dry place until it is time to weld. Otherwise, you’ll have to start the process from the beginning, as the oxidation process starts again. It’s also critical to keep the aluminum at room temperature before welding. This prevents condensation from forming on the metal and causing oxidation to return.
Using the Right Welding Process
Because welders are designed for steel, it’s critical that you select the right one for the job. TIG and MIG welders are the greatest choices for aluminum welding.
TIG is an excellent tool for welding aluminum because the alternating current “cleans” the oxidized layer away while welding. High frequency TIG ensures proper heat penetration, resulting in a more uniform weld.
GTAW uses a constant current equipment with AC (alternating current) capabilities and 100 percent argon as a shielding gas. It does not require mechanical wire feeding, which has the potential to cause feedability problems.
Rather, the filler material is fed into a puddle by the welder. This procedure is also very clean since the alternating current cleans off the oxidized layer while welding. It also protects aluminum from being tainted throughout the process.
For the best welders on the market, our TIG welders guide
MIG is another option for welding aluminum that works quite well. To successfully weld the metal, you’ll need specific tools like a spool gun. It’s also necessary to choose the right shielding gas that will prevent aluminum from becoming porous. Reduce the risk of aluminum becoming porous by using helium or argon.
The welds produced by this method are often of lower quality than those made with TIG welding because the travel speeds and deposition rates are higher. It does, however, use a mechanical wire feeding system, which means the welder must either utilize a spool gun or push-pull gun to feed wire.
Looking for a MIG welder, have a look at our MIG welder buying guide
Select the correct filler metal for your project and matching it to your base alloy to avoid cracking. There are four distinct aluminum alloys from which to choose your filler metal.
1XXX – Containing 99% or more aluminum
2XXX – copper alloys
4XXX – silicon alloys
5XXX – magnesium alloys
Things to Avoid When Welding Aluminum
Let’s take a look at some big mistakes that beginner welders make when it comes to welding aluminum.
Taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach
When it comes to welding aluminum, especially as a beginner welder, you have to use an approach that is significantly different than that used for steel. The welder must avoid depending on previous experience with other metals or materials when working with aluminum; because it is so distinct, mishandling aluminum can lead to lower quality welds.
Not wearing the appropriate PPE
Welding aluminum or any other sort of material is inherently hazardous. Beginner welders must always wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and learn about safety procedures and best practices. This is essential for a long, and successful career in the sector.
Failure to prepare
Any beginner welder must prepare the material being welded. At the start of the day, make sure that your aluminum is clean and properly stored. Also, make sure you’re ready by learning more about aluminum welding and educating yourself in the art of aluminum welding. Until you are thoroughly prepared, never plunge into anything without first making sure you’re ready.
Minor details may be overlooked
The most successful welders will tell you that attention to detail is critical. In this business, the tiniest error may result in costly mistakes, or worse, an injury. Especially with aluminum welding. Always pay attention to every detail and double, triple-check your work since it will benefit both your consumers and your career in the long run if you make a habit of it.
Lack of patience
Welding aluminum requires practice. Keep practicing and persevering—your hard work and dedication will pay off.
Concluding Aluminum Welding Tips for Beginners
While welding aluminum as a beginner welder may be difficult, the metal has a lot of advantages that make it well worth the effort. Learning to understand what makes it work with aluminum is difficult
Keep that in mind, effective practice on scrap aluminum can quite beneficial when learning and implementing the suggestions above. Consider taking classes or working with someone who has expertise in welding aluminum.