In theory, yes. Practice? Not often enough. Everyone is guilty of it. Doing that something…getting unsatisfactory results…doing it again…same negative result…then, as if we’re expecting some divine intervention, we hold our breath and do it again…
Why? Is it laziness? No. Is it because we’re not smart enough to try something else? No. Is it ego? Maybe.…probably. I’m guilty. We all are. I call it RIP (resumo ignoramus perpetuus). As a small business consultant, I see it all too often.
Welding aluminum is a petri dish for RIP. If something goes astray, stop welding because it’s not going to go away. The only thing that will go away is your workpiece. You have a problem and you need to fix it.
Statistically, if you’re experiencing difficulty, you’re dealing with a contamination problem…the torch, work piece or both. Once it starts, it quickly turns into both.
I can’t emphasized the cleanliness aluminum requires. It’s a whole different playing field than mild steel. Having a true-tested cleaning liquid and a stainless steel brush are essential. I use Gold Matrix Industrial Cleaning Fluid by Walter. Your local welding supply company has their favorite…use it. A stainless steel brush can be purchased at your local hardware store. Give your wire brush exclusivity and use it solely with aluminum. Periodically cleanse it with your cleaning solution.
- Is there a draft in your working area? I love to weld outside, but even the slightest breeze can disrupt your gas shield.
- Sorry…but is it on? Do you have sufficient pressure? PSI range for welding aluminum is between 15-20 PSI. Turning it up beyond that will probably disrupt the shielding process by creating turbulence.
- At the onset, get in a comfortable welding position, engage and release your foot pedal for one second to start the gas flow…then re-engage the pedal to start the arc. This initial step displaces oxygen and creates a pure field before the arc. Also, keep the torch close to the weld after you disengage the arc to allow post flow of the argon to remain on the weld.
- If either your puddle or filler rod grazed the electrode, it’s contaminated. Depending on the severity, you can either snap off the end and grind to point or just re-grind to point. When grinding your electrode, position the electrode so it’s pointing directly at the wheel (lengthwise) and quickly rotate to get an even point. Angle will dictate weld bead/penetration. Less angle/sharper will provide a wider bead, less penetration….the reverse for wide angle/more blunt. For my project, I’m between 45-60°. I keep a few electrodes handy for a quick switch.
- Puretung v. Thoriated? Personal preference and aluminum thickness. Experiment. I use 2% Thoriated.
- Confirm AC setting….especially if you’re working on multiple projects or sharing equipment. You’ll know if amperage is too high/low. When starting a new project, testing is always wise…saves time, energy and $…and take notes.
- Fine soot often accumulates during the welding process. More so when you make frequent stops/go. Clean the surface with your solvent first and then use the stainless brush. I also wipe down filler rod with solvent.
- Used dedicated welding gloves for aluminum…the newest/cleanest you have.
When welding aluminum, there is little room for error. Take your time and get in a comfortable welding position. Preparation is critical.