Aluminum Welding for Beginners

You might be familiar with the appearance of an excellent aluminum weld. Skilled welders worldwide utilize aluminum welding for the automotive, aerospace and construction industries to great effect. You may have heard that learning how to aluminum weld can prove challenging if you’re going into it blind. But, what do you need to weld aluminum? Should you be using one welder over another? What goes into the entire aluminum welding process? In this article, we at Weldpro would like to introduce the aluminum welding tips, techniques and basic machinery requirements you need to achieve a high-quality aluminum weld using the GTAW (gas tungsten arc welding) or TIG (tungsten inert gas) process. Learning to weld aluminum base material can be a challenge at first – many aspects of aluminum welding can be confusing to a beginner just starting out. We hope this guide to welding for beginners will help you overcome some of those confusing questions and concerns.

Learning to Weld Aluminum: AC vs. DC

Utilizing the right aluminum welding setup is crucial. To achieve an appropriate weld on aluminum, you must have an AC-capable TIG welder, such as the Weldpro TIG 200. AC refers to what is known as “alternating current,” which is in direct contrast to DC or “direct current.” AC-capable aluminum welding equipment is preferred over DC because the alternating current has a positive half cycle that can provide a cleaning action, while the negative half cycle provides penetration. When learning to weld aluminum, AC TIG welders’ cleaning and penetrating capabilities are the best way to guarantee gorgeous welds.

The Top Benefit of AC Welding Aluminum

When learning to weld aluminum, it’s critical to be aware that aluminum requires comparatively higher temperatures to get a quality weld. When looking at TIG welding for beginners, you’ll find that these machines are more commonly used in the aluminum welding process due to their simplicity when compared to MIG welders. Because AC welding is the best power supply for TIG welders, most aluminum products are manufactured using AC welding.

AC Provides Balance Control In TIG Aluminum Welding Equipment

Prior to the 1970s, the negative and positive half cycle of alternating current was a simple 50/50 approach. Modern aluminum welding equipment now uses what is known as balance control for a more streamlined approach to create the ideal arc for all applications. As a beginner TIG welder working on aluminum, AC-capable machines that feature balance control are essential for making the job easier with better results.

When using AC current, the fluctuation between positive and negative poles occurs very rapidly. The term “alternating current” refers to this reversal in electron flow – something that doesn’t happen with DC. As mentioned, when you use AC aluminum welding equipment, you must control how much balance there is between the polarities. Running a TIG torch on a full DCEP (direct current electrode positive) balance will destroy the tungsten electrode and possibly the torch. DCEP places great heat into the torch and tungsten, while DCEN (direct current electrode negative) current places the heat into the workpiece.

For this reason, we need to be able to balance the polarity heavily to the DCEN side. Typically, this will average out to about 70%. However, there are exceptions to this – such as having oxidized or dirty base material. If you’re working with this type of material, it is essential to have the capabilities to adjust the balance more to the DCEP side, which allows the cleaning action to happen on the workpiece. The Weldpro TIG 200 has a balance control built-in that works seamlessly, making TIG welding for beginners easier to manage. Balance control can be adjusted anywhere from 30%-70%, depending upon cleaning needs.

Four Top Aluminum Welding Techniques & Tips

Learning to weld aluminum is a complex skill that requires proper knowledge before you take on the task. Keep these aluminum welding techniques in mind to help you focus on the skills you need to master to get the job done right.

1. Prepare Your Aluminum

Aluminum naturally forms a layer of oxide on the exterior surface when it cools off at a factory. Also, cleaning oils and contaminants can be left on the exterior when the aluminum is handled. The aluminum welding process will always begin by cleaning its surface before you even start thinking about turning on your TIG welder. Working on a clean work surface creates a noticeable difference in the quality of your weld. First, it’s best to use acetone to clean the surface and ensure it’s completely free of oils and any other contaminants. To remove the oxide layer, you’ll want to use a stainless steel brush. It’s not difficult to do, but if you skip using the acetone, you can push contaminants deeper in the material and affect the quality of your weld.

TIG welding tips for beginners always talk about the need to preheat your aluminum before getting started. Essentially, this step in the aluminum welding process will make it much easier to work with. Running a blowtorch over the aluminum before starting will minimize the amount of distortion you’ll often see when the heat of the welding torch creates a local hotspot on the material.

2. Learn How to Set Up a TIG Welder for Aluminum

We’ve already discussed the importance of working with AC rather than DC, but learning to weld aluminum means understanding which electrode you should be using on your TIG welder. Your TIG electrode should always be pure tungsten, which offers better durability and purity than other electrode types. Your electrode should also not be sharpened to a point because the rough alternating current could cause it to break off into your weld. A common aluminum welding technique used by masters is using pure argon gas as your shielding gas. This creates optimal weld purity and performance when working with aluminum.

3. Learn How to Work Fast

A particularly hard step in welding for beginners to master is speed. This is especially important for learning how to weld aluminum, as there’s a real danger of overheating your material if you take stops rather than moving on.

4. Work With a Heat Sink

Using a brass or copper heat sink is the best practice when learning to weld aluminum. Since aluminum transmits heat exceptionally well, clamping your project to a heat sink can take the heat out of the weld and allow you to be slower and more accurate. If your weld gets hot enough to start melting, the entire project can begin to shrink and warp. A heat sink is one of the best pieces of aluminum welding equipment to use as a beginner when you’re still trying to work on your speed.

Aluminum Weld Pools Explained for the Beginner TIG Welder

Beginner TIG welders working on aluminum will notice that the weld pool of the material can look very different than when working on mild steel. The weld pool is orange and noticeable on mild steel. However, on aluminum, the weld pool looks more like a small, wet reflective puddle.

Understanding what this puddle should look like is one of the primary principles about welding for beginners to know. It can help you avoid overheating your workpiece while attempting to achieve a weld pool that simply will not happen. Controlling amperage while welding aluminum is very important. You can accomplish this by making good use of the foot pedal. There is often the need to continuously increase and decrease amperage while welding aluminum to achieve a symmetrical weld pool.

For this reason, you must have a TIG welder with a quality foot pedal. The foot control included with the Weldpro TIG 200 package is another reason it can be considered one of the best welding machines for aluminum. It is made to be highly durable, and it consists of high-quality steel and electrical components. It also responds exceptionally well to slight changes and is comfortable to use for long periods.

Shop Weldpro for the Best in Aluminum Welding Equipment

We at Weldpro hope this information has helped highlight some essential aluminum welding techniques and requirements to help you achieve a high-quality weld. Whether it’s welding for beginners or experts, we’re all about helping save you time and money rather than searching for overpriced equipment that doesn’t perform. When looking for the best welding machine for aluminum, look to Weldpro. If you have any questions about our products, feel free to contact us. Our team of experts is standing by and ready to help provide you with the information you need to make your welding the best it can be.