TIG welding aluminum can be frustrating to the uninitiated, but if you make the right preparations and work on your technique, you can join aluminum together without melting or warping the metal and without wrecking your weld in the process. While you may have the TIG welder and aluminum set up and ready to go, take a moment to read these tips on how to prepare to weld it properly.
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Use a Heatsink
One way you can prevent the aluminum from warping while you work on it is to use a copper or aluminum heatsinks. Heatsinks absorb or “sink” the heat that would otherwise be transferred in your aluminum work piece that can get really hot and distorted when you’re ready to start welding.
Consider Preheating the Aluminum Work Piece
We suggest that you “consider” preheating because it isn’t right for every project, especially thin aluminum. However, there are many welders who swear by preheating. When it comes to TIG welding a thicker piece of aluminum, some lower powered TIG welders simply won’t be able to get good penetration and to make a clean, strong weld. You need to make sure you have the right situation for preheating before giving it a try on aluminum.
By preheating the aluminum, you will make it easier for your TIG welder to strike an arc and create a smooth weld without the risk of overheating or failing to penetrate deep into the metal. Suggestions and projects will vary here, but preheating with a propane torch or other heating fuel set up will work just fine. An infrared thermometer will tell you when the metal is hot enough, with 350 degrees usually working for most projects, but higher and lower temperatures work as well.
Clean the Tungsten When It Is Contaminated
When your tungsten electrode touches the metal or weld puddle, it will become contaminated and will make welding with a tight arc extremely difficult. Your arc will become erratic and your weld quality will suffer.
You’ll clean the tungsten by removing it, laying it on a flat surface with the contaminated section pointed over the edge, and then hammering off the contaminated part. You can then ball the end of the electrode again by using the DCEP setting on some scrap metal before transitioning back to AC and getting back to work.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong while TIG welding, but these tips will help you set up your welding project and save you from some real headaches while you work. The best part is that the more you do each of the things in this list, the better you’ll become at recognizing what you need for each TIG welding project.