TIG welding can be a challenging endeavor, especially if you’re just starting out on your own with no mentor to help you. All too often, first-timers struggle with perfecting the basics, which leads to frustration and disappointment. TIG welding aluminum is a whole different alley and a bit more complicated than welding steel. You just need the right resources to help you master the craft. This article containing TIG welding aluminum tips and tricks for beginners is a good starting point.
TIG welding is the process of joining electrically conductive metals through an electric arc produced by a base metal and a pointed tungsten electrode. Both are protected by an inert gas, which is commonly helium or argon. TIG welding aluminum is definitely a much more difficult task than welding steel, but it’s not that far off. Aluminum is a softer, sensitive metal that’s more vulnerable to impurities when molten. Welding aluminum requires more patience and practice. We’ll be discussing some TIG welding aluminum tips and tricks in detail to help you get started.
14 TIG Welding Aluminum Best Practices
From controlling heat to dealing with the oxide layer, welding aluminum can be a lot for a beginner. You’ll need to look up how to TIG weld aluminum or welding tips and tricks aluminum TIG to get a better understanding of how the process works. TIG welding is one method of joining these highly sensitive metals together. Bookmark this page for a TIG welding aluminum tungsten tip or two, along with some of its best practices.
Clean the Surface
Before you start welding, you need to clean your working surface first. TIG welding does not work on rough surfaces; this includes painted, dusty, or rust-covered workstations. Aside from cleaning the surface, you also have to clean the components for a long and fuss-free weld.
Make sure that the base metal is clean before you turn your TIG welder on. Use a stainless brush to clean stainless steel or aluminum components. The more time you spend on cleaning, the better the weld and the higher the quality of your end product.
Choose the Right Electrode
Tungsten electrodes come in green and red, each with its own use. The green electrodes are used for welding aluminum, and the red electrodes are for welding steel. Others use the purple tungsten electrodes for all types of metals. However, it’s best to use the green and red electrodes for their respective purpose, especially if you’re new to the craft.
Use the Right Polarity
You may not know it, but aluminum generates an oxide layer when you weld it. Aluminum oxidation is usually of a muted silver color. It’s different from the red or rusty oxidation color of steel. Despite cleaning the oxide layer with a stainless steel brush, it will reform again. Hence, you need to use an alternating current (AC) polarity. The AC polarity provides a cleaning action that removes the oxide layer.
Set the AC Output Frequency
The AC output frequency refers to the number of times the power source switches polarity per second. A higher output frequency leads to a more solid arc. This becomes a narrower arc column which makes it easy for you to weld in tight spaces. It also makes welding more precise since the arc is firmly secured.
Choose the Right TIG Equipment
Having the right type of TIG welding machine is also important. It helps you arrive at a good welded metal and satisfy your needs. There’s a wide selection of TIG welders available in the market, but which one suits your welding project the best? You may also find some guides on TIG welder setup for aluminum and take all the information you can get to really understand how the process works.
Choose the Right Rod Size
Another crucial part you need to do is pick the right rod size. You want to use a rod that’s not too thin. Otherwise, the rod will melt even before you start welding. Beginners can practice on a 1/8 inch thick metal.
Grind the Tungsten Electrode Properly
TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas—tungsten electrodes being the main players of this welding process. Tungsten electrodes help improve performance due to the additional elements that can withstand the typical working conditions of this process. It helps you create a stable electric arc for a good end result. If you don’t take the time to properly sharpen the tungsten electrode, an unstable electric arc could occur.
Remember that sharpening the tungsten electrode influences weld penetration and quality, as well as the stability of the arc. Proper grinding will prevent the tungsten from being too pointed or too blunt. Hence, it must go through a grinding process.
Grinding your tungsten electrode should be done lengthwise. You can use a tungsten sharpener or bench grinder. Keep in mind that the grinder shouldn’t be used on a different type of metal.
Re-Grind the Electrode Once It Hits the Weld Pool
It can be frustrating when the wire touches the weld pool or filler rod. Pool contamination will affect the quality of your finished work. Hence, you need to remove the impurities which are re-grinding.
Use the Right Shielding Gas
TIG welding needs a shielding gas to guard the weld pool, a common denominator between MIG and TIG processes. The two commonly used inert gases are helium and argon. As a beginner, it is recommended to use argon for welding aluminum.
Torch Angle Should Not Be Greater Than 10 Degrees
One of the most common mistakes made by beginners is adding too much torch angle, which causes the heat to bounce off, melting the rod before it even touches the weld pool. You will need to angle it no greater than 10 degrees to keep the rod from melting.
Wear the Right Gloves
TIG welding requires you to use both hands: one hand holds the filler rod while the other holds the torch. Wear a thin glove on the hand that holds the filler rod so you have the maximum feel of the rod.
Don’t End the Arc Abruptly
A foot pedal is used to regulate the current flowing through the rod, translating to what we call the “heat input”. Based on standard practice, you have to put the foot pedal about ¾ along the way down so you can easily control the arc. Remember that you must not suddenly shut down the arc because it can lead to cracking.
Wear Protective Gear
You have to wear protective gear when welding because some tungsten electrodes are known for emitting low levels of radiation. Use a respirator to protect your mouth and nose. Make sure you have something that is non-conducting on your workstation or within range to protect yourself from electrical hazards. This could be your gloves or a piece of wood. Lastly, weld in a properly ventilated room.
TIG welding requires your 100% concentration. To avoid any accidents, minimize interruptions while welding. Clean your space and remove inflammable liquid.
TIG welding, especially on aluminum, can be complicated and difficult for a beginner. May these welding tips and tricks aluminum TIG help you complete excellent welds, whether it’s on aluminum or steel. Practice each of the TIG welding cast aluminum tips until you get the hang of it. You don’t have to perfect it right away.