Welding aluminum can be hard, and it really is; well, unless you know what you are doing and the proper steps to do it. The reason behind the complication is the chemical compound of aluminum that makes it a complicated metal. The aluminum has a melting point of 660° C, where it's over 2000° C for the aluminum oxide, which covers the bare metal. So, the uneven melting point of the metal makes it hard to control and easy both at the same time.
It's the type of welding method you're using with the aluminum that makes the whole difference. The electric setting, the shielding method, the dragging process, everything matters in welding aluminum. If you're wondering what kind of welder do I need to weld aluminum and how do I do it, stick to the article as I guide you through the process:
What Kind of Welder Do I Need to Weld Aluminum?
Welding aluminum can be overwhelming, but it's easier than you think with the right welding method. Here are the welding options for you if you're confused and asking what kind of welder do I need to weld aluminum:
TIG welding aluminum
TIG (Tungsten inert gas) welding method is the most practiced way to weld aluminum. Experts consider it as their primary welder for aluminum and go-to option as it has a very sophisticated process. Aluminum requires a lot of heat (about 2000°) to properly heat up the surface, but it can hold that heat for a long time. The TIG welding method with a separate filler rod works the best at controlling the heat and the joint.
MIG welding aluminum
MIG welding is the second most practiced welding method for welding aluminum. In some cases, it's even more popular than TIG welding, especially if you're using it for fine fabrications with thinner gauge metal. You have to use either the pulse method spray or arc method or to weld aluminum with MIG welding. With MIG welding, you need gas shielding for the aluminum to protect it from oxidization. The gas shielding should be 100% argon gas, and in some cases, you also require some portion of helium to protect it.
Stick welding aluminum
Hold on! Let me point out that although you can stick weld aluminum, you shouldn't do so. I'm mentioning this only because it's possible to stick weld aluminum, too. If you have an emergency welding job for aluminum and there is no other way, you can do some small DIY jobs with it. With that being said, if you're stick welding aluminum, use DCEP (Electrode Positive) settings in the currency settings. Use an aluminum filler rod for the job, but, remember, you should pre-heat the base metal before you start welding.
Welding aluminum without a welder!
Now for the fun part, welding aluminum without any welder at all! You might have heard about the process as torch welding aluminum. The process is the simplest one, as well as the most convenient one, especially if you're an absolute beginner or don't' have a TIG or MIG welder. You need some equipment to do the job, a propane torch, aluminum brazing rods, and a clamp for holding the piece, maybe a vice clamp.
Hold the pieces together the way you're going to join them, take the propane tank torch, heat the whole base at a single pass. You keep heating the base until the brazing rod melts down when you touch it to the base; it's about 400° C. Once you practice it for some time, you'll get used to it and know when to apply the rod and how to drag.
Tips for welding aluminum
Welding aluminum can be hard, but that doesn't mean you should stay away from it! Here are some tips for welding aluminum that you must know while practicing the method with your favorite welding method:
Know the safety measures
Welding aluminum needs a higher heat level, so you have to put on the right safety gear and attire before welding. Welding gloves, helmet, full sleeve leather jacket, robust steel-toed boots are common safety attire you want.
Use the right gas shield
Aluminum needs a proper gas shielding to protect it from oxidizing when you're using a MIG welder. Refer to the gas shield that the manufacturer suggests; most of the time, it's 100% argon, and sometimes, it may require a tiny portion of helium as well.
Frequently asked questions
Here are the most frequently asked questions about welding aluminum which you might find interesting:
Can you use flux core wire to weld aluminum?
No, you cannot use a flux ore wire to weld aluminum for many reasons. It's too hot to weld aluminum, and you need an argon shield to protect the poodle, which is not available with flux core.
Do you need gas to MIG weld aluminum?
Yes, you need gas to MIG weld aluminum, and it should be 100% pure argon gas to shield the poodle. Aluminum is a complicated metal, so it's important to use the right type of gas to shield it.
Do you use AC or DC to weld aluminum?
Usually, you need AC to weld aluminum for a good output with a nice bead. However, it's also possible to weld aluminum with DC GTAW, but the process is different, you can try that out.
Choosing the right welding method to weld aluminum can be tough if you're already used to a different method than the ones I've mentioned above. As you're concerned about what kind of welder do I need to weld aluminum, now you have a clear idea about the process you're going with.
The recommended way to welding aluminum from the experts is TIG welding or MIG welding, which gets you good control. If you're using the odd ones like stick or propane torch method, use the right welding filler rod and aluminum brazing rod to do the job. You can land some pretty neat weld on the aluminum with the right filler rod, correct, current settings, and proper heat level.