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Aluminum TIG welding question

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Mat Thrasher, May 8, 2010.

  1. Mat Thrasher
    Joined: Nov 5, 2007
    Posts: 1,141

    Mat Thrasher

    I got a question for the TIG welders with a lot more experience then me. I've been building an intake and have welded what feels like miles. I have cleaned everything wire a ss wire brush. I'm going along and hit a spot that's dirty somehow and the puddle turns to shit. I fought two areas for about two hours just to get a decent bead down. I kept grinding out the bad areas and rewelding and finally I got it done.

    The question I have is what am I doing wrong or is there a trick to get the bead rolling again? What I did was grind until I could start a puddle on the bad spot. Which made a huge hole I had to fill up. It worked but I want see if there is a better way.
    Thanks Mat
  2. DonnyB
    Joined: May 5, 2010
    Posts: 24

    from Indiana

    I try to make every thing as clean as possible,before I start,I use a small right angle grinder to clean the area before I start welding,and you cleaning the bad weld out is right
  3. Joe Johnston
    Joined: Jun 29, 2008
    Posts: 127

    Joe Johnston
    from Ohio

    Difficult to diagnose your problem without actually being there and seeing it happen. Often cast aluminum has dirt or crap in it that you expose. Keep everything clean, use the SS brush, and carbide rotary file to clean out the trouble spot. I also play the arc back and forth along the path of the bead to warm it up and try to melt out anything that may be included under the surface. Perhaps your aluminum was cold and causing the trouble. The new high dollar welders are truly awesome to use, but unfortunately out of reach for the home shop so just keep at it and you will make it work.
  4. Sinner
    Joined: Nov 5, 2001
    Posts: 191


    Pre heating the part helps a lot too.
    Especially if it's a big part like an intake
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  5. fordrat31
    Joined: Oct 3, 2009
    Posts: 380

    from Palmer, MA

    Aluminum is very tricky. The biggest trick is to make sure everything is clean. EVERYTHING! Use some alcohol to wipe down your filler rod, the part your working on, even the area your going to be welding in. Also are you welding a good quality aluminum? Some time cheap aluminum wont weld well.
  6. fordrat31
    Joined: Oct 3, 2009
    Posts: 380

    from Palmer, MA

    Oh one other thing, Are you using your SS wire brush ONLY for aluminum? If the wire brush is contaminated with rust and other junk, and you use it to clean your part you will transfer the contaminates to that part.

    Get a seperate SS wire brush and write "aluminum only" on it.
  7. metal man
    Joined: Dec 4, 2005
    Posts: 2,948

    metal man

    All good points . The pre-heating will help a lot if you are not already doing it . How much argon flow are you using ? Turn your flow meter up a bit and see if that helps .
    Joined: May 8, 2010
    Posts: 1

    from Indiana

    Make sure you are using pure a Tungston electrode ,it will have a green stripe on it. Keeping the tungston out of the molten aluminum is easier said than done, but quite necessary. I usually pre heat aluminum with a torch. Turn an area close to where you want to weld black with a acetylene rich flame (no oxygen), then adjust the flame back to neutral and heat up the weldment until the black goes away (about 700 deg.F) and weld till you are done
  9. 53210
    Joined: Dec 18, 2007
    Posts: 64

    from canada

    I've also seen guys sharpen thier tungsten on a grind stone(which is fine)but if the stone is contaminated,it transfers to the tungsten,and can cause problems.
  10. wally55
    Joined: Jan 25, 2009
    Posts: 98


    One thing to watch out for when welding aluminum is use a file when ever possible.When you use a grinding wheel,you introduce silicone into the aluminum,that makes it a bitch to weld.After you grind with a wheel,use a rotary file to lightly clean the area before you make the weld.A gas lens and good argon flow will make a big differance.Good luck
  11. Dynaflash_8
    Joined: Sep 24, 2008
    Posts: 3,016

    from Auburn WA

    Carbide burr and acid are your friend.

    Dont use anything thats steel or a grinding wheel. Makes the aluminum dirty.
  12. Mat Thrasher
    Joined: Nov 5, 2007
    Posts: 1,141

    Mat Thrasher

    Thanks for all the replies. Most things I'm all ready doing ss wire wheel only for aluminum. As for the tungsten I'm using the red which I believe is all purpose. It has worked good for 99% of the job. I don't think I would need to preheat since I'm only welding 1/8 and 1/4. If you're not using grinding wheels what are you using to shape your pieces? Also when you say rotary file do you mean a carbide bit? I should add that I am familiar with welding aluminum just when I have this sporadic problem, I would like to know how I go about correcting it after it happens.

    To give you a better picture here's what I'm working on. The part that was giving me a problem was right in front where the 1-1/2 tubing welds to the front plate of the plenum. I think what happened was I didn't cut out the top until after the weld was all ready contaminated. I couldn't get the wire brush in there to clean it.


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  13. The37Kid
    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 27,113


    That's going to buff out real nice!
  14. Jethro
    Joined: Mar 5, 2001
    Posts: 1,484


  15. Mat Thrasher
    Joined: Nov 5, 2007
    Posts: 1,141

    Mat Thrasher

    I know I'll look killer, but I don't know if it's going to happen right away. Maybe this winter though.
  16. 60 GASSER
    Joined: Sep 26, 2007
    Posts: 530

    60 GASSER

    i use the 2% all the time the green (pure) helps but helium also helps, but who can afford that all day long. did you have a breeze or a fan in there you shouldnt have much of a problem it looks pretty good! just remember cleanlinnes is next to godlinnes! i wipe my filler rod and parts with laquer thinner. and if you use a sharpie to mark your parts wipe it off before you weld it will blow up on you also grind a point on your tungsten it will turn to a ball anyway the best thing is to be comfortable and temperature control. looks good and think of the money you saved!
  17. Mat Thrasher
    Joined: Nov 5, 2007
    Posts: 1,141

    Mat Thrasher

    Thanks for the advice guys, looks like the best way is to be 100% sure you don't have any contamination before you start. I am going to try the laquer thinner or alcohol next time because I've never done it. Also I might play around with the green tungsten.

    On a side note I think I'm going to grind off the bead on the front and reweld it. When I look at the pictures it sure looks like shit and I know I can do better.
  18. langy
    Joined: Apr 27, 2006
    Posts: 5,735

    Member Emeritus

    I use Zirconiated or Ceriated tungstens, I wouldn't use the lacquer thinner as it seems to leave behind a residue, alchol works much better.
    As others have said i have a stainless brush purely for ally and another for stainless.
  19. RoadsterRod1930
    Joined: Jun 15, 2005
    Posts: 414


    are you using co2 or pure argon?
  20. Mat Thrasher
    Joined: Nov 5, 2007
    Posts: 1,141

    Mat Thrasher

    pure argon
  21. nevrdun
    Joined: Jul 8, 2007
    Posts: 22

    from lombard,il

    Looks to me like you already know what your doing. That is a very nice job. I know that article says to use pure tungstun to weld AL, but that I believe is kind of old info. 2% ceriated is the prefered tungstun to use(orange band) these days. It will withstand higher heat needed to weld AL better than pure tungstun(green band). Green tends to split at higher temps. For the size sheet you are using, I would use 1/8 2% ceriated tungstun, sharpned to a point,then put a .010 flat on the end. I know, they all say to dress a ball on the end, but that is only needed for thicker material.
    Heat is your best friend. By all means pre-heat. A torch works okay, but putting the manifold in the kitchen oven works the best. Cook at 450-500 degrees for 2hours. Then run to the shop, put it on a hot plate if possible. For what your doing I'd probably go 250 amps and run the pass real fast. With all that heat it will flow like butter.
    Usually when you heat in the oven for awhile it will burn off most dirt and oils. The wife will give you grief for using the oven this way, but in reality the oven will get dirtier when she cooks lasagna.
    I use acetone to clean the manifold and rods before I cook it.
    If you do get some blow thru due to dirt or such, clean with rotary burr, then wash with acetone real good, and blow dry.
    Sorry I was a little long winded, but your doing such a great job, I just wanted to help if I could.
    I"ll do an intro soon.
  22. walker
    Joined: Dec 29, 2008
    Posts: 213


    Looks like you are doing a fine job. What welder are you using, also what size tungsten and filler? Another aha I recently had was the filler rod needing to be wiped down. I tend to get lazy welding steel 90% of the time and didn't wipe my filler with acetone. I had a bad weld and went back and recleaned everything, wiped the filler rod and it really turned the rag black. I think the poster who mentioned acid was typing too fast and likely ment acetone, don't use acid! As far as the tungsten goes the green is somewhat old school and doesn't work as good as some of the other types now available. I have been using Ceriated (orange stripe) on my Syncrowave and like it just fine. My machine doesn't like the Thoriated on aluminum, steel it is just fine though. It doesn't cost you much to try out a stick.
  23. Mat Thrasher
    Joined: Nov 5, 2007
    Posts: 1,141

    Mat Thrasher

    No problem with the long description, the more info the better. I know I have the basics down,but I want to fine tune my skills. The intake is going to be such a focal point on my truck I want to make it the best I can. Sometimes I'm stubborn and want to figure things out for myself so I really appreciate everybodies input.

    Dorry worry about the wife. She knows what she signed up for when she married me. Car parts in the house is nothing new so an intake in the oven isn't a far strech.

    I'm using a old lincoln 175 and 3/32 tungsten and filler.
  24. Lucky3
    Joined: Dec 9, 2009
    Posts: 652


    Thanks for all the info guys.
    Us newbies to Alum welding need all the tips we can get and I didn't think of wiping the filler rod down with alcohol to clean it or the part !!
  25. aaggie
    Joined: Nov 21, 2009
    Posts: 2,529


    I grind a sharp point on the electrode then reverse the polarity on my machine and start an arc on an old copper plate. The ball forms perfectly for welding Aluminum. I also use the green pure Tungsten electrode and pure Argon. Ditto on SS wire brush and alcohol cleaning.

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