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MIG'ing alum.-Can or should you?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by banjorear, Oct 29, 2007.

  1. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,853


    OK, I know you CAN do it with a spool gun, but should you?

    I would like to try to expand my welding range and was wondering if it would be worth it vs. TIG'ing or other means of welding aluminum

  2. TIG is first choice.

    MIG Aluminum needs a different shielding gas,and a new liner.

    MIG Aluminum is OK for production jobs.
  3. i have an interesting situation where my ESAB is AC only, so I can't tig aluminum, but it can be setup for mig too, and has settings for aluminum.. so if I did that I would probably buy a spoolgun and only use it for aluminum..

    sorry to hijack, but I've been wondering for a while if this was a good idea or not (mig welding aluminum that is)
  4. bulletproof1
    Joined: Feb 23, 2004
    Posts: 2,080

    from tulsa okla

    i like my hobart spool gun .works pretty good..

  5. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,853


    Thanks. Maybe I missed something. How does the spool gun work?
  6. MeanMike
    Joined: Mar 10, 2006
    Posts: 56


    I haven't seen a "hobby" welder that can weld aluminum with proper penetration. I'm a certified weldor and repair passenger rail cars. My work is either stainless or aluminum. While I prefer TIG, Mig welding is the fastest method for welding aluminum. It really depends on the welder. If you can TIG, I would stick with that.
  7. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,853



    Thanks. What type of numbers would you been looking at to make a welder not a hobby type.

    I sure I got a hobbist type with a Miller 180.
  8. Unless I am mistaken AC is the proper setting for aluminum anyway. Spoolguns have the wire right at the gun rather than mounting the spool in the welder cabinet. Pushing thin aluminum wire is more difficult than pushing steel wire.
  9. Reverand Greg
    Joined: Oct 18, 2007
    Posts: 199

    Reverand Greg

    Some things can only be mig'd dirty castings,for instance.but with proper technique it will be just as strong but it looks like ass.
    pre heat any thing over 3/8" and practice alot.Good luck and then just use a tig
  10. rodknocker
    Joined: Jan 31, 2006
    Posts: 2,267


    A spool gun is a small handheld wire feeder.The problem with MIG welding aluminum is it tends to kink when going through the liner, therefore you get a spool gun where the length the wire has to travel is only a few inches vs. feet.Do a yahoo images search, you'll see one
  11. Sinner
    Joined: Nov 5, 2001
    Posts: 191


    Aluminium is welded with A.C.
  12. Kevin Lee
    Joined: Nov 12, 2001
    Posts: 7,438

    Kevin Lee
    Super Moderator
    Staff Member

    I wanted to try to weld aluminum with my MIG. Decided I could just change the wire and roll with it. No new liner, same gas (Argon/CO2 mix) and running it through the entire length of the gun like any other wire.

    I went to the welding supply and they were good guys, understood what I was trying to do, but assured me I would not have good luck. Who would have guessed they knew what they were talking about? Somewhere buried in an archived version of the HAMB I posted my results. I still have the two litle melted chunks of tubing I was trying to stick together.
  13. MeanMike
    Joined: Mar 10, 2006
    Posts: 56


    The 180 is a good welder for home, even a small shop. The problem you might have depending on what your welding, is the spool gun for your welder can only handle 130-135 amps, which is not alot for welding aluminum. What are you planning to weld?
  14. The Dude
    Joined: May 30, 2004
    Posts: 48

    The Dude

    I work for an architecural signage company and do almost everything in aluminum and mig it all.

    The big thing is you need a spool gun because like Rodknocker said it will kink (there is suppose to also be a push/pull setup but I don't know much about it). They use 100% argon for gas according to one of the welders also.

    Tig would surely be capable of making a prettier weld but if you are a good welder you can make a nice looking and strong weld very easily.

    We use Miller Regency 250 and Miller-Matic 350 welders also.
  15. Skotz
    Joined: Aug 24, 2005
    Posts: 1,473


    We use Mig on production items with a spool gun and straight argon gas.....push the gun for less black "smoke" in the finished item.
    And we use Tig for smaller stuff and items that are to appear nicer.
  16. We used to use .043 wire with straight argon. The liner has to be good, not wore out. If you have no exp. welding aluminum, you are going to get an education. If you were going to work on thin materials, less than .125, you may not be successful. We used 4043 alloy for general purpose on most alloys.
  17. 50dodge4x4
    Joined: Aug 7, 2004
    Posts: 3,535


    Welding aluminum with a mig sucks. Using a spool gun is only slightly better, unless you do it often and a lot. For that once in a month time, you almost need to relearn it all over again, each time.

    I recomend if your going to attempt aluminum you have on hand several tips for your welder, your going to need them. I use .030 wire through my spool gun and you need to feed the wire pretty fast. Usually looks like crap until I make a few welds and remember how to do it. Aluminum needs to be super clean and does not like to burn through the black gas residue. Have a good stainless brush that you use only for aluminum and do a practice piece before you attempt something that has to stick together. Gene
  18. Slag Kustom
    Joined: May 10, 2004
    Posts: 4,312

    Slag Kustom

    i just like most of you and only have 2 hands. i cheat and tack with my spool gun then tig it.
  19. oldspert
    Joined: Sep 10, 2006
    Posts: 1,259

    from Texas

    MIG on aluminum is going to be harder and more brittle than TIG. just the nature of the process. TIG is always best.
  20. xderelict
    Joined: Jul 30, 2006
    Posts: 2,477

    Member Emeritus

    I worked at a semi truck trailer production plant building custom run, liquid and bulk hopper trailers. All of the aluminum was mig welded. They pass you fully loaded on the road everyday.

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