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1G Welding aluminum....

SasaniFab

Proven Member
2,440
790
Dec 1, 2013
Mexico, Connecticut
So I try to keep myself busy on my days off bettering myself in some way. Now that I purchased the new welder ive wanted to improve my aluminum welding. I made myself a purge block/heat sink and got to work. This is the first one I did, which I messed up in my opinion because I didnt use enough amps to melt the flange to the pipe. It required all 180 amps on my second attempt to get that done. The second one was coming out perfect when all of a sudden the alumnium wouldnt wet and turned black and caved in blew a massive whole in it. What the hell causes that to happen? I had argon flowing with a red tungsten. Either way this was a learning exercise so I dont really care. I also felt like I was chasing leaks....The pipe would hold fine until about 30psi and would start to leak on the left side of the weld...
 

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SasaniFab

Proven Member
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790
Dec 1, 2013
Mexico, Connecticut
Aluminum acts the way you described when you blew a hole in it when you have too much heat in one spot for too long; simple as that.
Its not the heat, its hard to explain. If you ever welded aluminum than u know how it acts when your welding. In this case a puddle wouldnt even form, the metal would just turn black and turn into moosh. The research i did made me conclude that my tunsten was contaminated.
 

Archer Fabrications

10+ Year Contributor
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May 9, 2011
Scottsdale, Arizona
Its not the heat, its hard to explain. If you ever welded aluminum than u know how it acts when your welding. In this case a puddle wouldnt even form, the metal would just turn black and turn into moosh. The research i did made me conclude that my tunsten was contaminated.
What machine are you using again? Cause red is no no no for aluminum. Forntransformer machines use green pure tungsten. For inverters use ceriated or lanthanated.
 

EC17PSE

Freelancer
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Nov 1, 2008
London, UK, Europe
Thats a brown bottle right! So is that helium! As i never seen that bottle color as i use pure argon which is all green! Should just burn hotter though so thats not a major issue!

Perhaps you got oxygen behind it and it cause your issues,

Red is a no as said above as that drops off and get into the alloy being welded! I prefer blue or gold but mainly blue and white tips are the original aluminum tips to use, also you dont need to back purge alloy! Just have your frequency higher to get a narrow weld and still get a bit of penetration
 

EC17PSE

Freelancer
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Nov 1, 2008
London, UK, Europe
Just read your using argon so thats ok, make sure your AC setting are correct and your balance is good, other wise you will blow a hole in if its set to more penetration then cleaning! So half way or less will be ideal with a narrow arc,
 

iceguru1114

Proven Member
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Nov 24, 2014
Denver, Colorado
Its not the heat, its hard to explain. If you ever welded aluminum than u know how it acts when your welding. In this case a puddle wouldnt even form, the metal would just turn black and turn into moosh. The research i did made me conclude that my tunsten was contaminated.

Yeah, I've definitely welded plenty of aluminum. I've had something similar to what you're describing happen when I was first learning, and it was related to the heat issue.

I missed that you were using red tungsten, for aluminum you're gonna want to use green, blue is also now supposed to work for both steel and aluminum, but I still prefer the green.

A couple of pointers that I learned along the way:

1) Aluminum is very touchy about contamination; I always brush and clean with acetone before welding
2) Aluminum is also not nearly as forgiving as steel when you have air gaps
3) Dissimilar alloys can make getting an even pool between the two workpieces difficult; so can variations in thickness
4) You might need to use a thicker tungsten rod than you think you need
5) Don't forget to ball up the end of your rod, Aluminum doesn't like a pointed tip

Other than that... practice practice practice. Aluminum is quite different than steel and the techniques almost require two different muscle memory groups.
 

Archer Fabrications

10+ Year Contributor
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Again depending on machine, inverters weld aluminum now with pointed tips just fine. Try lanthanated or ceriated. Make sire material is clean. And no drafts.

Argon contamination is more common then you think. I was so sick of getting bad bottles i switched to pure liquid argon
 

iceguru1114

Proven Member
367
236
Nov 24, 2014
Denver, Colorado
Again depending on machine, inverters weld aluminum now with pointed tips just fine. Try lanthanated or ceriated. Make sire material is clean. And no drafts.

Argon contamination is more common then you think. I was so sick of getting bad bottles i switched to pure liquid argon

What do you mean "again"? Did I miss the first time you mentioned using a pointed rod tip somewhere in this thread?
 

99gst_racer

Moderator
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Apr 5, 2003
Coloma, Michigan
Thats a brown bottle right! So is that helium! As i never seen that bottle color as i use pure argon which is all green! Should just burn hotter though so thats not a major issue!
Around here, different shops paint different colors. There's really no standard for gas type vs cylinder color. My pure argon fills are either gray or maroon depending on which shop I exchange at.
 

99gst_racer

Moderator
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Apr 5, 2003
Coloma, Michigan
What do you mean "again"? Did I miss the first time you mentioned using a pointed rod tip somewhere in this thread?
By 'again', I think he's referring to not being able to recommend an exact tungsten without know exactly which welder the OP is using. For example, if the OP has an inverter welder (and it looks like he does), then your advice to run green tungsten is bad advice. Same for balling the tip.
 

EC17PSE

Freelancer
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Nov 1, 2008
London, UK, Europe
Around here, different shops paint different colors. There's really no standard for gas type vs cylinder color. My pure argon fills are either gray or maroon depending on which shop I exchange at.
Thats interesting! I thought by law they had there own color to ID them like oxygen, acty, and argon, here in the UK its law to be color coded specifically so anyone knows how to deal with them.

Interesting the US laws are super lax in that!
 

iceguru1114

Proven Member
367
236
Nov 24, 2014
Denver, Colorado
By 'again', I think he's referring to not being able to recommend an exact tungsten without know exactly which welder the OP is using. For example, if the OP has an inverter welder (and it looks like he does), then your advice to run green tungsten is bad advice. Same for balling the tip.

It looks like this thread is hitting a wall based on what we're having to assume is being used. I assumed an "old school" AC TIG, in which case you can use green and you would and ball the tip, which is especially important if you are stuck with a welder that limits how much you can dial out the penetration part of the wave. You assumed a more modern machine, probably correctly since it's new. These allow you to use lanthanated and you can decrease EP which releases the necessity to ball up the tip. However, you can still very well use green with a balled tip if you have the ability to adjust waveform, frequency, and EP, which is what I prefer to do with my welder because that's just how I learned and my muscle memory is calibrated for that type of welding. All this simply goes back to the point that both you and archer have already made; it depends on the machine and the settings.

At any rate, Archer gave two solid suggestions regarding shielding and a good breakdown of which tungsten to use. After re-reading the original post and thinking about it some more, I think the route cause was an issue with the shielding gas. It's hard to say whether it was due to a draft, low flow setting, or gas contamination, but unless there was some massive inclusion in the base allow (unlikely), or some residual contamination on the surface of the workpiece (also possible, but still unlikely based on the description), the only way welding aluminum turns your heat affected zone black is when your shielding agent isn't working right.

To add to Archer's info, I also found some good breakdowns of tungsten rods and aluminum welding:

https://www.bakersgas.com/weldmyworld/2012/04/27/best-tungsten-tig-welding-aluminum/

I've tried both lanthanated (2%; blue) and pure tungsten rods (green) and, although I'm sure you can make lanthanated work just fine, I usually make better aluminum welds with pure tungsten and the correct settings to match.

Also, here's a pretty good explanation of transformer vs. inverter type welders and, in general terms, how you might adjust each to achieve a desired outcome:

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Archer Fabrications

10+ Year Contributor
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May 9, 2011
Scottsdale, Arizona
By 'again', I think he's referring to not being able to recommend an exact tungsten without know exactly which welder the OP is using. For example, if the OP has an inverter welder (and it looks like he does), then your advice to run green tungsten is bad advice. Same for balling the tip.
Nailed it
 

Archer Fabrications

10+ Year Contributor
9,970
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May 9, 2011
Scottsdale, Arizona
Thats interesting! I thought by law they had there own color to ID them like oxygen, acty, and argon, here in the UK its law to be color coded specifically so anyone knows how to deal with them.

Interesting the US laws are super lax in that!
Here we decode by a sticker with a HAZMAT number mine particularly is liquid argon bit has the same marking in green with a #2 below. Signifying non flamable inert gas.
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SasaniFab

Proven Member
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790
Dec 1, 2013
Mexico, Connecticut
Here we decode by a sticker with a HAZMAT number mine particularly is liquid argon bit has the same marking in green with a #2 below. Signifying non flamable inert gas.
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Guys i have a miller diversion 180, the funny thing is....the past two bottles i noticed this issue when i was getting close to the 500cfh range on the bottle. So i switched to a new tank, bled the line and sharpen the tungsten and it went away. I read that the red isnt ideal but can be used. I only use 3/32 as it fits in the amp ranges i use. Its really strange guys, it isnt heat but it is. What i mean is the aluminum doesnt wet and just begins to turn molten and black. So because it wont wet the area you are trying to weld just disintegrates. I fixed the issue, its just very random. I always run a test bead before welding aluminum now. Just trying to learn something new every day guys.
 

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lasthope05

Proven Member
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271
Mar 31, 2006
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A bit late but when the aluminum doesn't wet and gets sooty, it is usually usually a gas issue or forgetting to switch over to AC. DC aluminum tig welding is very sooty and does not puddle.
 

SasaniFab

Proven Member
2,440
790
Dec 1, 2013
Mexico, Connecticut
A bit late but when the aluminum doesn't wet and gets sooty, it is usually usually a gas issue or forgetting to switch over to AC. DC aluminum tig welding is very sooty and does not puddle.
I get my argon from techair, im starting to wonder if Im getting contaminated gas....
 

SasaniFab

Proven Member
2,440
790
Dec 1, 2013
Mexico, Connecticut
Does the Diversion 180 have balance control? In my limited aluminum welding experience, when it gets hot and sooty and wont puddle properly, it's due to insufficient cleaning action. Too much penetration and not enough cleaning to blast through the oxide layer.
no the machine is set up in a way that everything is programmed. You set the amps and its adjust pre/post flow accordingly. It was def a gas issue, im just glad I understand now. I used to be terrified to weld aluminum because my first time trying ended like that. When the rig and gas is working as it should it welds like butter.
 

RipperXX

Proven Member
5,793
163
Feb 23, 2003
Royston, Georgia
Preheat
Move your setting away from cleaning towards max penetration, (I know contrary to the advice above, but max clean burns up the end of your tungsten) just make sure your metal is clean. DO NOT use sand paper, the grit used often gets embedded in the aluminum and makes the weld look like dog shit as well as keep the aluminum from flowing. Any black sooty looking spots are from you dipping the tungsten electrode in the puddle. Unlike steel you don't need to be real close to the metal, when you dip your filler rod into the aluminum puddle it will rise a LOT more than steel would, to close and it will "grab" your tungsten and cause that black soot. It's a dead give away that the welder did this and isn't that experienced. (I'm not a expert but I'm decent)

If the aluminum is clean, and you don't try to go from cold aluminum to a big puddle quick like you might on steel, it's really easy to weld aluminum. Also if you're trying to get tight into a joint, don't make the ball on your tungsten very big. Off the cuff 120-140 amps should be plenty for what you're doing and once you get started and the aluminum has heated up you shouldn't need that much pedal. When you first start don't try to make a puddle, just hold it there at a decent current and heat the aluminum up in the area you're going to weld, then once you know it's starting to get hot, (doesn't have to be blazing, just not cold) then give it some juice and go off how it reacts to you input of heat.

I can't stress how much you need to clean your work, as well as wipe down your filler rod with aluminum. I at a minimum wire brush everything aluminum down with a steel brush (or file depending on the joint and if it's been sheered) then wipe it down a couple times with lacquer thinner. Wipe down your work and your filler rods. (you would be surprised at the crap that's on the filler rods)

P.S. Work from your thick metal to your thin, so focus more heat on the thicker flange than the pipe.
 
Last edited:

SasaniFab

Proven Member
2,440
790
Dec 1, 2013
Mexico, Connecticut
Preheat
Move your setting away from cleaning towards max penetration, (I know contrary to the advice above, but max clean burns up the end of your tungsten) just make sure your metal is clean. DO NOT use sand paper, the grit used often gets embedded in the aluminum and makes the weld look like dog sh** as well as keep the aluminum from flowing. Any black sooty looking spots are from you dipping the tungsten electrode in the puddle. Unlike steel you don't need to be real close to the metal, when you dip your filler rod into the aluminum puddle it will rise a LOT more than steel would, to close and it will "grab" your tungsten and cause that black soot. It's a dead give away that the welder did this and isn't that experienced. (I'm not a expert but I'm decent)

If the aluminum is clean, and you don't try to go from cold aluminum to a big puddle quick like you might on steel, it's really easy to weld aluminum. Also if you're trying to get tight into a joint, don't make the ball on your tungsten very big. Off the cuff 120-140 amps should be plenty for what you're doing and once you get started and the aluminum has heated up you shouldn't need that much pedal. When you first start don't try to make a puddle, just hold it there at a decent current and heat the aluminum up in the area you're going to weld, then once you know it's starting to get hot, (doesn't have to be blazing, just not cold) then give it some juice and go off how it reacts to you input of heat.

I can't stress how much you need to clean your work, as well as wipe down your filler rod with aluminum. I at a minimum wire brush everything aluminum down with a steel brush (or file depending on the joint and if it's been sheered) then wipe it down a couple times with lacquer thinner. Wipe down your work and your filler rods. (you would be surprised at the crap that's on the filler rods)

P.S. Work from your thick metal to your thin, so focus more heat on the thicker flange than the pipe.
I figured out my problem, ive noticed that when my stickout is to high and my torch angle is >90 deg I have problems. When I decreased stickout and kept the torque relatively vertical my problems went away.
 
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