TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding machines---also called GTAW welders, or Gas Tungsten Arc Welders---use pure tungsten melted by a gas such as argon to create welds. This type of machine is something that even the above-average handyman does not usually own, due mainly to the cost. (Low-end TIG welding machines can go for as much as £1,625, and the better machines can cost upwards of £3,900.) When welding aluminium in a non-commercial environment, extra care should be taken to remove flammables such as saw dust or gasoline from the welding area.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Welding helmet
- Welding gloves
- Aluminium welding rod
- Stainless-steel brush
- Copper heat sink bar
- Blow torch
- Brake cleaner
- Heavy cotton shirt
- Squirt bottle filled with distilled water
- Clamps or vice grips
Clean the aluminium to be welded. This is especially true for aluminium that looks new. Spray the aluminium to be welded with brake cleaner and rinse it off with the spray bottle of distilled water. Use the stainless-steel brush to bring the aluminium to a shine where it will be welded.
Use the clamps or vice grips to hold the copper heat sink bar to the metal.
Preheat the aluminium to at least 135 degrees Celsius with the blow torch. This allows the TIG Welder to create a much stronger and cleaner-looking weld on the aluminium.
Fit the parts together as close as possible, eliminating all gaps. TIG Welders operate with a very localised heat source, meaning you will have less opportunity to fill in gaps. It is not impossible to TIG weld if there are gaps, but it is much easier to do without gaps. If there are gaps present, you may have to weld on both sides of the metal and then file off any excess.
Using the TIG welder to weld the aluminium weld. If you notice that the arc from the weld is unstable or the weld quality is reduced, you may have to stop welding and remove the contaminated tungsten tip from the welder. The easiest way to do this is to remove the tip and crack the contaminated part of the tip off. You will have to reinstall the tungsten tip and re-ball the tip on a piece of scrap metal.
Once the weld is completed, allow the metal to cool. Inspect the weld to ensure consistency and weld strength.
Tips and warnings
- Use 1 amp of power per .001 inch of material thickness. For a point of reference, 1/8-inch of pure tungsten should use anywhere from 100-175 amps.
- Use the distilled water bottle to put out any localised fires.
- It's always better to have too much power for the welder and tone it back with the foot pedal than not have enough and struggle to make strong welds.
- Don't neglect to wear long sleeves while TIG welding, because a TIG welder produces UV radiation that can cause sunburn to exposed skin.
- Never forget to use a welding helmet and welding gloves while welding.