Learning to weld questions

Well the next x number of months look like a write off.... so I should try to make some use of it. For once I have a small shop to work in.

New to this kind of stuff, but I have noticed reading this forum that "all good things come from welding"....

I am not sure how ambitious I will get wrt building an adventure vehicle, as it is evident there is a tremendous amount I do not know.

I am thinking of MIG wire welding. But is it worth learning aluminum welding instead?

When I look at things like cargo trailers, steel vs aluminum the weight difference is not that high. Assuming it takes less steel to yield the same strength assembly.

I have heard that steel is easier to learn, but it's not like I am in a rush so is it worth investing time/equipment wise to learn aluminum welding?

Thanks
JM
 

ITTOG

Well-known member
Well the next x number of months look like a write off.... so I should try to make some use of it. For once I have a small shop to work in.

New to this kind of stuff, but I have noticed reading this forum that "all good things come from welding"....

I am not sure how ambitious I will get wrt building an adventure vehicle, as it is evident there is a tremendous amount I do not know.

I am thinking of MIG wire welding. But is it worth learning aluminum welding instead?

When I look at things like cargo trailers, steel vs aluminum the weight difference is not that high. Assuming it takes less steel to yield the same strength assembly.

I have heard that steel is easier to learn, but it's not like I am in a rush so is it worth investing time/equipment wise to learn aluminum welding?

Thanks
JM
I just went through this same scenario this year. I found aluminum much harder and therefore learned steel first. I will start aluminum soon but it is very easy to melt and create a disaster.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
If you've never welded before it's a lot easier to learn with steel. Even if you're comfortable in basic welding doing aluminum is still a learning curve. There's a lot more you have to be aware of with getting the right alloy filler to base material and machine settings. Steel is a lot more forgiving.

Also, not a lot of equipment typical of home shops is really ideal for aluminum and doing structural aluminum with a DC-only machine is I think asking for a lot of frustration with contamination and lack of penetration. It's hard enough to weld aluminum when things are right.
 

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krick3tt

Adventurer
My MIG welder can convert to TIG so it isn't really an issue. I have not thought about aluminum as almost everything I want would be steel. Seems that there is a lot more scrap steel available to practice on than aluminum.
It just takes time to be reasonably passable with wire welding. At least for me to learn, the learning is easy, the look of a decent weld is what takes the time and practice. My most difficult weld is a corner weld, two pieces at 90 degrees.
I have found over time that a grinder and paint makes me a great welder.
If you have the resource for power a 220 makes a better weld than a 110. A few years ago I took a blacksmithing class and had occasion to use a 220 welder, so much better a weld than my 110 does.
Have fun.
 

WOODY2

Adventurer
Certain MIG welders have the ability to connect a spool gun that will allow aluminum welding FYI
 

SDDiver5

Expedition Leader
Enjoy learning to weld. It's such a fun little hobby. I watched a lot of youtube videos- I think the guys name is chuckee2009 or something like that. I also took a little into class.

Definitely learn steel first and spend some money on a good welder. I was having a lot of trouble with my cheap welder and finally upgraded to a Lincoln 180- I had to buy a bottle for the gas and upgrade my electrical system in my shop but it is so worth it.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
My MIG welder can convert to TIG so it isn't really an issue. I have not thought about aluminum as almost everything I want would be steel. Seems that there is a lot more scrap steel available to practice on than aluminum.
Have fun.
Certain MIG welders have the ability to connect a spool gun that will allow aluminum welding FYI
It's not just the soft wire feed issue, which doing TIG or using a spool gun would solve. Most home machines can only do DC. The reason we use AC for aluminum is by constantly reversing polarity you clean off and prevent the oxidation reforming, which contaminates the weld and makes puddle control difficult.

The issue is base metal aluminum melts at a much lower temperature than aluminum oxide, when using DC as you're moving along the weld starts to travels faster under the oxidation layer and eventually runs away from you.

It's not that you can't do aluminum with DC it's just that it's easier to get acceptable welds with AC.

I have a Millermatic 215 that can do multi-process including TIG. But only DC and only lift start. A benefit of an AC-capable machine is they usually throw in a high frequency start option, which is another huge crutch to have with aluminum. I also have a Lincoln Square Wave TIG, the difference is night and day on aluminum. It's not as nice as the Precision TIGs we had in school, which was like melting butter when welding aluminum, but it's for the money it's not a bad little machine.
 
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BritKLR

Kapitis Indagatoris
Welcome to the wonderful world of welding that consists of science, magic and art.........said Harry Potter.

Serious, good luck and its a fantastic skill to have.
 
I am guessing those aluminum brazing rods you use with a blow torch will not do for a camper.... FB won't stop advertising them to me after searching welding aluminum.....

JM
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
The Handler 140 is a common machine and it's fine but I'd make the same suggestion as @krick3tt and consider spending the money to get a dual voltage (110/220) machine if you can swing it.

When you get to 3/16" and thicker you start to push the limits of a 120V machine so you may have to do multiple passes, for example. Plus being dual voltage makes it easier to sell in the future if you decide to upgrade, which will be less likely with a 220V machine in the first place.

Aluminum brazing is different than welding and the rods are not necessarily interchangeable either because the alloy you'd need (the rod melting point has to be lower than the base metal) or that they'll flux coat brazing rods which you don't want when welding for risk of causing porosity.

For fabrication a brazed joint can be sufficiently strong, so you wouldn't necessarily want to rule it out if the joint geometry allows it. For a frame it's not really possible to braze since you'd have to have enough overlap and then heat the whole joint or to figure out a way to space brazes to join the members. Brazing a cracked engine head casting or radiator makes much more sense.
 
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