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WM BLITZ VIDEO #5 How Do YOU Clean Aluminum for TIG Welding?

Textbooks will tell you that you must use a stainless steel wire brush on aluminum before tig welding.

 Is that really true?  

 In my own experience, the way I clean aluminum depends completely on the situation.

For sheet metal fabrication where the aluminum sheet is brand new and might even come with a peel coat, an acetone wipe might be the only cleaning I do prior to welding.

 

But for dirty or heavily oxidized aluminum I need a lot more that a simple acetone wipe.

Sometimes using an abrasive like a flap disc is the best way to remove a heavy oxide layer on aluminum that has been left outside or  has been exposed to salt water or salt spray in the air.

 

But there can be problems with cleaning aluminum:

 

If you use power tools or the wrong abrasives, you can either embed grit into the aluminum or smear oxides to the point where the cleaning action of the arc can’t effectively clean them up.

 

When a flap disc or grinding wheel loads up, the tendency is to apply more pressure.

Pressure creates heat and can smear oxides deeper into the base metal.

In this video, I used a Walter Enduro flux Alu flap disc that is engineered to not load up with aluminum. I used very light pressure too and it seemed to work great without leaving any residue.

My friend Brad Goodman welds aluminum dog boxes and dog feeders, along with aluminum motorsports parts and his customers demand a certain look on his welds. Brown smutty clouds or black spots in the weld are detractions.

So Brad has learned how to properly clean his edges so that he gets clean welds that shine like a new dime.

Brad uses mostly an aluminum file and a de burr tool to clean laser and plasma cut edges prior to welding.

 

Brad pays close attention to prepping the edge along with an acetone wipe and he is good to go for stacking dimes on his dog boxes, dog feeders, and all the various aluminum fabrication he does.

Previous article WM BLITZ VIDEO #6 Does Argon Flow Rate Affect Cleaning Action?
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Comments

jody - October 6, 2023

Steven Caldwell – August 28, 2023
The Walter Enduro flux Alu flap disc
Isn’t available here in Australia can you tell me if a zirconium disc is ok to use.
Zirconium discs are often used for aluminum but any of them can load up if not designed for soft metal like aluminum.
a bit of bees wax can help prevent loading in a pinch.

Steven Caldwell - August 28, 2023

The Walter Enduro flux Alu flap disc
Isn’t available here in Australia can you tell me if a zirconium disc is ok to use.

Martin Rubenstein - August 28, 2023

Having experienced the frustrations of doing the aluminium drill on old aluminium and then doing it on new aluminium, this video explains why so much time can be wasted trying to find out why everything’s going wrong. It’s like night and day; the forum are full of people struggling with crappy beads on aluminium looking for answers. This video provides the answer for probably 95% of those cases. There’s a lot to digest in this video, Jody, little things like running the flap disc at low speed to minimise smearing that could make all the difference between a peppery bead and a clean one and prevent wasted hours checking for leaks in the argon supply or suspecting “bad gas”.

An excellent basis for methodical troubleshooting when getting lousy aluminium beads.

Thanks, Jody,

Martin

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