Tips For New Metal Workers: Prepping Aluminum Surfaces For Welding

When you work with aluminum for the first time, whether for crafting or repair, you'll find that it's often a little bit harder to work with than some other metals. One challenge in particular comes when you're welding, as you might need to do for patchwork or something similar. Aluminum's thermal conductivity makes welding a challenge because it reduces weld penetration. At the same time, the oxide layer found on most aluminum will reduce the fusion of the weld. Here are a few tips to help you prepare that aluminum surface to get a great weld.

Be Careful About Cutting Methods

When you trim aluminum for repair work, you'll need a tool that's sharp so that you get a clean edge. Don't use a grinding wheel or an oxyacetylene torch, though. The grinding wheel can leave jagged edges while the torch will leave a residue behind due to the byproducts of the burning fuel. The best tools to consider are things like circular saws and plasma cutters if you want that sharp, smooth finish on the cut edge without added residues.

Make Sure You Clean Up

When aluminum is manufactured, it's often treated with an oil layer that protects the surface during shipping. This needs to be cleaned up before you can weld the metal, because the oils will contaminate the weld otherwise. Use a degreasing solution with a lint-free cloth to do this, and make sure you opt for a degreaser that's residue-free. Once you've cleaned the metal surface, you'll need to dry it. Use cheesecloth or a clean microfiber cloth to do this. The whole welding area must be completely dry before you work.

Brush The Metal

If there is any other residue or debris on the surface of the metal after the degreaser application, you should use an abrasive brush to clean the surface. Don't do this before the degreaser cleaning, though, because you might embed that surface oil into the metal with the brush if you do.

Work gently with the brush so that you remove anything from the surface without actually damaging the metal. Wipe the whole surface with a clean microfiber cloth after brushing to remove any loose debris. Don't be tempted to clean it with compressed air - that just adds moisture.

With these tips, you'll be best prepared to complete your aluminum patchwork job or complete the project that you had in mind. If you're having trouble, reach out to a local metal worker or a fabrication shop like Exoticar Paintworks Inc for some more aluminum repair tips.