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  • cleaning aluminum filler rod necessary?

    I clean the base metal really well (1/8" 6061) by sanding it, and then wash it in soapy hot water. When I arc, the pool looks very shiny and clean, but as soon as I go to add the filler, total crap. The filler rod obviously is oxidized and contaminating the weld. I then sanded the filler rod really well too, and washed it in hot soapy water, but I got the same thing. Dirty black welds, and the filler rod gets nasty before I can even add it to the puddle by just balling up into crud. How can I clean my filler rods before welding? My filler rod is in a plastic case, but probably had it for months. Should I just buy new filler rod? If it wasn't for this problem, I think I could do quite well on my aluminum welding. Any tips appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Michael

  • #2
    Aluminum !

    Originally posted by MSM69Z28 View Post
    I clean the base metal really well (1/8" 6061) by sanding it, and then wash it in soapy hot water. When I arc, the pool looks very shiny and clean, but as soon as I go to add the filler, total crap. The filler rod obviously is oxidized and contaminating the weld. I then sanded the filler rod really well too, and washed it in hot soapy water, but I got the same thing. Dirty black welds, and the filler rod gets nasty before I can even add it to the puddle by just balling up into crud. How can I clean my filler rods before welding? My filler rod is in a plastic case, but probably had it for months. Should I just buy new filler rod? If it wasn't for this problem, I think I could do quite well on my aluminum welding. Any tips appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Michael
    Michael, Hi; I'm new to this Aluminum Welding as well, But I don't think sanding Aluminum is the way to go .

    I was told to clean it well with a Stainless Wire brush & acetone, then weld very soon after cleaning the oxides off or it will oxidize again quickly !

    ........ Norm
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    • #3
      Be a clean freek!

      Micheal,yes all aluminium involved in your weld has to be cleaned like Norm said.As far as sanding,beware,most sand papers have aluminium oxyde(the sh!t you're trying to remove) as abrasive,Frank

      Stainless brush and acetone or lacquer thinner are your best friends on that.
      Last edited by Frank Motoweld; 10-01-2009, 07:22 PM.
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      • #4
        I do brush it with stainless, and the base metal is fine. It pools and gets shiny with no contamination. If I just run the arc along the base, it appears fine and tweeking the balance gets a good cleaning on the base, but its just the filler that seems to be my problem. I tried feeding the filler at different angles, and same result. Months back when I did some practice, the beads were fine, but the filler was new.

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        • #5
          scotchbrite, you can omit the acetone.
          Obviously, I'm just a hack-artist, you shouldn't be listening to anything I say .....

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          • #6
            Dang,

            I didn't realize that Norm was such an "accomplished" tig welder. Not that the advice is bad, but does that come from personal experience or something you "read on the internet"?

            OP,

            Sounds to me like you've got bigger problems than "contaminated" filler.

            As has been mentioned, a SS brush, not sandpaper, is recommended for cleaning your base material. What you're trying to do is break up the oxide layer that coats the aluminum.

            With filler, a SS brush really isn't very effective. If I feel that my filler may be slightly contaminated, I'll run a scotchbright pad over it and then wipe it down with acetone or alcohol.

            Can't say I've ever had filler contaminated enough to cause the problems you're having though. Most filler contamination issues I've seen in the past with new guys comes from removing the filler from the covering gas while the filler is still molten (at the tip). Then, when you go to add filler, you're adding contaminants to the weld bead.

            You sure your filler is compatable with the base aluminum you're welding? What filler/size are you using?
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            • #7
              Are you pulling the filler rod out of the torch's gas flow while the rod is still hot between dips? That will contaminate the end of the rod and the next dip adds the contamination to the weld pool. Keep the end of the rod in the gas flow between dips.

              I grind aluminum with sandpaper flap wheel and it works fine. Brushing with stainless brush and wiping with acetone works fine too. I don't grind or sand the filler rod, just wipe it down with acetone on a rag if it's been out of the tube for awhile.
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              • #8
                It sounds like your trying to add the filler to soon before you have the puddle hot enough or your melting the filler in the arc above the puddle instead of in the puddle. You should not have to clean the filler. My filler sits in the shop in an open container & in 20 years have never had a problem with contaminated filler.
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                • #9
                  I agree with MMW.
                  Nobody has this sort of problem that welds aluminum everyday.
                  I would say you are "frying" your filler before it gets to the puddle.
                  #1...change your torch angle
                  #2...watch your filler rod much more carefully and sneak it over to the edge of the puddle and let it stream in. From there you can learn better dipping techniques. Or just make a puddle and then just quickly jab the filler in.
                  Aluminum requires much more heat to weld than steel but the arc required to do this is so much more hotter it will waste the filler long before it gets to the puddle if it is in the air close to the arc.
                  You would be better off IMO to leave everything nasty and just work on technique. Just learn how to run beads on metal using filler. Then you will appreciate and know the difference cleaning makes on aluminum. It is not near what many would make it out to be.
                  I do many welds that appearance is quite important and breaking the patina with a bunch of sanding and brushing leaves areas that would have a worked over appearance. By learning how to weld aluminum that is less than perfect has become quite desirable in the long run.(for me, not everyone) It can make the item seem more original ie. not repaired, once the welded area oxidizes. A welder can tell but the average Joe can't.
                  Btw I wipe my rod on the cuff of my glove by wrapping the glove around it and pulling the rod thru. It will leave a black mark on the cuff. Old timer trick. Down and dirty and works when you ain't got nothing else.

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                  • #10
                    I use a #8 cup (1/2" ID), for better argon coverage.

                    Stickout no longer than 1/2 the cup diameter, shorter is better; again for better coverage. Alum is more fussy about this than mild steel. If you have gas lens, use them.

                    A steeper torch angle was mentioned; because an angled torch will push the heat out in front of the torch, melting your filler (the gray ash you're probably seeing). This is much worse with 1/16" filler, it has little mass and will overheat and oxidize quickly. I'm much better with 3/32" filler, or even 1/8" filler.
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                    • #11
                      Thanks for the help. I tried scotchbrite and acetone on both the base and the filler. I increased the flow a little, and tried your recommendations with the angles. Came out much better. I think I probably had the flow to low, and using a scotchbrite instead of sandpaper to clean up my filler helped. I'll keep practicing, but the welds were much better. Must have had contamination somewhere, and just more attention to cleaning makes all the difference.

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                      • #12
                        I'm having a similar problem.

                        350 amps, 1/8 toungsten, 1/8 filler, 5/8 cup, 30cfh argon. Welding 1/4 to 1/2" lap joint.

                        I cant get the filler to the puddle before it oxidizes.

                        I Scotch brited the 4043 filler. Not helping.

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                        • #13
                          Is that a #10 cup?
                          Nothing welded, Nothing gained

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                          • #14
                            The best way I have found to get my filler into the puddle is to pull the torch back to the heal of the puddle slightly. Then I can completely remove the rod from the shielding gas and get good bead aperance. I think the high amperage is cooking the filler rod on the edge of my gas shield before I can get it into the puddle.

                            However I have Butt joints on I beam in which I get contamination when I cannot get much leading angle on the joint. Looks like gas contamination.
                            The Lap / T joints are easier.

                            Could it be that the AC cleaning does not work if it is not pushed away???!

                            Yes 5/8 = #10. I ordered a 3/4 but its not here yet. Project needs to be done Tomorrow.

                            At 120 htz its easier to sneak the rod in, than 60 htz; despite extra cleaning.

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                            • #15
                              cleaning aluminum filler rod necessary?

                              Aluminum Hi-freq welding is the easiest and prettiest welding there is.. It's super easy to diagnose any problems your having if something goes wrong. It's also very nice to make a nice uniform robotic looking weld, it just takes some "hood time" to find that rhythm. I use a thumb control and I wouldn't trade it for a foot control, EVER. I make the prettiest welds in any position on any given day. Prepare prepare prepare! I've never cleaned filler rods either, if they are dirty enough that they cause contamination I will toss them. If this was the case with my filler wire I would also have to look into my storage techniques. I actually leave mine sitting on a "mini" a-frame rod holder on top of the syncrowave uncovered wrapped in a rubber band and I still have never had problems.

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