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Welding Station Tabletop - steel or aluminum?

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  • Welding Station Tabletop - steel or aluminum?

    I'm designing a welding station. Most tabletops I've seen are mild steel. I'm leaning toward using 1/2" aluminum plate for the following reasons:
    1. Pulls heat away from the backside of a weld faster than steel.
    2. Less chance to scratch stainless steel during fixturing and welding.

    Other than the fact that it is softer than steel, are there any reasons NOT to use aluminum; such as excessive arcing or warping? I'll be running 200 amps max, usually in the 100 range.

    Thank you in advance for sharing your experiences.

  • #2
    I'd have to give it a thumbs down for the following reasons:

    1. Price of Aluminum

    2. You'd have to have aluminum legs and structure for a real table...
    Otherwise you'd just have an aluminum surface bolted to a steel table.

    That might be the best way to go: Conventional steel table to which aluminum plate (or even barstock) is bolted to the top for certain parts/welds. Aluminum would get scratched/banged, discolored, splattered on, etc. I don't know what kind of welding you'll be doing but if you mig the corner of some steel right on that surface, what's going to happen to the surface of that aluminum when you run the steel wire into it?

    -James

    Comment


    • #3
      i have seen them made from 1/2&1/2 so i dont see whay you couldnt get away with just aluminum. only thing i can think of is like you said its soft so it will get dented ans scratched easily. i hve set dont my grinder with it still spinning and had it grrrrr to a stop the last lil bit and i would think that would leave a huge chale, in aluminum but did nothing to steel. so as long as you keep the soft isue in mind when building you should be fine. extra bracing and be shore not to melt threw.
      maybee a steel top with an aluminum place mat so to speek??? that would give you the best of both.

      Comment


      • #4
        Why aluminum? do you weld aluminum stuff all the time? Just curious, I ahve never seen a aluminum work table

        Comment


        • #5
          aluminum work table

          I'm not real sure that an aluminum work surface will be the right thing to do. I would have to think it would get imbedded with the welding splatter and grinding debris a lot easier than going with a steel top. When ever I do aluminum or stainless I either put a piece of stainless sheet or even the sheet cardboard that comes between the sheets of metal on the table as a pad to work off of. Dave
          Last edited by dabar39; 06-15-2007, 06:46 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            I am always tacking stuff to my steel table during setup, hard to do that with aluminum unless all you work with is aluminum.

            Comment


            • #7
              not to mention magnets are out on an aluminum table.
              i think a steel table with a pice of sheet in aluminum or SS would be a better option. i just cant see an aluminum top lasting too long in my shop, but your milage may differ.

              Comment


              • #8
                i would go with the steel because of price and u can tack stuff on it and u can practice welding things on it see if u can break it of then grind it back to new ! also if u ever a o/a torch to braze it makes it difficult to get ur piece of work to heat up cause the aluminum looses all the heat .

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Sundown View Post
                  I am always tacking stuff to my steel table during setup, hard to do that with aluminum unless all you work with is aluminum.
                  This would be one of my top reasons for a steel table. I weld small jigs to my table top all the time for bending/ fixturing of parts. Steel is going to last longer and be more versitile than an aluminum top. Besides, when the part your welding on arcs on the aluminum top, it will put nasty little pits in the surface.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Mostly aluminum projects

                    Originally posted by HMW View Post
                    Why aluminum? do you weld aluminum stuff all the time? Just curious, I ahve never seen a aluminum work table
                    Most of my projects are aluminum, but some are stainless and mild steel. I found myself always using a 1/2 aluminum plate on top of the steel tabletops at the college shop class. I was wondering if "cutting out the middleman" would work. It will be used maybe twice a week, so it won't take the beating of daily use as would be experience in a professional environment.

                    I too have never seen an aluminum tabletop, but my TIG instructor said it would make the ideal surface for a heat sink for stainless steel.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      It would be cool if you dont need it to weld steel on. It does like to spread out heat if thats an issue. 1/2" piece of aluminum, not cheap of course neither is steel. Do you already have scrap from something? That always makes the price better

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        One big reason for an Aluminum toped welding table is when welding aluminum placed directly on a steel surface you and not grounding directly to the work but to the table you are likely to get arc marks on the aluminum work.


                        I usually have a piece of aluminum 3'X3'X.0125 or so I place this on top of my steel table and clamp it down using my ground clamp. Then I have a surface that will not scratch my work. This goes the same for when I am working anything that I can not have scratches in.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I have to agree with FAT FAB. Welding aluminum on a steel top leaves stray arcs on the work due to poor grounding. An aluminum top doesn't mark the work or cause arcing. For SS, the Aluminum top acts as a good heat sink to control distortion. A steel top allows you to weld fixtures to it for forming, or jigs, or just tack welding the piece directly to the top. I've used both tops, but for primarily doing either types of materials. A good compromise to this dilemma would be to build the table out of steel, and have half the top steel, and the other half aluminum. When I set up my home shop I will build a table half and half, getting the bennefits of both worlds. The cheapest way to buy aluminum is to find a shop building things with primarily aluminum, and buy a piece of crop from them. Those shops usually will sell a piece of crop for scrap value, usually about 1/10 the cost of buying through a regular supplier.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Hybrid steel & aluminum

                            Originally posted by jamscal View Post
                            I'd have to give it a thumbs down for the following reasons:

                            1. Price of Aluminum

                            2. You'd have to have aluminum legs and structure for a real table...
                            Otherwise you'd just have an aluminum surface bolted to a steel table.

                            That might be the best way to go: Conventional steel table to which aluminum plate (or even barstock) is bolted to the top for certain parts/welds. Aluminum would get scratched/banged, discolored, splattered on, etc. I don't know what kind of welding you'll be doing but if you mig the corner of some steel right on that surface, what's going to happen to the surface of that aluminum when you run the steel wire into it?

                            -James
                            I like the idea of a steel table with an optional aluminum cover. Thank you for the suggestion!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Thumbs-up for aluminum placemat

                              Originally posted by fun4now View Post
                              i have seen them made from 1/2&1/2 so i dont see whay you couldnt get away with just aluminum. only thing i can think of is like you said its soft so it will get dented ans scratched easily. i hve set dont my grinder with it still spinning and had it grrrrr to a stop the last lil bit and i would think that would leave a huge chale, in aluminum but did nothing to steel. so as long as you keep the soft isue in mind when building you should be fine. extra bracing and be shore not to melt threw.
                              maybee a steel top with an aluminum place mat so to speek??? that would give you the best of both.
                              The aluminum would defintely not take the abuse that steel will. Using an aluminum Placemat as requied is an EXCELLENT suggestion.

                              Comment

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