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Pontoon Boats

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  • Pontoon Boats

    I am a new member and not a pro welder by trade, although I have always wished I could weld like one.

    My question is, have any of you ever worked for a company that made pontoon boats. I am curious what they use to weld up the "toons" -mig, or stick. Also, would mig offer any weld integrity ( strength) over stick. I know mig would probably look better and maybe be a little faster, but would it be any stronger.

    PS: I am from South Carolina and it is 10:00am and only 85 degrees. In light of our recent weather ( 120 degree heat index) it feels like the first day of fall.


  • #2
    Just looking at the welds on my dad's 'toon, I would say it's MiG or pulsed Mig. You can't beat Mig for production welding Aluminum.


    • #3
      i have never worked for a pontoon co, For the aluminum ones Ive seen, I would guess they use MIG. Way faster and would be hard to use stick on a piece of .064 aluminum I would think. Never had luck with aluminum stick anyway. I tried to use the pulsed mig on the repairs but have so much debris in it from the salt it didnt work to well. Tig worked better . Hard to repair once they have been in salt water for yrs.

      I'm from Marylands eastern shore [along the coast] and its been super hot here lately too.

      Welcome , lots of smart people here and some cool things made
      Last edited by HMW; 08-13-2007, 08:36 AM.


      • #4
        I have done some work on steel pontoons and I used 6010 for the root and finished it with 7018. The little bit of repair I have done on aluminum boats and pontoons was with either TIG or an O/A welding setup. It can be done, and easily, but be very careful about just running out and trying it with the O/A. There is a definite trick and you can quickly make the biggest mess you ever saw. Sticks for aluminum are the last resort, as in you have no other way of doing it. The rods burn at basically the same amperage as the corresponding size 7018. It spits and sputters on the start, you have to run very fast, and it doesn't work very well on anything under 1/4 inch thick, though I have used them on 1/8th. I am not positive about this, but it would make sense for the factories to use automated equipment for building the pontoons. That is just a guess though, but that's also the way I would do it in a factory.


        • #5
          i didnt know they made steel pontoon boats ?? seems like rust would be a big concern as well as wait. are you talking large barge type ??


          • #6
            I too have never seen steel pontoons, maybe in fresh water or commercial. All I've worked on is aluminum and recreational pontoons. All were about .060" thick, I am sure someone could stick that but not me. As far as an easy fix, not for me. Even cleaning with a stainless wheel wire wheel and aluminum cleaner still not easy. Salt seems to get right "in" the aluminum. The older it is the worse it is. Also aluminum gets kinda chaulky or crumbly [not sure if thats a word] after being in salt along time. Never had any experience with o/a on aluminum only pulsed mig and tig with tig being best on used aluminum. Tig gives you a chance to burn out the crap before you add filler, mig does not, it adds filler ready or not.


            • #7
              have you tried chemically etching it before TIGing or even MIGing the old aluminum?? i don't know what its called but have herd of it mentioned before. that might help on old pontoons. ??


              • #8
                Actually it was a houseboat, and it had big steel pontoons. I was surprised myself.


                • #9
                  Never Say Never Again....

                  Originally posted by Jolly Roger View Post
                  Sticks for aluminum are the last resort, as in you have no other way of doing it. The rods burn at basically the same amperage as the corresponding size 7018. It spits and sputters on the start, you have to run very fast, and it doesn't work very well on anything under 1/4 inch thick, though I have used them on 1/8th. I am not positive about this, but it would make sense for the factories to use automated equipment for building the pontoons. That is just a guess though, but that's also the way I would do it in a factory.
                  I think our new member 6010 may be just a wee bit confused:

                  Almost all "pontoon" boats made for recreational use in the US are made out of 6061T-6 Aluminum in .063" (approximately 15 gauge). The two exceptions to this are Bentley Pontoons, which are made with .080 extruded, and the Trimarans (3-tube) made by Bennington, which are a full 1/4" (.125) thick H-34 aluminum. H-34 and T-6 are similar in that they're both heat-treated and both anodized, but the base material for H-34 is slightly softer (hence the thicker material).

                  To continue to use Bentley and Bennington as examples, since they're two of the highest-quality pontoon boats out there, both manufacturers use Pulse-On-Pulse MIG (GMAW) in their production lines. Bentley is strictly a Miller facility and Bennington uses Miller and ESAB equipment. One difference (and you immediately know this when you compare prices!) is that Bennington's outboard engine models (all of them with two sponsons) use good-ole-fashioned TIG/GTAW to piece together their engine-wells/bilges/motor-mounts, bimini tops, and handrails.

                  Now that your familiarization is over, let's go back to the basics: MIG and TIG (GMAW/GTAW) both have significant advantages and disadvantages over one another. GTAW produces what is generally considered to be a "prettier" bead profile, while pulsed GMAW is much, much, MUCH faster. TIG beads on aluminum are often described as "stacked nickels" or "stacked dimes" while MIG welds are often called "burned V's". Except in the cases of very-seasoned professionals, "good looking" beads in aluminum are much easier to achieve with MIG as opposed to TIG...another reason many mfr's use MIG over TIG....unskilled labor comes up to speed much faster. Also, welding thicker aluminum is easier/faster with GMAW than it is with GTAW...the "easier" part is subjective, since it's always easier to learn to weld ANYTHING on thicker metal than it is with thinner metal.

                  I quoted JollyRoger above because I want to make a distinction in what he said: Stick welding (SMAW) with aluminum is exceedingly difficult to master, but once done, it is ALWAYS my first choice when joining two pieces of aluminum IF several factors are met: (1) the base material is 1/8" thick or thicker, (2) the customer isn't concerned with or familiar with "stacked nickels", (3) the joint/crack/seam to be welded isn't a structurally-critical piece/part, and lastly (4) the base material has NEVER been heat-treated (T-6/H-34) and is NEVERNEVERNEVERNEVER going to be heat-treated nor anodized!!!!

                  What's that tell you? SMAW welding on pontoon boats allowed! NEVERNEVERNEVER!!! (and please, take my word for it......or drive from wherever in SC you are over to Lake Wateree above Camden/below Lancaster and I'll show you!!!). This also rules out SMAW welding on aluminum jon boats due to the thickness (cheapies like LOWE'S boats are .043 and even some of the better ones like G3 are only .063, although SeaArk makes a couple of their boats in .125 Aluminum). So, for most pontoon boats and most jon boats, stick with (okay, ixnay that....STAY WITH) MIG or TIG for aluminum boats.

                  Does that answer some of your questions? I spent all summer repairing pontoon boats and jon boats and aluminum bass boats.....and as my Dad likes to tell me: a hard head makes for a SOFT a**!!!!

                  PS: where in SC are you? your profile doesn't say......?



                  • #10
                    Okay...I saw in another post where you said you were from Cheraw....I spend two days a week in Hartsville and am always seeing the signs.

                    Another distinction with what JollyRoger said earlier regarding burn-rates for AL SMAW: I find that good AL Arc rods like Hobart 418 burn considerably faster than any thickness. Part of our differences could be in base-material, rod mfr, or simply technique, so don't discount what JollyRoger says without trying it out for yourself. Going a little further, there is one really good comparison between 7018 and H418: just as 7018 and 6013 REQUIRE constant speed when dragging the electrode, so does AL SMAW require a constant speed...however, it's been my experience that travel speed for AL SMAW is muchmuchmuch faster than it is for CS SMAW. Just as 7018 doesn't allow for "whipping" like 6010/6011 does, neither does AL SMAW on any of the 5 electrodes I've tried. JollyRoger may disagree with that, not sure.

                    You may have noticed that 6010/6011 rods will allow you to "burn through" and weld "dirty" or rusted steel, and if so, you've probably noticed that 7018 nor 6013 do very well except with slight "dirty-ness" like mill scale or the like. The same holds true for stick welding with aluminum: AL SMAW rods will "burn through" a teensy tiny bit of oxidation, but not much! Remember that aluminum oxide is different than steel oxide (rust). AL SMAW and AL GMAW require relatively clean surfaces, while AL GTAW requires almost-sterile conditions. Someone once said that aluminum begins to oxidize approximately 3.5 milliseconds after you clean it.....


                    • #11

                      some good info,
                      But you would really choose stick over MIG for aluminum over 1/8"??. Its been along time since I tried aluminum stick and I didn't like but that could have been just me. I may have to try it again it just because
                      I'm sure in SC you deal with salt problem too. Never tried the chemical wash except for some aluminum cleaner. Actually I hate repairing the pontoons. almost always upside down and you have to pressure test when done. So I kinda quit working on them. Pontoon boat Railings or something is not bad. John Boats dont seem to be as bad, you can flip them over and its almost always the stern anyway. And its easy to put water in them to check for leaks.

                      Thanks for the info


                      • #12
                        Hi Clint,
                        Thanks for all the good information. I became interested in the Pontoons a few months ago when I bought a used one from my wife's niece, more to help her out than I needed the boat. It is a Bentley ( glad to hear from you they are at the top of the list) with a 40 HP Mercury. We are keeping it at Lake Wiley rigtht now ( above Rockhill) and will leave it there until the lake dries up, which looks like it may be soon.

                        I had never ridden in a pontoon before we bought this one. I have a 17 ft. Triton that we bought two years ago and we carried it to Santee about every weekend. We haven't used it since we got the pontoon - my wife really likes the pontoon . I need to put a depth finder on the pontoon since I am into fishing. My goal is to catch the record catfish for South Carolina. So far, my biggest cat wouldn't make a good bait for the big ones at Santee. Mybe you would be so kind as to tell me where and how to mount the depth finder so I can get a good look at the bottom. I will retire in two years and will have more time to spend on my quest for the record cat.

                        Hartsville is not too far. Maybe one morning soon I can ride over there and buy you a cup of coffee and shake your hand - I guess in all this heat an ice tea would be a better drink. Also, we will be going to Wateree if I can get my wife out of the pontoon boat. Maybe you can tell me where some good crappie spots are located.

                        Please stay on the message board, as I may need some help in the future with the boat. I am in the electrical field but have always wanted to learn to weld good enough that I wouldn't have to lie about the origin of some of my welds. I just bought a Syncrowave 200 and I am having a lot of fun playing around with it. I am still having to lie about the welds though.

                        Stay in the shade for the next few days and drink plenty of water.



                        • #13
                          The SW200 will weld it for sure, just get it real clean. Is that fresh water where you are?


                          • #14
                            if i have not already done so i would like to say welcome to the board.
                            as for the record, my step mom caught a huge one on a garlic flavored mini marshmallow. have no idea what caused he to chose it as bait ?? but its what she used. good luck, may you find and concur the beast you seek. and congrats on the SW200.


                            • #15
                              pontoon welding

                              The company I work for owns a few of the pontoon companies out there, and we have been called in to look at some of their work. From what I know and have seen the following is normally true:

                              1-Pontoons are either 6061 or 5052

                              2-heat treat or hardness depends on where the part is ( i.e. the stamped pontoon ends are usually dead soft )

                              3-Mig is used due to cost ( not quality by any means )
                              4-Protptypes are usually TIG / OA welded

                              5-Repair by any method destroys the heat treat, but thats ok since the part is normally engineered in the 0 condition since its welded on after treatment.

                              6- for us the OA welding provides the surest weld on the thin material but the skill required to do it is above the heads of most "weldors" nowdays so they use MIG.

                              Hope this helps!



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