How to weld aluminum with a stick welder

Stick welding refers to the process of joining metals with an electric current or electrode.

Commonly referred to as shielded metal arc welding, it’s a versatile way of joining different types of metal.  This method is also easy to learn. Generally, an electrode is made of a sturdy metallic rod. It can also be made of a stick that is coated with metal powders and other compounds. A binding agent is used to ensure that the compound sticks well to the surface.

Welders make an electric arc between a metal and an electrode using a direct or an alternating current. The role 0f the electrode is to act as an electrical conductor to the arc. It also provides the joint’s filler metal.

There are many uses of stick welding in the construction, repair, and maintenance industries. It’s a great choice for the welding of iron and steel but also perfectly well for aluminum.

Why aluminum isn’t commonly used by welders

Many people don’t consider aluminum to be a welding method. It can also be expensive. A pound of aluminum electrodes can cost tens of dollars.  It may seem unrealistic to spend hundreds of dollars for repairs that take a few minutes.

Another challenge is that the welding rods that are used in aluminum welding are hygroscopic. This means that they have an affinity for water. If you happen to leave them outside, the flux will get dump and gummy. Aluminum is also not recommended for thin materials like use of aluminum rods isn’t recommended for materials below an eighth of an inch. Aluminum tends to melt fast and you need a lot of concentration.

Steps in welding aluminum with a stick welder

Here are the steps in welding aluminum with a stick welder

Gather the necessary materials

Here are the common materials you will need:

  • Aluminum filler rods. You will need aluminum filler rods for the binding of two pieces. Ensure that these pieces aren’t rusty or dirty as this will compromise the quality of the weld. You can buy the rods in hardware and home improvement stores.
  • Argon gas canister. These help in shielding.
  • Protective clothing. Ensure that you are wearing protective clothing made of thick fabric material. Also wear the best thick gloves, welding helmet, goggles, and a respirator.

The process of welding aluminum with a stick welder

Before you stick weld aluminum, it’s good to understand the properties of the metal.

How to weld aluminum with a stick welder

Aluminum properties

Aluminum is a lightweight and soft metal that can be welded easily or cast. Since it’s easier to weld, you can use it to join other metals. Take note that aluminum doesn’t corrode easily, and has the perfect thermal and electrical conductivity. It also has a lower melting point of 660 degrees Celsius but with high thermal conductivity.

Aluminum conducts heat well. However, you will need more heat to weld with aluminum as compared to other metals. This is why you may need to preheat particularly if you are dealing with thicker metals. One of the benefits of the high conductivity is that it will enable heat to solidify faster. After it has solidified, aluminum will decrease by 6% in volume and this can cause cracking and distortions.

When it reacts with oxygen, aluminum can create a thin layer of aluminum oxide. This is a very robust layer with melting points that are 3 times higher than that of aluminum. The layer can also absorb moisture and result in porosity, which can compromise the weld’s strength.

Can you weld aluminum with a stick welder?

We are often asked: can you weld aluminum with a stick welder?  The answer is yes. You can use an AC TIG that uses argon.  This is usually a clean, slow but controllable way of welding the thin aluminum sheets. You can also DC TIG using helium to weld aluminum. This is a good choice for thicker welds due to its hot arc and deep penetration.

A faster way of welding aluminum with a stick welder is the MIG. However, you will need a filler metal that will melt the base metal to do that. This can be a complicated process. For the straight MIG cable, a push-pull gun and a spool gun isn’t necessary.  As compared to TIG that requires filler, MIG that uses DC is usually faster.

How to weld aluminum with a stick welder

Welding aluminum with a stick welder

When it comes to aluminum welding, the most recommended method is the use of welding rods. This is usually faster and more efficient. Stick welding is one of the methods that is commonly used to repair pipes and tanks.  But what do I need to weld aluminum? Here are the foundations of welding aluminum with a stick:

  • An electric arc is used to join two metallic pieces. This results in great heat that causes the metal to melt
  • Where you use a coated electrode to melt, the two metals are joined into one single metal. Therefore, the electrode that is coated with aluminum works perfectly well. This also results in a fast process as the metal doesn’t touch the arc  for long
  • It’s advisable to use an electrode that is well coated with flux for the DC reversed polarity. This flux coating is what shields the arch and the molten aluminum, ensuring that oxidation doesn’t occur.
  • The polarity setting and current of the electrode is often dependent on the kind of electrode.

Take note that it can be hard to control the arc in this type of welding. The weld can also result in porosity as a result of the corrosion resulting from the entrapment of flux.

In conclusion

By using inert gases like argon, welding aluminum with a stick is possible. The inert gases help to protect molten aluminum in the aluminum stick welding. This can ensure that you get quality and consistent wlds in a short time.

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