OT: working with aluminium

I have recently been making some goodies for my DRZ including a rear rack and a frame for some baja style lights. I love fabricating stuff but I want to move on to aluminium as I think it's a much better metal for making stuff for a bike. I must confess I do not know alot about the tools of the trade. What is the basic tools needed for cutting and welding alu ? Can it be any DC welder or do you need a specific welding machine (I've only worked with a arc welder). Also is it easy to buy good quality alu ? Sorry for all of the questions but from what I have read there is alot of people on TT with alot of knowledge on this type of work. I would like to start of with stuff like small tool boxes and maybe a skidplate. I know I can buy all the stuff but I love to tinker on weekends and what better way than making stuff for my DRZ :cry:

You will need a TIG or MIG (MIG only with a special setup) do weld aluminum. You'll probably want to stick with TIG as it gives a much higher quality weld. Some people find TIG welding the most difficult, but if you can weld with Oxy-acetylene you have at least got the technique down. You'll also need some s/s wire brushes for preparing the metal for welding, lightweight TIG gloves, and a lighter tint on your welding mask (if you have one of those electronic masks, then you can just adjust it. If you don't have an electronic mask, I suggest trying one…you'll never go back to flipping your head again.)

As for cutting, a bandsaw will do it just fine or they make aluminum-specific cutoff wheels.

As for material, you'll want to start off with 6000-series aluminum like 6061. You should be able to get that the same place you're getting your steel.

Good luck! :cry:

In my opinion, TIG is the only way to go for welding aluminum. Yes, you can do it with a MIG, but the results are nowhere near as nice. You will want a machine that can weld in A/C with a special circuit that produces high frequency for easier arc starting. Expect to pay at least $1000.00 for a decent machine.

I highly reccommend taking a TIG welding class. That was some of the best money I ever spent, the class.

Don't use a lighter shade for to TIG weld aluminum. If anything, go darker. Aluminum is very reflective and the arc will be brighter and larger than one from a MIG.

For general cutting, a bandsaw works nicely. Even better would be a stomp shear. A throatless shear (Beverly Shear)will let you do swoopy curvy shapes. A pneumatic nibbler is very handy too.

A bigger belt sander with a belt and disk is quite nice. So is a bobbin sander, although a sanding drum in a drill press will work.

A propper brake will make your life much easier too.

There are a million other things that I can think of that would be handy depending on what you want to do.

Aluminum is a lot of fun to work with because no matter what the project, there is always something else to learn about it.

In my opinion, TIG is the only way to go for welding aluminum. Yes, you can do it with a MIG, but the results are nowhere near as nice. You will want a machine that can weld in A/C with a special circuit that produces high frequency for easier arc starting. Expect to pay at least $1000.00 for a decent machine.

I highly reccommend taking a TIG welding class. That was some of the best money I ever spent, the class.

Don't use a lighter shade for to TIG weld aluminum. If anything, go darker. Aluminum is very reflective and the arc will be brighter and larger than one from a MIG.

For general cutting, a bandsaw works nicely. Even better would be a stomp shear. A throatless shear (Beverly Shear)will let you do swoopy curvy shapes. A pneumatic nibbler is very handy too.

A bigger belt sander with a belt and disk is quite nice. So is a bobbin sander, although a sanding drum in a drill press will work.

A propper brake will make your life much easier too.

There are a million other things that I can think of that would be handy depending on what you want to do.

Aluminum is a lot of fun to work with because no matter what the project, there is always something else to learn about it.

Thanks for that very descripted answer you :cry: :cry:

The poor mans way of working with aluminum, walk through scrap yards and search. I cut 1/2 aluminum plate with an old skill saw. I use a spool gun on my MIG welder for welding the stuff for boats and trailers. Most of the time we are machining the stuff for Drag bikes or Harley's and have someone else come in that can do first class Tig work.

hey Unabiker...

What machine makes that Unabiker logo etching that i see on the side of my rad guards? is it some kind of lazer or something?

Ya man what kind of tricks you got up your sleeve over there? Carbon fiber , laser cutters, space shuttle lookin stuff , I think I'm gonna take some machine classes man! :cry:

I recomend taking a class at a vocational school.

Welding aluminum can get very pricey unless you plan to do a lot of it.

Give some thought to what you want and you may be able to do it as a project.

If you get good at it there are lots of ways to make money.

hey Unabiker...

What machine makes that Unabiker logo etching that i see on the side of my rad guards? is it some kind of lazer or something?

I believe it's just a CNC milling machine, they can make almost any part. :cry:

Not sure what kind of suppliers you have in south Africa but i'm sure it's close to what we have in the states! If your gonna work with aluminum and you have no way to weld it , you will get frustrated quickly! If your serious about it you can buy a small mig machine that welds steel and get the spool kit for aluminum. You will need two tanks for different gases and you get two uses from one machine. On the other hand Tig is definitly a stronger better looking weld but requires a bit of patience to learn . Either way your gonna drop some cash to tinker on the weekends :cry:

In the welding shop at school we have a machine that you enter in specs for what you want and it cuts it out for you with a plasma cutter. Really neat.

CNC plasma cutters are cool. Same with laser and water jet cutters. And just a little too spendy for the home shop :cry:

Is there such a thing as JB weld for aluminum?

hey Unabiker...

What machine makes that Unabiker logo etching that i see on the side of my rad guards? is it some kind of lazer or something?

I cut all the rad guards with a CNC router. I'll be changing to a "freaking laser" here soon, as the router can barely keep up with the current demand.

Is there such a thing as JB weld for aluminum?

I use this putty stuff called QuickMetal. Works good on aluminum, works great on holed clutch covers in the middle of knowwhere too!

Thanks for the replies, apreciate it ! Ok so I'm looking at a TIG welder, bandsaw and maybe investing in a proper helmet (I have the flip down kind). Most of the other tools I have already which includes sanders, drill press, bench grinder etc. Getting hold of alu would not be much of a problem but what thickness would you guys suggest for stuff like frame guards and bashplates, maybe 3mm ? Also what is the difference between TIG and MIG welding ? Having not worked with either I'm a bit confused. Oh yeah the other day I saw some welding rods at my local hardware store that's made for alu. They are simular to normal mild steel welding rods but requires an AC welder. Is this another form of alu welding (budget with crappy results) ? A TIG welder does not use normal rods right ? One thing I don't like is crappy looking welds, don't want those for my DRZ :cry:

MIG Welding or TIG Welding

There is a way of welding with an aluminum flux and Oxy/Acet. It works, and was used for many years before MIG/Tig came around. Its more frustrating than its worth unless its just for fun anyway. It is very difficult, aluminum collapes as it gets to the welding temp, so little forms need to be made of steel to support the alum. Its really brazing (I think) because I'm not sure the puddle mixes well with the filler? Someone else could probably explain better as I never took any classes, I just try things. Oxy welding can produce very nice smooth looking welds if done correctly.

Mike -

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