Aluminum alloy welding rods – easy to use approach to make high quality joints

Aluminum brazing rods allows non-professional user to make cheap repairs in aluminum alloys and other non-ferrous metals, using just handyman gas torch. Even for those experienced in welding steels, welding aluminum can hard and need expensive welder machine (more hear). You can use any heat source that will heat the metal to about 730 °F , and base metal will not disfigure. Aluminum welding rod is stronger than base aluminum alloy.

Zn-Al welding rods will work with butane oxyacetylene or any heat source as long as the material is brought up to 732 Farenheit. You need to preheat the components, to test the correct temperature, rub the end of a rod onto the work, if the rod will flow when working temperature is reached. In any case don’t place the rod onto the flame, or the weld won’t be strong enough.

The main advantage of using Zn-Al welding rods is a low temperature. With it you don’t need expensive equipment, just MAPP torch. TIG machine could burn through if your base metal is thin, make sluggish weld and ruin the surface details, aluminum welding rods make clean and precise repairs. Aluminum-zink brasing rods can be used with Oxyacetylene, Propane hand torch and works with almost all non-ferrous metals.

You will not get appropriate results on stainless steel, also they are not intended to use with zamac or mazac. Base area of the joint needs to be thoroughly cleaned from surface oxides and oil. Heat the area to be weld evenly, and just after it, rub the rod vigorously against the heated piece until the rod flows and wet the base metal.

And some final tips. Pre-tinning helps to achieve best results. Heat and cover with aluminum welding rod both surfaces Remove pores and bubbles with brush, in this case you can use direct flame on alloy. With sides thoroughly tinned, assemble the details and flow in enough rod to fill the vee. The use of appropriate flux paste will make your results better, but you should choose the right one which corresponds to the working temperature (aluminum welding rods).

Why we like pancake welding hood and what it’s gains and cons

Pancake is attributed to the shape of the hood, its front is fairly thin and oval ( Relying upon whether the welder is right or left-handed, helmet would come with a shield on one side. The pancake welding hood are extremely thin to reduce their weight and build with light balsa wood. There are many variations of the welding masks in the shops, and they can be used for various types of welding processes.

Sarge, Original Pancake and Wendy are the most recognizable and popular brands of the pancake hoods. Wendy’s welding hoods are one of the best in the market from a pool of varieties of diffident kinds of helmet. The Original Pancake brand hood is more flexible and less likely to break than the other brands that use balsa gusset pieces to secure the ear guard

It is great if you work when the sun is beaming in the sky, the sealed balsa block provides the best glare-free vision possible. The hood has a very good airflow which is very important when you work in the summer on the south. Thanks to the lightweight design pancake welding hood is really easy to wear and work in awkward positions for hours. Last, for most masks it is possible to use an electronic darkening lens or flip-up lens, which makes the hood even better.

In regard to materials the helmet made out of balsa wood, pine and from carbon fiber. The balsa block makes a box around the eyes to convenient fixation of the hood and seal-out all the light which may be reflecting from the lens. Without reflections from the electric arc, sun, or another welder you can avoid glares and work without any issues.

The most pancakes are used by pipeline welders, they make long welds and don’t distract to cleaning, grinding, etc. But for example, welders that deal mostly with automobile fixes make short joints and then readjust parts, measure distances, hammering, etc. In that case pancake is not so convenient. Auto-darkening lens save the situation and you can even work with pancake everywhere.

Ending For an outdoor welder who needs to weld for long hours pancakes are the best: not feel heavy on the head, minimize the amount of light that reflects from the lenses, and protect from dust and dirt (pancake welding hood). The balsa block also stabilizes the lens of your helmet perfectly and since you adjust it yourself, there is nothing like comfort. Pancake hoods should be OSHA-approved, but not all are, make sure you purchase a hood from a reputable source, such as Sarge’s, Wendy’s or Original pancake.

How to choose the best MIG Welder for a Handyman (upd: 03.12.2020)


One of the most common questions that come into our contact page are around the best MIG Welder for different things like Handyman, welding cars, sheet metal, fences, etc. In this article, we want to brief look at some of the best MIG Welders for a Handyman! If you already own one of the MIG Welders we refer to on this page, we encourage you to join in the discussion thread at the bottom of the page and share your experience with the welder also.

What needs to be welded?

In order to understand why the models below were chosen, we first want to look at the things a typical handyman is going to be doing with their mig or arc welder.

Items Often Welded by a Handyman. Lets face it… a handyman is not going to be building bridges… Most often, they will be welding:

  • Chain Link Fences or Metal Posts
  • Signs, or other Sheet Metal Items
  • Lawnmowers, Snowblowers, Tillers and other Yard Equipment
  • Metals up to 1/4 inch thick
  • Cars, Truck, Exhaust or Some Automotive Welding

Welding Skill level Needed

Just like the limited degree of items that a handyman is going to be welding, they really don’t want to have to school for 3 months to learn how to draw a nice pool of metal! Most handyman welders are going to be the same guy you see balancing his own lawnmower blades, painting his own home and building his own deck.

Mig or flux core?

If you are going to do a lot of outside welding on steel, then you’ll be using more flux-core wire. Inside, MIG welders may be better, and it’s the only choice on that machine for aluminum and stainless.

MIG welders are a lot cleaner than Flux-core. Flux core has a lot of splatter and you have to remove a layer of slag on the weld – kind of like stick.

The key to finding the right MIG welder for your needs is to have a good grasp of what you are going to be welding.  Here’s a brief overview of the most commonly welded materials and basic information about what type of welder will best handle the tasks.

Sheet Metal

Sheet metal is a thinner metal so care must be exercised when welding it.  Problems arise when too much heat is used – too many amps are employed – and the welder burns too far into the metal, weakening it.  In some circumstances, burn through may be the result.  This can also be caused by using welding wire that is too thick.  For welding sheet metal, .023 to .030 diameter wire is best, along with a an amp setting in the 60 to 140 range. Good options for sheet metal welding include the Millermatic 140 and 180, the Clarke WE6523 and WE6441, the Lincoln K2185 Handy MIG, the Hobart 500550 130 and Hobart 500500 Handler 140.

Carbon Steel/Mild Steel

This is the most common type of steel and most MIG machines weld it very well.  The key is the thickness of the material.  Thicker materials require more heat/amps and also thicker diameter wire.  For light and medium duty carbon steel welding, a portable 140 to 180 machine is a good choice; for larger steels a MIG welder with an amperage capacity between 230 and 320 or higher is a better bet.  Look for outstanding welders, new or used, from Lincoln, Miller, Hobart and ESAB for welding steel.  Here are some approximate amperages for various widths of steel: 18 gauge – 70 to 100 amps; 1/8” steel – 100 to 200 amps; 3/16” steel – 130 to 200 amps; 1/4” steel – 140 to 220 amps; 1/2” steel – 250 amps minimum.  Use steel from .023” up to .045 depending on the thickness of what is being welded. Top welders with high amp capacity for mild steel welding include the Hobart 500304 IronMan 210, Hobart 500536 Ironman 230, Lincoln K2403-1 Power MIG 350, ESAB Multimaster 260, and the Clarke WE6524 MIG Welder.  For thinner metals, the portable units from Miller, Hobart and Lincoln are all very good.

Aluminum Welding

Occasional aluminum welds can be handled by most MIG welders.  However, since aluminum melts so quickly, if you expect that most of your welds will involve aluminum, it may be a better choice to select a welder that is designed specifically for aluminum.  Pulse welders are best for this application – units like the Millermatic Pulser, the Lincoln K2403-1 Power MIG Welder and the ESAB Multimaster 260 are all fantastic choices.  You may also find it helpful to choose a special aluminum feed gun like the Spoolmatic 30A or Spoolmate spool guns.

What advantages do MIG welders offer?

  • Externally supplied gas or gas mixtures provide MIG welder shielding.
  • Metal is deposited only when the wire actually touches the work.
  • No metal is transferred across the arc during MIG welding.
  • Another method of MIG welding, spray transfer moves a stream of tiny molten droplets across the arc from the electrode to the weld puddle. Consumables: contact tips, shielding gas, welding wire.
  • A number of configurations
  • MIG welders utilize solid wire and require shielding
  • MIG welders use a solid wire and require an inert gas for shielding.
  • Flux-core welders use a hollow wire that has flux inside it. When heated, the flux forms a protective gas layer around the weld. The shielding is there to prevent air from getting to the weld and causing a variety of problems, such as oxidation to hydrogen embrittlement from oxygen and water vapor in the air.

Choosing best MIG welder for a handyman

We realize that different people may have different reasons for choosing the best mig welder for a handyman. There are many MIG welders models available on the market, but which is best for you?

Lots of Mig Welder choices

Externally supplied gas or gas mixtures provide MIG welder shielding. Common MIG welding is referred to as short circuit transfer. Metal is deposited only when the wire actually touches the work. No metal is transferred across the arc during MIG welding.

Another method of MIG welding, spray transfer moves a stream of tiny molten droplets across the arc from the electrode to the weld puddle.

How do you choose a Mig Welder?

Best MIG welder manufacturers include: Lincoln, Miller, Hobart, Century, Esab, Clarke, and others.

These MIG welder manufacturers offer a variety of MIG welders that can meet any welding need from industrial MIG welders to hobbyists to fabrication shops, ranches, aerospace welding, and more.

MIG Welding Wire Buyers Guide

MIG wire comes in a wide variety of materials and diameters.  Also known as an electrode, the wire you choose must be right for the job in order to ensure the strongest, tidiest weld you can produce.

Here are the key features of MIG wire.  Keep them in mind as you shop for the brand and material that will make you the best welder you can be.

1. Metal Soundness: High-quality MIG welding electrode must be characterized by excellent fusion and a lack of porosity.  Poorly made wire or that made from inferior materials is far more likely to cause carbon monoxide bubbles in the weld (porosity), decreasing strength as well as potentially marring the appearance.

2. Wire containing quality deoxidizers: A deoxidizer is an element that will combine with oxygen more readily than carbon so that harmless slag is formed instead of CO.  The best deoxidizers are aluminum, zirconium and titanium, although silicon and manganese remain the most common deoxidizers in today’s wire options.

3. Puddle fluidity: The weld puddle needs to be fluid enough to create smooth edges in the bead shape but not so fluid that it causes control issues.  This can be especially vital on fillet or multi-pass welds where fusion is essential.  A smoother bead shape will reduce the need for post-weld grinding where appearance is important.

How to Choose Mig Welding Wire
With these features in mind, here are tips for choosing the right wire for your job.

Tip #1: Familiarize yourself with the wire types available.

Knowing what materials are available will help you select the right one for your task.  A brief overview of types includes aluminum, bronze alloy, carbon steel, copper alloy, hard facing, low alloy steel, magnesium, maintenance alloy, nickel alloy and stainless steel.  Each has unique weld characteristics and they contain varying amounts of deoxidizer.

Tip #2: Select wire with the proper amount of deoxidizer.

Manganese and silicon are the most common deoxidizers and you’ll need to select a wire with the correct levels for the welding jobs you have.  The more deoxidizer, the greater the fluidity tends to be.  Adding titanium, zirconium or aluminum to the electrode tends to lower fluidity and creates a puddle that is better for applications such as welding pipe where the molten metal is likely to run off the job if too fluid.

Tip #3: Choose wire compatible with the metals you are welding.

It is always best to use wire made of the same material as the metal you are welding for greatest fusion.  For carbon steel your options include solid wire or flux-cored wire depending upon your preference and the availability of shielding gas.

Tip #4:  Use a MIG wire diameter rated for the amps required on the weld.

For example, .023” wire is suitable for use between 30 and 90 amps, .030” wire works well between 40 and 150 amps, and .035” wire is right for amp settings between 55 and 180 amps.  Larger diameter .045” wire can be used on jobs that require up to about 260 amps.  Most wire packaging will offer a chart that shows acceptable use for the diameter of the wire contained.

Tip #5: Use your welder’s set up chart to determine wire diameter

Most welders from Hobart, ESAB, Miller, Lincoln and other leading brands come equipped with a set-up chart that spells out clearly what diameter wire should be used, given the amps required.

Tip #6: For all-purpose DIY welding on aluminum use medium to large diameter wire.

Most welder manufacturers suggest that if you want one wire that will work well on the widest variety of tasks that you select either .030” or .035” aluminum wire.  You’ll enjoy good weld puddle control and a solid, durable weld for most tasks.

Once you get comfortable with your welder and the wire choices available you’ll find it easy to match the right wire with each task.  Your welds will show quality and will prove themselves in the long-run with greater durability and strength.  Follow these guidelines and you’ll soon know how to choose the right MIG wire for the job.

MIG Gun | Guide to MIG Welding Guns

The MIG / GMAW gun you choose will go a long way towards the performance you achieve as well as the ease with which you get work done.  Think about it: the gun delivers all the dynamics that make for a good weld – or a failed weld.  It provides the consistent current, the electrode and the shielding gas to the work zone, all critical factors.  Therefore, it must be tailored to the kind of work that is being done.  Guns are also an important factor in being as efficient as possible with the amount of consumables you go through.  In this guide we’ll offer tips for selecting the right gun for the way you typically weld.

Tip #1: Choose the Right Sized Gun

Many welders think that the more gun they have the better, but this isn’t always the case.  The larger the gun the heavier it usually is and that will make a difference during an 8-10 hour shift or even over the course of a single 20-30 minute job.  Plus, larger guns tend to go through more wire, often producing more weld than you need.  In many cases, it’s overkill and a waste of material.

For example, if a job requires 380 amps, is it essential that you use a gun rated to 380 or 400 amps?  The answer is no!  If you’re going to weld constantly for hours on end, then you’d need the higher rated gun.  But in reality, a 260-300 amp, 100% duty cycle gun would most likely meet your needs because you’re probably only welding for 15-20 minutes tops per hour, in starts and stops while you move the piece or your position and make adjustments.  You’ll pay less for that gun and use your consumables with less waste.  Plus, the slightly lighter weight will ease hand and wrist fatigue and reduce repetitive task stress.

Tip #2: Choose the Right Length Cable

It’s true that where versatility is essential, the longer the reach the better – for getting under equipment or up a ladder for example.  But if your welding station is pretty fixed and you work on smaller parts that can be lifted onto your station, it actually makes more sense to choose shorter cables.  They cost less, for starters.  Secondly, having 6-10 feet of cable on the ground beneath you can lead to problems or be a general nuisance.  There are fewer wire-feeding problems with shorter cables.  Again, knowing what types of welding and the typical circumstances you’ll encounter is the key to choosing the right gun/cable setting for best performance and economy.

Tip #3: Choose a Gun with Top Performance Features

Not all guns are created equal.  It’s best to choose the highest quality gun you can afford (at the right size and cable length as mentioned).  It begins with a rigid strain relief connection where the wire feeder and the cable connect.  This will ensure better wire feeding, non-kinking operation, and overall better welds that will maximize your welding output.

In addition, if you typically use more than one brand or style of feeder, it is essential to choose a gun with a variety of plug options.  One gun to fit them all will increase productivity and reduce the need and cost for additional guns.

Tip #4: Choose a Gun with a Reliable Trigger

Since the trigger is the only moving part of the gun, it needs to be reliable.  A cheap trigger or one that cannot be easily serviced will lead to unexpected down-time and cost.  Look for a gun with a firm, strong and reliable trigger that has the feel of quality.

Tip #5: Choose Versatility in the Neck

If every weld you do is exactly the same, a fixed-neck gun might be okay.  But a rotatable, adjustable neck will maximize your ability to weld with comfort and success.

Tip #6: Choose a Light but Well-Made Handle

For the handle, first make sure it is rated for the duty cycle/amperage you’ll be working with.  Beyond that, lightweight metal in an ergonomically-designed handle is a great choice.  A smaller handle will generally be more comfortable and a vented handle will reduce heat.

Tip #7: Consider a Water-Cooled Gun

Welding professionals often choose a water-cooled gun because they are lighter, smaller and can operate longer without uncomfortable or unsafe heat build-up.  They do cost more, but if welding is your profession, they may be a very worthwhile investment that will lower your fatigue, increase your comfort, and contribute to greater performance on the job.

Making an informed choice about the gun you use will pay dividends going forward.  Don’t overdo the power capability of the gun, but buy the highest quality you can afford.  You’ll get more work done, become a better welder, and do it all for less in terms of reduced power used and consumables wasted.

Welding Stainless Steel

What are the best techniques for welding stainless steel? That’s like asking what is the best way to go fishing? It depends on a lot of things, doesn’t it? Lots of things like what type of stainless, what thickness, what is the application, and for what industry?

Let’s focus on three industries: Food service, Aerospace, and Nuclear.

1. Food Service

Most stainless steel in the food service industry is 300 series stainless. Type 304 .063″ thick stainless sheet metal to be exact. If you go to any Fast food counter and check out all the counters, shelving, cookers and such, you will notice it is all made from welded stainless steel sheet metal. Food service codes require 304 stainless steel to be utilized in food preparation areas because it does not rust easily. All welds are supposed to be performed in such a way to not trap bacteria and other crud. Back sides of stainless steel welds should be shielded with argon so that they are not sugared and full of pits that could trap bacteria like salmonella. All wire brushing should be done with a stainless steel brush and welds that are not perfectly smooth should be blended smooth with some type of abrasive wheel and then cleaned with alcohol.

Tig welding is almost always the best process since spatter and slag are absent. Tig welding rods should be 308L for welding 304 stainless. L is for low carbon because

Carbon is bad when it comes to corrosion resistance in stainless.

Tips for welding SS sheet metal : 1 amp per 1 thousands of thickness, keep the hot tip of the filler rod shielded and snip it if it gets oxidized, use chill bars made of aluminum, copper, or bronze whenever possible. Filler rod should generally not be bigger than thickness of metal welded. Keep bead width to around 4 times the thickness of the sheet. Use a gas lens style cup, a #7 or bigger. A 1/16 thoriated or lanthanated electrode will easily weld 16 ga .063″ sheet. Keep electrodes clean and sharp.

2. Aerospace

Stainless steel alloys used in the aerospace and aviation industries are a bit more varied. There are lots of them. Austenitic stainless steels like 321, 347, 316, and 304 are common, but so are martensitic stainless grades like 410 steel , Greek Ascoloy, and Jethete M190. Another family of stainless used on commercial aircraft is the Precipitation Hardening variety. A PH at the end like 15-5ph, 17-4ph, 15-7ph, 17-7ph indicates that the steel is precipitation hardening. That means holding it at high temperature for extended time allows the steel to harden. PH grades are sometimes much more difficult to weld than the straight 300 series because of alloy elements and complex metallurgical reactions to heat while welding.

Tig Welding and automated plasma welding are the most commonly utilized processes.

Tips for Aerospace tig welding SS : Clean, Clean, Clean. Use as big a tig cup and possible 3/4 ” –1″. Use minimal heat and use any means to prevent distortion (skip welding, fixturing, small beads) shield the back side of everything you weld with argon using tooling, or home made purge boxes.

3. Nuclear

Nuclear piping systems use a lot of stainless steel and most of it is TIG welded. Or at least the root pass is tig welded. Most of the stainless piping is basic 304L stainless but other grades like 316 are used also. Tig root passes with stick fill is pretty common with heavy wall pipe but anything under schedule 80 is usually just Tig welded all the way out because x ray results are better that way. Stick welding is kind of hard with stainless.

Instrumentation lines that are 1/2″ and less in diameter and are often done with orbital tig welding because it is so repeatable. Welding small diameter tubing manually is tough.

There are all kinds of other applications for welding corrosion resistant alloys like boat propellers, headers and exhaust, and marine hardware like sailboat parts. One thing to remember is that they distort easily so precautions like heat sinks, chill blocks, and minimizing heat input are all important techniques to use.

Tips For Welding Stainless Steel

welding stainless steelBefore jumping right into the welding tips it is important that everyone reading this understands that there are different types of stainless steel and they are not all welded the same. There are in fact three classes of the product we call stainless steel. There is also a mixed class called Duplex, and it is recognized by their metallurgical structure, to be more precise by their microstructure. They are Ferric, Austenitic, Duplex and Matrensic.

Tip for Welding Austenitic Steel

These are the ones that are considered to be the best for welding. When purchasing stainless steel you will no doubt here them called the “300 series”, that is their classification form the American Iron and Steel Institute. Not all of he 300 series respond well to welding as in the case of the 303. It has a propensity for hot cracking that makes it almost not worth the time or energy to weld.

Welding Ferritic Stainless Steel

This material responds better if you use the arc welding process. Most car exhaust systems are made of ferritic materials. They do not tend toward hot cracking. If there is a limit amount of ferretic in an otherwise austenitic material it tends to be much easier to weld. Below are a few more tips about how to weld stainless steel.

  1. You must first clean the piece thoroughly. Using a wire brush to aggressively scrub the surface should do the trick. This is to remove any chromium particles that have built up over time and also dirt, grease and other contaminants. To take a good weld it needs to be clean.
  2. Use the lowest possible heat. Stainless steel comes in such thin sheets it can be easily warped. Starting out as cool as possible and increasing gradually if needed will prevent you from totally destroying the material. Use small burst from the arc to make the weld. It should be done in 3-4 second intervals, following this procedure will also help you to keep the pieces in alignment.
  3. There is a big difference between using a rod and an electrode. For welding stainless steel use stainless rods only. Any one that ends with “-16” is what you want to use with a AC current type welder. If you have rods that are “-15” it takes a DC current welder to get a decent weld.

So you see, there are a lot of things to consider when welding stainless steel. This is only a small portion of what you need to know in order to do a really good job of the weld. You can find out more online.