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Thread: TIG welder or MIG Spool Gun for Aluminum

  1. Default TIG welder or MIG Spool Gun for Aluminum

    I have been looking into adding Aluminum Welding to my shop tools. My internal debate is I will not have enough projects to justify the cost a new TIG machine. Also that I have never used a TIC machine, only MIG and Stick. I like the speed of them versus the TIG process. Nort real concerned with nice looking fancy welds as long as they are strong. I already have a Lincoln SP175 that can be converted to use the 100SG spool gun for around $200.00. My useage is strickly for my Off Road Hobby. 3/16" max Aluminum for skid plates, fuel tanks etc. Anything thicker I have the option to have my buddy weld at no cost. Anybody have experience with a spool gun or thoughts on both process that they can share .

  2. #2

  3. #3

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    I really like the control of TIG along with a pedal for Aluminum welding. You also get a really nice looking bead.
    The only experience with an Aluminum spool gun I've had was in welding class. It seemed to work fine but was not as pretty as Tig...
    PowerTig 250EX
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  4. #4

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    A few years back I bought and Miller mig because it had a spool gun for doing aluminum welding. I have only used it a few time and found some pre-heating of the aluminum is needed to get a weld. I have since bought a Tig welder to do the aluminum welding. It worked much better (I am not a pro-welder) Mig aluminum you need to push weld and the bead is much higher then a tig weld and you still need to get an Argon bottle for either type.

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  5. #5

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    Aluminum spray is great for production stuff, we're currently using a Miller spool gun for 1/8" aluminum sheet metal and TIG for the heavier structural stuff. With MIG you're going to have some soot cleanup issues, but NBD IMO. MIG is a much easier skillset, so you're probably a lot better off if you get the spool gun and go to work and just use your buddy for any thick stuff you get. TIG is pretty and great for thin stuff where MIG would slag it. S/F.....Ken M
    Lincoln Power MIG 300
    Everlast 160STH
    Miller 225 Thunderbolt (sold it)
    Lincoln Squarewave 175 TIG(traded it for)
    Miller DEL 200 welder/genset
    Thermal Dynamics 1250XL plasma cutter
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    Quote Originally Posted by EchoSixMike View Post
    Aluminum spray is great for production stuff, we're currently using a Miller spool gun for 1/8" aluminum sheet metal and TIG for the heavier structural stuff. With MIG you're going to have some soot cleanup issues, but NBD IMO. MIG is a much easier skillset, so you're probably a lot better off if you get the spool gun and go to work and just use your buddy for any thick stuff you get. TIG is pretty and great for thin stuff where MIG would slag it. S/F.....Ken M
    there is nothing more versatile for welding aluminum than a spool gun. the above is kind of confusing. of course you have to have a spool gun of good quality. i own two miller 30A's, one with flex neck that i use the most and one with standard neck.
    Last edited by fdcmiami; 12-06-2012 at 03:45 PM.

  7. #7

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    I haven't TIG welded aluminum but a few times. And I have to say, TIG is where it's at.

    Also, I don't know why a lot of people are scared to use TIG. It's not that hard, just takes a little practice. I just built a whole trailer using TIG.

    My attempt at TIG aluminum:



    My ac balance was way too high. But other than that, it's sounds weird because of being on AC.
    Purple Fabricator 211i

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    I personally am not afraid to learn TIG. I just do not want to have to spend over a $1000.00 for seldom used tool that I can possibly do with a seldom used $200.00 Tool. I already have the Lincoln MIG welder.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 225 View Post
    I haven't TIG welded aluminum but a few times. And I have to say, TIG is where it's at.

    Also, I don't know why a lot of people are scared to use TIG. It's not that hard, just takes a little practice. I just built a whole trailer using TIG.

    My attempt at TIG aluminum:



    My ac balance was way too high. But other than that, it's sounds weird because of being on AC.


    "Thanks. I have to do some more welding to my trailer when I mount the fender and build a roof rack. I've had about about all I can stnd of TIG welding everything."

    and it's not like you're building a huge trailer. lol. guess it didn't take too long for you to see the 'arc'. that framework hardly passes for a whole trailer.

  10. #10
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    The limited experience I had MIG welding aluminum with a spool gun was done in spray transfer mode during welding class (we were practicing fillet welds on 1/8" and 1/4" aluminum). I haven't seen short circuit transfer used with a spool gun on aluminum however. You won't be using spray transfer with that little Lincoln unit regardless. It seems like the wire flies out of the spool gun too when welding the thinner material, which as CGCINC pointed out, lessens your ability to slow down or control the weld (like you can with TIG). On thicker material (1/4" up) you have a lot more control as you can use oscillating and circular motions to make larger (and prettier) beads, similar to MIG welding steel. For hobby stuff, you might want to have your buddy TIG weld your items since you don't want to spend money on another welder. You will need more than the $200 spool gun too (like a separate Argon bottle and wire). What about selling the Lincoln and buying a bigger MIG welder through Everlast? "I'll take sales commission for $300, Alex (That was a joke, Alex Trebek is the host of the TV game show "Jeopardy" ). Oh, and I'd like to borrow your new welder when it arrives.
    Andy
    New Everlast PowerTig 250EX that is begging for me to come up with a few welding projects so it can stretch it's legs. Did someone say aluminum???

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  11. #11

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    Aluminum MIG should always be spray arc, I don't think you can successfully do short circuit with aluminum. The guys in the body shop do plenty of aluminum spoolgun work with a 180amp Miller unit. Works fine. S/F....Ken M
    Lincoln Power MIG 300
    Everlast 160STH
    Miller 225 Thunderbolt (sold it)
    Lincoln Squarewave 175 TIG(traded it for)
    Miller DEL 200 welder/genset
    Thermal Dynamics 1250XL plasma cutter
    Miller XMT300

  12. Default

    I would have to buy the Argon bottle and rod/wire either way, Tig or MIG gun. I typically have my buddy do all my aluminum. Up until 6 years ago it was great as he was only 15 minutes away. Now it's over an hour drive one way plus it's at his CNC shop so he's doing it on production time so I am waiting on him to get to me. I typically takes 5 to 6 hours out of my day for an hour or so of welding. Don't get me wrong as I really do appreciate him doing the work for nothing. I just want to be able to be self sustaining as with all my other tools. When I need a tool I buy it however I do need to justify it. I currently have a mill, lathe, sunnen hone, glass beader, buffer, grinders, cut off saw, 16" horizontal band saw, 14" vertical band saw, inground lift etc, you get the picture. Who knows I may end up with both a TIG and a spool gun.

    Quote Originally Posted by youngnstudly View Post
    The limited experience I had MIG welding aluminum with a spool gun was done in spray transfer mode during welding class (we were practicing fillet welds on 1/8" and 1/4" aluminum). I haven't seen short circuit transfer used with a spool gun on aluminum however. You won't be using spray transfer with that little Lincoln unit regardless. It seems like the wire flies out of the spool gun too when welding the thinner material, which as CGCINC pointed out, lessens your ability to slow down or control the weld (like you can with TIG). On thicker material (1/4" up) you have a lot more control as you can use oscillating and circular motions to make larger (and prettier) beads, similar to MIG welding steel. For hobby stuff, you might want to have your buddy TIG weld your items since you don't want to spend money on another welder. You will need more than the $200 spool gun too (like a separate Argon bottle and wire). What about selling the Lincoln and buying a bigger MIG welder through Everlast? "I'll take sales commission for $300, Alex (That was a joke, Alex Trebek is the host of the TV game show "Jeopardy" ). Oh, and I'd like to borrow your new welder when it arrives.

  13. #13
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    You certainly have the right outlook on things. I didn't mean to "stir" the pot with the comment about buying rod/wire and an argon bottle. It seemed like you were under the impression that a simple $200 spool gun purchase would be a "cure all" solution and I didn't want you to be disappointed. The friend card appears to have run it's course at this point....Options might be to become self sufficient (as you already mentioned) by purchasing what you need, or find new friends that have the equipment you want to use (joking!). Must be nice to have all that space for equipment. I'd love to have some of the equipment you have! Maybe I will one day when I win more than $12.00 playing the lotto?
    Andy
    New Everlast PowerTig 250EX that is begging for me to come up with a few welding projects so it can stretch it's legs. Did someone say aluminum???

    MISC. TOOLS:
    Atlas 618 lathe
    Milwaukee Porta Band with custom made stand
    Dewalt 4-1/2" angle grinder
    Dewalt 14" chop saw

    Strong Hand Nomad portable table
    Juki sewing machine I've had for years (yes I know sewing is for girls)

  14. Default

    No worries as you did not stir the pot. You were correct about the bottle. My equipment was purchased over the last 15 years and most of it was payed for from my now closed Custom Harley shop. I actually closed it twice. The first time was when I had a senoir moment and got married and moved out to farm country 6 years ago. Then my buddy convinced me to do it again so I built a new 30' X 60' building with hydronic in floor heat and started it up again for about 2 more years and soon discovered that why I closed it down the first time lol. So I shut it down again. About the only benifit I got from it was the tools and equipment as there was certainly no money in it for the hours invested lol. Working full time as an Engineer and semi full time working on Harleys became way too much to deal with. Now my free time is spent on my offroad obsession lol.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odyknuck View Post
    Who knows I may end up with both a TIG and a spool gun.
    Think positive young man, you WILL end up with both a TIG and a spool gun.
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    Ha! Ha! I am close to 58 so I will take that lol.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by fdcmiami View Post
    there is nothing more versatile for welding aluminum than a spool gun. the above is kind of confusing. of course you have to have a spool gun of good quality. i own two miller 30A's, one with flex neck that i use the most and one with standard neck.
    I'd argue versatility; try MIG repairing cylinder head castings. TIG's ability to "clean up" damaged/dirty castings is a critical feature. I should have specified that our spool guns are setup for auto body work; small dia wire for sheet metal. I have a Python push/pull for my PowerMIG, but changing it over is a PITA, so I just TIG structual aluminum; if I was doing production, I'd go through the hassle of setting up the Python. 300+ amp spray arc is brutal. S/F.....Ken M
    Lincoln Power MIG 300
    Everlast 160STH
    Miller 225 Thunderbolt (sold it)
    Lincoln Squarewave 175 TIG(traded it for)
    Miller DEL 200 welder/genset
    Thermal Dynamics 1250XL plasma cutter
    Miller XMT300

  18. #18

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    A spool gun for Aluminum is great for aluminum sheet work where you need to utilize speed. I recently sold my Spool gun for my Miller that i used to Fab cabins on boats in the late 80's early 90's. It made quick work of short stich welds and inside corners on .100 & .125 sheet. But on the outside rubrail we used our old Heliarc machine to get a nice looking clean strong weld. Any fuel or oil tanks we built were done with the old Heliarc machine also as you can produce a better seal on the outside corners. As mentioned in another post here Tig will also give you the ability to add some cleaning for the old dirty and oily parts.
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    strange advice on these threads. the guy has a 200 dollar spool gun (which surprisingly has some pretty good reviews). from what i read it will serve his purpose and save him some money.

    show up on a job with your tig machine, at xxx dollars per hour and tell them you arre going to do the weld out with it. lol

    i used almost 20 pounds of wire on this job. rub rail was so heavy i used the pilings to support a trolley setup with two chainfalls then a comealong at the bow to pull it in.

    that plate used to retain the piece of rail at the bow in the last pic is half inch to three eighths. it took less than an hour to put in three passes. i've done a ton of this stuff.

    not in any way implying that tig welding not important i know it is but believe me, there is no more cost effective way to lay in aluminum wire than a spool gun.



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    Last edited by fdcmiami; 12-15-2012 at 11:48 AM.

  20. #20

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    We have a 250EX and *210EXT and a *IMIG-200 and IMIG205 with spool guns for aluminum (* is the ones used most these day). Really depends on the job, but the MIG is normally the winner unless small detailed work or odd metal type is required/used.

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