Mig Welding Aluminum Problem – Black Powder Residue
I had a struggle recently trying to solve a mig welding aluminum problem. I do a lot of aluminum mig welding, primarily with 4043 wire and always wonder, what is that black powdery residue on the edges of the weld? Was it soot? If so, where would the carbon be coming from? Was the argon sucking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (venturi principle) and contaminating the weld?
Normally I recommend to clients that they bolt their outdoor sculpture to a 4-6″ thick concrete pad with four to eight bolts, depending on the size of the sculpture. The major concerns are high winds and theft. (During the period when the US was selling all its scrap steel to China, one local sculptor had three of his steel sculptures stolen from outside his studio. What a heart breaker. They probably went straight to the scrap yard and then to China.)
This is a steel sculpture I finished in 2005, an early experiment with ribbon sculptures. I did about 20 ribbon sculptures at that time, with different metals, but didn’t have the time to ponder on them and decide what to do next. I put them on the shelf and took care of the orders in the queue. And we didn’t really show them in the gallery, so this little metal sculpture didn’t actually sell until 2012. I shipped it to NYC in October 2012.
We (my intrepid assistant and I) fabricated a very large metal sculpture from aluminum and shipped it in October 2012 to the new Bethesda Hospital in Boynton Beach, Florida. I photographed each of the steps in the metal sculpture fabrication process and share 24 of the photos, with commentary, with you in this article.
My philosophy of sculptures includes the belief that free standing sculptures should stand on their own. But not all sculptors think this way. The sculpture to the right is an example of a poorly planned sculpture. It won’t stand on its own outside for more than a half hour unless the wind is totally calm and you have it perfectly balanced on very flat ground. Inside, you could lean it in a corner or against a wall. There are no holes in the base to secure it to something wide and heavy. I finally had to weight the base down with two bricks to make it stay upright. But it’s still precarious. We keep it near the building to protect it from the wind.
I often use granite sculpture bases for my smaller inside sculptures: they are , solid, heavy and look good. To the right is a granite base I bought from Camristone International in Wanatah, Indiana. I have bought sculpture bases like this for $100 each from a retail granite seller. Camristone sold these for $30 each in 2011 (I bought 10 and am still working through my stack) and also drilled the center hole with the recessed back. The drawback is that they don’t ship: you have to go pick them up. But there may well may be a wholesale granite supplier in your area that will make these for you.
I bought a Precision Tig 225 from Lincoln Electric in May 2010. It’s worked quite well and replaced my old Square Wave 275 which they said would cost $1000 to repair with only a 1-year guarantee. So it seemed to make sense to spend $2000 and get a 3-year guarantee. Right?
Please note: All my sculpture installations are very easy. However, since I am detail-oriented, I describe this procedure in so much detail that it may seem difficult. We are just back from a sculpture installation in the Cleveland area (Newbury, Ohio) of my Pas de Deux sculpture (pictured). There were lots of reasons to go. My pianist & composer cousin Nick lives there and we hadn’t seen him for a while. It can take 8 hours to build a box and pack the sculpture in the box, then $500-$700 to ship it and then you are holding your breath for 2 days hoping the shippers haven’t damaged it in transit. Then you hope the sculpture installation expert knows what he is doing and doesn’t damage it. So it made sense to deliver the sculpture and do the sculpture installation myself.
I bought a new Power Mig 255XT Lincoln Electric Welder in February as my non-aluminum welder. (I do aluminum welding so regularly, my Power Mig 300 with the Cobra push-pull gun is dedicated to aluminum – too tedious to switch wire back and forth twice a day.)
I recently had an aluminum ribbon sculpture finished with blue powder coating for a couple living in Vancouver. Actually, my customer was a gallery in San Diego, who was working with an Art Consultant in Vancouver who was working with the client. You can get many levels of people between an artist and the artwork’s final destination.