Lincoln Handy MIG Weld Aluminum? Can it?

By Bill Byers / July 27, 2019
Lincoln Handy MIG Aluminum

Your key to understanding whether the Lincoln Handy MIG can weld Aluminum. Is knowing what the Handy MIG is capable of.

And then be aware of what successful Aluminum welding needs.

What Can the Lincoln Handy MIG Do?

You’ll find the Handy MIG is for light duty welding.

  • The Handy MIG is a 115 volt welder that runs on the normal 120 volt power you have at home.
  • Its greatest Amp output is 88 Amp on its highest setting.
  • The Lincoln Handy MIG has a duty cycle of 20% at 70 Amp.

This means that Lincoln warrants that. When the welder is set at 70 Amp it will be able to weld for two minutes over a ten minute period. At that point you have to rest the welder so that it can cool down.

Note: That its duty cycle is not measured at its full welding output of 88 Amp. You should expect that when the Handy MIG is at its limit, you’ll have a much shorter duty cycle.

The Lincoln Handy MIG will weld with flux core wire or solid wire and shielding gas.

 

Lincoln Handy MIG

You’ll hunt and find no spool gun available for this welder.

I double checked with Lincoln Electric direct. And there are no Lincoln made feeding kits for Aluminum that fit the Handy MIG.

And no Teflon liner that fits a Handy MIG from Lincoln.

Or drive rolls you can fit inside the Handy MIG designed to feed Aluminum.

Lincoln Electric does not market this Handy MIG as being able to weld Aluminum.

But can you?

It’s a welder that’s for the home hobby project welder.

You’ll be someone who is mainly welding mild steel. You want to weld flux core. And when you’re ready for some better looking welds you use solid wire and shielding gas to get them. You’ll find the Lincoln Handy MIG capable of all this.

Understanding What MIG Welding Aluminum Needs

Before thinking of welding Aluminum you should understand something about the metal. And what you’re dealing with.

Aluminum is a soft, reactive with air metal that is very heat sensitive. It’s oh so easy to blow through (create holes) while you are MIG welding Aluminum.

And you’ll have no idea you’re about to do it.

And that’s because Aluminum takes some heat to melt. It doesn’t glow red like mild steel does when it is hot.

It sort of looks a bit like molten tin foil. Yet is pulling more and more heat out of the welder and into the metal. Till bang.

You have the whole thing molten and dripping onto the floor.

So Welding Aluminum Well Needs

  • A welder that can produce enough heat,
  • Compatible filler wire to the alloy you’re welding,
  • Good feed of the Aluminum filler wire at the right speed,
  • And a weld that is slow enough to create the weld but not so slow you melt the base metal.

In fact you’ll be moving way faster than you think you should. And faster than if you were welding mild steel.

Do you have five or ten minutes? It is worth taking a look at my document ‘How To Weld Aluminum, a Home Welder’s Tips for Success‘. There you’ll find more detail on all this.

Use of a Spool Gun on the Lincoln Handy MIG

The reason you use spool guns to weld Aluminum is because of one aspect of the metal. It’s soft.

Way softer than mild steel.

The Aluminum filler wire just naturally wants to bend and curl back on itself.

And given any opportunity that’s exactly what you’ll find it does. Creating the classic bird nest of wire in your welder.

Birds Nest of Wire

Birds Nest of Wire

Using a spool gun means that you feed the wire a much shorter distance. The 8 to 10 inches from the spool gun to the tip of the gun.

Compare this to the 8 foot of hose you have on the Handy MIG to the MIG torch.

Feeding Aluminum up 8 foot of hose is tricky. Something much like feeding cooked spaghetti up through a straw.

Now you have an appreciation of the level of difficulty welding Aluminum brings. Can your Lincoln Handy MIG weld Aluminum? Well yes maybe just.

Different Aluminum Alloys

One other thing.

Understand what kind of Aluminum base metal you want to weld.

Then, what Aluminum you’ll find around the typical home, garage workshop or farm. You’ll come across 4000 series, 5000 series or 6000 series Aluminum.

You’ll need to match the Aluminum welding wire/filler wire to the Aluminum you’re welding.

4043 welding wire has silicon in it and is for 4000 and 6000 series Aluminum.

5356 wire is for 5000 series Aluminum. It has Magnesium in it. And so is sympathetic to the Magnesium in the base metal.

5356 is firmer welding wire. And is considered more difficult to weld with. Though 5356 as a firmer wire is better for feeding up a MIG hose.

Which is your only option on your Lincoln Handy MIG.

What is the Best thing to Do if you Really Want to Try MIG Welding Aluminum on the Handy MIG?

What you’ll need:

1. Find yourself the shortest hose to your MIG gun you can find. One compatible with the Handy MIG.

There are five foot ones out there. The shorter the hose the better. At least that way you’ll be trying to feed the wire as short a distance as possible.

2. Source 100% Argon gas. As that is the shielding gas of choice for welding Aluminum.

3. Source a Teflon liner for the inside of your MIG hose. A Teflon liner is smooth. And will give you the best chance for feeding the Aluminum wire.

4. Buy yourself some contact tips marked as suitable for welding Aluminum. Normal contact tips won’t work. They choke the Aluminum wire as it heats up with the welding arc.

5. Source 0.030 diameter 5356 Aluminum wire if you can. 0.030 diameter wire fits the Amp output the Handy MIG produces. And 5356 wire because it is firmer to feed.

You may want to look at my Best Wires for MIG Welding Aluminum doc to find some.

Example of Dirty Aluminum

Example of Dirty Aluminum

Preparation is KeyWhen You’re Welding Aluminum with a Handy MIG

You’ll be welding 1/16 thick Aluminum. You could try 1/8th if you’re feeling brave. Any thinner and you would blow through the Aluminum. Any thicker would be beyond the capability of the Handy MIG.

1. Clean your metal. Use a brush or flap disc you reserve for Aluminum.

If you don’t the soft metal will pick up contaminants from the previous metal you used the brush or flap disc on.

Dirty Aluminum takes even more power from your welder to weld.

2. Connect your gas.

Set the gas to 20 to 30 cubic feet per hour. Set your welder to DCEP (electrode positive) polarity. As that is a must for welding Aluminum.

3. Load your wire and adjust the drive roll tension with care.

You won’t have a U shaped drive roll (they are the best for Aluminum feeding) so you’ll need to do the best you can.

Adjust your wire tension. Not so loose to cause a bird nest but not so tight so you distort the wire. Aluminum is a soft wire. Squashing the wire will cause feed and striking an arc issues.

4. Keep your hose as straight as possible when feeding the wire. And weld with your hose as straight as possible.

6. Preheat your Aluminum to give your Handy MIG the best chance. (see my doc How to MIG Weld Aluminum a Home welder Tips for Success for pre heat tips).

When Your Welding Aluminum with you Lincoln Handy MIG

1. Set your MIG gun at an angle of 10-15 degrees off vertical.

2. You weld on the flat or slightly horizontal. Out of position Aluminum welding is not for the unskilled.

3. Use the push technique to prevent porosity and for Argon gas coverage.

4. Maintain a 3/4 to 1 inch stick out. Keep a 1/8th distance from your weld pool. When you’re welding Aluminum it’s different to mild steel. Keep your electrode out of your weld pool. Or you’ll run through loads of contact tips due to burn back.

5. Turn your Handy MIG switches to 2 and High. And your wire feed speed to Max. Then start.

6. Once you see your weld pool form move quickly forward. Keep your bead width small so as not to burn through your piece.

You’ll be moving faster than feels comfortable.

7. Hear the normal crackling sound you hear when welding mild steel?

This means you need to adjust your wire feed. Slow the wire feed down a little or maintain a little more welding distance from your project. Welding Aluminum well is a lot quieter than welding mild steel.

After Welding Aluminum with Your Handy MIG

Hopefully you’ll have a decent weld.

Aluminum Weld that has been brushed

Aluminum Weld that has been brushed

Brush the soot off. You should expect to see a little. If you see a lot then you may need to up the Argon gas to get better coverage of your weld pool.

If the result is not so great, then like with all things MIG welding practice, practice, practice.

One Last Thing Aluminum Welding Kits K664-2

There are Aluminum welding kits sold on Amazon and Home Depot called;

  • K664-2 Lincoln Electric Aluminum Feeding Kit and
  • Lincoln Electric 0.035 Aluminum Welding Kit.

They have a hose, drive roller with U shaped grooves for feeding Aluminum and contact tips. One of the kits comes with 0.035 diameter Aluminum wire.

They cost about 100 dollars.

It doesn’t work with the Handy MIG. They are not compatible so don’t waste your money.

And the 0.035 diameter wire would take more Amp than your Handy MIG could produce to weld.

Last Words

The Lincoln Handy MIG isn’t designed for welding Aluminum. But you maybe successful by following my recommendations.

If it doesn’t work for you and it’s just too fiddly or frustrating for the occasional weld. Then think about getting a more powerful welder.

One that’s spool gun capable. Lincoln sells the Weld Pak 140 and with it you’ll have a much easier time welding Aluminum. You’ll find my article on the Lincoln Weld Pak 140 here.

I have another document on the site about the Lincoln Handy MIG. Feel free to check it out here.