Rough timeline of my schedule.
watched lots of youtube videos on tig welders and welding aluminum -> bought a primeweld tig 225
Welder arrived Tuesday so I unboxed and put it together that evening and didn't run any beads (at this point i have a pipe dream that I'll spend the evenings during the week learning to weld and weld up the camper on the weekend and hit the road to go camping Sunday or Monday....boy was I oblivious)
Wednesday-ran some test beads with no filler made amazing improvement for the first few beads and then it all went to hell to the point of putting down the torch and going back to the youtube and reaching out to some friends with some experience. I thought i may have had bad argon, or a bunch of other things, but it was probably just a fouled Tungsten. I did notice that as outside temperature got warmer my welding got much worse and i think it was the physics at play not my abilities so I tried to stop welding in the afternoons and weld again in the evenings
Thursday- ok welder is welding again, but things are still not looking terrific. Welds have a grainy appearance and speeds and feeds might be to blame.
Took Friday off and worked all day. Finally decided i was ready to weld tubes together for the platform. These welds were 0.125" wall square tube so they weren't too difficult. They were also not really structural. Loads should go through the tubes much more than through the weld.
By Sunday I have a platform frame (I need to add a crossbar or two still though) (Pic 1 above) I realize the importance of fit up especially for Aluminum and Tig. With Mig it's not too difficult to fill gaps in mild steel. So I buy a non-ferrous saw blade for the aluminum cuts I have to do next ( i used a cut off wheel for the 45° miters and they weren't perfect and the frame may be slightly parallelogram rather than a perfect rectangle, but close enough.
Monday (i've taken the week off to go camping...not welding)- I'm more comfortable welding at this point since I've done a lot of practice and actually built something. Time to practice on the thinner stuff. So I mock up the welds I will have to do. It goes much better than previous welds so I jump into fabbing up the replacement corner framing. I do as much as I can on the workbench and only what I have to do in place/out of position. I realize that reusing the tail light frame was a mistake and spent way too much time trying to splice that in where building new (i had the material) would've gone far better. Still I'm able to finish by Monday and start to prep the surfaces for joining to the camper (have to do final prep immediately prior to welding.
Tuesday-time to weld to the camper! should be easy right. I already practiced with pieces I had cut off the camper and welding that to the new material, but I didn't account for the out of position factor which destroyed efficiency...oh ya and apparently I cut on the wrong side of the line so one of my frame members was a blade width short. I attempted to fill that with welding rod with eventual success but this was extremely time consuming since the extra thin camper framing was very easy to burn away. Some time around midnight i had finally filled the last hole I blew in it. I rotated through the weld areas to avoid overheating the areas too much which was time consuming but probably slightly more efficient than waiting for a weld to cool. I managed to add a few reinforcing beads to the internal frame but at this point I've decided to button up the camper and go camping before doing all of the welding I had hoped to do on the inside wall.
Wednesday-feeling pretty good. Time to put the camper back together and go camping. I have another pipe dream that i'll hit the road in the afternoon/evening and sleep on the beach between Ventura and Santa Barbara somewhere. Mind you the camper is still in pieces (no fridge, no interior or exterior walls in the back, cabinets pulled apart, tent is partially removed, etc...) Well we got close and i probably would've left that evening, but with no place to go we decided it was better to sleep in our beds one more night...plus i was exhausted from basically assembling half a camper in one day.
Thursday morning-Camping finally! Drove almost the entire length of CA with not a single glimpse of blue sky through the smoke from Altadena to Gualala. Stopped at a weigh station to see for the first time how overloaded i might be...200lbs overweight on the rear axle with not a drop of water in the holding tank and about 5/8 propane and a full tank of gas. 100 lbs under on the front axle but 500 lbs over full GVWR...yikes!The truck and airbags handled it like a champ though, but I may be looking for ways to cut weight in the near future. I had hoped to add solar, but will need to go lithium if i have any hope of not adding weight.
For all the ugly welds you can look at my google photos. Posting the 4 photos above was more than enough to try my patience.