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July 15, 2010

Brazing an Aluminum Trellis

Hey this is pretty cool.  My sister Gillian and I tried brazing aluminum and made this corset-shaped trellis for the morning glories.  (We have 8 relatives here at our house for a week so I'm coming up with home improvement projects for them.  Nice hostess eh?)

Instructions to follow later this week.  


For those who want to try this...

Brazing Hussies
Welding on the cheap

My relatives have arrived from New Zealand, New York, Idaho and Massachusetts.  

So far there’s a lot of eating going on and not nearly enough drinking. I’m seriously ungood at being a hostess, so I decided we should try the unique family activity of welding aluminum without a welder. 

The technical term for what we’re doing is ‘brazing’.  It’s soldering on steroids. 

Brazing Saddles
Imagine touching a birthday candle to a hot burner and watching the wax turn to liquid. (and then exiting the kitchen quickly so you’re not blamed for the mess).

The candle-on-a-burner exercise describes the principles of brazing, except that the burner is replaced by hot metal, and instead of a candle you're holding a thin rod bronze or some other alloy. 

Most people learn brazing using pieces of steel or cast iron, but I wanted to use aluminum because it’s way more flexible and easy to work with.  However, the torches used to heat steel are far too hot for aluminum, which melts at about 660 Celsius or 1100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

And it’s really hard to find brazing rods that melt faster than aluminum.  But they're out there.  I found some at a home show where I was enchanted by a pitch man creating a garden arch out of aluminum cans by brazing them together end to end.  What romance, what artistry!  And what else could you make with an endless supply of beer cans?  The imagination reels.

I forked over $50 for a small canister of Ideal Rods, which, although they have a high price point, have an extremely low melting point (about 367 C.).  These rods work on all non-ferrous metals including my favourite, aluminum.

So yesterday my sister Gillian and I created a corset-shaped trellis for my grasping morning glories.  Why corset shaped?  Well, all those years on Road to Avonlea left me with an indelible fear of foundation garments; this was an attempt to purge my lacy demons.

Aluminum is fun to work with because even when it’s cold, it’s far softer and easier to shape than steel is when it’s red hot. 
You can buy heavy gauge aluminum wire at metal supply places.  I have a huge roll of it in the garage, and it’s soft enough to cut with tin snips.  We used needle nose pliers to shape the pliable wire into ‘eyelets’, and even hammered a few of the loops on an anvil to give them a bit more dimensional variety. 

Then we scoured each joint with a wire brush (you can also use sandpaper or steel wool).  This is a critical step as it removes oxidation that would prevent the brazing alloy from melding with the aluminum. 

Once we abraded all of the pieces and laid them out, we started brazing.   

Let’s Rock This Joint
I heated the joint with a standard Bernzomatic propane torch while Gillian rubbed the tip of the brazing rod lightly around the heated joint until it melted into a silvery droplet and wicked into the joint.

We worked on one joint at a time (total of about 10 minutes) until the whole thing was solid.  Brazed joints are actually stronger than the aluminum itself, so the trellis is lightweight and sturdy. 

Of course, you can also buy a welder and gases (about $1000) and become a hardcore metal-working enthusiast, but $50 worth of brazing rod and some wire will give you hours of fun and the ability to create a torrent of garden art, wall ornaments, plant hangers, decorative shelf brackets and whimsical sculptures.

Low-temperature brazing rods like mine are available online at www.durafix.com.

Meanwhile, Gillian and I are working on a huge dome made of beer cans. First objective; drink 5,436 cans of beer.




nice hosetess> oh absoloutely, and thanks mag for the postes.... heyyy that rhymes!!

Condo Blues

Wow I never thought to give my guests home improvement helper jobs! I just made them a cornhole game they could play at the family picnic and a nice fruit salad.


You're a much nicer host than me, and you provide games too. What goes into making a cornhole game, dare I ask?

Heating and Air Augusta

This what I also do in my Bougainvillea flower on the right side on our main door, but you have a nice corset host than me.

AC installation largo

Nice one! giving task to your guests, at least they make themselves busy by helping you a bit on some home improvement.

Home Improvements

Wow! a nice trellis indeed!..I'm excited to know how to make this for I will really want to have like this one!


I'd like to see the instructions on how to do this, but I can't seem to find them.

Copper Bonding

Very nice aluminum Trellis. I was looking for the instructions but could not find them on the blog. Anyway you can repost? Thanks!


cool article...

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