I've never preheated anything other than the amount of time it takes to get a puddle started with the tig. I do have to say that both my spoolgun and tig machines have more than enough power to burn right through 1/2" and thicker aluminum tho. I suppose that if you had a small machine it might work to preheat it to make up for a lack of amps and duty cycle. The thickest piece I ever worked on was an aluminum jig from a factory that was 5" thick and 5' square. I just used the spool gun to burn it in then smoothed it with the tig. Took all day to do it and was still to hot to touch the next morning when I came in to work.
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