I have been in the same situation a couple of years ago.
I went to a Tig welding work shop in Griffin GA. Came out of it with everything I needed for AL welding.
First, machine set-up: Most of the time you need a 1/16 Tungsten!
Set the amperage to about a high as you think you need, higher is better.
Welding: for starting, push the controller all the way to maximum and as soon as the two sides of the seem start melting, put in the rod.
Hold the melt bath with the controller. You may have to back off to a very low setting, just keep it liquid and dip the rod in.
If you think you are loosing it, stop and start new on the spot where you stoped, it is generally easier than starting a new joint.
Do not butt weld 6061! it will crack!
I believe the cleaning issue is overrated in the manuals, if everyting else is right it will work, especially with the newer machines.
The above described would work for starters trying to weld up to 1/8" thick aluminum on a welding table for practicing.
Just trying to give Andy some hints.