STICK WELDING 101: GETTING STARTED WITH SMAW

Updated: Apr 5


stick welding
Stick Welding 101

When people think about welding, 9 times out of 10 they picture stick welding. Stick welding is generally the first process we teach, and for good reason. Stick welding teaches the fundamentals of welding and if you can maser stick, the others will come easier.





Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's talk about what stick welding is and why it's used. If you're new to welding, the most common processes are GMAW (MIG), GTAW (TIG), FCAW (Flux Core) and SMAW (Stick). Every process has its advantages and disadvantages, but for today's purposes let's focus on stick.

Advantages of Stick Welding:

1. Portability

One of the biggest advantages of using the stick welding process is it's extremely portable. The flux around the rod acts as the shielding, so there's no need for manhandling clunky cylinders. Grab a handful of rods, drag out the leads and you're ready to turn n' burn!


2. Weld in All Positions

Whether you're in the field or in your garage, at some point you'll find yourself needing to weld out of position (horizontal, vertical, overhead). Some processes are limited to the flat position due to the fluidity of the puddle or other factors. Stick welding is not one of those processes. The ability to run in different positions is only limited by your electrode choice.


3. Affordable

Compared to its counterparts, stick welding is a very affordable process. You can pick up a basic stick machine, from a reputable company, for less than $500.


disAdvantages of Stick Welding:

1. Weld Speed

Because the electrode is also the filler metal, you can only weld for short periods of time before you'll need to reload another rod.


2. Low Electrode Efficiency

Processes like MIG and Flux Core are very efficient processes. You can weld for hundreds of feet before you need to change out the spool. In stick welding, about 5% of every rod is going to be wasted.

Machine SETUP

Here's the good news; there aren't many variables in stick welding other than the rod. Very simply put, when we set up a machine, we're connecting the ground (or work) cable to the negative lead and the electrode holder (or stinger) to the positive lead for DCEP (Direct Current Electrode Positive). 99% of the time, it's that simple.

In some cases you also run AC (Alternating Current) or DCEN (Direct Current Electrode Negative), but we'll get there later.


Electrode Choice

Different electrodes are designed for different applications. Let's go through some common electrodes, discuss their capabilities and how to run each.


1. E6010

E6010, more commonly referred to as 6010, is designed to run on DCEP only. 6010 rods are designed for carbon steel applications. You can tell a lot about a carbon steel electrode from its name. Let's dive in and dissect what E6010 really refers to.

E

The letter "E" at the front of the classification stands for "Electrode".

60

The first two numbers in carbon steel rods always indicate the electrodes tensile strength. In the case of E6010, that means this electrode has 60,000 pounds tensile strength.

1

The third digit indicates the positions the electrode can be used. in. And here's where it gets a little weird. One is for all positions. Two is for flat and horizontal.

Now here's where it gets a little tricky. The 1 tells us we can run in all positions; flat, vertical, horizontal and overhead. But it doesn't tell us whether we can run vertical up, vertical down, or both.

E6010 will run all position in any direction. Here's why:

0

The last number tells you about the chemical composition of the flux. So zero, in this instance, is high cellulose sodium.

The sixty ten is a violent, digging, fast freeze type of weld pool. That means when we strike an arc we can dig and gouge, but as soon as we step out of the weld pool it freezes nicely. That's important because it allows us to weld flat, horizontal, vertical up, vertical down, and overhead without the molten weld pool falling out.


Welding with E6010

When it comes to stick welding, there's a right and a wrong way to do it. We DON'T want to use extreme angles. With stick welding we generally want to use a slight drag angle. Dragging the rod will help prevent slag rolling in front of the puddle, causing porosity and other defects.

When you strike your arc just do a little stitch action back and forth. All you want to do is carry the bead along. Move the rod slow, barely dragging it on the material with a very slight pitch. 6010 produces a light, crystal-type of flux.

It doesn't come off easy, but don't beat the heck out of it. Having a hot piece of slag shoot into your eye is a mistake you'll only make once. Let it cool, scrape it with a chipping hammer, take a wire wheel to it and move on.


2. E6011

E6011 is very similar to 6010. A quick recap of the numbering system tells us that this electrode (E) has 60,000 pounds of tensile strength (60) and it can be run in all positions (1). The final "1" in E6011 indicates a flux composition that allows it to run in DCEP or AC.

When welding in DCEP with E6011, the arc is almost identical to 6010. Most new welders, and some experienced professionals, have a hard time telling the difference.


AC Welding with E6011

Alternating Current is where you'll notice the difference with 6011 electrodes. The thing you're going to notice is the sound difference. The moment you strike an arc you'll hear a distinct buzzing sound. That's the current bouncing back and forth, or alternating, from DCEN to DCEP.

AC current is a benefit when you're welding thin material, because you get significantly less penetration.


3. E6013

The next rod in the lineup is another very common rod, 6013. Unlike 6010 and 6011, 6013 has a very soft arc and dense slag covering. This rod can be deceiving to beginners because when it's ran correctly you'll get what looks like big pockets of porosity in the slag. This is normal. Once you take the slag off, your weld will be fine.

Once again, this is 60,000 pounds tensile strength electrode that can be run in all positions.

The "3" indicates the type of flux. 6013 has an extremely dense flux that creates a loose, easy to remove slag covering.


Welding with E6013

6013 can be run on either DCEP, DCEN or AC. No matter the polarity you are running, 6013 doesn't like to. be heavily manipulated. Light the arc and do a slight drag with as little variation as possible.

DCEN

Electrode negative will deposit more material quicker, so you'll get more crown or build-up in your bead profile.

DCEP

Electrode Positive will run slightly more rigid or violent than DCEN. More heat is being directed into the base material, so you'll also get more penetration on DCEP.

AC

Alternating current is a colder process. by nature, so it's going to require more amps to melt the rod, but will produce a weld with little penetration. Again, this makes 6013 an excellent rod for light gauge work.


3. 7018

The last rod we'll be talking about today is 7018. E7018 is a versatile rod that is very common in. structural steel applications. It's a low hydrogen rod, making it very susceptible to moisture. That's. why. 7018 is always stored in a dry rod oven. Keeping these rods at above 250 degrees is important to maintain the integrity of the flux.

70

This is the first electrode we're talking about that doesn't have a "60" designation. That's because. this rod has 70,000 pounds tensile strength, where the rest had 60,000.

1

Once again, a 1 in the third digit indicates that it will weld in all positions.

8

The 8 tells us this is a low hydrogen flux. Want. to to see a visual demonstration of what. that. means? See our video on the amount of diffusible parts per million of hydrogen there are in 7018.


Welding with E7018

7018 runs very much like a 6013. You really don't need to manipulate it. In fact, 7018 is such a fluid pool, the more you manipulate it, the better chance you have to trap slag. We said that the "1" indicates it can be welded in all positions, remember?


Here's a little pro tip: Positions only refer to flat, horizontal, vertical and overhead. They don't designate between direction. For example, 7018 is rated for all positions. However, it can only run vertical in an upward direction. If you try to go downhill, the fluid pool will just fall out.

7018 has a very soft, buttery arc with a medium depth of penetration. It can be run in DCEP, DCEN or AC. Structural Steel applications in the US use DCEP in almost all cases. Over in Europe they use 7018 DCEN for open root pipe, whereas we use 6010 almost exclusively. AC is normally used in non-critical applications, due to its low penetration.

Now you have a better understanding of stick welding and the different electrodes, try some out for yourself. Don't forget to share your progress with us and let us know what other videos you want to see on Weld.com.

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