Stick welding, or shielded metal arc welding, is used primarily for steel and iron. Stick welders are often best suited for open-air projects as electrodes are comparatively wind resistant and tolerate dirty or rusty metals. Stick welders are typically the cheapest and the easiest type to learn, rendering stick welders one of the best welding types for beginners to start on.
Many stick welding systems use either AC or AC / DC current. They are working on the fundamental principle of completing an electric circuit.
As the welding rod is moved towards the charged metal to be welded, the electricity jumps between the two materials; heat is produced, which in turn melts the welding rod. The bead of melted electrode material fuses the metal.
Stick Welder Basics
- Stick welders all have the same basic components of which include: a lead: conductor cables that send energy to the material that will be welded.
- Stinger: This part that holds the welding rod
- Positive/Negative Lead: leads that create a connection between the welder and the metal welded.
- Welding Rods: Sticks of different diameters and alloys which are covered by a flux coating used to strike an arc. Flux burns as the rod melts, using up oxygen and produces carbon dioxide, which protects the base metal from oxidization.
Welding Electrodes 101
Electrodes are available in many types and sizes, each designed for a unique job or material. Though many can be interchangeable, each has its place if your goal is to do it right the first time. Welding rods are classified by a set of four numbers. In the case of the most common welding rods, 6010, 6011, 6013, and 7018 are most popular for welding steel. The first two numbers, in this case, 60, indicate tensile strength. The third number identifies the position where the rod can be used. A “1” for example, suggests that it can be used in any welding situation — flat, vertical, horizontal or overhead — and “2” only indicates a downward or horizontal position. In this case, vertical welding would not be advised. The last two numbers together indicate the type of flux that the welding electrode uses. This number is vital as it tells you how much slag will be produced as well as how the weld bead and puddle will behave.
We always suggest doing some practice welds before welding your main piece of work to dial in your welder. The more time you spend setting up your welder correctly, the less time you will need grinding your work cleaning up your messy beads. Lets get at it!
Step 1: Clean Your Material
Yes, stick welding is known for its forgiving welds and can take dirty surfaces and rust like the best of them. That said, we suggest its always best to take your time and clean your metal. This will, if anything, help remove dirt and oils that can cause uneven and weaker welds. At this time, you should make sure your welding location is free of flammable materials, and cords are out of the way to reduce tripping hazards.
Step 2: Connect Lead & Ground
Attach your lead as well as your ground to the metal you’re welding. The work lead (+) attaches to the stinger, which holds the welding rod. The work clamp, sometimes referred to as the ground camp incorrectly (-) attaches to the workpiece. This can be clamped to the workpiece or to a metal table in which the work is done. Based on the rods used, set the amperage as directed. The advised range will be published right on the box your welding rods came in. If you did not keep the box, look online for the specific rod specifications, or divide the difference.
Step 3: Make Your Arc
How you hold your stinger is essential. For example, if you’re right-handed, the pool is easily visible only if the bead moves right to left. Get comfortable because the more relaxed you are, the easier it will be to control your weld pool. Before placing the electrode tip against the metal, lower your welding helmet to shield your eyes and face. Drag the rod as if to light a match until the electrode ignites. At this time, move the rod back towards the area you wish to weld. We suggest an ideal distance is equal to the diameter of the rod.
Step 4: Settle on an Angle
As you move the electrode puddle across the surface of the workpiece, you will naturally find an angle that works best for you. In many cases, this is a combination of what is comfortable and what produces the bead you’re after. As the electrode is consumed and reduces as you go your angle and speed will adjust. That said, we suggest you try to fight it and maintain the same angle and speed to result in the most consistent bead. 90 degrees and 45 degrees work yes, but we suggest an ideal angle is right around 60 in most cases. However, you need to do what is most comfortable and safe for your particular working conditions.
Step 5: Weld Travel Speed
The amp you set your welder and how fast and or slow you move your electrode plays a significant role in the quality of your weld. As the rod moves across the surface of the workpiece, the speed at which you push or pull your electrode determines how much or how little welding material attaches to your piece. To fast and the pool will be thin and weak. This is because the material has less time to penetrate the material and fuse to your work. To slow and the weld puddle will become too large, potentially causing cold joints and unnecessarily large amounts of slag build-up. Try and weld in a circular or zigzaging motion. Focus your attention on the molten metal pool behind the rod and less on the light caused by the arc.
Step 6: Work Your Weld
Now that you have the motion, be it circular or zigzag work down your welding line, keeping a consistent angle and speed. As the electrode shrinks, leave yourself a little wiggle room by not working it to a nub. If the rod sticks and you have to start over, be sure to clean the slag off before continuing to weld.
Step 7: Clean up
Chip any slag away with a welding chipping hammer and a wire brush. If welds need extra attention, you can use an angle grinder to smooth troubled areas. This will be advised if you intend to paint your completed piece.