Tips for the Best Looking Stick Welds
Stick welding has a
lot of advantages that are easy to overlook, especially since MIG
welders have become so popular with many home and hobby welders. For
starters, stick welding is relatively cheap and simple to set up. You don’t need
shielding gas and the machine itself is simple, requiring far less maintenance
and repair—making it a solid economical choice, especially if you’re just
getting started with welding. Stick welding is also extremely easy to learn, and
it incorporates skills that you can apply to other welding methods as you add
new welding machines to your shop.
If you’re interested in stick welding, the one
drawback you’ll hear about is that stick welders can’t create welds that are
quite as neat and clean as MIG welders. So that brings up an important question:
Can you create a good looking weld with a stick welder?
Image Credit: John Tillman
Use a 7018 Electrode for Cleaner Metal
The advantage of stick welding is that you don’t have to get the metal
completely clean, as is the case for MIG or TIG welding. However, if you’re not
dealing with rust, paint, and other potential contaminants, a 7018 electrode
will run smoother and provide a cleaner weld. Compared to a 6010 or 6011
electrode, the 7018 electrode is easier to start and to control once you’re
running along the weld joint.
Generally speaking, a 6013 electrode is used for metal that has rust or paint
on it. You don’t hear about too many welders who like using 6013 electrodes for
stick welding, so it’s more of a “worst case scenario” electrode option than
anything else. Although you can find a 6013 electrode on a welding certification
test, the truth of the matter is that you won’t find too many of them on job
sites—which is something to keep in mind when you’re stocking up on stick welding
electrodes and other welding
supplies for your shop.
Don’t Reuse a Partially Used Up Electrode
If saving money is your greatest concern, then you can weld until your
electrode is a stub. However, if you’ve started and stopped with a stick
welding electrode, and you want the weld to be as clean and free from porosity
as possible, then you should start up with a new electrode. When quality is on
the line, the extra cost doesn’t factor in quite so much.
Run Your Machine at a High Amperage
We often write on this blog about the importance of running your machine on
the higher end of your recommended amperage settings in order to melt the metal
and get good fusion going with the electrode. Running your welder at a higher
setting will also achieve enough penetration to give you a strong weld.
However, running hot while stick welding will also keep the slag at the edge
of the puddle and will give you a much cleaner weld when you’re done. You’ll
have a lot less work to do when you’re done welding since the heat will do most
of the cleaning for you.
Stick Welding is All about the Arc
Blasting your electrode straight into the weld joint won’t push the slag away
to the edge and, if you’re running the machine hot enough, could cause a
dramatic burn through. An angled arc with a little drag will go a long way to
keeping your puddle at the right size as you work.
You’ll hear different tips that vary from 5-10 degrees for your arc angle,
but it may help to mentally think of your electrode “pushing” the melted
materials into the weld joint and pushing the slag back to keep it out of the
weld joint. If you’re not angled a little, you’ll be pushing the slag straight
into the weld joint. Keep in mind, too much angle will make it really tough to
keep a tight arc, which is another aspect of creating a clean weld.
A tight arc will be important both for making the weld puddle manageable and
for making your weld joint as clean as possible. If you pull the arc too far
away from the metal, you’ll create an erratic weld with black scorch marks all
over the place. You’ll have a mess on your hands that you’ll have to spend time
grinding down again. And keep in mind, a tight arc is essential for adequate
penetration, so the overall safety of your weld is at stake as well.
Chip, Grind, and Sand After Stick Welding
Every welder should have welding
supplies such as a chipping hammer, angle grinder, and sand paper on hand
for a stick welding project. While you can certainly use your settings,
electrode choice, and technique to create a clean, good looking stick weld, you
will most certainly have to do a bit of cleaning when you’re done welding.