Everyone remembers the time when they had to buy their first welding rods, the decision can be pretty nerve-racking with all the choices out there. There are a lot of articles on the internet with comparisons between a couple of welding rods, but rarely will you ever come across something which has a comprehensive overview of all the welding rods out there. I will try to go through each and every aspect of all the welding rod options out there and hopefully, it will help you in making future decisions.
Choosing the right electrode is very important for the quality of the weld. To make the correct choice you should know about the different types of electrodes out there and what the differences are. Don’t forget to think about how many electrodes you will actually need and how to correctly store the excess rods. Don’t get intimidated by all the information about differences between electrodes, once you know the basics the rest will work itself out.
WELDING ROD TYPES
The type of welding rods you are going to be using will depend upon the type of metal you are going to be working on. On top of this, the thickness and the specific type of weld you are looking for will also determine the choice of electrodes. To begin with, electrodes can be broadly categorized into consumable and non-consumable.
The reason for this nomenclature is fairly obvious, consumable electrodes get consumed in the process while non-consumables don’t.
Even the looks of electrodes vary a lot. Usually, the ones you are going to be using in MIG welding consists of a spool of wire while most of the electrodes used in SMAW and TIG look like long rods.
Hands down the most popular electrodes being used right now are the consumables. These are further divided into two categories, consumables for MIG and Stick welders. The job of a consumable electrode is to get consumed during the welding process, one of the reasons why selecting the right electrode can be such an important task because the material of the electrode will also become a part of the final weld.
Usually, electrodes for MIG welders are more like wires rather than rods. These wires are directly connected to the welding gun and it is the gun which feeds the wire into the welding pool. One major difference between MIG wires and Stick electrodes are the lack of flux coating on MIG wire.
The reason for this is the presence of shielding gas during MIG welding which does not require the wires to be coated with a flux of any kind. MIG welding can be either fully automatic or semi-automatic.
Usually (but not always), electrodes for stick welding have a flux coating which produces a shielding gas to protect the weld pool from contaminants in the environment. But there are times when the electrodes might be bare, this is usually used in case of welding manganese steel.
Other than bare electrodes, there can either be light coated, medium coated or heavy coated electrodes. Let’s take a look at each one of them.
- LIGHT COATING
As the name suggests these electrodes usually have a very minimal coating on them, usually a coating factor of about 1.25. This means that the flux will not be able to provide a very solid shielding gas, but it will be enough to protect from oxides, sulfur, and phosphorus.
One advantage these electrodes have over other types is the minimal slag formation and arc stabilization, but again I will not recommend this to be used on metals that have a significant contamination level.
- MEDIUM COATING
Usually having a coating factor of 1.45, this type of electrode is arguably the most popular among both hobbyists and professionals. One of the reasons for this is its versatility and accessibility. You can find medium-coated electrodes almost everywhere, and they can be used on a very wide range of metals.
Some of the advantages of medium coated electrodes is its arc stability, ease of slag removal and its versatility. What the last point means is that you can weld in almost all positions using a medium coated electrode.
The most uses for medium coated electrodes are in pipeline welding and construction jobs.
- HEAVY COATING
Containing a coating factor of 1.6 to 2.2, these electrodes produce the most efficient shielding gas among all of the previous electrodes. The most common composition materials used for these electrodes are cellulose and minerals.
Usually for home welders or for normal uses, you will not need a heavy coated electrode but in some situations where you are dealing with a lot of contaminants then this is the electrode to go for.
NON-CONSUMABLE RODS (TIG)
Most of the time you are going to be using non-consumable electrodes is when you will be working with TIG welding. One exception though which you should know about is the carbon electrode. Carbon electrodes are non-consumables.
The method is also known as CAW (Carbon Arc Welding), this method used to be popular back in the day but is rarely used now. Even the AWS (American Welding Society) has stopped supporting its specifications. This method is very rare these days, I know only of its military use for cutting and heating metals.
CAW used to require 2 electrodes at the same time, the arc which was produced was pretty hard to control. This being one of the reasons why this technique has been slowly abandoned. Because of the giant arc and the difficulty in controlling, it was never recommended to be used for detailed or for good-looking work.
Easily the most popular non-consumable electrode being used today are the tungsten electrodes to be used for TIG welding. They can be further divided into three categories, pure tungsten, tungsten mixed with zirconium and thorium. Each of these having different uses and identification traits.
The pure tungsten rods are mostly used in projects which involve working with thinner metals requiring lower amperage settings. On the other hand, tungsten mixed with zirconium can be used on thicker and heavier projects but one thing which makes the thorium electrodes better is their longevity and the higher final strength it provides. On top of this, the thorium mixture electrodes can sustain higher amperage as well.
If you ever have to recognize the type of tungsten electrode you are using, it can easily be done by the color of the electrodes. Here is a table to make it clear.
|100% TUNGSTEN||GREEN||These electrodes show the classic tungsten-associated properties such as high conductivity and durability. These electrodes are usually chosen for projects involving work on aluminum or magnesium alloys.|
|RARE EARTH||PURPLE||The properties for this electrode are very similar to that of thoriated electrodes, the only notable difference being that these can also work with both AC and DC currents.|
|LANTHANATED (2%)||BLUE||The choice electrodes for newcomers in the field due to the ease in striking an arc along with its exceptional performance in lower amperages. One advantage you will have with this electrode is the fact that it can work well with both AC and DC currents.|
|LANTHANATED 1.5%||GOLD||These electrodes are usually used when dealing with titanium, copper, and nickel alloys and they generally work the best with DC currents.|
|TUNGSTEN MIXED WITH 2% THORIUM||RED||These are probably the most popular electrodes in this category, especially in DC welding, some of the reasons for this being their long-lasting and durable nature. Usually, these rods are used when dealing with copper, nickel, or titanium alloys.|
|TUNSGTEN MIXED WITH 0.8% ZIRCONIUM||WHITE||Usually considered as an alternative to pure tungsten rods, they are used with both inverter and transformers which adds to their robust usage and wide application. They can also handle high levels of amperage.|
WHAT IS DEPOSITION RATE?
Deposition rate in its simplest form is the amount of metal that is being deposited on the welded joint through the electrodes. In stick welding, this rate can differ a lot based on the coating, size, and thickness of the rod being used.
For example, electrodes that have a coating of iron powder have the highest deposition rate and it is directly proportional to the amount of iron powder being used in the rod. for instance, an electrode with 50% iron powder will have a much higher deposition rate when compared to 10% iron powder.
The general formula used by the American Welding Society is (weight of iron/total weight of coating) *100. Here is the difference in the deposition rate of the two popular electrodes. One thing to keep in mind here is that the 7018 has a higher iron powder content.
|E6010||1/8||0.004 X Amps + 1.68|
|5/32||0.002 X Amps + 2.87|
|3/16||0.0024 X Amps + 3.57|
|E7018||1/8||0.012 X Amps + 1.0|
|5/32||0.0084 X Amps + 2.15|
|3/16||0.16 X Amps + 1.60|
NUMBERS ON WELDING RODS
This is where a lot of people end up getting confused. The numbers which represent electrodes can look gibberish if you don’t know how to read them. On the contrary, once you understand what these numbers represent, it can be pretty easy to figure out what they mean.
Although originally the numbering system was developed by the American Welding Association, it has been adopted pretty much by the rest of the world. If you ever have to look for these numbers, always check the sides of the electrodes.
Once you understand what the numbers mean, the next time you come across a number such as E6011, you will know exactly what it means.
To begin with, the ‘E’ represents electrodes, nothing complicated here. The next two digits, in this case, ‘60’ represent the final tensile strength of the weld. It is measured in pounds per square inch or psi. So, in this case, the final tensile strength of the weld will be 60,000 psi.
By looking at the third digit you can find out the positions in which the said electrode can be used. this can be pretty important if you have to find electrodes that can be used in overhead or incline positions. Especially when we talk about usage in construction sites. The different positions can be flat, horizontal, overhead, and vertical.
Usually, the third digit is only between 1, 2, and 4. 1 represents all positions, 2 represents horizontal only and 4 means overhead or vertical.
The last digit carries probably the most information in one number. It represents the flux coating of the electrode along with the current settings with which the electrode can be used with. The greatest variations can also take place with the last digit, it goes from 0 to 8 with each number representing a different coating. This can be represented best through a table.
|0||HIGH CELLULOSE SODIUM||DC+|
|1||HIGH CELLULOSE POTASSIUM||AC, DC+, DC-|
|2||HIGH TITANIA SODIUM||AC, DC-|
|3||HIGH TITANIA POTASSIUM||AC, DC+|
|4||IRON POWDER, TITANIA||AC, DC+, DC-|
|5||LOW HYDROGEN SODIUM||DC+|
|6||LOW HYDROGEN POTASSIUM||AC, DC +|
|7||HIGH IRON OXIDE, POTASSIUM POWDER||AC, DC+, DC-|
|8||LOW HYDROGEN POTASSIUM, IRON POWDER||AC, DC+, DC-|
WHAT THE COATINGS ARE USED FOR?
This might be some extra information and you might never need it, but the more you know better. You now know what the last digits signify in terms of flux coating, but I feel it is also important to know why these specific coatings or combinations of coatings are used. Let’s take a look at some of them.
The reason cellulose is used for flux coatings is because of its ability to provide a shield of gas around the weld pool. Metal carbonates on the other hand are used when there is a need to provide a basic nature to the slag, one of the other functions is to create a reducing atmosphere.
Iron powder is usually used as it increases the overall productivity of the weld. This is because of the extra metal deposition which can take place on the weld. Titanium Dioxide gives a quick-freezing property to the slag which is formed while also making it more fluid in nature. It also makes the arc more ionized.
Iron and manganese oxides add more stability to the arc while also affecting the fluidity of the slag being formed.
You might never need this information but at least now you will know the reasoning behind why some substances are used as flux coating.
TYPES OF WELDING RODS
I will go through some of the most popular electrodes being used in the field today. But on top of this, I will also try to provide a brief guideline about what different suffixes entail in terms of electrode properties.
If you are just starting out with welding, I would not recommend you begin using a 6010 electrode, this is due to its tight arc formation which can be a bit difficult to operate in the beginning. As you can probably tell, the final tensile strength offered by this electrode is around 60,000psi while also being an all-position electrode. But one advantage which this rod will give is its deeper penetration ability.
Keep in mind that this rod can only be operated using a DC current. The major real-life application of this rod is in the construction of water tankers, pipe welding, and other similar construction projects. It is not recommended to keep this electrode in an oven.
The 6011 and 6010 are very comparable in terms of their properties with some differences which in my opinion gives the edge to 6011. The first being the fact that you can operate the 6011 on both DC and AC current. This makes the electrode much more versatile in nature.
In terms of its tensile strength and the usage position and penetration, it is pretty much the same as 6010. I have heard from a lot of people that it is their preferred choice of electrode when they have to deal with dirt, rust, or paint on thicker materials.
But with good things comes drawbacks as well. If you are looking for a visually pleasing weld, then this might not be the rod for you. The 6011 and 6010 have a tendency to leave rough welds and ripples. Similar to the previous electrode you should not store this electrode in an oven.
This electrode has some great properties but at the same time is not as popular as the ones we have discussed below because of some limitations.
To begin with, the 6012 has great bridging characteristics while at the same time produces a stable arc at high currents while producing little to no spatter. Another added advantage is its compatibility with both AC and DC currents.
Now, coming to its limitations, probably the most important one is its low penetration ability. It is for this reason that the 6012 is not used for critical welding jobs. The most common places where this electrode is used are in repair works and open joint connections.
This electrode is also pretty popular especially when it comes to amateurs or home welders. The reason for this is the very little spatter formation while at the same providing a soft arc that is relatively easier to control. Another advantage is the post-clean-up process, the slag which is formed can be easily removed. Also, keep in mind its ability to work on both AC and DC currents.
The preferred use for this rod is applications where there is irregular welding required or where you need to change your positions or fill gaps.
This is another very popular electrode especially when you are dealing with carbon steel. One notable thing here is the final strength it provides to the weld, about 70,000 psi. One factor which makes this electrode hard to handle is the flux coating it has. The problem with a low hydrogen coating is that it can get bad when exposed to contaminants especially moisture.
If you go for this electrode make sure you have the right storage in your shop otherwise by the time you weld with it the second time, the entire pack will go bad if you left it open.
The 7018 also runs on both AC and DC currents.
What sets this electrode apart from the rest of the popular bunch is its increased deposition rate. This is achieved by the flux coating it has, which comprises an iron powder. This flux coating provides a little extra metal that can be deposited on the weld joint. This also affects the ease with which you can weld with this electrode.
As the deposition is more, you have to spend less and less time on a particular point. This allows for greater speed while welding. Also, pay attention to the limitation on the positions with which you weld with this electrode. In this case, the 7028 works best in the horizontal position.
|WELDING ROD||FLUX COMPOSITION||WELDING POSITION||COMPATIBLE CURRENTS||PENETRATION||WELD STRENGTH|
|6010||High cellulose sodium||ALL||DC||DEEP||60,000 PSI|
|6011||High cellulose potassium||ALL||DCEP, AC||DEEP||60,000 PSI|
|6012||High titania sodium||ALL||DCEP, AC||MEDIUM||60,000 PSI|
|6013||High titania potassium||ALL||DCEP, DCEN, AC||SHALLOW||60,000 PSI|
|7018||Iron powder low hydrogen||ALL||DCEP, AC||MEDIUM||70,000 PSI|
|7028||Iron powder||HORIZONTAL OR FLAT||DCEP, AC||70,000 PSI|
ELECTRODES FOR SPECIFIC USES
A lot of times there will be situations where you will be working with some metal on which common electrodes would not work. For these situations, I have created a guide that will walk you through some of the most common ‘other’ metals you will be working on.
Welding stainless steel can be a bit tricky and most of the common electrodes will not provide a good result in the final weld. Before I go on and talk about which electrodes to use here you first need to make sure that the stainless steel you are working with is weldable or not.
For example, among the austenitic stainless-steel types, the 303 and 316F are generally thought of as not weldable.
When it comes to electrode selection, some people say that you can use a 7018 on stainless steel, but I don’t agree with this thought. Using this electrode will not only result in a sub-par weld but the area around the final weld might also end up losing some of its anti-corrosion abilities.
The recommended electrode to use with stainless steel is the 316, 308, 312 and 309. But to make sure you are not using the wrong electrode with the stainless-steel grade you are working on, try to consult with the manufacturer about the correct rod to use.
Welding cast iron is tricky in itself and it can become pretty much impossible if you are working with the wrong electrode. There are a few options out there that will give you decent results and they also depend on the type of cast iron you are working with.
In general nickel-based electrodes are the go-to options while working with cast iron. But in some cases, cast iron and steel can also be employed to get the job done.
If you are going to be working on malleable carbon steel, then you can also go for low carbon steel variants. one advantage here is that if you are going to be welding on a low current you can also opt for low hydrogen electrode, but I will not recommend using this for serious work. low hydrogen electrode can be a good option for practicing.
But when it comes to grey cast iron and malleable cast iron then nickel-based and nickel-iron-based electrodes are the go-to choices. If you are going to be using cast iron or steel electrodes, make sure to preheat them first.
If you are looking to weld cast iron to steel, then the nickel-iron electrode is the preferred choice.
If you are going to be stick welding aluminum then I would recommend going for the 4043 electrodes, keep in mind that the electrodes you are going to be using here are coated with aluminum. One thing to note here is the high levels of spatter which might be a result of using an aluminum-coated electrode.
If you are going to be TIG welding, then your preferred choice should be pure tungsten or zirconated tungsten.
GUIDE TO EACH OF THE FLUX COATINGS
I only addressed some of the most popular electrodes being used, but there are a lot of times when you might need something specific or the common electrodes might not be available near you. I will go through some of the most common flux coatings and the properties they bring with them. Through this list, you can tell what a lot of electrodes offer in terms of welding properties.
CELLULOSE SODIUM XX10
The flux coating when it starts burning gives off hydrogen and carbon dioxide, this acts as both a reducing agent while also providing a digging arc which equates to deeper penetration. But one of the drawbacks here is the high spatter which you will experience while welding.
The final weld ages pretty well especially in terms of mechanical properties. Interestingly this was one of the first coatings which were used on electrodes.
CELLOLOSE POTASSIUM XX11
The properties with this coating are pretty much similar to the one above. The difference here being more potassium is used instead of sodium. This results in the electrode being able to work with both AC and DC. This also means that the arc was more controllable than the XX10. Sometimes even iron powder is mixed to increase the deposition rate.
RUTILE SODIUM XX12
The rutile here only indicates the presence of titanium dioxide. This results in a quieter arc while also leading to less slag and spatter. But the drawback here is the less penetration that it offers. Usually, this type of coating has fewer mechanical properties than cellulose coating.
RUTILE POTASSIUM XX13
The only difference here is the presence of potassium which helps with arc ionization.
RUTILE IRON POWDER XXX4
There are two versions of this coating, if the amount of iron powder is around 30-40% then the electrode would be XX14 and if the iron powder is more than 50% then it becomes XX24. Almost all the properties are similar within the rutile range, other than this coating provides a better deposition rate which will increase with an increase in the amount of iron powder. The XX14 can be used in any position while the XX24 will only work in the horizontal position.
LOW HYDROGEN SODIUM XXX5
What the name here means is that the flux composition has a higher presence of calcium carbonate or calcium fluoride. The shielding gas which is produced has very levels of hydrogen present in them. This is also one of the reasons why you need to take extra care of the electrode whiles storing them, you can’t let the rods come in contact with water.
Low hydrogen also provides better mechanical properties, some of the most ductile welds are created using low hydrogen electrodes. The deposition rate here is medium along with penetration rates and the arc length.
LOW HYDROGEN POTASSIUM XXX6
Again, most of the properties here are very similar to the one above, other than arc ionization because of the potassium. The arc formation might be smoother here than the sodium. If you add the iron powder to this flux and increase its composition to about 35% then the electrode will be classified as XX18.
LOW HYDROGEN IRON POWDER XX28
When the presence of iron powder in the XX18 goes above 50% it gets converted to XX28. There is one drawback here, the fact that you can only use this in the horizontal position. This also means that the deposition rate here is going to be more. These types of electrodes are also very suitable for welding stainless steel.
IRON OXIDE SODIUM XX20
The presence of iron oxide means that the slag production will be higher which can lead to some difficulties in controlling the electrode. You can expect a higher deposition rate with low spatter formation. One thing to note here is that these electrodes can only be used in the flat position for fillet welds.
WELDING ROD SIZES AND AMPERAGE
Once you have selected which electrode to go for, the next step comes while selecting the thickness of the rod. There are some very simple things to keep in mind. As the thickness of the metal, you are going to be working on increases so does the thickness of the rod you are going to be using. And with an increase in the thickness of the rod, there will be an appropriate increase in the amperage.
Although there is no given formula related to the diameter of the rod and the thickness of the material, there is one general rule of thumb. The diameter of the electrode is less than half or one-third of the thickness of the metal.
Don’t worry you don’t need to memorize the recommended size of rods for each thickness level, there are a lot of graphs available online which can help you along the way. (or you can use my settings calculator here) I will also note down the amperage to thickness correlation of all the popular electrodes below.
Keep in mind one thing though the chart is just a guide and there is no hard and fast rule to using the correct electrode. Some metals might need multiple passes from a thinner electrode to avoid holes or distortion.
|SIZE OF THE ELECTRODE (INCHES)||6010/6011||6012||6013||7014||7018||7024||THICKNESS OF BASE METAL|
|1/16“||20-40 Amps||20-40 Amps||LESS THAN 3/16“|
|5/64“||25-60 Amps||25-60 Amps|
|3/32“||40-80 Amps||35-85 Amps||45-90 Amps||80-125 Amps||70-100 Amps||100-145 Amps||LESS THAN ¼“|
|1/8“||75-125 Amps||80-140 Amps||80-130 Amps||110-160 Amps||115-165 Amps||140-190 Amps||MORE THAN 1/8“|
|5/32“||110-170 Amps||110-190 Amps||105-180 Amps||150-210 Amps||150-220 Amps||180-250 Amps||MORE THAN ¼“|
|3/16“||140-215 Amps||140-240 Amps||150-230 Amps||200-275 Amps||200-275 Amps||230-305 Amps||MORE THAN 3/8“|
|7/32“||170-250 Amps||200-320 Amps||210-300 Amps||260-340 Amps||260-340 Amps||275-365 Amps|
|¼“||210-320 Amps||250-400 Amps||250-350 Amps||330-415 Amps||315-400 Amps||335-430 Amps||MORE THAN 3/8“|
|5/16“||275-425 Amps||300-500 Amps||320-430 Amps||390-500 Amps||375-470 Amps||400-525 Amps||MORE THAN ½“|
Another interesting thing to note here is the correlation between the arc length and the diameter of the electrode you are using. Generally, the arc length is about the same as the thickness of the rod being used.
Also, one way to know whether the electrode you are using is of good quality or not is to notice whether the arc is wandering to one particular side or not. The flux coating on an electrode should be even and not thicker from one side, this will result in the arc shifting to one particular side.
HOW MANY DIFFERENT STICK WELDING ELECTRODES ARE THERE?
The correct number of electrodes is very difficult to estimate. There are a lot of different types and numbers of electrodes out there with small or big differences. It would not be possible for me to list all the different electrodes, but I will go through some of the most used in different categories.
I have already gone through the E6010, E6011, E6012, E6013, E6014, E7014, and E7018. These are by far the most common and most used electrodes all over the world.
But other than these, the E6024 is also used by a lot of people, they are also known as quick start electrodes. They are the most suitable for applications where you will require lower amounts of heat. But you will have to properly clean the metal you are working on before.
Another lesser-known electrode is the 308 stainless steel and as the name suggests it is most suitable for welding stainless steel including the 200 and 300 series. This electrode is also used for working on austenitic manganese steel.
The E309 L is one of those electrodes which is used for particular uses, and usual hobbyists won’t really require its use unless you have to join stainless steel to mild steel. One thing to note here is that this electrode will work best with 300 series stainless steel.
The most common nickel-based electrodes include the Nickel 55 Cast iron and Nickel 99 cast iron, while both of them can be used with AC and DC it is recommended to use DC. The latter is used usually on applications that are subjected to changes in temperature like engine blocks and exhaust manifold.
When it comes to aluminum electrodes, one of the most popular ones out there is the E4043, these are also preferred for sheet metals. but one thing to keep in mind here is that this electrode can be tricky to handle for amateurs.
HOW TO CALCULATE HOW MUCH RODS DO I NEED
The next step while buying the electrode you need for the job is how much should you get? Electrodes can get expensive if you keep buying multiple packs of them. There is also the added stress of storing the left-over electrodes especially if you are just starting out and you don’t have proper storage.
There are different ways of calculating the approximate weight of electrodes you need, but it can get a bit too technical. A lot of people get to know the amount they need through trial and error and experience.
There are charts out there for different welding areas and techniques but not all welds are the same, so it is also essential to know the math behind it. This way you can also calculate the approximate amount of welding rods you will require.
There is a simple formula for calculating the total weight of electrodes you are going to need. It is represented by:
P = WL/E
Here P signifies the weight of the electrode you are going to need
W is the weight of the weld metal per foot
L is the total weld length
And E is the deposition efficiency
P and L are self-explanatory but when it comes to E, either you will know it by the manufacturer’s specification, or in case the manufacturer hasn’t specified it, there is a formula to calculate it yourself. Although it can get a bit cumbersome.
E = Total deposition weight/ total weight of the electrode being consumed
Usually, the deposition efficiency is calculated in laboratories or in professional workshops so I wouldn’t recommend you doing it yourself. You can always contact the manufacturer and ask for it.
To calculate W, you will need simple mathematics, consider the figure above, how will you calculate the weight per foot of the weld metal? The first step is to calculate the area of the fillet weld. Let’s assume that the height and the base are the same, let’s put it as 0.5”. Then the area of the triangle would be Height X Base X ½.
Once you know the area, you have to find the volume of the fillet weld. That would be Area X Length, let’s assume the length to be 12”. Now, the final step here to multiply the volume by the weight of the weld metal per cubic inch.
The final calculation would look like this: A X L X Weight of weld metal/ Cubic Inch
= ½ X ½ X ½ X 12 X 0.283
= 0.424 lb
That’s the W you will need for the formula above.
To make it easier for you I am also attaching a chart which will give you a basic broad idea about the amount of welding rod you will need.
|FILLET SIZE (L) Inch (Mm)||WELD METAL REQUIREMENT lbs/ft (kg/m)||SMAW Pounds/Foot (Kilos/Meter)||GMAW Pounds/Foot (Kilos/Meter)|
|1/8“ (3.2)||0.027 (0.040)||0.043 (0.064)||0.028 (0.042)|
|3/16“ (4.7)||0.060 (0.089)||0.097 (0.144)||0.063 (0.094)|
|¼“ (6.3)||0.106 (0.158)||0.171 (0.254)||0.112 (0.167)|
|5/16“ (7.9)||0.166 (0.247)||0.268 (0.399)||0.175 (0.260)|
|3/8“ (9.5)||0.239 (0.356)||0.385 (0.573)||0.252 (0.375)|
|½“ (12.7)||0.425 (0.632)||0.686 (1.020)||0.447 (0.665)|
|5/8“ (15.8)||0.664 (0.988)||1.071 (1.594)||0.699 (1.040)|
|¾“ (19.1)||0.956 (1.423)||1.542 (2.295)||1.010 (1.503)|
|1“ (25.4)||1.698 (2.527)||2.739 (4.076)||1.787 (2.659)|
The above chart is meant for a fillet weld. The fillet size (L) is meant to represent the base and height of the triangle used in the formula above. Also keep in mind that this is a rough estimate, different types of electrodes might have different requirements.
HOW MANY WELDING RODS ARE IN A PACKET?
A lot of times welding rods are sold in packets in terms of their weight, for example, a 2 kg packet or 1 pound packet. Most of the time you will know how many electrodes are in each packet especially if you buy them in a physical store, there will be someone who will be aware of it.
But the problem starts when you are ordering your packets online, sometimes the brands or the websites don’t mention the actual quantity of the rods present in the packet. This can be an impediment if you have work on a project.
HOW MANY WELDING RODS IN A KG/POUND?
The number of welding rods in a packet or in a kg will depend on the diameter and the length of the rods. For example, the ESAB 6013 electrodes, having a 2.5mm diameter and 350mm length are sold in 5kg packets most commonly. In one of these packets, there are about 277 rods.
Similarly, the ESAB 308L stainless steel electrodes come in 0.7kg packets to start with. in each of these packets, there are about 37 rods. Keep in mind that these rods are about 300 mm long.
A Fronius Mild steel electrode packet weighing 6.7kg consisting of 4 mm diameter electrodes and 450mm length would have about 120 rods.
As you can see the number of rods and the weight of the packets vary from company to company and electrode to electrode. Remember to check the number of electrodes in a packet before ordering as you can end up having a lot more electrodes than you need and it can create storage issues.
SHELF LIFE FOR RODS
Some people believe that welding rods have an unlimited shelf life, but that is far from the truth. The reason why you shouldn’t buy a lot of welding rods if you don’t need them is because of the chances of them going bad. This is especially the case if you don’t have the proper storage facilities. Once electrodes go bad, the quality of welds they deliver will get affected a lot and can even be dangerous to use.
So, the answer is yes, welding rods do go bad, but their life depends on a couple of factors. To begin with, the type of electrode you have matters a lot then comes how you handle and store them. Let’s take a look at the factors which might affect your rod’s life.
If you keep your welding rods in the most ideal conditions, they can last upwards of 2-3 years, but you have to protect them from factors such as humidity/moisture and temperature.
Age in itself affects the life of the rod the least but still over time, the quality of the welds can become worse, sometimes the electrodes can also break.
But the biggest evil here is moisture, some types of electrodes like the low hydrogen rods can go bad very quickly even if they come in contact with a little water. The 7018 is an example of such a rod. You should always keep in mind to store the electrodes in a sealed container, a welding rod oven would be an ideal situation.
Next is the temperature, the problem here again is correlated with moisture, electrodes in general should be kept in a welding oven which keeps the temperature high. What this does is it keeps the moisture away from the electrodes.
But when we talk about non-consumable electrodes then the shelf life is generally higher. This is because of a lack of flux coating which is usually the first thing that goes bad. Non-consumables on the other hand do get eroded over time and with use.
HOW TO KNOW IF MY WELDING ROD HAS GONE BAD?
I have seen this happen a lot of times, people have been using an expired electrode without even knowing it. This can lead to a lot of safety issues as the quality of the weld is not the same. If you know how to identify the starting signs of your welding rod going bad, there is a much better chance of you recovering it.
There are degrees of moisture exposure and a lot of times the electrode can be recoverable. Some of the first signs of trouble are if there is rust or some powder on your electrode, a soft flux coating is also a sign of trouble. But these visual signs of trouble are not always there. You can always look at the quality of the weld to determine if the rod is good or not.
Some of the earliest signs of expiration are porosity or cracking in the weld. If the exposure is severe, the slag can become much harder to clean. Higher exposure levels can lead to internal porosity as well.
A definite sign of no return is when the electrode itself shows cracks, a crumbly flux layer is also a big no-no.
STORING DIFFERENT RODS
One area where a lot of amateurs make a mistake is while storing the welding rods they have been using. If you don’t take care here, you can greatly reduce the life of your electrodes and even the quality of your welds.
One thing to keep in mind is that not all rods can be stored in the same way. Some electrodes are much easier to store while you might need to take a lot of care for some. There are also different levels of storage options depending upon the seriousness and scale of welding. Let’s take a look.
DIFFERENT STORAGE NEEDS FOR DIFFERENT ELECTRODES
You have to keep in mind that not all electrodes are the same, some are more prone to moisture and temperature when compared to others.
For instance, it is widely known that electrodes with a low hydrogen coating cannot be kept outside for even small amounts of time. They have to be kept very carefully, preferably in an electrode oven. The most common example of such an electrode is the E7018. This is one of the reasons why it is not recommended to beginners who might not have the necessary storage options.
On the other hand, there are quite a few electrodes that are not as sensitive to moisture. You can even store some of them in the sealed box they came in. Although their life will be significantly more if kept properly in an electrode oven. Some of the most popular types of these electrodes are the E XX10, XX11, XX12, XX13.
DIFFERENT STORAGE OPTIONS
Remember that the main factors you have to take care of while storing electrodes are moisture and temperature, well, there are different ways and degrees of ensuring that your electrode is safe.
This is considered to be the gold standard of rod storage. In the newer versions you can digitally control the temperature to make it suitable exactly to your needs.
One thing to note here is that a rod oven is considered to be a good option for professionals or for people who weld regularly enough. This is not something which I would recommend for beginners as these can be a bit expensive and need some space to operate. One added advantage of electrode ovens is the available space. It allows you to store quite a few electrodes.
Rod ovens are best suited for low hydrogen electrodes as they need the most protection. They are also preferred by people who expect the highest standard in terms of quality. If you ever decide to invest in a rod oven, remember to only open the ovens when you need to and don’t keep the oven open for too long.
Rod oven can be broadly categorized into three different grades, the first being the portable types which are best for amateurs and professionals who have to keep moving a lot and need some mobility with them. The drawback here is the capacity of the oven. This option is also the most cost-effective with cheaper versions starting from as low as $100.
The middle option would be the bench electrode ovens, they come in the size of a mini-fridge, but they can be a good installment to your home workshop or garage. They can be a bit costlier so think about whether you need them or not.
The third and the biggest ovens are the welding flux ovens. They are only recommended for professionals who need a lot of inventory and industry-grade storage options.
Dry boxes are best for electrodes which are not as sensitive to moisture. Some of the examples I have already mentioned above. They are by far the most inexpensive method of storing welding rods. But I wouldn’t recommend storing low hydrogen electrode in this.
HERMETICALLY SEALED CONTAINERS
These containers are perfect to keep the electrode in especially if they have not been opened. It helps reduce, and keep the moisture away a lot, so if you are a hobby welder, dealing with small amounts of rods, it would be the easiest and cheapest way to store your welding electrodes.
HOW NOT TO STORE YOUR ELECTRODES?
When it comes to storing welding rods, there are a lot of misconceptions and so-called myths out there. I feel I need to clear some of these myths as these can be very reasonable.
The first and the most popular method is the lightbulb and refrigerator. The concept here is simple, you take a refrigerator and fit a lightbulb inside of it. Some people easily believe this would work as it makes sense from a distance, a light bulb will provide heat and the fridge can act as an insulating object.
The reality is not so simple. Bulbs might seem like they can create a lot of heat, but they can’t, you will need a very big bulb to generate that amount of heat. With a bulb that big, you will have more of a fire hazard than a welding oven.
The second mistake people make is the opposite of the previous one. What a lot of people think is that if you wrap your welding rods in a plastic bag and keep it inside a freezer then it can act as a makeshift oven. It might not provide the heat, but it can stop the humidity.
What happens is the opposite. What will likely happen is that when you pack the electrodes are packed inside the plastic bag, there is some warm air trapped inside the bag which turns into moisture when it comes into contact with the cold air inside the freezer.
The last option is a household oven. Do not ever try this option, household oven is not designed to run at such a high temperature for a long duration of time. Your entire house can burn down.
WELDING ROD BRANDS TO BET ON
There are some welding rod brands that will never disappoint you. If you ever have a choice between these and some other brands, I will highly recommend that you don’t think and go for these.
This is one of the most popular brands not just in the US but all over the world, based in Sweden, interestingly this company was created by the inventor of the first flux electrodes. ESAB has one of the largest networks all over the world, this has the advantage of getting user support in all parts of the world.
A US-based company created by James F. Lincoln and John C is also one of the most reliable welding companies out there. One great thing about this brand is the wide variety it offers in terms of different needs.
ILLINOIS TOOL WORKS
As the name suggests, this is a US-based company that has risen as a giant conglomerate. A lot of people don’t know this but companies like Miller Electric, Hobart, and Paslode are owned by Illinois Tool Works. If you have to buy any welding-related equipment this will be a sure short success.
Based out of Japan, Kobe Steel not only manufactures excellent quality welding rods, but they even provide both professionals and hobbyists with welding software solutions. They also have a very strong footing in robotic welding.
Some of the other popular brands which you can go for are Miller Electric, Hobart Welding Products, and Everlast Welders. The latter one being the most recent company, but it has acquired an impressive customer base through great products at great prices coupled with good customer service.
CAN WELDING RODS BE USED FOR BRAZING?
Whenever I talk to people who are new to the world of welding there seems to be a lot of confusion between brazing and welding. In reality, the two techniques are considered to be cousins of each other.
As opposed to welding, brazing involves melting the brazing rod to glue the two pieces of metal together. There are specific brazing rods available out there for this technique. But what a lot of people wonder is whether you can use welding rods for this?
To answer this question in short, yes, you can use some welding rods as brazing rods. Now, the final result may not be as good using the intended rod, but it can get the job done.
There are some metals which are considered to be a good choice when it comes to brazing like iron, nickel, steel aluminium and cast iron. Always keep in mind that both of these techniques are not the same, if you are good at one of these does not mean that you will know how to operate the other.
GUIDE TO CHOOSING THE RIGHT ROD
Now that you know the basics about different types of welding rods and their properties, you need to know the rough steps to follow while choosing the right rod.
First things first, you will need to consider the following things while making this decision:
- the properties of the metal you will be working on
- the position in which you need to weld in
- the power supply
- the desired strength or quality of the weld and
- the overall cost associated with welding
Starting off with the base metal or the piece you will be working on, you need to make sure that the physical and chemical properties of the electrode you end up choosing are as close as possible to the metal you are working on. What I mean by this is that for example, the tensile strength or the carbon content of the electrode and the base metal should be as close to each other as possible.
Another factor that you need to consider is the thickness of the base you are working on, the diameter of the electrode you end up choosing will have to be less than the thickness of the electrode. This factor will also determine the penetration and arc characteristics of the rod. For example, a thinner metal will need a softer arc with less penetration.
The next factor is going to be the position in which you need to weld in and the power supply you are going to weld with. As I have already mentioned, some electrodes can only work on specific positions and polarities.
Joint characteristics and the type of operating characteristics you want will also play an important role while you are selecting the electrode. There are broad categories that electrodes are divided into Fast Freeze, Fast Fill, Fill Freeze, Low Hydrogen, with each of these types bringing with themselves a different set of properties.
As the name suggests, the fast freeze type which generally includes the EXX10 and EXX11 electrode, provides properties that tend to become solid fairly quickly. Fast fill on the other hand tends to melt faster, and these include the XX22, 24, 27, and 28. Fill freeze as you might have guessed is the middle point between the two.
In terms of joint characteristics, take an example of a tight and unbevelled root face, you will need to use a rod with deeper penetration and a digging arc, you will probably need something like an E6011 or E6010.
The last factor is the final look and feel of the weld. Some electrodes will provide very good mechanical properties but will not give an aesthetic look.
BEST RODS FOR DIFFERENT SITUATIONS
With so many options for welding rods out there, it can be very confusing when you actually have to choose the right one. As we have already discussed there is a correct electrode for every situation, and it can be a huge help to know which one to use when. Let’s take a look at different situations.
BEST RODS TO USE FOR BEGINNERS
When you are a beginner the selection of electrodes becomes even more tricky. You don’t only have to take into account the physical and chemical properties you need but also the skill level you will need to operate a particular electrode.
If we are talking about general use, then the E6013 or the E7018 is usually the preferred choice for a lot of people. The only problem with the latter is its sensitivity to moisture. The reason I have suggested the 6013 is because of its wide usage and its ease of use. It can also be used with any polarity and in any position while also working well with any thickness of metals.
WELDING ROD FOR WELDING STAINLESS
Stainless steel can be considered a specialty metal in terms of welding, what I mean is that you probably shouldn’t use a normal electrode on stainless steel.
The most common electrode which is used on stainless steel is the 309L and 312L, this should especially be used if you have to weld for repair purposes. It comes with good physical properties like strength and cracking resistance. One more factor to keep in mind here is that you can use these rods if you are not aware of the specific stainless-steel grades.
WELDING ROD FOR ALUMINUM?
The best choice for welding aluminum would be aluminum-coated welding rods. The only problem faced by people while using aluminum is the difficulty while using them, especially for beginners. Aluminum rods are notorious for high spatter and difficulty while controlling them.
WELDING ROD FOR CAST IRON?
Cast iron as you know is considered to be one of the most difficult metals to weld on. Choosing the right welding rod is extremely important here.
If you are going to be using MIG welding, then the preferred choice here would be a combination of Argon and Carbon Dioxide in about 80-20 combination. If we are talking about TIG welding, then you don’t have any other choice other than a Nickel wire.
For stick welding I would recommend using the 55% Nickel rod, this I would consider being a middle option both in terms of price and usability. You can also go for a steel rod if you have to do small jobs.
WELDING ROD FOR RUSTY MATERIAL?
The most recommended electrode to use while working with dirty metals like having rust or oil and dust on them is the E6010 or E6011. Some of the reasons for this being the deep penetration and digging arc which the electrode provides.
WELDING ROD FOR THIN MATERIAL?
Some of the best options you have when dealing with sheet metals or thin pieces of metals are the E6013 and sometimes even the 7018s can also be used.
BEST ALL-AROUND WELDING ROD?
When you are just starting out in welding as a hobby you don’t want to pick up electrodes that have very specific uses. This will not only limit the usage but can also increase your expenditure if you have to target materials which the specific electrodes don’t.
Some of the best all-purpose electrodes you can opt for are the E6011, E6010, and E6013. This is due to the wide range of polarity they can be used with coupled with their relative ease of use while also being all position electrodes.
WHAT’S BETTER, AC OR DC WELDING?
Polarity is one of the most heavily debated topics among welders. If you start talking about this topic in front of a group of welders, it will surely start a barfight among them. The truth is that both of the processes have certain advantages and disadvantages and the option you choose should depend on what you are looking for.
First, let’s take a look at the basic difference between both. DC current means that the polarity or the direction in which the current is flowing is constant. The current can be either DC positive or DC negative.
Some of the advantages of using DC as a welding current are smoother and more stable arcs. This is due to the fact that the current and the magnetic field remain the same. Other advantages include less spatter formation.
If you are using DC negative, it can provide better deposition rates with some electrodes. On the other hand, if you use DC positive, it can give better penetration.
When we start talking about the disadvantages associated with DC welding, the major one is the extra costs associated with using DC currents as you will need a transformer for switching the current. There is also the arc blow problem when welding magnetized surfaces.
AC current means that the direction of the current is being changed constantly, with a change in the direction of the current also leads to a change in the magnetic field. Because of this when the arc is formed, it leads to no net deflections.
Some of the advantages of using AC current is better aluminium welding, this is due to the fact that AC positive can lead to removal of oxide from the surface of the metal. Another advantage is the cost associated with welding.
It is also easier to work with magnetic objects as the arc is much steadier due to the constant change in polarity. It also fixes the arc blow problem.
The disadvantages include higher spatter formation and generally more rough welds when compared to DC welding.
If you take a general consensus, you will find more regular DC welders when compared to AC welding. The latter option is usually preferred by people hobbyists, farmers, or those who have to deal with repairing magnetized surfaces. Another drawback of using AC current is the fact that the arc might go out because of the change in the direction of the current.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION
We have gone through a lot of information in this article and it is natural that you might be confused. All of this information can be a bit confusing in the beginning. If you have been looking forward to buying your first welding rod, you shouldn’t have any doubts in your mind. I will try to go through some of the most questions that people have regarding this topic.
This highly depends on the conditions and the type of electrodes you are using. If for example if you leave an E6011 outside in hot conditions without much humidity, it can last for quite some time. On the contrary, if you leave an E7018 outside in what you think are decent conditions, it will go bad in a day or two. It all depends on the humidity level, temperature, and type of electrode you are talking about.
Don’t worry, it’s not like that welding rod will burst in your hand. The weld will have very poor characteristics and no strength. Sometimes the arc might not even be struck, and the spatter formation might be too high.
It all depends on what you are looking for. If you are a professional, then you should have some reserves but if you are a home welder then you should keep in mind the usage and the budget you are working with. Take into account the storage situation you have. You might end up buying a lot of electrodes but if not stored properly they will go bad.
In the old days, you had to go to a hardware store and hope that somebody there knows what they are talking about. These days there are a lot of companies that will deliver the rods you need right to your doorstep. I would still recommend finding a good hardware store near you that can help you with practical issues related to welding.
The only reason to throw away your welding rods is when they have gone bad beyond repair. I have gone through the signs to look for while determining whether your welding rods have gone or not.
The most important thing to master is the specific type of welding you are about to do. Most of the electrodes work similarly, the only difference being how the electrodes can be handled. Some electrodes can be tricky to use and difficult to handle but you don’t need any special training.
There is no one ‘best’ welding rod out there. There are some rods that are easier to use than the others while some have superior properties. You can find some general use electrodes while some are only meant for specific uses. You will have to try a lot of different electrodes to find the right one for you, but for beginners, 6013 would be my recommendation.
It depends on why you want to learn to weld. Some techniques are suitable for specific works. I would recommend starting with stick welding as it really sets your basics right. Once you have had enough practice with stick welding it will be relatively easier to move to MIG or TIG welding.
There are a lot of amateur welders who work without an oven. The best option out there for you are the dry boxes. They are the cheapest and unless you are working with low hydrogen rods, you should be good. Don’t expect electrodes to last as long as the ones stored in an oven thoguh. You can also try vacuum packing them to protect them from moisture.
To sum it all up, there are many types of welding rods out there ranging from a Nickel rod to an E7018. All of these rods have different characteristics, and they have to be used in specific situations. It is very important to select the right welding rod and it is equally important to know how to properly store them. If not stored properly welding rods can go bad, this is also an important skill to master – how to tell if your welding rod has gone bad and it is time to discard them.