I feel this is one of those topics which often gets overlooked when people are new to welding. There are a lot of things to learn when getting started with welding and among all the other information, people often overlook how to properly store their electrodes. If you don’t take proper precautions while storing the rods, it can lead to low-quality welds and you might not even figure out the reason behind it. Let’s take a look at the basics of properly storing your welding rods.
Learning how to correctly store your electrodes will go a long way in terms of saving money. It can greatly increase your electrode life and quality over the long run. You should always only get the number of electrodes you need, especially when you don’t have an electrode oven to store a larger quantity. Starting off your welding journey with a method to handle electrodes can make your life a lot easyer.
WHY DO YOU NEED TO PROPERLY STORE ELECTRODES?
Before we go on and talk about how to properly store the rods, it is important to know why we need to be careful while storing them. The straightforward answer is to ensure a proper final weld.
Most of the electrodes out there need to be kept in a dry environment and once they come in contact with water or moisture, they will not provide the same quality of welds as when they were dry. They can lead to weld cracking and porosity while also affecting other factors like arc performance.
Low hydrogen rods like 7018 are especially susceptible to moisture and humidity and can lead to some pretty nasty results like hydrogen induced cracking, surface cracking, surface porosity, and rough weld surface. These problems are magnified when dealing with harder metals as they are more brittle to begin with and excessive moisture in the welding rods can enhance this problem while also leading to under surface porosity or cracking.
Check out the video below to see how water affects the 7018 rods. I really enjoyed the video and I think we all have something to learn from that.
HOW WELDING ELECTRODES SHOULD BE STORED
One thing you should keep in mind is that all welding rods need to be stored properly in a dry environment and is protected from environmental conditions. This is the basic factor that is common among all the different electrodes. But you should also know that the storage needs can differ greatly between different electrodes. Some of them can be stored at room temperature in a dry box while some can only be stored at a certain temperature.
There are a couple of major factors that affect the health of an electrode – moisture, and temperature. As I have already discussed that most electrodes need to be kept away from the moisture of any kind. A lot of times, lower temperatures can lead to the higher moisture content in the air. Usually, the rods which are the most susceptible to moisture have the highest storing temperatures to aggressively keep the moisture away from the rods.
CONDITIONS OF STORING DIFFERENT KINDS OF ELECTRODES
As I state before, not all electrodes have the same storage conditions, usually, electrodes with a low hydrogen coating are much more susceptible to moisture and temperature.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE NUMBERS ON AN ELECTRODE
Just in case you didn’t know about this, but the numbers of an electrode convey a lot of information. For example, the first two digits represent the tensile strength of the final weld. similarly, the last digit conveys the component of the flux among other things. If you know which number represents what coating the electrode has, you can determine the storage and re-drying requirements of that electrode.
Some electrodes have “R” as a suffix, usually low hydrogen rods which entails that they have a coating that reduces the amount of water being absorbed or taken in by the electrode. Some manufacturers claim that electrodes with such a coating can be left outside for up to 9 hours. But just to be safe even if the electrodes have such a coating you should immediately put them in storage after use to protect them from the humidity.
Electrodes ranging from E-XX10-13 can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container to protect them from environmental contamination like smoke and other pollutants. These rods are the easiest to store and you don’t need special equipment of any kind while handling them. this is also one of the reasons why they are suitable for beginners. Some of the 60-rod series on the other hand might even need a bit of moisture before a weld. For example, the 6011 rod needs a little humidity of moisture before a weld to prevent them from becoming brittle because of the cellulose flux.
E-XX14, XX20, XX24, XX27; need to be stored between 150 to 200 F. while electrodes such as E-XX15, XX16, and XX18 need to be stored at around 250-400F with slight variations in the reconditioning conditions. Most of these electrodes represent a low hydrogen coating which entails them having a much higher storing threshold.
For example, the 7018 electrode is notorious for its low moisture tolerance and is one of the reasons why it is not recommended for beginners. They contain low hydrogen blocks and quickly lose their integrity within 8-9 hours when exposed to moisture.
STORING OPTIONS (FOR HOBBYISTS AND PROFESSIONALS)
When it comes to the medium of storing electrodes your needs and wants may be different. For example, if you are a professional welder, you will need to store your electrodes at the exact temperature and humidity and you might even have more types of electrodes to take care of. On the other hand, if you are just a hobbyist you might only have a couple of types of rods which do not justify you spending a lot of money on storage options.
The good news is that if you have a limited number of rods or your needs are low you don’t have to go and spend a lot of money on an oven, there are things out there for everyone’s needs.
If you are a professional the chances are that you might already have the oven you need, anyways I will go over some of the options for them if you are curious. To begin with, even if you are just a little serious about getting into welding, an electrode oven might be a good investment. They come in a lot of different sizes and complexity.
At the highest level, there are the welding flux ovens, which are considered to be at the top among the storage facilities. Usually, they are state of the art and can be considered to be the best in case scenarios for your welding rods. They are usually preferred by businesses and professional workshops and are designed to hold a lot of electrodes; more than one person might need. Although their price varies by a lot, they can be found between 1500$ to 10,000$.
For independent professionals, Bench electrode ovens would be a better choice. They are much smaller and cheaper than the welding flux ovens while still providing a similar level of temperature and humidity control. They are not that big, and some are as big as a minifridge, that’s big enough to hold a medium level of inventory. These can be bought for about 1,000$.
The options for hobbyists and casual welders are extremely wide depending on your budget, the storage size you need, and the complexity. There are some homemade storage options out there as well, which I will get to later on.
To begin with, if you have been welding for some time now and your electrode needs are increasing, investing in a portable electrode oven might not be a bad idea. They can offer a professional level of storage needs for a small number of electrodes and the best thing is that they are portable so they can be carried around easily. You can find portable ovens ranging from 100$ to 2000$. You can easily control the humidity and temperature settings on these.
On the other hand, there are storage containers which might be perfect if you are not using electrodes that need excessive amounts of control while storing them. These dry boxes do a good job of keeping the humidity out and can be perfect if you are dealing with rods that are not temperature sensitive like the E-XX10-13. Some containers can be kept in cabinets with temperatures above 250F if you are dealing with small amounts of temperature-sensitive rods.
PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE WHILE STORING RODS
The first thing which you should keep in mind while handling electrode ovens is to not leave the door open for long periods of time. The longer your door is open, the more susceptible your rods are to moisture and outside contaminants.
Another thing to keep in mind is to store your electrodes in an upright position and in a single row to avoid them clashing with one another which can lead to the formation of cracks, abrasions, and bends. This is especially important if you are using portable ovens or dry storage boxes like the one above.
MYTHS ABOUT STORING ELECTRODES AT HOME
Over the years there have been a lot of so-called ‘home methods’ of storing or heating your electrodes. Some of them have been exposed as being totally wrong while some people still believe in them. A lot of these methods gained steam in the past 30 years but have been slowly debunked because of the availability of information. Let’s take a look at some of these methods.
- The first one which comes to mind is the fridge and lightbulb technique. For a lot of time people believed if you take an old fridge and fit a 100–150-watt light bulb inside of it, it can become a pretty decent container for welding rods. The reality is far opposite from it, although a fridge is insulated, fitting a light bulb inside it will not generate enough heat to successfully store electrodes. Even if it was to get hot enough the heat generated won’t be evenly distributed in the fridge making some electrodes have humidity damage.
- The second method which comes to mind is the household oven technique which a lot of people still try to use. It might logically sense for you to store your electrodes inside an oven, it is well insulated and can provide even heating. But if you think about it for a second, most of the household ovens can’t get as hot as some electrodes may require. And even if they do, there is no way they can hold that temperature for long periods of time. If you try this method, it is like waiting for an accident to occur.
- Another method is freezer storage. Some people believe that if you wrap your rods in plastic and store them in the freezer it will protect them from moisture. What ends up happening is quite the opposite. The room temperature air inside the plastic wrapping will go through condensation when it comes in contact with the cold air of the freezer. This will lead to the electrodes forming cracks and flaking.
A lot of these methods are used by people when they are looking for cost-effective ways to store their electrodes. One way to overcome this problem is to try to use electrodes that can be stored easily and if this is not possible then you should only have only as many electrodes as you need.
CAN YOU DRY WET WELDING RODS
If by chance your electrodes have come in contact with moisture, you don’t need to immediately throw them away. You can restore your electrodes to their former glory through re-drying. As the name suggests it involves heat to remove water and moisture from the rods before any permanent damage takes place. The process can be largely divided into two steps, first if the rod has come directly in contact with water or high levels of moisture, and second for nominal levels of exposure.
The re-drying method is not uniform for all the electrodes as the storage temperatures also varied depending upon the electrode. I will get into the specifics in the next section. Pre-drying is usually done so that the coating is prevented from cracking or flaking off because of oxidation of the alloys.
HOW TO DRY STICK WELDING RODS (PROFESSIONALS AND HOBBYISTS)
If you are dealing with the first instance of excessive moisture exposure you might have to go for pre-drying especially in the case of low hydrogen electrodes. Before we get into the temperature and time recommendations there are a few things that you should keep in mind about the whole process.
TIPS ABOUT RE-DRYING ELECTRODES
Always remember that each electrode has a specific temperature and time for which they need to be kept in the oven. This temperature is usually above its storage temperature to ensure that all the moisture has been removed. Always refer to the guidelines provided by the manufacturer for the correct temperature and time. What I will be providing is an estimate, but the actual values may differ.
Here is a great PDF created by Hobart that I would advise you to check out.
While re-drying the electrodes, remove them from the can and spread them evenly in the oven to make sure that each rod is evenly heated. If not done properly it may lead to non-uniform results. Also look for signs if the electrode has been damaged beyond repair, some of these signs I have talked about in the later sections.
Stick to the recommended temperature and time and don’t go overboard with the heat as it may further damage the electrode. The reason for this is that moisture is not just stuck to the surface of the electrode which simply can be evaporated, moisture is chemically bonded to the electrode coating. These chemical bonds need a specific temperature and time to be broken down without damaging the electrode.
Some people recommend that you should put the electrodes in the oven at not more than half of the final re-drying temperature and they should be held at that temperature for about half an hour before increasing the temperature. I am not sure about the efficacy of this technique, but I came across it in some online forums.
RECOMMENDED SETTINGS FOR RE-DRYING
As I stated before, different electrodes have different recommended settings in terms of heat and time. If the low hydrogen electrode has come in direct contact with water or has been exposed to high humidity for a prolonged time, then pre-drying might be necessary. Pre-drying is usually done for 1-2 hours.
For low hydrogen rods such as E7018, E7028, E8018, E9018, E10018, the pre-drying temperature is between 180-220F. While the final re-drying temperature is between 650 to 750 F for the E7018 and E7028 and between 700 to 800F for the E8018, E9018, E11018, E11018.
When we come to the non-low hydrogen electrodes, they can be further subdivided into three categories, fast freeze, fast-fill, and fill freeze and each one of them have a different temperature need.
For the fast freeze electrodes which include the E6010, E6011, E7010, E8010, E9010, exposure to moisture can be noticed by the noisy arc and high spatter or objectionable coating blisters while doing the weld. The answer is pretty straightforward, re-baking of these electrodes is not recommended.
The fast-fill electrodes which include the E7024 and E6027, exposure to moisture can be noticed by the noisy or digging arc, high spatter, tight slag, or undercut. These types of electrodes can be pre-dried if they are unusually wet at about 200-230F for about 30-45 minutes. After this, they can be re-dried at the final temperature of 400-500F for a similar amount of time.
The last sub-category fill freeze which consists of E6012, E6013, E7014, E6022, exposure to moisture can be noticed by similar indications as to the fast-fill electrodes and even the pre-drying temperatures and settings are similar. On the other hand, the final re-drying temperature is around 300-350 F for 20-30 minutes.
If you are interested, also check out my comparison between 7018 and 7014 rods
There can be some slight variations in the temperature settings within the same sub categories, make sure to check the correct settings stated by the manufacturer.
One thing you should note is that if you are just starting out, don’t worry about getting a welding oven. A sealed icebox can also do the trick, especially if you are not dealing with very sensitive electrodes. Which if you are just starting out, I doubt you will. Welding rod ovens are used by professionals or by hobbyists who have been welding for some time, they are used by people who have to maintain the highest possible standard.
Here is another option you can try.
DO WELDING RODS HAVE A SHELF LIFE?
You need to make sure that your welding equipment is in the best shape possible before you go on with your welding project. This is important not just for the quality of the weld but also for safety reasons. Welding is a dangerous practice if you don’t take all the precautions. What a lot of beginners or hobbyists don’t take into account is the shelf life of the electrodes and how varied this can be. Let’s take a look at some of the factors which determine the shelf life of an electrode.
DO ELECTRODES EXPIRE?
The simple answer is yes, although this shelf life can vary a lot depending upon the conditions they are kept in and the type of electrodes you are using. On average, electrodes have a shelf life of about 2-3 years.
If your electrode keeps sticking, read this as well.
WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS WHICH AFFECT THE LIFE OF AN ELECTRODE?
There are multiple factors that can greatly impact the shelf life of an electrode, you must have guessed a couple of them by now. To begin with, the first one is moisture. Almost all the electrodes will go bad quickly if they are exposed to moisture or humidity. This is why you should be careful about storing your rods before and after a job. Some rods are more susceptible to moisture.
The second factor which is related to the first one is temperature. You can greatly extend the life of your rod if you store them at the recommended temperature, usually warmer. This prevents the accumulation of moisture on the electrode.
Electrodes such as the 7018 which are very susceptible to moisture can last upwards of 5 years if kept properly while they can go bad in less than 6 months if they come in contact with moisture. Non-low hydrogen electrodes will last a little longer on average just because they are easier to store and even if you overlook some things they don’t get affected much.
But you also need to be careful about heating your electrodes. Too much heat can also affect the life and quality of your rods. It is not recommended that you re-dry your electrodes more than 3 times as exposure to high-intensity heat can also lead to the coating burning up on the electrode and can result in cracking, chipping, or brittle welding rod.
SIGNS THAT RODS ARE NOT USABLE OR ARE EXPIRED
If you are not aware of how to check for a bad electrode you might be using one right now and not know about it. There are different signs for different levels of exposure to moisture and you should be aware of them. the first thing you should look for in the weld are holes, marks, or defects like difficult slag removal or formation of rough beads. These are definite signs of your electrode going bad.
When we come to the appearance of the electrode itself, if they appear to have rust on them or there is a dry powdery coating on them, there is a good chance they might have gone bad. One more sign is the flux becoming soft.
There are different levels of moisture exposure and the effect it has on the final weld. when the exposure is low, it can lead to cracking or porosity. When the exposure is on the higher side it can lead to internal and visible porosity, excessive slag fluidity, cracking, and difficulty while removing slag. These problems can keep on getting more severe as the level of exposure increases.
The good news is that if your electrode has been exposed to moisture it doesn’t mean the end of the world. there are ways through which you can restore your electrode to their original quality. This can be achieved through re-drying which we have discussed above.
THE POINT OF NO RETURN
Although there are ways to restore welding rods if they have been exposed to moisture, sometimes the damage is too much for you to do anything. There are some signs which may be an indicator if your rods have gone bad and it is time to discard them.
The first sign to look for is if your welding rod has been cracked, this means that the electrode will not perform well. if you notice your flux crumbling or flaking off, this indicates that your rod has been severely compromised and may not be restored completely. The formation of rust on the rod is also a good sign of the same. If you notice too much spatter or noise during the welding process, it may mean that there is no re-drying for the particular rod.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Very few beginners actually pay attention to the storage issue related to electrodes. It is clear that if you are careful about how handling the electrode they can last a pretty long time. Although I tried to address all the broad points in the articles it is natural for you to have a lot of questions. I will try to address some of the most common queries that people have related to the topic.
Although electrodes have an expiration date, it is affected by how the electrode has been kept over time. If the conditions of storage were perfect, some electrodes can last more than 5 years. So, the age of an electrode is not the only consideration while determining if they can be used on a project or not. If the condition of the electrode is good then age doesn’t matter, but still, you should look for any damage and try to do a test run before using an old rod on a project.
You don’t need to heat the electrode the first time you are opening it and using it. But if you are using the electrode the second time after it has been exposed to the ambient environment for more than the recommended, which in this case is 4 hours for 7018, it is recommended that they should be heated before using it again.
It is not recommended to bake an electrode more than 3-4 times. Repeatedly heating an electrode can compromise its quality of the flux coating and its welding performance. Too much heat exposure can lead to the coating burning up which can result in chipping, cracking and brittle welding rod.
To sum it all up, you should be very careful when it comes to storing your electrodes. You need to keep them in a dry and hot place especially if you are dealing with low hydrogen electrodes as they are more susceptible to moisture. Correctly storing the rods can greatly increase their life. You don’t need to invest in an expensive big electrode oven, there are a lot of options out there. Even if your electrodes come in contact with water, you can re-dry them so they can come to their original state. Also, each electrode has a different temperate and time settings for them to be re-dried. All of this information can be pretty intimidating but if you take a few precautions from the beginning, you won’t face any problems.