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Stick welding is a simple welding process that shares probably the same popularity as MIG and TIG welding. Also known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), stick welding is the chosen procedure by outdoor welders because of the thick shielding gas it creates that provides more protection to the weld pool, the molten material from your electrode that joins metal pieces or sheets together.
Stick Welding in a Nutshell
It’s called stick welding because you use a stick or a rod, which is actually an electrode covered in flux. The electrode can be made of cast iron, high carbon steel, mild steel, or other nonferrous alloys. When you turn on your stick welding machine, the electric current passes through the electrode and melts it. As the tip of the electrode melts, it deposits the molten material between the metal pieces. This molten material or weld pool hardens quickly and forms a joint between your work pieces.
The heat emitted by the electrode tip also burns the flux coating. The flux coating is essentially cellulose, rutile, or low hydrogen compounds, which combust to yield shielding gases. The shielding gas is important in welding because it protects the weld pool from being contaminated by atmospheric gas.
Things You Need
It’s impossible to do stick welding without your stick welding machine and your electrodes, we recommend reading the Amico Stick Welder review as this is a great stick welder to get started with. There are different kinds of electrodes. There are only a few types that are commonly used by professional welders. Two of the most popular electrodes are 7018 and 6013. The latter is usually recommended for beginners because it’s an all-purpose electrode and it allows you to work on rusty materials. When looking at these numbers, remember that the first two digits tell you the tensile strength of the electrode, the third digit tells you the positions applicable for that electrode, and the fourth number indicates the current compatible with that electrode and the type of coating on the rod.
Aside from your welding equipment, you also need your personal protective equipment. Any type of welding is hazardous, and wearing protective outfits is a good way to keep radiation and hot sparks and spatter from causing you any harm. Head to toe protection includes a welding hat or bandana, safety glasses, a helmet, a welding shirt or jacket, welding gloves, welding chaps or denim pants, and work boots.
Aside from these things, you also need a chip hammer and a wire brush to clean off the weld, because stick welding produces a lot of slag.
Stick Welding Setup
First of all, you need a working stick welding machine. Then connect the electrode and ground cables to it. When preparing your circuit, start by attaching the ground or work clamp on the welding table, although connecting it to the metal piece you’re working on is preferred. Next, attach the bare terminal end of the electrode to the electrode clamp or holder.
Choosing the right amperage is an essential part of the setup. You can refer to an electrode amperage chart to determine the amperage you need. The amperage depends on the type and thickness of the electrode. If you’re using a 1/8″ 6013 rod, your amperage range should be 80-130. An 1/8″ 7018 electrode works within 110-165 amps. The thicker the electrode, the higher the amperage (1).
Striking the Arc
Once your stick welding machine is ready and your clamps and electrode are in place, it’s time for you to lay your weld. Striking an arc kick-starts the welding process. Touch the electrode tip on the metal and slide it across the surface. Pull back once the arc forms, but hold the electrode in place for a second just to let it heat up. Then start moving. Don’t lift the electrode too high, or you’ll lose the arc. Move the electrode along the joint of the metals you’re trying to piece together. Move steadily, not too fast and not too slow.
Keep the angle of the electrode the same as it burns. The type of electrode you’re using determines your welding angle. If you’re using a 6013 rod, use a 10 or 15-degree angle to the vertical. However, there are other welding positions, depending on the kind of task you’re doing. For instance, if you’re doing overhead welding, you may have to hold the rod at a 35-degree angle from horizontal. But that’s something you’ll learn along the way as you advance from a beginner to a professional welder.
In many cases and when you can, you need to use both hands. If you’re right-handed, your left land should be holding your right-hand to keep the electrode moving steadily along the joint. Bracing your left elbow on the table helps stabilize your hands. You get good quality welds this way.
Stick welding requires skill and experience. You can’t expect your first weld to be perfect. You’ll get a few mistakes on your first few tries. To practice, keep pieces of scrap metal handy.
Cleaning up Your Weld
As mentioned, stick welding produces slag. That’s normal. A chipping hammer can break off most of the slag from the weld. You can then do cleaning and polishing using a wire brush. In most cases, these are the only things you need to do to finish up your work.
Stick welding can intimidate beginners, but every welder needs to know how to do it. After all, welding with a stick has key advantages, and there are situations wherein the only way to weld is with a stick. The guide you just read is quite basic. There are a lot more things to be discussed, such as hazards, safety gear, types of electrodes, among other things. This is a good place to start, though. Good luck on your first stick weld task.