Stick welding, also known as ‘Shielded Metal Arc Welding’ (SMAW) is a type of arc welding which is used widely.
It uses a fixed-length electrode and a variable power source to weld a variety of metal available. The core of the covered electrode is made up of a solid metal that is covered with some mineral layers and metal powders that make the electrode stick to the weld.
The core material of the rod conducts electricity and to the arc and also provides filler metal to the welding joint.
The current used for Stick welding can be alternating as well as direct current based on the electrode and base metal used.
The mineral coating on the electrode has basic functionalities to improve arc stability and shield molten metal and weld from atmospheric gases and that causes decomposition of the arc.
Why Stick Welding?
It a versatile process based on the location and environment of operation. Using this technique, welding can be done indoors, outdoors, in a ship, a production line, a bridge, oil refinery, and many more. You do not need gas or water hoses for this welding process.
Improve Stick Welding:
For many, including beginners as well as experienced professional welders, Stick Welding is always considered as a difficult technique to learn and inculcate. First and foremost, the idea to begin any sort of welding is to have a fresh and clean base metal.
Using a wire brush and grinder to remove dirt and rust from the metal which is about to be welded. Unclean metal zones can lead to distortion, cracking, pores, and lack of fusion.
Now, you can bring all the ‘CLAMS’ points to work. It stands for – current setting, length of the arc, angle of the electrode, manipulation of the electrode, and speed of travel.
These five properties are highly essential for producing a good weld. For a beginner learning and putting these points to work is very essential.
DC straight polarity electrode can only penetrate through thin sheets of metal and AC positive electrode 10% more penetration inside thick metals. A general thumb rule for the current settings of an electrode is 1 amp for every 0.001 inches of electrode diameter.
Moreover, you will need to adjust the welder’s electric setting by 5 to 10 amps at a time till the ideal setting is reached.
Length of arc:
Each electrode has a different length of arc and it also varies according to the type of welding process done. The arc length of the electrode must not exceed the diameter of the electrode core.
1/8 inch of 6010 electrodes is held about 1/8 inch away from the base metal. A tight and controlled arc-length produces a good quality weld and reduces spatter produced.
Angle of travel:
When stick welding is done in a flat, horizontal, and overhead position, then the dragging or backhand technique is used. The electrode is held perpendicular to the joint and then tilted to the top of about 5 to 15 degrees upwards.
Similarly, for vertical welding technique, forehand or push type of technique is used. Here, the tilt of the electrode is about 0 to 15 degrees away from the metal/weld.
Manipulation of Electrode:
Each welder, based on his welding apparatus and parameters for each welding process, manipulates the electrode respectively. A straight and narrow bead is the ideal one for a good weld.
If you wish to create a wider bead profile on thick metal, then manipulate the electrode in such a way that it has a ‘stutter-step’ pattern.
This can be formed by moving the electrode side-to-side, creating a continuous series of overlapping circles that are in a ‘Z-shaped’ or ‘zig-zag’ manner.
Speed of Travel:
The arc must always be about 1/3 of the weld pool available and for this a good travel speed is necessary. Traveling too slow will produce a wide bead profile with shallow penetration.
There might also be the formation of a ‘cold-lapping’ of the weld which is where the weld appears to be sitting on top of the metal simply.
On the other hand, a very fast travel speed causes deprived penetration rates and narrower bead profile. The area outside the weld will be concaved and there is a possibility of an undercut in the weld.
We now know that arc welding is the process of joining any two pieces of metal workpieces together using an electrode which is melted in an electric arc and becomes a part of the weld by fusion. This process requires some valuable time, patience, to master using the electrode and also obtain a good weld.
Vertical and Overhead Stick Welding
Horizontal and flat welding positions are the most popular and easiest welding techniques to be done. Welders find welding in the vertical and overhead positions hard to learn and implement too. Some of the factors that should be analyzed before doing a vertical or an overhead weld are:
Choosing the Electrode
In vertical welding, the main challenge a welder might face is to fight/ work against gravity where the working angle will be more than 45 degrees or even steeper. For vertical welding, electrodes with AWS classification of 7018 type are recommended to be used here.
This is because these electrodes have low iron powder content and hence less prone to any rust or defecation due to moisture. The molten metal weld produces a puddle/concentrated zone where it can freeze quickly and cannot be dripped easily during its liquid state.
We have five different welding techniques known to us namely – flat, horizontal, overhead, vertical-up, and vertical-down. Out of these techniques, the vertical-up position is the most time-consuming and skill-based welding technique as one needs to fight against gravity all the time.
If you use a slower travel speed and use a thick metal sheet, then better penetration results can be obtained.
The main objective while doing vertical or overhead welding is to prevent any sort of spilling out of the weld. For thin metal sheets, vertical-down welding technique, and for thicker metals, vertical-up welding can be done for prominent results.
The vertical-up welding process is very similar to that of bricklaying, where here we weld bit by bit upwards just like laying bricks on top of the other and so on. A weld base is first created and then more bases are added up slowly at one section at a time in small time intervals.
Whereas if you are experienced and tend to weld using the AWS 6010, a whipping technique is used. The stacking technique resembles the poker chips that you see out there and each chip kind of creates a shelf to accommodate the next one.
Here too for vertical-up welding, keep the electrode in the root of the weld. Whip the electrode upward as you see the formation of the puddle.
One of the most precautionary measures to be taken while welding is to avoid undercutting. If you lack sufficient amounts of filler metal during the weld and during vertical welding, gravity draws most of the filler metal away from the workpiece which is disadvantageous.
Reducing current supplied and slowing the wire-feed speed can be some great remedies. You can even reduce the weld puddle size to get better control.
In both weave and stacking techniques, the slag will leave the shelf, and the puddle will stay in place to fill the gouge properly.
In vertical-up welding, the weld puddle needs to freeze quickly and hence low amperage setting is recommended to be used constantly. If you are welding in a flat orientation, then you are benefitted from gravity and hence faster travel speeds can be appreciated.
Using electrodes having the power of 120-130 amps in 1/8 inches of 7018 electrodes and 90-100 amps of power supply also require only 1/8 inches of 6010 electrodes.
In this age, flux-cored welding has replaced most of the traditional stick welding because of the higher productivity rates that it can offer. Stick welding is preferred by a welder who tends to move around their workplace a lot during the welding process.
Whereas if you have a very big and detailed project to weld, flux-cored welding can be a great option for one to work for extended periods of time. First, build a shelf and then weave upward slowly to allow the lower level to freeze, and then it should not overheat at any cost.
Vertical welding has more damage that one can get due to its effects like spatter and molten weld fallout. The use of proper safety glasses, welding gloves, dimming helmet, fire-resistant clothes, and working shoes are highly recommended before starting the welding process.
If you get certified in vertical-up/down welding, you get all the certifications of flat and horizontal welding. It is also a great idea to get a lot of projects and experience as a full-time professional welder.
If you are planning to do 3F or 3G welds, do a dry run first. Weld along with the entire dummy workpiece up and down several times and see if you do not change the direction and work angles while doing so.
It is better to get more comfortable and used to your welding equipment and technique before starting a big project as it can provide you efficiency and safety too while doing the weld.
Use the arc feature on the power source if you got one. This can increase the arc/stick energy and help prevent any sort of sticking. This can produce some fruitful welds.You never know how hot the working environment can get to be. Standing in front of molten metal and weld wearing all those heavy protective gear can be tiresome and produce a lot of heat internally.
In addition to this, it is a hot day with you getting dehydrated, your hands will tremble and you might even faint down unconsciously. This will lend a poor focus on the weld and produce bad outputs.
Optimal Welder Settings
There are several settings for each type and technique of welding for the welding machines. It is necessary to change these settings for each type of weld. Fine-tuning these settings and parameters is essential.
Once you monitor and analyze the settings for your weld, document them down on a sheet of paper or using any device and store it safely. This can be your “cheat sheet”.
This can help you produce the welds of your style and quality without having the trouble of sorting the settings out every time you need to do a new weld. This will provide consistency in your welds and improve your game!
Troubleshooting Weld Defects
Because of the formation of spatter on the weld, you get a poor appearance and reduces the stability and strength of the weld. There are several ways to control the formation of spatter.
Lowering and moderating the current setting is one of the major remedies. A shorter arc length and blow arc conditions define whether spatter is formed or not.
Undercutting not only degrades the looks of the weld but also reduce the weld resistance and strength capabilities. Reducing the current amperage and feed-wire travel speed and reducing the weld puddle size can be some great measures to prevent undercutting.
Even if the polarity and current flow in the electrode is within the manufacturer’s guidelines, if the arc actions are rough and not measured properly, there are chances where the electrodes contain moisture in them. Storing electrodes in heated up containers can remove the moisture within them.
Porosity in a weld is micro-porous and mostly not visible. It creates an ad appearance and makes the weld weak, Removing paint, rust, scale, and moisture. Make sure that the weld is molten for a long time until the gases to boil out or else they will freeze and cause disruption.If the steel that you are using has low carbon and manganese content, or high Sulphur and phosphorus content, it must be welded using a low-hydrogen electrode. Use low current supply and fast travel speeds for less penetration into the metal and use a shorter arc length. If you by any chance, use the AWS E6010 or E6011 electrodes, then they must not be extremely dry.
Fusion is the process of proper welding where the bond between two joints and its walls are strong and forms a solid bead profile. A higher current and stringer bead profile is needed to improvise the fusion process. An AWS E6010 and E6011 help remove dirt from the joints easily.
Full penetration of the weld to the bottom of the base metal is necessary to achieve good quality and strong welds. Using higher current levels and lowering travel speed can help in better penetration.
Cracking can be large or even micro-porous in welds which overtime cause immense damage to the overall metal.
Following these tips and techniques, even a beginner who has a huge enthusiasm to weld and do many projects, they can create a high-quality weld. Even if you undergo problems, these solutions can help you troubleshoot those problems successfully with ease. With more practice and working on projects, one can become a professional any day.
Sean Coby is a welder par excellence and well respected among the welding community in Woodbridge, VA. He prides himself to be the fabricator and mechanic in the automotive/ diesel industry for the past more than eight years now. As the chief editor of his https://weldinginfocenter.com, he shares his experience to be safe during welding and to take proactive steps for becoming a successful welder like him.