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Stick Welding Tips

Stick Welding Tips
Stick welding is the common name for shielded metal arc welding in which flux coated electrodes are used. This article discusses some of the basic stick welding tips.
Mukulika Mukherjee
Welding is the process of joining two pieces of metal, by first melting them and then sealing the joint with a filler metal. Stick welding is one of the most widely used welding methods in which the electrodes are coated with and other filler metal. There are several methods of welding: electric arc welding, gas flame welding, laser welding and ultrasound welding. When electric current is passed through the electrodes, an arc is formed between the metal and the electrodes. The formation of the electric arc causes the flux to degenerate into slag, which forms a protective layer around the welding spot.
Stick welding can be easily used to weld metals like iron, steel, copper, aluminum and some alloys. One reason why it is the most preferred method of welding, is that it is an economical process that uses a simple and easy-to-use device. Although it does not require you to be highly skilled, it is essential to learn the effective stick welding techniques used, and some precautions that need to be taken. Here's some tips on stick welding to help you get started.
Tips for Stick Welding
Before we start with the tips, let us know about the basic working principle of shielded metal arc welding. The welding sticks or electrodes and the metal pieces to be welded, together form the welding circuit. When one end of this circuit, the electrodes, is connected to a voltage source, an electric arc is formed. As a result of this arc, current passes through the electrodes and the metal from the electrodes gets deposited on the welding joint, thus sealing it. The strength of the power source or electric current required for the welding process, depends on the size of the pieces to be welded, and the position of welding. To measure the electric current through the electrodes, a welding machine has a scale that measures the current in amperes. If you are interested to master the art of stick welding, there are five basic things you should keep in mind, to begin with. They are power or current setting, length of arc, angle of electrodes, manipulation of electrodes and speed of travel. Just remember the acronym "CLAMS" and you'll be through! Let us discuss each of this in detail and their role in the process of shielded metal arc welding.
Power or Current Setting
The welding machine allows you to set the current as DC positive, DC negative or AC. Which current you select, solely depends on the electrode you are using. Look for the current specifications mentioned on the electrode packaging. It is advisable to change the applied current, 5 amps at a time, till you reach the optimum current setting required for the operation. If the set current is lower, the electrode will appear sticky whereas, if you apply higher current, the electrode may get scorched.
Length of the Arc
While the fact is that the arc length changes with the change of the electrodes, the general rule of thumb is that the length of the arc should not be greater than the diameter of the metal part of the electrode. If the arc is too short, then the electrode may stick to the metal surface due to low voltage. On the other hand, a larger arc may cause spatter and undercuts.
Angle of Electrodes
The ideal way to hold the electrodes, depends on whether you need to weld on a flat horizontal surface, or on a vertical surface. When welding on a horizontal surface, keep the electrode at an angle of 15 degrees towards the direction of movement. When welding on a vertical surface, tilt it at the same angle away from the angle of movement.
Manipulation of Electrodes
Manipulation of electrodes is nothing but the way the electrodes are moved to produce different results. This is a skill that you can acquire over time, through practice and by observing experienced welders at work. For example, you can manipulate the electrode side-to-side to form a step pattern. When welding along a vertical surface, pay special attention to the sides of the joints to prevent any error.
Speed of Travel
A useful tip to find the ideal speed of moving the electrode further, is to form a weld pool (a pool of molten metal) and then drive the electrodes at a speed such that your electrodes are always at the leading one-third area of the weld pool. If you move very slowly, it will result in "cold-lap" and poor alignment. On the other hand, moving extremely fast can cause an undercut.
In addition to the five basic elements of stick welding given above, there are certain precautions that need to be taken during the procedure. These include
  • Wearing a welding helmet to protect your eyes.
  • Cleaning the welding spot before you begin.
  • Using low hydrogen electrodes for welding alloys with high sulfur content.

Stick welding is used in industries, construction work, repairing automobiles, etc. So, now that you are familiar with the stick welding basics, just follow the tips given above. And who knows? You might soon learn to weld like a pro!