A welding rod is a welding rod, right? Well, it’s not as straightforward as you might think. There are a lot of different types of welding rods and some are much more suitable for a certain job than others. It’s up to you to choose the rod, and rod material, that is right for the job that you are doing. Welding rods are also referred to as electrodes, so don’t let this confuse you when you’re looking to make your choice.
Like welders, and other welding techniques, the types of welding rods and uses are variable depending on your level of skill, and what other equipment you are using. Some rods need to create a stronger bond or withstand certain conditions, so this means there are many materials that you can choose between. One of the most crucial aspects of welding rods is matching up the correct rod to the correct base metals and materials. Every welding job presents its own challenges. In this guide, we’re helping to explain some of the most popular welding rod and welding stick types to ensure that you get the right choice for your own project.
What’s a welding rod?
A welding rod is a metallic rod or stick of material that is used to melt down and create a bond between the other pieces of metal. Well, this is usually the case, anyway. Rods are split into “consumable” or “non-consumable”. The consumable models melt in order to form the actual material that bonds the other metal pieces together. It acts a little bit like glue, and when the metal has melted and then cooled again, it will hold the other metal in place.
A non-consumable rod is different. These are designed to give a catalytic reaction during the weld, and rely on the actual base metals you are using to start to fuse. The welding rod creates your “arc” when you are welding.
The idea behind the welding electrode or welding rod is that it is made with a similar composition when compared to the metals you are looking to weld.
How many types are there
There are many different types of welding rods, but some have a narrow range of use. The standard types of rods for arc welding don’t come in too many varieties. There are seven that are the most common types of rods to use, and we’ve given a brief description of each, and what they are good for, below.
There are dozens beyond this list, but they are rarer and specialist, designed for very specific cases.
Types of welding rods
Let’s delve into the seven most popular and effective types of welding rods. If you go into a hardware store or look at the instructions that come with a standard TIG or MIG welder, these are the sorts of rods you are likely to get recommended to you.
The E6010 welding rods can give a good level of penetration but need a powerful welder that can provide a power density of up to 1 megawatt per sqm. This type of electrode is very commonly used in pipe welding, and for things like steel storage tanks. You should only use this type of welding rod with a welder that uses direct current. Even some of the best 120W welders have the option of working on DC current, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
This is another of the most popular welding electrodes. It works just as well with AC or DC models. This means it is one of the most versatile options out there whether you want to weld aluminum with a TIG welder or thicker materials. They’re good for using thick or even dirty surfaces.
A good example of an E6011 welding rod is this model from Forney. It’s all-purpose and gives a smooth welding arc.
These types of welding rods sometimes pose a problem if you’re looking for a really neat finish. Sometimes, it can ripple and cause less of a smooth finish. This is frustrating if you’re concerned about how a weld looks, but it’s functional nonetheless.
E6012 welding rods are great for a variety of uses and very versatile. They’re suited to bridging or for a variety of other uses and are stable even when you’re running at really high AC or DC currents. This means that loads of welders can get the most out of this type of rod.
The problem this sort of rod has is that it doesn’t tend to penetrate particularly deep, and the smelting process means you’ll have to do quite a bit of cleaning after the job is done. These are good for welding rusted carbon, or for repairing problems with other welded metals.
This is another of the types of welding rods for arc welding, and one that’s prone to some slatter. It has a removable slag. Like the E6012, E6013 can be used with AC or DC welding modes. It’s good for creating a steady arc which means that if you’re changing position mid-weld, this could be a good choice. It’s often found used in light fabrication, as well as shipbuilding purposes. It can also be a good style of rod for repairs.
This is an iron powder welding electrode. It’s got great stability within the arc and can provide a strong bead. The E7014 is regularly used by DIY welders and in household projects rather than on bigger-scale industrial projects.
The E7018 rod is one of the most versatile types of steel welding rods. It’s great for carbon and moderate steel welding and makes welds that can withstand huge amounts of pressure. It’s made with an iron coating that can give the weld bead a really strong level of protection in the future. You can use the E7018 with alternating or direct current and it has many uses for structural welding or shipbuilding.
E7024 has a lot of iron powder contained within the rod. This means that welding is pretty easy due to the fact that the deposition rate is really high. If you need to do a horizontal weld, 7024 types of welding electrodes can give you a smooth finish without much splatter.
Types of stick welding rods
You have probably noticed that all of the stick welding rods have the same pattern in how they are named. These aren’t just random sequences of numbers and letters assigned to the type of welding electrode, they actually have a meaning that can help you to understand the rod.
“E” at the start stands for the electrode. The following two digits tell you the pounds per square inch or PSI of pressure it can handle. So, a model with 70 as the next two digits can cope with 70,000 pounds of pressure to break the weld.
The next number shows which positions you can use the rod with. If it says 2, this means it can be used in flat or horizontal welding positions. A “1” is best, as this means it can be used with any position.
The final value in the naming convention shows the coating type and what style of current it can use (such as AC/DC or both). So, now you can work out the properties of a welding rod such as the Hobart 770459, a 6011 variety.
A consumable electrode is common, and used a lot by MIG and SMAW or arc welders. They melt throughout the process and become part of the join.
There are three types. Light, medium, and heavy welding rods.
Light models only have a thin flux coating, and though the shielding gas isn’t as strong it does a good job of stopping the oxides.
Medium rods have more of a coating on them and can be used for drilling, building and even on pipelines. Once you have a bit of experience, this is probably the type you will be likely to use. They’re easy for a strong control of the arc and allow you to weld in all of the different welding positions.
Heavy electrodes are overkill for some applications, but they have a very thorough coating which can provide loads of shielding gas for protection. They’re usually made out of cellulose and minerals to give this shielding property.
Non-consumable electrodes aren’t as common. You’ll find them in the form of carbon or tungsten rods and they don’t become part of the joint when you use them.
They’re a little harder to control, but fine for welding uses like cutting metal. The arc is large, and hard for welders to get a lot of control over, which is why a lot of welders have moved away from this method. By some, it’s seen as a little outdated. It’s not really suitable for thin metals, and you’re likely to get more use out of a TIG welder for aluminum if you’re working with thinner sheets.
Which rod is right for your task
Choosing the right rod is absolutely essential to ensure that you have a suitable material to match your needs. The main consideration is getting an electrode with similar properties to the base metal or metals you are working with.
Matching up the metals well means you will get a stronger end result.
You should think about the material’s appearance. If you find a grainy surface then it is probably that it is a cast metal, and you can match up your rod accordingly.
If the base metal is magnetic, it’s likely to be carbon steel or alloy steel, which gives you a good clue about which types of welding rods to use. If it isn’t magnetic, then it is harder to work out. It could be brass, titanium, or even copper. You’ll need to establish this first.
Think about the spark that the base metal makes if you use a grinder. The higher the flare, the more carbon is within the metal.
Perhaps the most important thing to match up is the tensile strength. If you fail to do this, you increase the likelihood of a crack or other issue with the strength of the weld. You can check the digit system on the naming of the welding electrodes to help you to identify which to use.
Another consideration when choosing the right electrode for the job is the welding current you will be using, determined by the welder you will be using. For instance, a small welder for use at home might use a different current to a big, industrial model.
Some welding rods work with both AC and DC currents. This is ideal and gives you the most choice. Unfortunately, some other types only work with AC or only work with DC, so you can match it up to the correct welder.
Once you’ve established the type of welding rod you need it is time to work out how much you’re going to need before buying.
The simple steps below can help:
- Calculate the area of the weld including the cap reinforcement. Use square mm.
- Multiply the area by the pipe circumference, this will show you the volume in mm.
- Divide this figure by 1,000,000,000 – this shows the cubic meter volume.
- Multiply by the metal density to show you the weld metal per weld.
- Next, multiply this mass per weld by the number of welds you’ll be carrying out.
- Add a 20% contingency. Some will get wasted.
- Next, calculate the mass needed per electrode, per KG of weld metal. As a rule, you can use about 1.5kg of mass for every 1kg of metal, but this isn’t a perfect calculation.
- This shows you the mass you need in KG.
- Decide on the split between the diameters.
It can sound a little confusing if you are brand new to welding, but eventually, choosing and calculating the right electrodes in the right volumes will be second nature to you.
As you can see, welding is not one standardized method that everyone uses. To get to the right end result, you need to think about what materials you will be using. Over time, you will become more experienced, and able to work out which electrodes work with which metals to form strong bonds and welds.
Luckily, all the different types of welding rods are explained thoroughly in the simple numbering system, which can tell you about the metal properties. This allows you to match it up to the base materials, and ensure that you have the right rod for the job at hand. If you don’t do your research beforehand, you run the risk of a weak weld or one that looks bad. In certain scenarios, that simply isn’t an option, so make sure you understand the options for electrodes before you get started with your welding task.