Different Welding Rods Sizes, Types, and Their Uses

We cover everything related to rod types, sizes, and how to pick the right one for your needs
Christopher McDonagh
Christopher McDonagh
Research Writer
Chris is a teacher of Literature at a school in New Berlin, Wisconsin. He is also our favorite irreplaceable freelance writer who can turn such a boring topic into something read more
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Thomas Garcia
Thomas Garcia
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Thomas is a professional welder who gained his certification several decades ago and learned all the nuances of this job since then. When not at work, Thomas loves fishing i read more
Last updated: August 25, 2023
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Something important to consider before starting to weld is the electrode that you will use. Whether you are going to be working domestically or for a small industry: on carbon steel, cast iron, stainless steel, or aluminum, there are different welding rods sizes and types for all applications.

That’s why when you go to the hardware store and ask to buy or order for electrodes, what they usually give you is the E6011, E6012, or E6013 of 3/32 or 2.5 mm and in some cases 1/8 or 3 mm. But what do all these numbers and letters mean? What is the right rod size for you and how do you pick the right welding electrode? In this guide, we’ll give you answers to each of your questions. Let’s get started!

What Are Welding Rods?

Different Welding Rods Sizes, Types, and Their Uses

A welding rod is an electrode or metal rod specially prepared to serve as a filler material in arc welding processes. They are manufactured in ferrous and non-ferrous metal.

The welding rod is used to carry electrical current through the workpiece and join two pieces. Depending on the process, the rod can be consumable, in the case of gas metal welding or shielded welding, or non-consumable.

In direct polarity, the material is positive and the electrode is negative, and in opposite polarities the electrode is positive and the material is negative.

During welding, the electric arc burns between the workpiece and the consumable electrode. The required filler material comes from the covering of the electrode. For welding, the stick electrode is clamped in the electrode holder and guided along the seam by the user. After the weld seam has cooled down, the slag can be removed.

Welding rods can be used on all steel materials, nickel and nickel alloys, copper and copper alloys, aluminum materials, and cast iron (limited).

Different Types of Welding Electrodes

There are two types of electrodes:

Coated Electrode

Different Welding Rods Sizes, Types, and Their Uses

This has a metal core and chemical-based coating and an uncoated end for attachment to the electrode holder.

The core is the metallic part of the electrode that serves as a filler material in the welding process. Its composition varies depending on the material to be welded.

The coating is a material that is composed of different chemical substances and has the following functions in the welding process:

  • Directs the arc, providing a balanced and uniform fusion.
  • It creates gases that act as protection, preventing access to oxygen and nitrogen.
  • It produces a slag that covers the metal, avoiding sudden cooling and the contact of oxygen and nitrogen.

Bare Electrode

Different Welding Rods Sizes, Types, and Their Uses

Bare electrode Trusted Source Bare Electrode | American Welding Society Education Online awo.aws.org is a filler metal welding rod that can only be used in processes where there is external protection to prevent the penetration of oxygen and nitrogen. These welding processes are called inert atmosphere, using inert gases such as argon, helium, or a mixture of argon and carbon dioxide.

This system is well known by the name of TIG welding. The most important characteristic of TIG welding is the high quality of welds on all types of metal. The weld beads are stronger, more resistant to corrosion, and more homogeneous than those made with a conventional electrode.

The electrodes used in the TIG system are made of tungsten or tungsten alloys. Their main characteristic is that their melting point ranges between 3400 and 4000 degrees Celsius. The diameters used are 1.6mm, 2.4mm, and 3.2mm.

The TIG welding system can be applied to almost any type of metal, such as stainless steel, aluminum, carbon steel, copper, nickel, etc. It’s widely used when you want to achieve good quality and finish.

Types of Rods and Their Uses

There are various types of electrodes depending on the material you are welding:

Carbon-Steel Welding Rods

Different Welding Rods Sizes, Types, and Their Uses

  • AWS E6010: E610 rod is an electrode with very good penetration in all positions. It has very good performance in vertical welds. It can be used in pipes, structures, ship hulls, tanks, boilers, and vessels.
  • AWS E6011: It’s an electrode with very good penetration in all positions. It can be used with alternating current and can be applied to oxidized or painted materials. It can be used in welded or seamless steel tubes, boilers, pressure vessels, etc. A good example of a 6011 type rod is the Hobart 770460. The 6011 stick has a tensile strength of 60,000 PSI.
  • AWS E6013: This is a rutile electrode used in common steel. It has a good ignition and very good slag release and termination. It’s used in metal carpentry, bodywork, and materials with thin thicknesses in general. It can be used in applications where the finish must be taken care of.
  • AWS E7016: This is designed to work with alternating current. It is a basic low hydrogen electrode, especially suitable for working on alloys with high content of sulfur and phosphorus.
  • AWS E7018: Here’s an electrode with iron powder in the coating. It allows a clean and uniform weld with excellent mechanical properties in the deposited metal. It’s widely used in pipes that support mechanical stress and steel for naval use.
  • AWS E7024: This is a high-performance electrode for flat and horizontal positions. It has high efficiency and high working speed.

Cast Iron Welding Rods

  • AWS NE-CI: Electrode with nickel core and graphitic basic coating, ideal in gray iron welds, both hot and cold, malleable material, and easy to handle.
  • AWS NI-FE-CI: Nickel-based electrode with iron, especially used for gray cast iron welding, both hot and cold. Maximum quality in the joints and great thickness.

Stainless-Steel Welding Rods

Different Welding Rods Sizes, Types, and Their Uses

  • AWS E308L-16: It is a basic rutile electrode for welding stainless steel (301, 302, 304, 308), widely applied in the food, chemical, and medical industries.
  • AWS E312-16: A typical example of this is the Forney 44557. Ideal for anyone regardless of the welding experience, this stainless steel rod combines elongation with high tensile strength.
  • AWS E316-L 16: Rutilic electrode for welding in 316L stainless steel or equivalent, highly resistant to corrosion, used in the chemical and textile industry.
The composition of the filler metal according to the metal to be welded
Filler metal category AWS standard
Carbon steel AWS A5-2
Copper and copper alloys AWS A5-7
Chrome-nickel and chrome-nickel alloys AWS A5-9
Aluminum and aluminum alloys AWS A5-10
Surfacing AWS A5-13
Nickel and nickel alloys AWS A5-14
Titanium and titanium alloys AWSA
Magnesium alloys AWS A5-19
Zirconium and zirconium alloys AWS A5-24
Mild Steel Electrodes (GMAW) BCS W48-4

AWS A5-18

How to Read Welding Rod Numbers and Letters

If you have seen different types of electrodes, you know that most are identified by a code similar to something like: E 0000.

This is a code specified by the American Welding Society (AWS) Trusted Source Standard Welding Procedure Specifications (SWPS) : Resources : Standards : American Welding Society Standards – Standard Welding Procedure Specifications (SWPS) www.aws.org classification system, which identifies the different types of electrodes for easy identification by the user.

It should be noted that not all of them are exactly like this since different classifications are depending on the type of electrode, the most common of which we will explain below:

Electrode Classification for Carbon Steel

  • Code example: E60XX or E70XX

E usually indicates that it is an electrode designed for manual electric welding.

60 or 70 indicate the minimum tensile strength, without post-weld heat treatment, of the deposited metal.

The following alphabet (X in our example) indicates the position in which it can be successfully welded with the electrode. This can mean it is:

  • an electrode suitable for welding in all positions (flat, vertical, ceiling, and horizontal);
  • an electrode only applicable for flat and horizontal positions;
  • an electrode only applicable for a flat position;
  • an electrode suitable for overhead, vertically downward, flat and horizontal welding.

The following alphabet (X in our example) indicates the type of electric current and polarity in which the electrode works best, while also identifying the type of electrode coating. This digit is linked to the previous digit.

Electrode Classification for Stainless Steel

  • Code example: E308L-15

E indicates that it is an arc welding electrode.

308 indicates the AISI class of stainless steel for which the electrode is intended.

  • L indicates the position in which it can be successfully welded with the electrode. It can be an electrode suitable for:
  • welding in all positions (flat, vertical, ceiling, and horizontal);
  • flat and horizontal positions;
  • flat position;
  • overhead, vertically downward, flat and horizontal welding.

15 indicates the type of coating, the current class, and the polarity to be used.

Sizes of Stick Electrodes

It is very common to work with materials that have different thicknesses. And for a quality weld, the thickness of the material, as well as the diameter of the electrode, must be considered.

It is recommended to make use of thin materials with small diameter electrodes, and therefore with low current intensity.

The diameter of the rod is expressed in mm. Depending on the depth of the bead to be made:

Rod diameter (mm) Thickness of metal to be welded (mm)
2 0.5 to 2
3 2 to 5
4 5 to 8
4 or 5 8 to 12
5 or 6 12 or +

If you work with sheets between 1mm or 2mm thick, it is best to use 1.6mm diameter electrodes and adjust the intensity of the welding machine very well. So, choose a welder with good adjustable penetration. Likewise, it should always be welded in spots, allowing the material to cool down to avoid perforating the sheets.

As for thick-gauge steel, these support practically any electrode diameter from the thin to the thickest. However, for thick steel, it is advisable to weld with 2.5mm, 3.25mm, or 4mm diameter electrodes.

How to Calculate the Diameter of Welding Electrode Needed

This is the question often asked by customers facing new tasks. Since we don’t have all the values in mind, there is a simple rule of thumb for the calculation. This results in a reliable guide value that applies regardless of the material used:

Material thickness x 0.5 + 1.0 mm = electrode/rod diameter

The formula can be used for welding electrodes for MMA welding as well as for welding rods in TIG applications. Unfortunately, it does not apply to MIG / MAG welding.


The following value is calculated for sheet metal with a thickness of 3 mm:

3 mm x 0.5 = 1.5 mm + 1.0 mm = 2.5 mm diameter of the filler metal.

In the case of odd values, the next possible size makes sense. For example, a result of 1.8 mm is rounded up to 2.0 mm.

Of course, deviations from this guide value are possible.

How to Pick the Right Size

First of all, we want you to know that no hard and fast rule defines the perfect welding electrode size. Rather, it is a combination of the factors that will indicate which may be the most appropriate.

Base Metal Properties

Each type of material, due to its chemical and mechanical characteristics, requires different electrodes. For mild steel (commonly called iron), practically any type of electrode is valid, they can be welded with rutile or basic electrodes.

In steel with slightly more special alloys with a higher percentage of carbon, usually have heat treatments that give them special mechanical characteristics due to their hardness and rigidity.

In these cases, it is advisable to weld at least with a basic or even stainless electrode.

There are also special electrodes for this type of material. Check with your supplier telling him what type of material you want to weld.

Stainless-steel materials can only be welded with stainless-steel electrodes, nothing else. Finally, know that for melt materials there are specific electrodes for this.

Different Welding Rods Sizes, Types, and Their Uses

Base Metal Thickness

We imagine you have had different experiences with different thicknesses of iron. Here the best thing is to apply the law of thin materials of thickness, electrodes of small diameter, and therefore little intensity of current.

For thin base metal such as 1 mm or 2 mm, it is advisable to use 1.6 mm diameter electrodes and with the intensity of the welding machine well adjusted. And always spot weld, allowing time for the materials to cool so as not to pierce the sheets.

Thicker steel will support virtually any electrode diameter from thinner to thicker. But for thick steel, it is more advisable to weld with electrodes of a larger diameter (2.5, 3.25, or 4 mm).

Electrode Welding Machine

The range of electrode welding machines is very wide. Each type of machine allows you to weld different types of electrodes. You must know what the limits of your machine are or the one you have planned to acquire to choose the correct electrodes depending on your machine.

All machines do not support all electrodes. In the case of inverter machines, they have their limitations of powers and types of electrodes.

Therefore, you have to know what the limitations are to make a good choice.

Welding Current

This is a major limitation on the electrode diameter. To a large extent, the diameter defines the power that the welding machine will consume.

When you work with a somewhat thicker electrode, the power requirements of the machine are greater. Therefore, it is easy for your electrical installation to trip due to excess consumption and overheating of the electrical network.

If you do not have more than 3000 watts, you should not go beyond 2.5 mm diameter electrodes. And as the power contracted with your electrical supply decreases, you should lower the diameter of the electrode (1.6 mm).

This defines practically two types of electrodes widely used to weld steel. When the weld joints are not going to withstand great efforts, rutile welding electrodes (6013) will suffice. These are widely used in blacksmithing jobs such as the construction of doors, bars, stairs, etc.

This type of material is not subjected to tensile, compression, torsion, weights, etc. Rutile electrodes provide a softer, more flexible weld.

On the other hand, the basic electrodes (7018) are designed for welding of higher quality and with higher demands in terms of efforts.

These electrodes provide higher quality mechanical characteristics to weld joints.

Your Welding Skills

Different Welding Rods Sizes, Types, and Their Uses

Your welding skills are also an important factor in defining the type of electrode you should choose, consider it. Not all electrodes are worked in the same way, each one of them has its technical requirements. For those who have just started electrode welding, it is best to weld with rutile electrodes.

These prime and start easier, which is essential for beginners. As you master the techniques, you may later opt for the basic electrodes, the difficulty of these electrodes is priming and starting with them, but once learned it is easier to weld with them.

Additional Tips

  • You should look for an electrode that matches the composition and resistance properties of the metal which will be the base. For example, if you want to weld low carbon steel (this is the one that is commonly welded), the E60 or E70 type electrode will be used.
  • Next, the type of electrode suitable for the surface to be welded will be sought, for this, they will be fixed in the third number of the electrode: E601.
  • The electrode can be used with AC or DC.
  • Analyze the joint design and assembly required and select the electrode that provides the best penetration characteristics. For example, if you are working on a joint where one side is not beveled, E6013 or 11 will provide good penetration.
  • For thin materials, it is recommended to use an E6013 to achieve a light and smooth arch.
  • To weld thick, heavy materials or complicated joint designs, you should use a maximum ductility electrode.
  • If the environment has low or high-temperature shock waves, the best to use is a low hydrogen electrode like E7018, which are also known as basic electrodes.
  • One more factor to consider is production. If working in flat positions, an E7014 or E7024 electrode should be used. One of the best rated 7014 rods is the Hobart 770465. These types of sticks contain iron powder and provide high deposition rates.

Final Thoughts

In welding, selecting the welding rods sizes is one of the keys to a successful result! And since there is a great variety of models and types of electrodes, a series of aspects must be considered when selecting it.

If you work with metal sheets that are 1mm or 2mm thick, it is best to use 1.6mm diameter electrodes. However, for thick steel, it is advisable to weld with 2.5mm, 3.25mm, or 4mm diameter electrodes.

It is of great importance to consider the detailed parameters to select the suitable welding electrode. By ensuring these, your welding job will be easier and neater, even as a starter.


Bare Electrode | American Welding Society Education Online
Standard Welding Procedure Specifications (SWPS) : Resources : Standards : American Welding Society
Standards – Standard Welding Procedure Specifications (SWPS)
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