Workshop Tips & Tricks #1 – 5 Steps to better welds

Workshop Tips & Tricks #1 – 5 Steps to better welds

In the first of our “Workshop Tips & Tricks” series we’re offering tips to better welds!  Read on and get some tips for that perfect weld!

For better stick welding—also known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), pay attention to these five basic elements:

  1. Current setting
  2. Length of arc
  3. Angle of electrode
  4. Manipulation of electrode
  5. Speed of travel

1. Current Setting: The electrode you select will determine whether your machine should be set up in DC positive, DC negative, or AC. Make sure you have it set correctly for your application. (Electrode positive provides about 10 percent more penetration at a given amperage than AC, while DC straight polarity, electrode negative, welds thinner metals better.)

The correct amperage setting depends on the diameter and type of electrode you select. The electrode manufacturer usually indicates the electrode’s operating ranges on the box or in enclosed materials.

If your amperage is too low, three things may happen:

  • Your electrode will be especially sticky when striking an arc (annoying).
  • Your arc will keep going out while maintaining the correct arc length.
  • Your arc will stutter.

Once you get an arc going, if the puddle is excessively fluid and hard to control, your electrode chars when it’s only half gone, or the arc sounds louder than normal, your amperage might be set too high. Too much heat can also damage the electrode’s flux properties. If the electrode starts to glow, you have a problem.

2. Length of Arc: The correct arc length varies with each electrode and application.

Holding the electrode too close to the joint decreases welding voltage. This creates an erratic arc that may extinguish itself or cause the electrode to freeze faster. The result is a weld bead with a high crown

Excessively long arcs (too much voltage) produce spatter, low deposition rates, and undercuts, which is when the area outside of the weld is concave or recessed. Long arcs also often leave porous welds.

3. Angle of Travel: Stick welding in flat, horizontal, and overhead positions uses a drag, or backhand, welding technique. Hold the electrode perpendicular to the joint, and then tilt the top in the direction of travel approximately 5 to 15 degrees. For welding vertical-up, use a push, or forehand, technique and tilt the top of the electrode 0 to 15 degrees away from the direction of travel.

4. Manipulation of Electrode: Each welder manipulates the electrode a little differently. Develop your own style by observing others and practising, Notice which techniques produce the best results.

5. Speed of Travel: Your travel speed should allow you to keep the arc in the leading one-third of the weld pool.

Travelling too slowly produces a wide bead with shallow penetration and the possibility of cold-lapping, in which the weld appears to be simply sitting on the surface of the material.

Excessively fast travel also decreases penetration, creates a narrower or highly crowned bead, and possible under fills or undercuts.

These five tips, along with practice and patience, will get you headed in the right direction.

Bonus tip – Preparation Prevents Aggravation

While stick welding may be the most forgiving process on dirty or rusty metal, you’ll achieve better results if you properly clean your material.

Use a wire brush or grinder to remove dirt, grime, or rust from the area to be welded. If you don’t, you’re hurting your chances to make a good weld the first time. Unclean conditions can lead to cracking, porosity, lack of fusion, or inclusion of impurities inside your weld.

While cleaning, make sure you have a clean spot for the work clamp. A good, solid electrical connection is important to maintain arc quality.

Next, position yourself so you have a good view of the weld puddle. For the best view, keep your head off to the side and out of the smoke; this helps you keep your weld in the joint with the arc on the leading edge of the puddle. Stand comfortably so that you can support and move the electrode with ease.

These tips, along with practice and patience, will get you headed in the right direction.  Good luck and thanks for reading!

5 tips to better welds!

Credit to Brad Hemmert of The Fabricator for the original article

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