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Tips for Improving Stick Welding

Stick Welding

Stick welding is technically called Shielded Metal Arc Welding. It's a very good skill to have, and one that is in high demand in many places. There are many tips out there for improving your skills with stick welding, but there are some basic tips that will really improve your work with shielded metal arc welding. These can help improve the technique of both veteran and beginning welders.

For all around use, a welder with AC/DC output is best. It doesn't matter if it's a gas engine driven one or a electric arc machine. For most Stick applications, you will want to use DC welding because it has many advantages over AC. Some of the advantages are fewer arc outages or sticking, easier starts, less spatter, easier overhead and vertical welding, welds that look better,  easier learning, and smoother arcs. If you choose DC straight polarity thinner metals can be welded better while the DC reverse polarity will give you around 10% more penetration.

AC output does have its advantages. For example, you may need to weld material that has become magnetized from friction. This can happen when hay, water, or feed rubs against a steel part continuously. If you use DC output, it won't work. The magnetic field causes "arc blow" which is where the molten filler metal is blown out of the weld puddle. AC output will allow you to weld things that have become magnetized because it alternates polarities.

You might be surprised at the size of machine that you actually need. The average person will never encounter Stick welding jobs that need a lot of amperage, as most jobs need 200 amps or less. This means that a machine that is 225 to 300 amps will be more than adequate for the average welder. If you do run into material to weld that is thicker than 3/8 inches, then you simply need to make more than one pass.

If you are new to stick welding, you might find the words "duty cycle" on the spec sheets for some products. This can confuse a lot of welders. A cycle is ten minutes, and duty cycle is the number of minutes that you can use a welding machine and the number of minutes in that cycle the machine needs to cool down. For example, some machines create 200 amp DC output and they have a duty cycle of 20 percent. This means that a welder can use the machine for 2 minutes at 200 amps, but then the machine will need to cool down for eight minutes or it will overheat.

You should remember that amperage and duty cycle are inversely proportional. The same machine that will work for 2 minutes at 200 amps, if used at just 90 amps, can be used non stop, as it will have a 100 percent duty cycle. Not all machines work this way, so be sure to read your manufacturers instructions before you try it.

While you should always use a wire brush to clean the areas that you are planning to weld, stick welding is a lot more forgiving about dirty conditions. If need be, you can weld on less than clean materials, but it is better to be as clean as possible, so that you can avoid lack of fusion, slag inclusions, and cracking.

If you are going to be hardfacing, remember that you could face abrasion or impact resistance, and in come cases, both. The type of rod that you use depends on the aggregate or soil that is in your area. Make sure that you talk to the local welding supply distributors so that you can get their opinions. If you don't know of any, you can look up the information or look up numbers to call that can give you the proper information.

Even with these tips, you can and will occasionally make mistakes. A good rule of thumb is to keep a good view of the weld puddle at all times so that you're sure you're welding where you want to be. Everyone makes mistakes, and that is how you learn, so just keep trying and you'll become a great stick welder!

Ed C.


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