What Sticks to Use For Arc Welding? [Explained]

What Sticks to Use For Arc Welding

When it comes to arc welding, selecting the right stick electrode is crucial for achieving a strong and durable weld.

With so many different types of stick electrodes available, it can be challenging to determine which one is best suited for your specific welding application. In this article, we will discuss the various types of stick electrodes and their recommended uses.

Stick electrodes, also known as welding rods, are made of a metal core coated with a flux. The flux serves several purposes, including shielding the weld from oxygen and other atmospheric gases, stabilizing the arc, and adding alloying elements to the weld.

The type of flux used on the electrode determines the electrode’s welding characteristics, such as penetration, arc stability, and slag formation.

Choosing the right stick electrode is critical for achieving high-quality welds. Factors to consider when selecting a stick electrode include the base metal being welded, the welding position, the thickness of the material, and the desired weld properties.

By understanding the different types of stick electrodes available and their recommended uses, you can select the best electrode for your welding application.

Understanding Electrodes

In the intricate world of welding, electrodes are the unsung heroes that bring your metal creations to life. Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details of electrode selection, let’s establish a solid foundation by understanding what these crucial components are and how they function in the welding process.

Welding electrodes, in essence, are the conduit through which electricity flows to create the intense heat required for welding. They come in various shapes and sizes, each tailored to suit specific welding applications. Essentially, electrodes are the bridge that facilitates the transformation of raw metal into a sturdy, joined structure.

Now, let’s shed light on the two primary categories of welding electrodes: consumable electrodes, often referred to as covered electrodes, and non-consumable electrodes, typically made of tungsten.

  1. Consumable Electrodes (Covered Electrodes): Consumable electrodes are aptly named because they actually get consumed during the welding process. These electrodes are made from a metal core wire, which serves as both the conductor of electricity and the filler material that melts into the weld. What sets them apart is the coating that encapsulates the core wire. The coating of consumable electrodes has several vital functions:
    • It stabilizes the arc during welding. It shields the molten weld pool from contaminants in the atmosphere, preventing oxidation. It adds alloying elements to the weld pool, improving its mechanical properties.It influences the characteristics of the weld, such as penetration depth and bead appearance.
    Consumable electrodes come in a wide range of types and classifications, each suited for specific applications and materials. As you progress in your welding journey, you’ll become intimately familiar with electrode codes like AWS E6010, E7018, and more, each with its unique properties and best-use scenarios.
  2. Non-Consumable Electrodes (Tungsten Electrodes): In contrast to consumable electrodes, non-consumable electrodes are designed to last and maintain their form throughout the welding process. Tungsten, due to its exceptional heat resistance, is the preferred material for non-consumable electrodes. These electrodes serve a different purpose in welding. Instead of melting and becoming part of the weld, they create and maintain the electric arc. They are primarily used in processes like Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding, where precision and control are paramount. Tungsten electrodes, like consumable ones, also come in various types, with each suited to specific materials and applications. Understanding the nuances of non-consumable electrodes will be a crucial step in mastering TIG welding.

DON’T MISS: Is arc and stick welding the same? Click here to read on!

Electrode Coatings

Now that we’ve established the crucial role of electrodes in welding, it’s time to shine a spotlight on one of the most critical aspects of electrode selection: electrode coatings.

These coatings aren’t just there for show; they play a pivotal role in determining the success of your welding endeavor.

The Significance of Electrode Coatings: When you inspect a welding electrode, you’ll notice that it’s not just a solid metal rod. It’s coated with a layer of specialized materials that serve several indispensable functions in the welding process.

Understanding these functions is essential for making informed choices as a welder:

  1. Stability: The coating stabilizes the electric arc formed between the electrode and the workpiece. A stable arc is crucial for precise control during welding.
  2. Shielding: It acts as a shield, protecting the molten weld pool from exposure to the surrounding atmosphere. This shielding prevents the formation of harmful oxides and contaminants in the weld.
  3. Alloying: The coating often contains alloying elements that are introduced into the weld pool. These elements enhance the mechanical properties of the weld, such as strength and corrosion resistance.
  4. Arc Characteristics: The composition of the coating can influence the arc’s characteristics, affecting factors like penetration depth and bead appearance.

Now, let’s delve into some of the common types of electrode coatings you’ll encounter as you navigate the world of welding:

  1. Rutile Coating (AWS E7018):
    • Rutile-coated electrodes are renowned for their ease of use and versatility. They are a popular choice for welders of all skill levels.
    • The rutile coating contains titanium dioxide, which contributes to stable arc performance and excellent weld bead appearance.
    • These electrodes are known for producing clean and visually appealing welds with minimal spatter.
    • Rutile-coated electrodes are suitable for a wide range of applications, making them a reliable choice for beginners.
  2. Cellulose Coating (AWS E6010):
    • Cellulose-coated electrodes are known for their deep penetration capabilities, making them ideal for welding thick materials.
    • The cellulose in the coating breaks down into gases, which helps clean the weld area and enhances penetration.
    • They are particularly effective for welding in challenging positions, such as overhead and vertical welding.
    • Cellulose-coated electrodes are a favorite for welding pipes and structural steel due to their outstanding performance.
  3. Basic Coating (AWS E7016):
    • Basic-coated electrodes are prized for their strong and reliable welds, especially on low-alloy and mild steels.
    • The coating contains calcium carbonate and calcium fluoride, which contribute to a stable arc and low levels of spatter.
    • They offer excellent mechanical properties, making them suitable for critical applications where weld strength is paramount.
    • Basic-coated electrodes are often preferred for structural welding and heavy-duty fabrication.

Electrode Size and Diameter

The size and diameter of your chosen electrode may seem like minor details, but they wield significant influence over the outcome of your welds.

Understanding the impact of electrode size and diameter is crucial for achieving welds that meet your expectations, and we’re here to shed light on this essential aspect of electrode selection.

How Size and Diameter Affect Welding Outcomes: The size and diameter of your electrode play a pivotal role in shaping the characteristics of your welds. Here’s how:

  1. Heat Output: Larger-diameter electrodes can deliver more current and produce a higher heat output. This increased heat is ideal for welding thicker materials, as it ensures proper penetration and fusion. Conversely, smaller electrodes generate less heat and are better suited for thinner materials.
  2. Penetration Depth: The size of the electrode also influences the depth of penetration into the base metal. Larger electrodes tend to penetrate deeper, making them suitable for welding joints that require full penetration, such as root passes in pipe welding.
  3. Bead Width: Smaller-diameter electrodes produce narrower weld beads, which can be advantageous for fillet welds or when precise control over the weld bead width is required.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Electrode Size: Selecting the appropriate electrode size for your project is not a one-size-fits-all affair. It requires careful consideration of the material thickness, joint configuration, and welding position.

Here’s why it matters:

  1. Weld Quality: Using the correct electrode size ensures that your welds meet quality standards. Overly large electrodes on thin materials can lead to burn-through, while undersized electrodes on thick materials may result in incomplete penetration.
  2. Efficiency: The right electrode size allows you to work efficiently. Using a smaller electrode on thick materials may necessitate multiple passes, increasing welding time and cost.
  3. Weld Appearance: The electrode size can influence the appearance of your weld bead. If aesthetics are a concern, selecting the right size can help you achieve the desired look.

Examples of Electrode Size Choices for Different Applications:

  • For thin materials (less than 1/8 inch), 1/16-inch or 3/32-inch electrodes are typically suitable.
  • When welding medium-thickness materials (around 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch), 3/32-inch or 1/8-inch electrodes are commonly used.
  • Thick materials (greater than 1/4 inch) may require 1/8-inch or larger electrodes, depending on the specific project requirements.

It’s important to note that electrode size recommendations can vary based on factors such as welding process, joint design, and welding position.

Additionally, some welding codes and standards may prescribe specific electrode sizes for certain applications.

Introducing Electrode Classification and Coding Systems:

Two widely recognized classification and coding systems are the American Welding Society (AWS) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

These systems provide a standardized way to identify and categorize welding electrodes based on their properties and intended use.

Now, let’s proceed to break down the electrode code with a table:

ComponentExplanationExample (AWS E7018)
PrefixIndicates the type of electrode.“E”
First two digitsRepresents minimum tensile strength in psi (x 1000).“70”
Third digit (if any)Denotes the welding position suitability.“1”
Suffix (if any)Provides additional information about the electrode.“8”

This table breaks down the elements of an electrode code, making it easier to understand. Now, let’s offer real-world examples:

Electrode CodeExplanation
AWS E6010– “E” signifies it’s an arc welding electrode.
– “60” indicates a minimum tensile strength of 60,000 psi.
– “1” suggests it can be used in all positions.
– “0” in this case doesn’t have a specific meaning.
Electrode CodeExplanation
AWS E7018– “E” again signifies an arc welding electrode.
– “70” indicates a minimum tensile strength of 70,000 psi.
– “1” means it’s suitable for all positions.
– “8” may indicate the type of coating, in this case, a rutile coating.

Selecting Electrodes for Specific Materials

The type of material you’re welding is a critical factor that significantly influences electrode selection in arc welding.

Different materials have distinct properties and characteristics, and choosing the right electrode ensures the integrity and strength of your weld.

In this section, we’ll explain how the type of material being welded impacts electrode selection and provide guidance on choosing electrodes for common materials like mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and cast iron.

How Material Type Influences Electrode Selection:

  1. Chemical Composition: Different materials have varying chemical compositions, affecting how they react to heat and electricity during welding. The electrode you choose must complement the material’s composition.
  2. Mechanical Properties: Materials have different mechanical properties, including tensile strength, hardness, and ductility. Electrodes play a role in determining the weld’s mechanical properties, so selecting the right electrode is crucial to achieving the desired weld strength.
  3. Corrosion Resistance: Some materials are more prone to corrosion than others. Electrode coatings can enhance the corrosion resistance of welds, making it essential to match the electrode to the material, especially for applications in harsh environments.

Guidance on Choosing Electrodes for Common Materials:

  1. Mild Steel:
    • Electrode Recommendation: For welding mild steel, consider using AWS E7018 or AWS E6010 electrodes.
    • Rationale: E7018 offers good strength and versatility, making it suitable for a wide range of applications. E6010, on the other hand, is preferred for all positions, including challenging ones like vertical and overhead welding.
  2. Stainless Steel:
    • Electrode Recommendation: When welding stainless steel, electrodes with an “E” designation (e.g., E308, E316) are appropriate.
    • Rationale: Stainless steel requires electrodes with specialized compositions to ensure the weld maintains its corrosion resistance and strength properties. The specific electrode grade depends on the type of stainless steel being welded (e.g., 304, 316).
  3. Aluminum:
    • Electrode Recommendation: For aluminum welding, consider using electrodes designed for the Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding process or specially designed aluminum electrodes for Stick (SMAW) welding.
    • Rationale: Aluminum is a non-ferrous metal with unique properties. TIG welding with appropriate filler rods or specialized aluminum electrodes for Stick welding is essential to achieve quality aluminum welds.
  4. Cast Iron:
    • Electrode Recommendation: For cast iron, choose specialized nickel-based electrodes, such as AWS ENi-CI (Ni-Fe-CI).
    • Rationale: Cast iron is brittle and has different thermal properties compared to steel. Nickel-based electrodes are designed to accommodate these differences and provide strong welds.

Special Considerations

There are situations and conditions that demand specialized attention and electrode selection. These scenarios require welders to adapt to unique challenges and choose the right electrodes to ensure successful outcomes.

In this section, we’ll address special welding situations and conditions that may require specific electrodes, such as vertical welding, overhead welding, and the use of low hydrogen electrodes for critical applications.

We’ll also provide valuable tips and advice for handling these challenging scenarios.

Vertical Welding:

Vertical welding presents its own set of challenges due to the force of gravity. To successfully weld in the vertical position, consider the following:

  • Electrode Choice: Select electrodes with a specific designation for vertical welding, such as AWS E7018 or E6010. These electrodes offer superior control and deposition rates in vertical positions.
  • Travel Angle: Maintain a consistent travel angle of approximately 45 degrees to ensure proper penetration and minimize the risk of sagging weld metal.
  • Weaving Technique: Use a weaving technique to distribute heat evenly and create strong, uniform welds. Avoid excessively wide weaves that can lead to overheating.

Overhead Welding:

Welding overhead can be particularly challenging as molten metal tends to drip and sag. To excel in overhead welding:

  • Electrode Choice: Opt for electrodes designed for overhead welding, such as AWS E7018-H4R or E6010. These electrodes offer improved control and minimize slag drips.
  • Amperage Adjustment: Slightly reduce the amperage to control the size of the molten pool and reduce the risk of drips.
  • Steady Hand: Maintain a steady hand and a short arc length. Minimize weaving to avoid excess heat buildup.

Low Hydrogen Electrodes for Critical Applications:

Certain applications demand welds with exceptional strength and resistance to hydrogen-induced cracking. Low hydrogen electrodes are essential for such critical situations:

  • Electrode Choice: Select low hydrogen electrodes, often designated with an “L” in the AWS code (e.g., E7018-L). These electrodes have low moisture content to prevent hydrogen contamination.
  • Moisture Control: Store low hydrogen electrodes in a dedicated oven or airtight container to maintain low moisture levels.
  • Preheat and Interpass Temperature: Follow preheat and interpass temperature requirements specified in welding procedures to minimize the risk of cracking.

General Tips for Handling Challenging Scenarios:

  • Practice: Before tackling critical projects, practice welding in challenging positions or with specialized electrodes to gain confidence and competence.
  • Welding Procedures: Adhere to established welding procedures and specifications to ensure safety and quality.
  • Quality Assurance: Perform regular inspections and quality checks to verify the integrity of your welds, especially in critical applications.
  • Safety First: Always prioritize safety by wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), ensuring proper ventilation, and following safety guidelines.

Storage and Handling

The journey of an electrode doesn’t end with its purchase; it extends to how it’s stored and handled before it’s even struck.

The proper storage and handling of electrodes are often overlooked aspects that can significantly impact welding outcomes.

The Importance of Proper Electrode Storage and Handling:

Before electrodes even touch the welding surface, they must be in pristine condition. Improper storage and handling can introduce moisture, contaminants, and structural weaknesses into the electrodes, compromising the quality and integrity of your welds.

Here’s why it matters:

  1. Moisture Control: Electrodes are hygroscopic, meaning they readily absorb moisture from the surrounding air. Moisture-contaminated electrodes can lead to hydrogen-induced cracking, reduced mechanical properties, and increased spatter during welding.
  2. Temperature Considerations: Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, can affect electrode performance. High temperatures can cause electrode coatings to deteriorate, while low temperatures can increase moisture absorption and make electrodes brittle.

Tips on How to Keep Electrodes in Good Condition:

  1. Moisture Control:
    • Sealable Containers: Store electrodes in sealable containers or vacuum-sealed packaging to protect them from humidity and moisture.
    • Oven Storage: Consider investing in a dedicated electrode storage oven. These ovens maintain low moisture levels and can be essential for critical applications.
    • Preheat Electrodes: Preheat electrodes at a low temperature (100-150°F or 40-65°C) for an hour before use to remove any absorbed moisture.
    • Avoid Condensation: Avoid bringing cold electrodes directly into a warm and humid environment, as this can cause condensation.
  2. Temperature Considerations:
    • Avoid Extreme Temperatures: Keep electrodes away from extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, to prevent damage to the coating.
    • Dry Storage: Choose a dry, well-ventilated storage area with a controlled temperature range between 50-77°F (10-25°C).
    • Avoid Sunlight: Protect electrodes from direct sunlight, which can raise their temperature and potentially damage the coating.
    • Inspect for Damage: Regularly inspect electrodes for signs of damage, such as cracks or chipping in the coating, which can occur if electrodes freeze.
    • Rotate Stock: Use the “first in, first out” method to ensure that older electrodes are used before newer ones, minimizing the risk of deterioration.


Welding, while a skilled art, often encounters challenges that can be attributed to electrode selection.

Welding ProblemDescription
Excessive Spatter– Occurs when small, molten droplets of metal fly away from the weld pool, creating unwanted splatter.
– Can result in poor weld appearance and increased cleanup effort.
Welding ProblemDescription
Poor Penetration– Inadequate penetration into the base metal, resulting in a weak and incomplete weld.
– Can lead to joint failure and reduced structural integrity.
Welding ProblemDescription
Porosity– The presence of small, gas-filled cavities or bubbles within the weld metal.
– Weakens the weld and reduces its resistance to mechanical stress and corrosion.
Welding ProblemDescription
Cracking– The formation of cracks in the weld metal or heat-affected zone, compromising the weld’s integrity.
– Can lead to structural failure and safety hazards.

Excessive Spatter:

  • Diagnosis: Excessive spatter often occurs when using the wrong electrode type or size, or when the electrode is contaminated with moisture or oil.
  • Solutions:
    • Ensure proper electrode selection.
    • Maintain a consistent arc length and electrode angle.
    • Clean the base metal thoroughly before welding.
    • Use anti-spatter spray or gel to reduce spatter.

Poor Penetration:

  • Diagnosis: Insufficient penetration may result from using the wrong electrode size or type, incorrect amperage, or a high travel speed.
  • Solutions:
    • Choose the appropriate electrode size and type for the material and joint configuration.
    • Adjust the amperage to achieve the correct heat input.
    • Slow down your travel speed to allow for proper penetration.


  • Diagnosis: Porosity often occurs due to moisture-contaminated electrodes, improper electrode storage, or inadequate shielding gas coverage.
  • Solutions:
    • Preheat and store electrodes properly to prevent moisture contamination.
    • Ensure adequate shielding gas flow and coverage.
    • Clean the base metal thoroughly to remove contaminants.


  • Diagnosis: Cracking can result from using electrodes with improper composition for the material, inadequate preheat, or rapid cooling.
  • Solutions:
    • Select electrodes specifically designed for the material being welded.
    • Follow recommended preheat and interpass temperature guidelines.
    • Implement controlled cooling techniques to prevent rapid cooling.


Electrode selection is both an art and a science, and it plays a pivotal role in achieving strong and durable welds.

Unlike some other welding methods, such as Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG), stick electrodes are consumable, meaning they are consumed during the welding process.

This characteristic, coupled with their versatility and accessibility, makes stick welding a popular choice for welders of all levels of experience. However, to harness the full potential of stick welding, understanding the nuances of electrode selection is paramount.

Comparing stick electrodes to non-consumable tungsten electrodes used in TIG welding, we see the fundamental distinction lies in their consumability.

Stick electrodes encapsulate a metal core with a flux coating that serves various purposes, including stabilizing the arc, shielding the weld pool, and adding alloying elements.

On the other hand, TIG electrodes, typically made of tungsten, remain unchanged during welding, making them suitable for precision and control-demanding processes.

The importance of electrode coatings cannot be overstated.

These coatings play a pivotal role in stabilizing the electric arc, shielding the molten weld pool from atmospheric contaminants, adding alloying elements to enhance mechanical properties, and influencing arc characteristics.

Understanding the various types of coatings, such as rutile, cellulose, and basic coatings, empowers welders to select the most appropriate electrode for their specific needs.

Electrode size and diameter significantly impact welding outcomes, affecting heat output, penetration depth, and bead width. These considerations are crucial when working with materials of varying thicknesses and configurations.

Furthermore, electrode classification and coding systems, like AWS and ISO, offer standardized methods to identify and categorize welding electrodes, ensuring clarity in selection.

The art of electrode selection in arc welding is a multifaceted journey that combines knowledge, experience, and careful consideration of various factors.

While other welding methods have their merits, stick welding remains a versatile and accessible choice for a wide range of applications.

The ability to choose the right electrode is instrumental in a welder’s journey, ensuring the success and quality of each weld.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I use the same electrode for all welding projects?

No, it’s essential to select the right electrode for each project based on factors such as material type, joint configuration, and welding position. Using the wrong electrode can lead to subpar welds and compromised structural integrity.

What should I do if I encounter excessive spatter during welding?

Excessive spatter can result from various factors, including incorrect electrode type or moisture contamination. To address it, ensure proper electrode selection, maintain a consistent arc length and electrode angle, clean the base metal thoroughly, and consider using anti-spatter products.

How can I prevent porosity in my welds?

Porosity is often caused by moisture-contaminated electrodes or inadequate shielding gas coverage. To prevent porosity, store electrodes properly to prevent moisture absorption, ensure sufficient shielding gas flow and coverage, and thoroughly clean the base metal to remove contaminants before welding.

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