What’s the best filler material for welding overhead?
When welding overhead, the type of filler material isn’t necessarily a factor. You should always use the appropriate filler material for the type of welding and application you’re working on. Instead of simply changing out the filler material, adjust your techniques and/or welder settings as well to compensate for the change in position.
Welding right-side up can be a challenge for many welders, both new and experienced. Flipping that experience upside down can truly separate the skilled from the hobbyists, no matter what kind of welding you’re doing. The 3 most common types of welding are stick, MIG, and TIG. To learn more about how you can overcome the challenges of welding overhead, keep reading for tips, techniques, and suggestions. Up your welding game by practicing welding overhead.
Stick Welding: Best Filler Rods
The 3 main types of overhead stick welding filler rods we’ll focus on in this article are 6010, 6011, and 7018. There are pros and cons to each one and you may find that you prefer one over the other. Let’s take a closer look at them individually for a better comparison.
6010 and 6011
First, let’s begin with a basic definition of what 6010 and 6011 filler rods, or electrodes, are. The first two numbers in the product name (60) refer to the tensile strength of that filler rod. Hence, this electrode has a tensile strength of 60,000 pounds per square inch. The third number (1) refers to the electrode’s ability to be used in any position—including overhead. This is all you really need to know about this electrode, but if you’re curious, the last number (0) simply refers to characteristics such as flux composition, slag type, and power supply.
The main difference between 6010 and 6011 is current type. The 6010 filler rod runs on DC, while 6011 can run on both AC and DC. Depending on your machine and a variety of other factors, you’ll want to choose the correct rod between these two types.
Beyond that, both 6010 and 6011 “strike very easily and leave little slag to chip off. They are also very good when you need full penetration.” Both 6010 and 6011 are considered “fast freeze” rods, which means they “cool faster than other types, keeping the puddle from blowing out and getting too hot.” These filler rods are a great pair to alternate if you’re just starting out in welding, too. You won’t have to clean up your project metal as diligently before you begin and clean-up in terms of slag is minimal.
In contrast to 6010 and 6011, 7018 welding rod must be handled in a different way altogether. You are able to use both AC and DC when working with 7018. The makeup of this electrode allows the puddle and slag to stay liquid for a longer period of time. While this may be advantageous in some cases, it’s a consideration to be made when welding overhead. Even beginner welders soon learn that hot slag dripping down onto exposed body parts—or even those covered by leathers—isn’t a desirable experience. Another reason that 7018 is harder to weld with overhead centers upon gravity and how it affects the filler rod material. As pieces of the electrode get pulled by the arc towards the work piece, gravity works just as hard to pull them down.
One other characteristic that sets 7018 welding rod apart is how it’s used during the welding process. It’s known as a “drag” rod, meaning it “literally should be dragged across the metal when welding.” Lower in hydrogen, 7019 produces welds you can be proud of—and won’t have to clean up as much as you would with 6010 and 6011. However, you will have to store 7018 rods in a no- to low-moisture area to maintain these low hydrogen properties.
Overhead Stick Welding: Best Practices
Though we’ll discuss ways to improve your overhead welding experience overall in a later section, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind with stick welding in particular.
For example, there are different adjustments you can make depending on which filler rod you use. When using 7018, learn to read the puddle as it “will help you differentiate slag from the weld pool.” A lot of beginner welders make this mistake. Keep an eye on the pool and adjust as you weld, depending on what the pool tells you. One way to do this is to lower your amperage. “A lower amperage level will allow you to slow down your travel speeds,” which makes both reading the pool and controlling the puddle easier to do.
Pay attention to your drag angle as well: “Too much drag angle will cause the force of the arc to push molten metal to the back of the puddle.” This makes it much easier to achieve presentable welds, which can make a huge difference in some situations. Also, “not enough heat will cause the bead to pile up and slag to drip on your feet.” While it may seem like way too many variables to perfectly line up, with a little time, patience, and practice you can dial your settings in and weld overhead with ease.
Other things to keep in mind include controlling your breathing and working through the smoke that might be clouding your face. Try to achieve a comfortable position (as much as is possible, at least) so that you can focus on welding, rather than physical discomfort.
Overhead MIG Welding: Best Practices
MIG welding is a bit different than stick welding when it comes to welding wire and overhead welding. To MIG weld properly, you want to make sure you choose the right filler rod for your intended application. You also want to make sure you’ve got the correct shielding gas as well. Having the correct gas mixture is as crucial as the type of welding wire you use.
Once you’ve dialed in those 2 factors, it’s really about technique and adjusting your approach to account for the difficulties associated with overhead welding. For example, you’ll want to push the puddle, rather than pull it. This means you move the tip of the welding gun towards the area you want to weld together, which is also away from the area you’ve already welded. Pushing the puddle allows the weld to cool much faster. This prevents any slag or hot metal from dripping down onto you.
Another great technique to practice is a weaving, whipping motion. Some welders think of it as connecting one cursive “e” to the next in a string across the weld surface. Because you are pushing the weld and therefore allowing the completed welds to cool faster, you’ll want to use shorter strokes and a short arc transfer. This will keep most of the heat centered upon where you’re welding. Adjusting your wire feed rate can make a difference in terms of heat as well. Experiment with feed rate settings to dial in a rate that works best for you.
TIG Welding: Best Filler Rods
There are 2 main components you’ll want to focus on if you’re TIG welding overhead. They are: walking the cup and a TIG finger. You may have heard of these 2 entities separate from one another but combining them when welding overhead could mean the difference between a painless welding process and 3 pain-filled, excruciating hours of torture.
Okay, so it might not be that bad. Walking the cup can improve your success rate when it comes to welding overhead. Walking the cup simply refers to the process of moving the TIG cup slowly across your welding surface in a controlled, tight, and repeatable pattern. It’s all about the wrist movement. One way to visualize this process is to make a small circle in the air with your TIG torch. Now, moving just slightly to either side, make another circle. Continue this motion and you’ve got the basic motion of walking the cup.
Keeping your electrode sharp and having a flex head torch can also make the overhead welding process much easier. But having a TIG finger will make your life much easier. A TIG finger is a small cover that slips over your finger to protect it when you rest your hand against the work piece for stabilization. You can use it on either your dominant or non-dominant hand. While the TIG finger might still get hot eventually, it’s going to keep your skin from boiling as the metal piece beneath it heats up.
Having the ability to walk the cup and use a TIG finger when welding overhead are just a few ways you can make the entire process more successful and enjoyable. Keep reading for more helpful tips.
Overhead Welding: Best Practices
Like anything else, welding overhead becomes easier with practice. To help you feel more confident as you weld overhead, we’ve included some helpful tips below:
- When welding, especially overhead, don a good pair of leathers. That means covering any part of you that could theoretically come into contact with molten metal.
- Invest in a welding helmet that uses (cheap) replaceable glass lenses. That way if you get slag on the glass, you can simply replace it before you weld next.
- If possible, wrap the torch lead around your arm to reduce the weight on the end. This will allow you to focus on welding, rather than holding up the torch and creating a nice weld.
- Practice with a test piece before you weld the finished product. Weld first as you would normally. Then, try welding with that piece above your head. Notice what adjustments you have to make and replicate those on the final piece.
- Watch the angle of your approach. Remember that gravity is working against you, so you may have to adopt a steeper angle than you would normally to prevent slag from dripping down off the work piece.
- Pay attention to travel speed: “Slow travel speeds produce a wide, convex bead with shallow penetration. Excessively high travel speeds also decrease penetration, create a narrower and/or highly crowned bead, and possibly undercuts.”
- Arc length plays a big part in depth of penetration. In general, “arc length should not exceed the diameter of the metal portion (core) of the electrode.”
These are just a few things you can keep in mind as you weld overhead. Apply what works best in your situation and discard what doesn’t. Just remember to keep welding.
The Sky Isn’t the Limit
Learning how to weld isn’t something you spend a few hours studying and master in an afternoon. There are plenty of techniques, tips, tricks, suggestions, and approaches that make welding the creative process it is. We hope this article has helped you to overcome your fears of overhead welding and/or given you ideas to increase your productivity and success. Because at the end of the day, welding is like any other skill you can learn. Practice, time, patience, effort, drive, and a whole lot of mistakes are just as responsible for making it enjoyable as the wins and successes. So keep on welding!