Welding Positions and Types: A Quick Guide

What are the different welding positions and what special considerations are there for each type?

The American Welding Society defines four welding positions. The plane of the weld, as well as the type of weld required, defines a welding position. A pairing of numbers and specific letters denote a weld position. The numbers 1-4 denote either a flat, horizontal, vertical, or overhead weld. The letter that follows—either an ‘F’ or a ‘G’—indicates the type of weld.

When you first think of welding positions, you might picture someone standing, sitting, kneeling, or bending in some way to weld. While those are all technically welding positions—as in, positions of the welder’s body—we’re going to discuss a different type of welding position in this article.

Before we get into the specifics, however, let’s consider why it’s a good idea to know this system of weld positions.

Why Weld Positions are Crucial to Know

Now that you know a bit more about how welding positions are classified, here are a few reasons you’ll want to keep this knowledge handy:

  • Choosing the correct weld for your particular project
  • Conversing with other welders
  • Visualizing the proper welding technique and position from given instructions
  • Real-world applications in personal projects, professional jobs, etc.
  • Meeting industry requirements if/when necessary
  • Successfully completing a welding certification test (in order to obtain a position)
  • Alternative methods/solutions when other weld types fail
  • Completing a well-rounded knowledge of welding in general

Most people don’t realize that there’s quite a bit of memorization involved in welding. But in order to create proper welds that will hold up under intense stress, this knowledge is key. And it could be the difference between life and death, in extreme cases.

Mastering ‘F’ and ‘G’ Welds

The numbering system used in welding positions comprises most of the technical knowledge and skills required to succeed as a welder. However, the lettering system—as in, the ‘F’ and ‘G’ denotations used—is just as crucial to the equation as the numbers preceding it.

The ‘F’ and ‘G’ refer to ‘Fillet’ and ‘Groove’ welds. The easiest way to distinguish these two types of welds lies in the positioning of the two pieces of metal that will be fused together. For example, fillet welds occur at a point where the metal pieces are joined perpendicular to one another. In other words, if you were to put two plate in a 90-degree position to one another, you’d require a fillet weld to fuse them. In contrast, groove welds occur in a flat position. The two metals you’ll be welding together are shoulder-to-shoulder. The fusion happens across a single plane, whereas the fillet weld occurs across the horizontal and vertical planes.

Special Considerations for Fillet and Groove Welds

Now, between these two types of welds—fillet and groove—there are several considerations you’ll want to account for. Groove welds require a bit of a pocket to cup the molten metal that will eventually fuse the two pieces together. If there isn’t such a pocket within the metals already, sometimes you’ll need to create one by beveling the edges. Pipe welders must master groove welds from the beginning, as most pipe welding utilizes the groove weld. Keep in mind that, in the case of the groove weld, proper penetration and fusion between the two pieces is critical, since the welding occurs on a single plane.

When it comes to fillet welding, of course proper penetration plays a large part in the success of the weld. At the same time, there’s often more surface area to utilize during the welding process. This can also mean that it’s a bit harder to get the surrounding metal to liquefy enough to achieve a solid weld. Oftentimes a fillet weld will look as if you’ve reached deep enough into the metal for a solid hold, but really you’ve only filled up that corner without making much contact with the metal beneath.

In reality, the same considerations that affect any weld are at play here with fillet and groove welds. As long as you can stick to a proper technique and even work on a few test pieces beforehand, achieving successful fillet and groove welds shouldn’t be a difficult task.

The Different Types of Welding Positions

So you’ve got the ‘F’ and ‘G’ parts of the equation down now. It’s time to build on that knowledge and consider the numbers and their respective meanings to complete your welding positions lesson.

The welding positions we’ll talk about actually corresponds to the numbers we’re using to denote them. In other words, the designation ‘1’ is used to describe a flat weld, ‘2’ means a horizontal position, ‘3’ requires you to work in the vertical position, and a notation of ‘4’ means you’ll be reaching overhead to weld.

1. Flat Position

Beginner welders start here at flat position, where welding occurs on the same plane as you would write on a piece of paper. The flat position is also referred to as the “down-hand” position.

Flat position fillet welds fill the delta between two pieces of metal. No matter the angle, the fillet weld sits parallel to the floor or work table. Groove flat position welds are similar. These types of welds resemble a river bed that’s moving across the flat plains. In both cases, “your welding torch or rod is going to move in a horizontal direction.” You’ll begin at one end of the pieces to be joined and weld in a horizontal manner across the weld surface.

Special Considerations

There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind as you weld in the flat position. For example, maintain “the flare motion, tip angle, and position of the welding flame above the molten puddle.” Adjust as needed to achieve the correct puddle consistency and depth of penetration. Point the weld flame towards the direction you’ll move across the welding surface, keeping the torch around a 45-degree angle.

The idea in flat position welding is to achieve and maintain a puddle that will melt the two metals together without burning through them. Without filler rod, the weld puddle should be sub-flush to the surface of the two components; in contrast, filler rod should be used to elevate the weld puddle slightly above the surface of the components. Beyond that, it’s simply keeping to the basics of welding.

2. Horizontal Position

Imagine the horizontal position in welding to be similar to the right and/or left sides of a box. If you are a machinist or mathematician, you’d probably consider it the X-axis. Either way, horizontal welds are 90-degrees opposite to flat position welds. Horizontal welding comes first in the trio of what are known as “out of position” welding positions.

Tack welds are invaluable when horizontal welding. Unless you’ve got a pair of magnets that are strong enough to keep your work piece from moving, you’ll want to add in a few tack welds first. After that, you’ll want to oscillate the torch up and down to get a good puddle going. Keep that torch at a 45-degree angle as we discussed previously.

The name of the game with horizontal position rests on perfecting the techniques you learned in flat position and moving the weld now in regards to the force of gravity.

Special Considerations         

The biggest consideration with horizontal welding lies in the force of gravity. Since you are working on a plane in which the metal is prone to drooping towards the ground, you’ll have to take this into account as you move.

WeldGuru.com advises, “the tendency of molten metal [is] to flow to the lower side of the joint. The heat from the torch rises to the upper side of the joint. The combination of these opposing factors makes it difficult to apply a uniform deposit to this joint.” You’ve probably heard the phrase, “heat rises,” and this concept is very true and applicable when it comes to welding in the horizontal position.

3. Vertical Position

As you might have guessed it, welding in the vertical position is the opposite of horizontal. Think of a hardcover book standing on its spine, pages open and wilting downward. The spine of the book mimics the weld bead you’ll produce.

You have a choice to either weld up or down in a vertical position. When welding upward, “point the flame upward, holding it at a 45-degree angle to the plate.” This keeps the weld moving towards the ceiling by using the excess metal beneath it. However, if you do weld downwards, you’ll simply take advantage of gravity to move your puddle down the length of the work pieces.

Special Considerations

As expected, weld beads in the vertical position have a “tendency to run downward and pile up.” The same gravity you had to fight in the horizontal position will struggle with you all the way down—and up—in the vertical position. Like with any other type of welding, you’ll want to make sure you’re heating up both sides of the equation so that equal parts are melding together in the weld. This will ensure a stronger resulting connection.

4. Overhead Position

Just as it sounds, welding in the overhead position means your torch and your work space are above your head. Your welds come “beneath the joint.” Considered one of the hardest positions to weld in, overhead welding demands a lot from the welder. We’re not just talking in terms of welding skill either. The ability to weld overhead takes patience, strength, and a steady hand, among other traits.

Special Considerations

WelderPortal.com lends their expertise on overhead welding: “In the overhead position, the metal deposited to the joint tends to sag on the plate, resulting in a bead with a higher crown. To prevent this, keep the molten puddle small. If the weld puddle becomes too large, remove the flame for a moment in order to allow the molten metal to cool.” Precise movements are the key to creating strong overhead welds. If you can master this position, a career in welding awaits!

Application of Welding Positions

Let’s take a closer look at some of the practical applications for this knowledge. You’ll most likely use what you know about welding positions a lot if you enter into the industry.

First and foremost, welding positions are a requirement for certification testing. “When you take a certification test,” says ClassOneWelding.com, “you are certified for only that position with the exception of an ‘all positions’ test.” Many positions may require certification in multiple positions. If you plan on a career in welding, certification in all positions is crucial to submitting applications and obtaining interviews.

We touched on this as well in the sections above, but knowing the various positions available to you can also help you in situations where the path isn’t clear. This could be on a personal project where you’re not sure which type will give you the best result. It could also help when you’re on the job and you’ve got to come up with a solution based on the conditions before you. The point is that each welding position is a tool you can use any time you need it.

Further Resources

If you’re new to the welding world and/or just want to keep building on your welding knowledge, check out the resources on this website. For example, this post shows you the many beginner welding tools you should invest in. While it’s not a one-size-fits-all shopping list, it will at least get you started with a good foundation.

Welding is also something the family can enjoy together, believe it or not. And if you’re still on the fence about even taking the first step in learning how to weld, we’ve got 25 reasons you should at least try it. There are plenty of reference books, tutorials, video explanations, and guides out there that will steer you towards a safe, fun, and rewarding welding experience.

Stay tuned for more welding wisdom!

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