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What Is Each Type of Welding Rod Used For?

One of the major problems that most beginner welders run into is that they are not familiar with what each welding rod is used for. This can be one of the frustrations in getting started in welding. However, I can tell you that even though I’ve been working in welding for quite a few years, there are certain substances that you just don’t weld regularly enough to know what rod to use. That is why I am putting this article together. It should at least get you started in the correct direction. While I can’t list every rod on the market, I will do my best to pull the most relevant ones into the article.

Before You Get Started

Before you get started welding, you should always make sure that you have all your safety equipment available. One of the most important pieces of equipment in your shop can be the first aid kit. Making sure that you have a good first aid kit is imperative especially if you’re going to be working with heat and electricity.

Mild Steel

When it comes to welding mild steel, there are thousands of electrodes for you to choose from. The most common electrodes fall under a 5.1 classification that was specified by the American Welding Society (AWS). The electrodes that I am listing in this article are some of the more common that you will find on the market. Many of them have multiple purposes and can be used on different types of metal. However, you should always be sure that whatever core metal you are using matches the source material. There can be multiple different variations and you can wind up with different problems like a weld that is not strong enough.

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An electrode holder with E7018 in it
E6010
E7018
E316-16
E308L-16

E6010

The E6010 electrode is designed for putting the initial bead on the inside of a pipe. This is one of the more penetrating types of welding rod because it cuts through oil, paint, dirt, or rust. This allows it to get to the material that it is supposed to be welding. Because the E6010 is designed specifically for use with pipes and things like that, the beginner welder will typically find this one of the more difficult stick to use. The E6010 welding rods typically run anywhere from $40-$50 for a 10 lb box of rods. The price may vary depending on the brand name.

E6011

The E6011 electrode is typically the first choice of maintenance workers for repair personnel. It also cuts through debris to get to the material and like the E6010, it has a deep penetrating arc. However, unlike the E6010, the E6011 is designed for AC welding and can be used in any position. This type of welding rod ranges in price from $25 all the way up to $100 for a 10 lb box.

E6012

The E6012 electrode is used for welding thin sheet metal such as window frames, metal furniture, automobiles, rolling stock, freight cars, and ships. It is a carbon steel electrode that can be used in any position. This type of electrode will start at about $16/rod for a 10 lb box.

E6013

The E6013 is an AC electrode that can be used in any position, however, it is designed for new clean sheet metal and it has a softer arc, minimal splatter, and moderate penetration which makes it easier to clean the slag. These welding rods started at about $23 for a 10 lb box

E7014

This type of electrode can be used in DC or AC with either polarity. It provides a smooth flat stable arc and it is easy to remove the slag. A 10 lb box of these welding rods starts at about $27.

E7024

The E7024 electrode is designed to be used for metal plating that is greater than ¼-inch thick. This electrode is designed to be used with AC and you can make large down hand welds. The price of these electrodes will start at about $20 for a 5 lb box

E7018

The E7018 welding electrode is designed to be used with DC current and can be used in any position. This electrode produces a low hydrogen arc that creates a more uniform weld. This is important especially if the metal will be used in an environment where the temperatures are below zero. A 10-pound box of these welding electrodes start at about $30

Stainless

Stainless steel can be tricky. Anytime you’re going to be welding any metal, you want the core metal of the welding stick to be as close to the material you are welding possible. This is so you don’t run into any problems with the way the arc reacts with the metal. The examples that I’m providing in the section are not the only sticks available on the market. However, they are the more common ones that you can use in multiple different applications.

This, added to the fact that stainless steel has a weld bead that is naturally sluggish, makes stainless steel an interesting metal to work with. Not only is it recommended that you used MIG welding with stainless steel, they also recommend that you use a three gas mixture when setting up your shielding gas. According to what I have found in my research, they are looking for something similar to 7.5% Argon, 2.5% CO2, and 90% helium.  A high percentage of helium is used because helium has a thermal conductivity that is higher than other gases and this allows for a flatter bead.

308L Series

This particular series of welding rod is designed to work with stainless steel materials such as 301, 302, 304, and 305. However, they are also good for certain cast alloys such as CF-3 and CF-8 which are designed to be used in high-temperature environments. The 308L welding rods typically starts at around  $10.99 for 1 lb.

309L Series

The 309L series and all of its subcategories are designed to weld dissimilar types of metals including different types of stainless steels together. However, it is important that the metals all have similar properties. For instance, it is fine to use them to weld 308 material, but not 316 or 316L materials. 316L materials have molybdenum in them and the 309L rod does not. The 309L series of welding rods started about $6 for 1 lb, depending upon which type you choose.

316L Series

The 316L series are used for the 316 and 316L metals. These include the CF-3M and the CF-8M which are the cast equivalent of the 316 and 316L. These welding rods started about $25 for a 5 lb batch.

347 Series

This type of rod and its subcategories are used for the 321 and 347 base material. These are considered stabilized grades and this type of welding rod is designed with that in mind. The cast equivalent of the 347 is CF-8C, so this type of rod is suitable for this application as well. The 347 series of welding rod starts at about $11 for a 1 lb tube.

Cast Iron

It doesn’t matter if you’re working on an antique car or just trying to weld a cast iron exhaust manifold back together, picking the right welding electrode is an essential part of the job. When choosing an electrode for welding cast iron, make sure that you take into consideration whether or not the rod requires single or multiple passes and whether or not it is machinable.

While the items that I am listing in this article are not the only welding rods that can be used on cast iron, they tend to be the most common. Make sure before you tackle any project like this that you investigate your options and use the proper welding electrode. Using the wrong welding electrode on cast-iron can result in many issues including a weak weld. This can lead to cracks in the joints which can cause leaks or weak spots that may cause a problem later during use.

It is also important to note that when you are welding cast iron, it does not handle a severe temperature variation. Welding cast iron without preheating the middle, while possible, is not a good idea. You should always make sure that you preheat the metal. This is so that there is not as big of a temperature variance between normal and welding. Also, you want to make sure that you prep the area that is going to be welded correctly. This includes setting up the joints that will be welded with the correct grind.

Tech-Rod 99 Series

The electrode in the Tech Rod 99 series is usually 99% nickel. The makeup and the fact that the weld is considered machinable makes this a desirable type of a rod. Since it has all of these attributes, it is considered a premium rod. Because nickel is expensive, the cost will be quite a bit higher. A 10 lb box of this type of electrode will run about $170.

Tech-Rod 55 Series

The electrode in the Tech Rod 55 series is usually 55% nickel. The fact that this electrode has less nickel in it makes it more economical to use. They are commonly used to repair damaged castings if they have thick or heavy sections. Since this electrode has 55% nickel in it, the welds are much stronger and will tolerate the phosphorus created by the casting process better. The expansion coefficient is also less than the Tech Rod 99, so you get much less fusion weld cracks.

Ferroweld Series

This type of electrode uses a steel core which leaves a hard weld but it is not machinable. It can’t be finished with a grinder so that the bead looks better. The fact that this electron has a steel core means that it is a low-cost electrode that can be used to weld many cast iron projects. Because of its core, this produces a fairly user-friendly arc that is effective on any material that can’t be completely cleaned. The deposit produced by this type of welding rod will rust as cast iron does. Pre-press of these welding rods start at about $8 for a 1 lb bundle depending upon make and size of the rod.

Nickel

According to the definition, nickel alloy is any combination of metals that contains more than half nickel. These types of alloys do not harden when quenching, you must heat treat the piece and keep it at a controlled temperature for a particular amount of time. Because of this, the material will stay ductile and soft after the weld is completed. While there are multiple types of techniques you can use welding nickel (stick welding, MIG, TIG) on, I’m only going to list the common one. It is possible to stick weld, however, it is not the most commonly used technique.

Inconel 625 Wire

By JP1308 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63826007

This is one of the most common types of nickel filler for one reason. Because it works. It is routinely used to add multiple layers of corrosion and heat resistance to steel that has lower corrosion resistance. The fact that the metal cannot be hardened means that even if your connecting two pieces of hardened steel, the weld that is produced will still be softer. A 30 lb spool of Inconel 625 MIG welding wire starts at about $1,800.

Aluminum

You may have realized by now that there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet about welding aluminum because welding aluminum can be a challenge. One of the main things you want to do is verify that the aluminum you are welding is a type of stock that can be welded properly. If not, you’ll wind up with messy welds that have not fused. Because of this, they can be full of cracks and air pockets which will weaken the welds even more.

Arc welding aluminum is not the preferred method for fusing two pieces, however, it does work. You typically want to have a material that is greater than 1/8 of an inch thick. If you’re going to try to arc-weld thinner material you’ll need to play around with power settings on your welder to make sure that you’re not burning through the material. Having said that, if you’re going to weld aluminum, the proper way to do it is TIG welding with the Helium/Argon mixture. This is not only the slowest method, but it is also the cleanest most controllable technique for welding aluminum.

When welding aluminum, it is very important to clean the weld area appropriately before starting. This should be done with a brass or wire brush. However, a piece of sandpaper can also work. To get a clean weld, make sure that you remove any oils from the piece during the cleaning process. This will ensure that once you start welding, the weld will adhere to the metal. It is important that there is as little resistance as possible.

E4043 Series

This series of welding rod is typically 1/8 of an inch thick and is flux coated. It is designed to be used with DC power at a normal polarity. The two main problems you will run into with this type of welding rod is the fact that it takes so much rod to make a weld. A very short weld can eat up half a rod in no time. The other thing that most people run into is slag build up. It can be difficult to tell how the weld is laying down because the slag builds up over the weld in pools.

You also have to do an extensive amount of slag clean up after the weld has been applied. Arc welding aluminum seems to work better if you preheat the material up to temperature before welding. This allows the weld to be stronger and have fewer cracks and pockets in it. The E4043 welding rods price starts at around $15 for a 1 lb box.

Copper

Copper is another one of those metals that have to be prepped before welding. Since copper will disperse heat, it is hard to weld because the area that you are welding will cool off quickly. To cure this you should always preheat the copper. This is so that it does not absorb as much of the heat that the weld is producing. TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding and MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding are both functional ways of welding copper, However, arc welding is still the most common method. The important thing is to find a good electrode that can be used with your welder.

If you do decide to use one of the other methods, TIG welding with 100% helium is the preferred method. Because of its heat conductivity, helium can amplify the effect of the welder by 1.7 times. As you can imagine, this will greatly improve any bead that you are working with especially with copper. While there are several types of welding rods out there that you can use for copper, I am only going to list a few of the most common ones. If these rods do not work well for your application, do some research and find out which rod is more suitable for your welder.

189 Deoxidized Copper Electrode

This type of electrode is designed to be used on deoxidized coppers through shielded arc welding (SMAW). It will produce a metallurgical joint that will be mechanically sound. Not only will it work on deoxidized copper, but it is also efficient for cast iron and steel. The 189 electrodes should be run on DC reverse polarity to create a tensile strength of up to 35000 pounds per square inch. The price of this type of electrode will typically start at about $50 per electrode.

Titanium

While cleaning the parts is extremely important with other types of materials, it is a must with titanium. Titanium parts need to be free of even fingerprint oils before they can be welded together. Make sure that you clean all your parts up with a steel brush that has not been used for anything but the titanium. It can’t be used on any other product or else it will contaminate the piece. Once you have done this, wipe everything down with parts cleaner to make sure that any residual oils have been removed. Wear gloves while doing this to prevent any other oils from getting on the metal.

The welding itself is best done within a chamber so that your argon gas can flow in and around the pieces. If you allow the electrode to get out into oxygen, it can contaminate a piece. All of these different aspects should be taken into consideration before you start welding titanium. Titanium is one of the hardest metals to fuse and it is very important that you follow every procedure.

Titanium is welded using tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding and you use a 36-inch titanium rod along with the electrode. This will create a bond that will give you a tensile strength of up to 50000 PSI. The biggest challenge in welding titanium is the price of the rods themselves. The price of a 36 in 1/16 inch titanium welding rod starts at roughly $153 per pound.

What Does the Welding Rod Classification Mean?

Let take a look at the welding rod classification sequence and see what the different sections mean. The first digit indicates what type of welding the rod should be used for. This will normally be an E which designates it is used for arc welding. The first two or three numbers will indicate tensile strength. This is how many pounds per square inch the material can withstand without being pulled apart. The third or fourth digit designates which position should be used for welding. The 4th or 5th digit tells you what type of coating the electrode has and what type of power supply to use with it.

As an example, let’s break down the classification E6010. The E tells us that the rod will be used for arc welding. The next two digits indicate it has a 60,000 pounds per square inch tensile strength. The one indicates that it can be used in all positions and the zero indicates that this type of rod should be used with a DCRP (direct current reverse polarity) machine. While it can be a bit of a challenge to figure all of this out. after you’ve done it a few times you will become a deft hand at it.

In Conclusion

In writing this article I hope that I have given you a little more information about welding rods and there particular uses. While some rods can be used on multiple types of metals, it is important to note that the more exotic metals on this list require rods that are specifically designed for that material. However, don’t ever assume that just because you’re dealing with plain old steel that the welding rod can just be a generic one. It is always best to make sure what type of steel your welding. That will allow you to ensure you are using the most appropriate rod for that type.

Whatever your project is, you can find instructions and videos that will help guide you through the process on numerous different websites. Make sure that you are following the techniques that are designed to work with that particular metal so you can get the strongest weld possible. Don’t let welding intimidate you, it is something that can add a great deal of artistic flair to any project that you’re taking on. Even if it’s a woodworking project, being able to create your own metal pieces is a plus. I have listed some projects that will help build your skill in welding in other articles on this site. If you are interested in honing your skills in this area, find a project and let’s get to work.

Comments

  1. A great read! I post FB for a welder’s supply in Colorado and New Mexico. Blogging/website is on hold pending consolidation of the supply with a hardware/lumberyard, and an equipment rental/sales place. Parent company is Four Corners Welding & Gas Supply.

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