5 things to know about FCAW Before Striking an Arc

Flux cored welding is often the first choice among beginners for two reasons. The first is because it is very cheap in relation to most other forms of welding and the second is it doesn’t require gas. This makes the process easy for someone to run to purchase the machine and get started right away. But before you strike your first arc with a flux cored wire (also referred to as tubular wire) there are a few things you should know first.

Proper PPE

Safety is vital whenever operating welding equipment. You will need to think about shielding yourself from heat, hot metal spatter, UV light and harmful fumes. UV rays can quickly cause damage to both your eyes and skin, so be sure to invest in a good welding helmet and keep all exposed skin covered at all times. A good welding jacket will keep you protected from UV light and spatter. Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW) also produces heavy amounts of weld spatter, so remember to wear safety glasses under your helmet. It is not uncommon for hot metal to fly under your hood, which is why this is especially important. Some welding processes produce heavy amounts of fumes and FCAW is one of them, so in addition to what we’ve mentioned above, invest in a respirator to keep the air you breath clean. Your lungs will thank you later.

Metal Prep

One of the main reasons that people like Flux Cored Welding is because it has a flux in it that helps weld on contaminated material. If you’re in a pinch you CAN weld on rusty, scaly material and get away with it. However, if you have the time and ability to prepare your workpiece before welding on it, you will get much better results. In order to prepare Steel for welding take a four inch grinder with a flap disk and grind off any mill scale or rust. You will know when the material is ready when you're down to clean, shiny metal.

Setting up your machine

If you’ve ever MIG welded, you’re probably used to running your machine on DCEP, or reverse polarity. Flux cored welding, however, is welded with straight polarity (DCEN). You machine will depend how you switch the polarity. Some have a dinse connector right on the front and some require you to go “under the hood” of the machine to switch the leads. Once your machine is set to DCEN you are going to want to change the drive rolls for flux core. Hard wire drive rolls have a smooth channel, while flux cored drive rolls have a grooved channel. This helps push the wire through the liner without any feed problems. A good wire for general purpose is E71t-GS.

Choosing the Proper Settings:

Okay, you’ve got all your PPE, the machine is set up and now all you need to do is dial it in and start welding. Here is a starting guide to set your machine.

Parameter/Setting

Position

Amps/Volts

IPM

0.035"

Flat

190/25.5

560

0.045"

Flat

250/27

375

0.052"

Flat

275/28

200

1/16"

Flat

290/29

240

5/64"

Flat

325/30

160

3/32"

Flat

400/30

165

0.035"

Vertical

165/25

375

0.045"

Vertical

195/25.5

275

0.052"

Vertical

205/25.5

200

1/16"

Vertical

210/26

165

Remember, this is just a starting point and all machines are different. Play around with wire feed speed (which controls your amperage) and voltage (which effects the “fluidity” of the molten pool) to see how it affects the weld.

When there’s Slag, Drag!

You’ve heard us say it in the past. On gas shielded processes there is a little more debate over whether you should “push” or “pull” the weld. In the case of flux cored welding everyone pretty much agrees that you need to incorporate a slight pull angle. If you push the weld pool you will end up getting porosity and discontinuities in your weld.

Now you know the basics. The next step, as always, is to practice until you can’t get it wrong… And then practice some more!

For more information on Flux Cored welding techniques or help with your own welds, join the Everlast forum and Facebook group.

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