Stick Electrode Selection
Stick Electrode selection in stick welding is a commonly discussed topic. However, one of the biggest things to remember is that whatever stick electrode you choose, proper storage and handling of them is important. Keeping them from excess humidity is important. Keeping a stick electrode on a nice dry shelf is fine for some, for others, more tedious storage requirements are required, such as rod ovens which not only drive the moisture from the rod, but keep the rods heated. Keeping it simple when starting off is important. While many of the low hydrogen rods that require heated, dry storage are great welding rods and a joy to weld with, they can be difficult to start and weld with if they haven’t been stored properly. Even opening a fresh box isn't helpful, unless they are bought in a vacuum sealed canister.
Starting out, pick an easy rod that is forgiving. A 6011, 6013, and even a 7014 fall into that category. These rods weld with enough difference to give you the experience you need to tackle the low hydrogen classification welding rods, when you are able to support their storage requirements. Although 6010 electrodes are nice with no special handling requirements , and in the pipe and pressure world, they are standard, but are challenging to work with. The 6011 can stand in its place, but offer a much nicer welding experience. Both these electrodes have a cellulose based flux which creates a hard to remove slag, and a fast freezing puddle. They make a good bit of spatter but the 6011 is a tamer version. It’s famous for it’s nickname “the rust rod” because the hard driving arc cuts through paint and rust. It’s ability to do so makes it a go to rod for general purpose repairs. A 6013 offers a smooth, soft welding experience, and is the choice rod for many beginners. A few beads will make anyone look like a pro. It’s often despised though in the welding world, and is called a “sheet metal” rod because of its shallower penetration. But it does produce sound, competent welds if correctly run. The 7014, doesn't have the overall weld qualities of the low hydrogen 7018, but does work well with general fabrication and the slag is a joy to peel off if welding amps are right. In general these rods have served the welding industry well for many years. Many have come and gone, but these are staying around it seems.
The first numbers of the 4 digit rod indicate tensile strength.(Preceded by the designation “E”) But this is only as good as the weld is sound. The third number indicates position. 1 is generally considered all positions (though there are exceptions) 2 is considered flat fillets and horizontal. 3 has fallen by the wayside, and the rods that carry that designation are now defunct. 4 is quite rare, compared to some of the others. But it designates flat, horizontal, vertical-DOWN, and overhead welding. Usually it is a 704X series. The last number is combined with the third number to indicate the flux type and welding current, whether it’s DC-, DC+ or AC. I would argue that the first three numbers are most critical to remember. The last number will be typically used to differentiate the particular rod and serve to complete it’s identity, and as in the case with the 6010 and 6011, with similar, but distinct personalities.