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You can learn a lot about a stick electrode by the numbers printed on them. The trick is remembering what they all mean. For the beginner, confining themselves to one or two rods initially is a good way to avoid confusion - and frustration.
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Stick Welding Electrodes/Rods

Numbers, meanings and uses

Text and photos by Tom Hintz

Posted – 2-17-2011

Stick welding (SMAW =shielded metal arc welding) electrodes (sticks/rods) are designed for use with specific current types, either AC, DC and some rods can be used with either. Most rods have limitations and have been designed for use in some or all positions and with certain types or groups of metals. The information below is obviously general in nature, in part because while the numbering convention is standard, the published hype about the different electrode manufacturer’s products varies considerably. I don’t know any of it to be wrong but you should read the literature that comes with the rods you choose to use.

Like most people I have my favorite rods and will note those in the list below. If you are new to welding the standard advice is for you to stay with a couple easy to use electrode numbers until you get more proficient with the basics. Then you can make better choices regarding what rods you might want to use for the jobs at hand.

Current Types -AC – DC (and variations)

One requirement that must be known for choosing welding electrodes is the type of current that your welder uses for welding. Plain AC stick welders are very common but generally considered to be somewhat less powerful. Stick welders with both AC and DC capabilities are gaining popularity and can generally handle thicker materials in DC mode. For many home-shop welders the traditional 220-volt AC welder is more than capable of handling their needs and more. However, as in any hobby the lure of additional power is difficult to resist. The benefits of an AC/DC machine should not be overlooked in your decision-making, especially if your welding aspirations go beyond the amateur home shop realm.

AC current reverses its polarity 120 times per second and that cannot be changed. Because DC current flows in one direction it can be used as DC straight (shown as DC+ meaning electrode negative) or DC reversed (shown as DC- , electrode positive). Generally speaking DC- (electrode positive) welding yields roughly 10% deeper penetration than the same machine in DC- mode. The DC+ mode (electrode negative) has a higher deposit rate, the rod melts away faster and is deposited in the bead. Generally DC straight welds have medium penetration.

What Rod Numbering Means

Learning to decipher the numbers on rods will make learning to weld much easier. Later these numbers will help choose the correct rod properties for the job.
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E - The easy place to start with welding rod codes is the E at the beginning. That simply stands for electrode. OK, we had a good shot at guessing that one but that is where simplicity in this numbering ends.

EXXXX X? - Next there are 4 or 5 digits that describe the properties of the rod and its uses. There are additional numbering variations that may follow these digits but those are usually for special purposes and those of us this side of honest to goodness pro welders more than likely have no business messing with them anyway.

The first two digits (four digit code) or the first three digits (five digit code) describe the minimum tensile strength that rod can be expected to create expressed in thousands of pounds per square inch. For instance the 60 in an E6013 rod means its tensile strength is 60,000 PSI. An E11013 rod develops a tensile strength of 110,000 PSI.

The next digit (third in a 4 digit code, fourth in a five digit code) describes the welding position that the rod is intended for. 1 means that the rod is good for all positions. 2 is better for flat (horizontal) welding. 4 is good for vertical welding and usually overhead work.
The last digit describes the required welding current and the coating type.

1 = DC+ with a cellulose sodium coating.
2 = AC or DC+/- with a cellulose potassium coating
3 = AC or DC- with a titania sodium coating
4 = AC or DC+/- with an iron powder titania coating
5 = DC+ with a low hydrogen sodium coating
6 = AC or DC+ with a low hydrogen potassium coating
7 = AC or DC+/- with an iron powder iron oxide coating
8 = AC or DC+ with an iron powder low hydrogen coating

Fast Freeze – This description means just what it says, the puddle solidifies quickly which makes it especially good for vertical, overhead and other “out of position” welds.

The list of rod numbers that follow certainly does not cover all that are available. These are the more common rods you will encounter. There is a good chance that the rod numbers not shown here are meant for welders with skill levels that usually means that they already know about them. Being a red-blooded male I jumped in and tried some of the more sophisticated rods and failed miserably which comes as no surprise to experienced welders. The good news is that mixed in with all of the rod types are versions that really are easy to use and can be great for a new welders psyche while letting them learn. My best advice is to stick with one or two of the easy rods types until you get your welding feet on the ground so to speak. There will be plenty of time later to frustrate yourself with the more difficult rods.

E6010 – This is a good rod for welding material that cannot be cleaned totally. Requires DC+ polarity, is commonly used in pipeline work, considered a fast freeze rod that does well in vertical and overhead positions. Probably not a good choice for the novice.

The rods come in packages with lots of info on them. This amperage range for the rod in the package is just one way for new welders to keep on the right track while learning. A pro may venture outside of this range but there is nothing to be gained by a learning welder by doing so.
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E6011 - Good for small AC welders. Has good arc stability and is easy to start. This is considered to be a fast freeze rod that is good for all positions including verticals and overhead. It has relatively deep penetration, light slag and works well when the metal being welded cannot be completely cleaned. Could be difficult for beginning welders.

E6012 - A general purpose that works well bridging poor fitting joints. Can be used with AC or DC machines, has a stable arc, likes high currents and produces low spatter. This is a versatile rod and is used frequently in general maintenance situations.

E6013 - A rutile based, general purpose rod for welding mild steels. This is a good all position rod that operates with AC/DC+/- polarities. Features a steady arc, easy slag removal and leaves a shiny, finely rippled bead. Easy to use, new-welder-friendly, works well with lower powered AC welders.
Note: One of Tom’s favorite rods!

E6022 – Kind of a specialty rod designed originally for installing heavy flooring. Welds using AC or DC- current, does well with galvanized, plated and dirty steels and is considered a fast freeze rod.

E6027 – Another specialized rod that produces X-ray quality welds in the hands of a trained welder. Runs on AC and DC+/- currents. Designed for multiple pass, build-up type welds. Another rod for home-based hobbyists to be very wary of.

E 7014 - A rutile-iron based rod that makes fine rippled beads and radio-graphic welds using AC or DC+/- polarities. Smooth and stable arc, easy starts and re-strikes, easy puddle control. The slag is easy to remove, often lifts on its own as it cools.
Note: One of Tom’s favorite rods!

E7018 – A low hydrogen rod can be used in all positions, produces crack-resisting, x-ray quality welds by trained welders. Can be used with AC or DC+ currents. Rods that have been out of their packaging for a couple hours must be “baked” dry before use. These rods are also sensitive to long arcs and must be used in certain patterns of movement. Not good for beginners.

E 7024 - A rutile-iron based, super-heavy coated rod that creates finely rippled beads. Has a smooth and stable arc, easy strike and re-strike. Works with AC and DC +/- polarities, easy puddle control, low spatter and easy slag removal. User friendly and good for large welds. Another good rod for beginners.

E7028 – A low hydrogen rod that works with AC or DC+ currents. Good for flat and horizontal positions, easy slag release. Stable arc and good puddle control. These rods must be kept dry or baked before use.

I may add rod types as we go along. If you know of a rod type that should be added to this list use the email link below.

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