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Learn to stick weld


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Ok now the one on basic stick welding. Again if you want specific help with your welds, I'd suggest starting a new thread rather than cluttering this one.
A bit 1st about myself. I help teach basic welding in the evening program at one of the local votech schools for the last few years. I'm not an "expert" by any means, but I've been told by several instructors at a couple of schools that I have a real knack for getting across the basics to students. What I'll cover is the way we teach new stick students at the tech school with the variation of using angle iron for practice to save material.

Best way to learn is to take a class so that someone can watch as you weld and pick up on many of these small changes that you are not aware of. There's only so much that can be done with picts. It's much easier to pick out a lot of this stuff if someone is watching you though. When you sit down and add up what it would cost you in gas, rod, electricity and materials, not to mention instruction, a class is usually stupid cheap. Around me a class averages about $10-15 per hour of class time. One other advantage, most institutions usually have much better equipment than the average student is equipped to start with. This helps remove any issues if the problems you are having are due to the skill of the student, or issues with the machine.
1st go on line to Miller and download their SMAW handbook as well as the manual for your machine. Read thru them and they will answer most of your basic questions on this. Miller used to have a really great free PDF step by step instructional guide to stick welding, but they unfortunately have dropped it from their website. The current link covers some basics on rod angle and so on that's easier to explain in picts vs text. ( If anyone has the old downloaded copy to post let me know. I lost the copy I had on my old computer when it crashed and didn't bother to resave it since I thought it was still up on Millers site)
Get yourself some 3/8" or 1/4" steel ( we use 3" wide 6" long pieces) also it can help if you get yourself some 1/4" angle iron, say 2"x2" or larger and 2 pieces of scrap to use as "feet".
As far as rods, I'd suggest starting out with 7014, either 3/32" or 1/8" depending on you machine. 7014 is a drag rod. It will allow you to constantly keep the flux on the rod in contact with the plate making maintaining arc length easier. Amp suggestions are usually printed on the package, use the middle suggested settings usually. for 3/32" 7014 you should be around 95-100 amps, 1/8" about 125 amps. AC machines usually require the amps to be set a bit higher than those running DC. 6013 is also a good starter rod, but some students have issues with slag inclusions using 6013.
1st drill is to try and simply run a bead on the flat plate. Scrape the rod against the plate and the arc should light. A standard rod should lay down approximately 6-8" of weld bead. If you are laying down more bead, you are going too fast. If you lay down less you are going too slow. Almost all students go too fast at 1st. Take your time. You want the puddle to form before you start traveling. One thing you will have to learn with stick is how to differentiate the molten slag form the actual puddle of molten steel. Pay very close attention to what is happening around the rod. This will take you awhile to learn, so don't expect to be able to do this right away. At some point things will click and you'll have an "Ah Ha!" moment and this will all make sense Run a few beads to get the hang of this. You want the rod tipped roughly 10 deg back towards where you were welding ( shown in Miller PDF) When you get everything perfect, 7014 will tell you because the slag will just peel up behind you as you weld or crack off in big chunks with no effort. If you are beating on the welds to remove slag, chances are you have something wrong like rod angle, arc length or travel speed.
I tell students to get comfortable and try and rest their elbows on the weld table if possible. I suggest they weld on a bit of an angle, starting close to their body on the left and welding to the right and away from themselves. This is the natural swing of your arms. Remember you need to adjust the rod angle as you weld so it stays the same, and keep the rod in contact with the plate. If you wander all over the plate like a drunken sailor, a soapstone line can help guide you. You can either drag the rod straight or do circles, either will work. I have students who simply can't slow down do circles usually. if not I suggest simply dragging the rod to keep things simple at this point..
2nd drill is to set the angle iron up like a V and tack the two feet on it so it will stay that way. You are going to fill up this angle with beads. It's important to constantly cool down this piece of angle in some water. If you don't, the additional heat build up will act like you are upping your amps. I tell students if the piece is cool enough to pick up bare handed, it's cool enough to weld on. You may need several practice pieces so they can cool between beads. Run one bead on the very bottom of the V and then chip and brush. A power wire wheel helps clean out all the slag. Then you run another bead over this one starting farthest from you. Again clean the weld, and then run the next aimed right at the base of the last weld. The weld should over lap the previous one by 50%. The idea is to have the tops of the welds almost even with each other. If you don't get it right, you can always use the grinder to grind out the bad weld. Try and keep your welds as even as possible. This make subsequent welds easier. If your beads are very bumpy, don't be afraid top grind them down flat. The reason for using angle is that you can get a lot of welds down in a very small amount of material. The tech school supplies the students with an unlimited amount of flat plate ( though we do recycle it to a certain degree by cutting apart joints, more on that later.) This lets you run lots of beads to learn to determine what is slag and what is puddle as well as developing a consistency with your rod angle and travel speed. If you have a large heavy piece of flat plate, you can substitute this for the angle iron. Most people have difficulty locating wide flat plate, but angle iron is easy to find.
Once you can continuously do nice welds where the slag peels up on it's own and the overlap is consistent, go back to flat plate and try single beads again. Once you can run consistent beads the full 6" length of the plate, try overlapping the previous bead by 50% but on the plate this time. Once you can consistently do these, you can change rods.  Don't forget to cool between beads.
Now go back to the beginning and do the same drill again using 7018. With 7018 you can either drag the rod with some brands, with others it helps if you carry a slight arc keeping the end of the rod say 1/8" off the plate. This takes a bit more practice. Again the bead will tell you if you aren't doing it right. If you are correct, the slag will curl right up. I'll cover carrying an arc later in more detail.
Get that done, now we change to either 6010 if using DC, or 6011 if running AC. You'll need to drop the amps some, about 75 amps with 3/32, 95 amps with 1/8". Here I usually suggest students do circles. 6010/11 isn't as pretty looking as the other rods and takes a bit more to learn. Some like to start with these rods vs the others, but I find it's easier to get the basics down with the others 1st.  The slag on 6010/11 is very different than with 7014/7018. It's thinner and not as hard. If done right it should come off with a light brushing.
If you want you can keep doing these drills with other rods like 6013 etc, but 7014, 7018 and 6010/11 usually will cover what most guys need.

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Each joint we learn builds on the previous ones.
Next is Lap joints: Lay the two pieces down like a stair with the edge of the top plate in the middle of the lower one with the sides even, and tack both sides at each end. If you don't, the plates will pull as you weld them up and open up on the back. The weight of the upper plate will tend to tip these so the joint forms a V like the angle iron did. Try and run a bead right down the intersection of both pieces. A good lap joint will look like a 45 deg angle from the end. 50% on the one side, 50% on the other. Tack another piece to this one after you cool it, and add it to the "stair". If you are using small 3/32" rods and 3/8" plate, you can go back and run 2 more beads on each step. Run the 1st one away from you, and the next one close to you. The bead shouldn't come up past the very edge of the upper plate.    You need to get 3 consecutive good ones to move on at the tech school. Again the drill is to do this for each of the three rods starting with 7014, then 7018 and finally 6010/11. 
Next is T joints. Now the piece is stood on edge in the middle of the plate. you do the same drill as before, one in the corner and then 2 overlapping each other when you get singles down consistently. Students add a 3rd piece so the T becomes an H and continue from there.. This is very much like the angle iron exercise, so this should be easy.  Now the difference the last pass will be a weave over the last two. To do this you go side to side as you travel along almost like a figure 8 or Z pattern. We'll cover weaves in more detail later. Some times at the tech school we save weaves until the very end, so skipping it here isn't a big deal. Again do the drill with all three rods.

Next is outside corners. Now you want the inside edges to just touch and form a V that you will fill. The plates end up looking like an X with the top of the x being very small and you fill that with weld if that makes sense.  Similar to the lap joint, but now you have two small edges, not one, and the center has the possibility of melting thru. A good tight fit where the plates meet is important to keep from blowing holes in the root. You want to look at the back when done. Now you should just see the edge of the plates where they meet having melted away. If you don't see that, you need to up your amps a bit or possibly slow down as a few options to correct this. This is building up to the next one that will be beveled but joints.Most times you only end up running one pass if using 1/8" rods, though with smaller rods you might get another to fill it out.
Bevel but joints. Prep here will be key. At the tech school we bevel all our plates with a torch and then grind. The angle is roughly 22.5 deg IIRC.  these are then ground with a big grinder to remove the slag and clean up the edges. You want a nice even smooth grind. You want to grind off the knife edge and have an 1/8" flat at the bottom. When you put two pieces bevel to bevel, you shouldn't see light thru the pieces. They should be that even and close. Poor fit up will be a PITA in a bit. When you tack these up you want them flat with a 3/32" gap between the two pieces. Note the joint will pull shut when you gap and tack. You may have to cut the tacks and redo them to get the gap you want. Don't skimp here. Too wide a gap and the root will drop out. To narrow and you won't burn 100% of the way thru. 95% of the students who can't pass this have fit up issues.  You run the root in with 1/8" 6010/11, then cover with 2 passes of 7018 or 7014. then depending on whether you are using 3/32" rod or 1/8" you may need a 3rd layer of 3 beads before you cover the whole thing with a weave. Students get signed off on each step here.
Then you go back to the beginning for horizontal joints and start the whole process all over again with beads on flat plate... Then the same thing for vertical followed by overhead. After all of this, you can move on to round tube/ pipe.

Note these drills while boring, are very critical to learning to do this right. I see a lot of people who want to stop and skip to chapter 20. Then they wonder why they constantly have issues. Problem is they never learned the basics.
I've probably forgotten some points. I'll add them later if I remember them.

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