The Top 5 SMAW Welding Rods
The most commonly used SMAW Welding rods and their applications.
SMAW Welding rods or electrodes come in different types for various applications. The most commonly used welding electrodes in the construction industry are E6013, E7014, E7018, E6010, and E6011.
The numbering system of welding electrodes was created by the A.W.S. or the American Welding Society. The purpose was to help welders identify easily which type of electrodes to use for specific applications.
The SMAW Welding electrodes numbering system
First, let ‘s talk about the electrode numbering system. Using the E7018 SMAW Welding rod as an example, the E stands for electrodes. Often times, many people just omit the letter E when they talk about welding rods and just mention the numbers.
The 70 indicates the 70,000 psi or tensile strength. Keep in mind that if you weld something with 7018, that doesn’t mean it will hold 70,000 pounds of metal. It only represents the tensile strength of the rod and not the weld.
In reality, the actual value might be a bit lower. Most steels are actually less than 70,000 pounds in tensile strength.
The number 1 in 7018 indicates that it is all position. This means you can use the electrode whether it’s flat, horizontal, vertical, or overhead—but not necessarily downhill. The last digit, which is the number 8, indicates the type of coding and current values.
Memorizing all the codes and current value requires some serious energy. It’s better to get a handbook and keep it in the toolbox for future reference.
Now, the number 2 in a 7024 electrode indicates flat or horizontal position only. Typically, this is just horizontal fillets only and not horizontal beads on the base plate.
There are cases where the suffix at the end of the code indicates the chemical composition of the weld deposit. In the 7018-B2 for example, the B2 indicates the presence of chrome and molybdenum in the weld deposit.
6013 SMAW Welding electrodes penetrate at a lower level but produce a nice, smooth arc. One practical application of 6013s with a 1/16-inch diameter is welding thin metal sheets.
E6013s are good for any polarity whether it’s AC, AC reverse, and DC straight polarity. In fact, they were originally intended for welding sheet metal on DCEN (direct current electrode negative) or straight polarity. These electrodes are excellent for fast and downhill sheet metal welding, but they are now used for general purpose welding jobs as well.
The 7014 electrodes resemble the 6013s except that they are better. They make the puddle easier to define and distinguish. They run as smooth as 6013s but they have more flux coating, which puts down more metal to the weld.
E7014s are all-position welding electrodes. But they’re not good for sheet metal welding. This type of electrode is very forgiving in terms of rod angle. You can drag it or slightly push and it won’t make a difference. Note that you have to set the welding machine hot enough so that the electrode won’t stick when you hold a tight arc.
These electrodes are low-hydrogen welding rods for SMAW. Many people consider them to be the backbone of the construction industry for structural as well as pipe welds. Oftentimes, low-hydrogen electrodes are specified for code work, they are often used for thick steels or higher strength steels.
Hydrogen molecules are the smallest molecules and they can get in between boundaries and cause cracking, which is why low hydrogen electrodes like the 7018 have to be kept in electrode ovens or used fresh out of the can.
7018s are excellent welding electrodes, you can easily see the puddle during welding and they are the most widely used electrodes in the construction industry.
7018 SMAW Welding electrodes are best used as filler rods in welding pipes. Pipe welding usually starts by doing the root first with a 6010 welding electrode and then followed up by a 7018 fill.
The main use of a 6010 welding electrode is an open root on a pipe. This is usually done by creating a little keyhole on the pipe. But if everything’s set right, the fit-up, land, and amperage, you could just drag the electrode or do a whip and pause technique to keep that keyhole cooled off.
On a 6010 doing the same technique as the 6011, you’ll see that it’ll run just a little smoother with less spatter; this is using the same whip and pause technique used typically on 6011 electrodes.
6010 SMAW Welding electrodes work well on a dirty material. We all know that we should get our metals to be nice and shiny and we must remove dirt, rust, and paint. But we also know that to an extent–we can’t always clean everything all the time.
A 6011 electrode resembles a 6010 and runs almost the same. Although not as quite as good as 6010s, 6011 welding electrodes can run on alternating current.
Another good thing about a 6011 is that it can run on inverters that won’t run a 6010 electrode. A 6011 has a stabilizer in the flux to keep the arc going when you’re on alternating current.
In a pinch, you can use a 6011 for light fabrication jobs even if all you have is a buzz box welding machine.
Different SMAW Welding jobs require different types of electrodes. The printed codes on the electrode will tell the welder what type of application it is best suited for, and thus leaving only a little room for error.
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