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Creating High Quality Stick Welds

Stick w elding is the most common form of arc w elding, but creating a good w eld may not be easy for the beginner. Unlike w ire w elding w here you basically "point and shoot," stick w elding has a higher skill level and requires mastery of certain techniques. This article w ill offer tips that you can follow to increase your chances of creating a high quality stick w eld - right from the start. It w ill also discuss how to troubleshoot problems and correct them. 1. Select Steel in the Norm al Range Whenever possible, select steel w ithin the "normal range," these include AISI-SAE 1015 to 1025 steels w ith 0.1 percent maximum silicon and sulfur content under .035 percent. Selecting these steels w ill make the stick w elding process easier since they can be w elded at fast speeds w ith minimum cracking tendencies. If you are w elding w ith low -alloy steels and carbon steels w ith chemistry compositions above the "normal range", they w ill have a tendency to crack, particularly w hen w elding on heavy plate and rigid structures. Because of this, you should use special precautions. In addition, steels w ith high sulphur and phosphorus contents are not recommended for production w elding. If they must be w elded, use small diameter, low hydrogen electrodes. Welding w ith a slow travel speed w ill further keep the puddle molten allow ing gas bubbles time to boil out, creating a better-finished w eld.

2. Choose a Joint Position and Electrode that is Conducive to the Metal Joint position can have a great affect on finished w eld quality. When w elding on 10 to 18 gauge sheet steel, the fastest travel speeds are obtained w ith the w ork positioned at a 45 to 75 degrees dow nhill angle. Also, don't overw eld or make a w eld that is larger than needed for joint strength - this may lead to burnthrough. For w elding mild steel plate w ith a thickness greater than or equal to 3/16", it is best to have the w ork positioned flat, because this w ill make operator manipulation of the electrode the easiest. Lastly, high carbon and low -alloy steel plate can best be w elded w ith the w ork in the level position.

3. Follow Sim ple Principles for Joint Geom etry and Fitup Joint dimensions are chosen for fast w elding speeds and good w eld quality. Proper joint geometry is based upon some simple principles: 1. Fitup must be consistent for the entire joint. Since sheet metal and most fillet and lap joints are tightly clamped for their entire length, gaps or bevels must accurately be controlled over the entire joint. Any variations in a given joint w ill force the operator to slow his or her w elding speed to avoid burnthrough and manipulate the electrode to adjust for the fitup variation. 2. Sufficient bevel is required for good bead shape and penetration; insufficient bevel prevents the electrode from getting into the joint. For example, a deep, narrow bead may lack penetration and has a strong tendency to crack. 3. Sufficient root opening is needed for full penetration, w hile excessive root opening w astes w eld metal and slow s w elding speed. It is important to note that the root opening must be consistent w ith the diameter of the electrode being used. 4. A root face or a backup strip is required for fast w elding and good quality. Feather edge preparations require a slow costly seal bead. How ever, double V butt joints w ithout a land are practical w hen the seal bead cost is offset by easier edge preparation and the root opening can be limited to approximately 3/32". 5. In general, w eld seal beads on flat w ork w ith 3/16" AWS E6010 at approximately 150 amps DC+. Use 1/8" at approximately 90 amps DC+ for vertical, overhead, and horizontal butt w elds. For low hydrogen and seal beads, w eld w ith an AWS EXX18 electrode at approximately 170 amps. 4. Avoid Buildup and Overw elding Fillets should have equal legs and a nearly flat bead surface. Buildup rarely should exceed 1/16". Extra buildup is costly in material and time, adds little to w eld strength and increases distortion. For example, doubling the size of a fillet requires four times as much w eld metal. Also, it costs 2/3 more to butt w eld a single-V w ith 1/8" land and 1/32" root opening w hen the excess buildup approaches 1/8".

5. Clean the Joint Before Welding To avoid porosity and attain the ideal w eld travel speeds, it is important to remove excessive scale, rust, moisture, paint, oil and grease from the surface of joints. If such elements cannot be removed, use AWS E6010 (Fleetw eld 5P+) or AWS E6011 (Fleetw eld 35 or Fleetw eld 180) electrodes to penetrate through the contaminants and deeply into the base metal. Slow the travel speed to allow time for gas bubbles to boil out of the molten w eld before it freezes. 6. Choose the Right Electrode Size Large electrodes w eld at high currents for high deposit rates. Therefore, use the largest electrode practical to be consistent w ith good w eld quality. But, electrode size may be limited especially on sheet metal and root passes, w here burnthrough can occur. As a general rule, 3/16" is the maximum electrode size practical for vertical and overhead w elding, w hile 5/32" is the maximum size practical for low hydrogen. In addition, joint dimensions sometimes limit the electrode diameter that w ill fit into the joint.

Troubleshooting Weld Defects

Here are some of the most common stick w elding problems and how to correct them:

Spatter Although spatter does not affect w eld strength, it does create a poor appearance and increases cleaning costs. There are several w ays to control excessive spatter. First, try low ering the current. Make sure it is w ithin the range for the type and size electrode you are w elding w ith and that the polarity is correct. Another w ay to control spatter is to try a shorter arc length. If the molten metal is running in front of the arc, change the electrode angle. Finally, look for arc blow conditions (commonly referred to as a w andering arc), and be sure the electrode is not w et.

Undercutting Undercutting is frequently just an appearance problem, but it can impair w eld strength w hen the w eld is loaded in tension or subjected to fatigue. To eliminate undercut, reduce current and slow travel speed, or simply reduce size until you have a puddle size you can handle. Then change the electrode angle so the arc force holds the metal in the corners. Use a uniform travel speed and avoid excessive w eaving. Wet electrodes If polarity and current are w ithin the electrode manufacturer's recommendations but the arc action is rough and erratic, the electrodes may be w et. Try dry electrodes from a fresh container. If the problem recurs frequently, store open containers of electrodes in a heated cabinet. Wandering arc With DC w elding, stray magnetic fields cause the arc to w ander from its aimed course. This is a greater problem at high currents and in complex joints. To control a w andering arc, the best option is to change to AC w elding. If that doesn't w ork, try using low er currents and smaller electrodes or reduce the arc length. In addition, you can change the electrical path by shifting the w ork connection to the other end of the piece or by making connections in several locations. You may also do this by w elding tow ard heavy tacks or finished w elds, using run-out tabs; adding steel blocks to change w ork current path or tacking small plates across the seam at the w eld ends. Porosity Most porosity is not visible. How ever, since severe porosity can w eaken the w eld, you should know w hen it tends to occur and how to combat it. Begin by removing scale, rust, paint, moisture and dirt from the joint. Be sure to keep the puddle molten for a longer time to allow gases to boil out before it freezes. If the steel has a low carbon or manganese content, or a high sulfur (free machining steel) or phosphorus content, it should be w elded w ith a low -hydrogen electrode. Sometimes the sulfur content of free machining steels can be high enough to prevent successful w elding. Minimize admixture of base metal into w eld metal by using low current and fast travel speeds for less penetration. Or, try using a shorter arc length. A light drag technique is recommended for low hydrogen electrodes. For surface holes, use the same solutions that are used for porosity. If you are using AWS E6010 or 11 electrodes, make sure that they are not too dry. Poor Fusion Proper fusion means the w eld must physically bond strongly to both w alls of the joint and form a solid bead across the joint. Lack of fusion is often visible and must be eliminated for a sound w eld. To correct poor fusion, try a higher current and a stringer bead technique. Be sure the edges of the joint are clean, or use an AWS E6010 or 11 electrode to dig through the dirt. If the gap is excessive, provide better fitup or use a w eave technique to fill the gap. Shallow Penetration Penetration refers to the depth the w eld enters into the base metal, and usually is not visible. For full- strength w elds, penetration to the bottom of the joint is required. To overcome shallow penetration, try higher currents or slow er travel. Use small electrodes to reach dow n into deep narrow grooves. Remember to allow some gap at the bottom of the joint.

Cracking Cracking is a complex subject because there are many different types of cracks that occur in different locations throughout a w eld. All cracks are potentially serious, as they can lead to complete failure of the w eld. Most cracking is attributed to high carbon or alloy content, or high sulfur content in the base metal. To control this cracking, try these tips: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Weld w ith low hydrogen electrodes Use high preheats for heavier plate and rigid joints Reduce penetration by using low currents and small electrodes. This reduces the amount of alloy added to the w eld from melted base metal Fill each crater before breaking the arc On multiple pass or fillet w elds, be sure the first bead is of sufficient size and of flat or convex shape to resist cracking until the later beads can be added for support. To increase bead size, use slow er travel speed and a short arc technique or w eld 5 degrees uphill. Alw ays continue w elding w hile the plate is hot 6. Rigid parts are more prone to cracking. If possible, w eld tow ard the unrestrained end. Leave a 1/32" gap betw een plates for free shrinkage movement as the w eld cools. Peen each bead w hile it is still hot to relieve stresses Conclusion By follow ing the tips offered here, even a beginner can create a high quality w eld. And, if you are experiencing problems, being able to troubleshoot and make corrections w ill also turn a beginning stick w elder into a professional in no time.