Beginner’s Guide to MMA Welding: 11 Tips and Tricks to Kick Start Your Stick Welding Journey
Stick welding(MMA welding), also known as flux-shielded arc welding, is a welding technique that uses a consumable electrode coated with flux to create the weld. To execute the process, you strike an electric arc between the metal electrode and your workpiece.
As the metal electrode melts into the workpiece, an electric current passes through it, creating a weld pool. The flux layer on the electrode melts and shields the weld from contamination by the surrounding atmosphere. Once you finish welding, you will need to chip off and brush down the flux layer that has formed on the weld bead.
One of the advantages of stick welding is its popularity among outdoor welders since it is not affected by wind. Additionally, its simplicity and versatility make it easy for beginners to master. This article presents 11 easy-to-follow tips and tricks for beginners to begin stick welding, as well as common issues and how to avoid them.
To maintain consistency in the arc, hold the stick electrode at a steady distance of about 3mm from the workpiece. Maintaining the correct arc length is crucial in achieving a good weld.
To maintain the appropriate arc length while stick welding, adjust the voltage by lowering it when the arc gets too short and increasing it when the arc gets too long. If the arc gets too long, it can lead to excess spatter, undercutting, and even extinguishing of the arc.
Undercutting occurs when the weld becomes too wide, causing the base metal to melt along the edges and leaving a groove on the weld’s toes. This happens when there is no filler material to fill the gap.
As a beginner, it may be difficult to keep the arc tight because the stick electrode melts away and becomes shorter. However, with practice, this becomes easier.
Stick welding is a welding technique that utilizes an electrode in the shape of a stick. The process involves the use of electricity to melt the electrode or filler metal rod, which then simultaneously melts the metal joint and fuses them together. The joint is strengthened by filling it with filler metal, while the flux coating on the electrode melts due to heat and protects the weld pool from atmospheric contamination, similar to the shielding gas used in TIG and MIG welding.
To perform stick welding, the current flows from the power supply through the ground clamp and electrode holder to create a closed circuit that causes the electrode to melt and join the metal pieces.
Although primarily used for welding steel, including stainless steel and iron, stick welding can also be applied to nickel, aluminum, and copper alloys. To help you achieve success when getting started with stick welding, here are some useful tips and tricks.
Before beginning stick welding, it is crucial to have all the necessary tools and equipment to ensure strong welds. Here are some of the essential items you will need:
Safety should be a top priority when welding, so it is crucial to follow all the safety guidelines provided for the tools and equipment you use. Protect yourself from ultraviolet rays, heat, and sparks from the arc by wearing body protection, safety glasses, fire-retardant long-sleeved clothes, and a welding helmet for head protection. Stick welding produces fumes, so make sure to work in a well-ventilated space or use an exhaust system to remove the fumes.
A high-quality stick welder is necessary for producing strong welds. You can choose a stick-only welder, which is more cost-effective, or a multipurpose welder that can be used for various types of welding.
The ground clamp is included with the welding machine and must be connected to the stick welder and clamped onto the workpiece.
Slag Removing Tools
Stick welding often leaves slag on the weld, which must be cleaned up after welding. Use a hammer to chip away the slag and a wire brush to scrub it off.
Stick Welding Electrode
Different stick electrodes are available, and it is crucial to choose the right one for your welding project. For mild steel stick welding, any E70 or E60 electrode is suitable, but other electrodes like 7018, 7024, 6012, 6013, 6010, 7014, and 6011 are also commonly used.
If you are a beginner, the best choice for you would be 6013 electrodes, even though 7018 electrodes are the most popular and produce strong welds. To select the right electrode, you must understand the meaning of the four digits on the electrode.
The first two digits represent the minimum tensile strength, which should match that of the base metal. For example, an electrode with a 60,000 psi tensile strength will start with 60.
The third digit indicates the positions in which you can use the stick electrode. An electrode marked with a one can be used in any position, while a two can only be used in a flat position.
The fourth digit indicates the current used for the stick electrode and its coating.
Here are 11 tips and tricks to help you get started with stick welding:
1. Prioritize Cleanliness
Although stick welding is less sensitive to surface contaminants, it’s crucial to clean your metal thoroughly with a grinder or brush to achieve high-quality welds. Clean metal allows for faster travel speed while welding, reducing gas bubble formation and slag formation.
2. Stick Welding Setup
Setting up for stick welding is simple, with polarity settings determined by the electrode used. Polarity settings and current range are indicated on the electrode packaging. For example, HYPERARC 6013 electrodes are versatile and can weld on DC+ and AC with a current range of 90A-130A. Always start with the lower end of the recommended current range and adjust as needed.
3. Recognizing Incorrect Amps
Incorrect amps can result in issues such as difficulty striking an arc, stuttering, excess spatter, and gouging. Begin welding in the mid-range of the recommended current range and adjust by 5 to 10 amps based on the arc, spatter, and pool behavior. Amps can also be adjusted according to the position.
4. Beginning Your Stick Welding
After setting up your stick welding, it’s time to begin practicing your weld. Make sure your settings are correct, gather a few pieces of metal, and place them in butt joints. As a beginner, practice first on scrap metal before proceeding to actual stick welding projects.
5. Striking the Arc
With the entire electrode in the holder, turn on your welder and place the electrode’s tip onto the metal to strike the arc. Move the electrode across the metal, similar to striking a match. Lift the electrode slightly once the arc is created. If the arc cuts out, lower the electrode because it’s too high. A well-lit arc should make a sound like frying bacon. If the sound is too loud, turn down the amperage.
6. Moving the Stick Electrode
Once the arc is lit, move the electrode across the joint to start welding. Before moving the electrode, ensure it’s at a 15 to 30 percent angle to the vertical. Avoid pushing the electrode as it traps the slag in the weld pool and causes porosity. Instead, pull it back towards you at a steady pace.
7. Maintaining the Right Arc Length
8. Optimal Welding Angle
When performing stick welding in horizontal, overhead, or flat positions, it’s recommended to utilize the backhand or drag technique. Hold the stick electrode perpendicular to the surface and tilt the top in the direction of travel by approximately five to fifteen degrees. To achieve the best results, utilize 10 to 15 degrees of pull or drag.
9. Correct Welding Method
To avoid contaminating the weld, always drag or pull stick welds instead of pushing them. Attempting to push the electrode may trap the protective slag inside the weld pool, resulting in contamination. However, when welding a vertical up jointly, you can drag the electrode, and you should only push the stick weld while welding up a joint.
Visibility is crucial when performing any type of welding, including stick welding. Ensure that you’re in a comfortable position to see everything that’s going on as you weld. Additionally, keep your helmet and face away from the welding fumes, which can impair your vision and cause harm if inhaled.
11. Preventing Moisture
Although electrodes contain moisture, excess moisture can cause issues, especially with low hydrogen electrodes. If your electrode appears rough, erratic, or wandering, it may be too wet. Weld defects can occur when a wet electrode causes flux chips to move to the weld pool.
To prevent moisture, store your electrodes in a dry, sealed location. You may also consider using an electrode oven to store them. The oven will re-bake the flux coating on the electrode, evaporating any moisture and making them suitable for welding.
Common Stick Welding Problems and Solutions
Comprehending the typical stick welding problems and their solutions is crucial in order to prevent unnecessary downtime, particularly since this method is typically slower than other wire methods.
Knowing how to address common issues with stick welding can reduce downtime, especially since this method is typically slower than other wire methods. Here are some common issues and their solutions:
- Stick Weld Spatter: This issue is often caused by welding a dirty workpiece or using an arc length that is too long. To prevent spatter, ensure that you clean the base material before welding and use the correct arc length and welding current. Additionally, follow the filler metal recommendations for proper storage and preventing moisture. See also: What Causes Welding Spatter and How Do You Reduce It?
- Porosity: Porosity is often caused by a dirty surface or an incorrect arc length, travel speed, or welding current. To prevent porosity, ensure that you clean the base material, use the correct arc length and travel speed, and adjust the welding current as necessary.
- Poor Penetration or Lack of Fusion: Poor penetration or lack of fusion can result from using an extra-large electrode, wrong electrode angle, or incorrect electrode type. Ensure that the joint is designed properly and that the electrode can access all surfaces in the joint. Also, use the correct welding current and minimize travel speed.
- Undercut: Undercut is typically caused by too high a current or fast travel speed. To prevent undercut, stop at each side of the weld bead when applying the weaving technique and use the correct electrode angles, welding current, and travel speed.
- Over Welding or Overlapping: Overlapping can occur when excess weld metal cools without fusing due to slow travel speed or remaining too long in the puddle. To prevent this issue, increase the travel speed or use a smaller electrode.
- Arc Blow: Magnetic arc blow can happen if there is an unbalanced magnetic field as you weld. To prevent this issue, alter your workpiece ground connection location and use an alternating current.
- Double Striking the Welding Arc: If you’re a beginner and experience electrode sticking, strike the arc and lift the electrode at the same time. Certain electrodes may stick more than others, so choose the appropriate type for your welding needs. To prevent moisture pickup and potential cracking, it’s crucial to store E7018 electrodes in electrode ovens. As a simple welding process, stick welding can be mastered with the right tools, equipment, and techniques.
To achieve strong welds, it’s important to understand how to move the stick electrode, clean the workpiece, strike the arc, control travel speed, and maintain the correct arc length.
It’s equally important to recognize and avoid common issues such as porosity, undercut, spatter, arc blow, and overlapping by following best practices and adjusting welding conditions accordingly.