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Best Stick Welding Rods
When you have a stick welding machine, there are literally dozens of rod options to choose from. Apart from rod types, there are also several different rod diameters. Some are better for repair work, while some are better for professional applications such as pipe welding or structural welding.
The benefit of having a stick welding machine is that you can experiment with different rods to find out which ones work best for you. Your machine and stinger can usually handle any rod type out there, so why not give yourself the benefit of using different electrodes for different projects?
This article will cover our favorite electrodes and what they are best used for.
Lincoln Electric 1/8″ 7018 MR Welding Rods
7018 rods are some of the most common electrodes in todays world of welding. They can tackle repair projects, structural steel welding, and heavy pipe welding. Since they are low hydrogen, they can only be exposed to air for a certain amount of time before they start to become faulty.
Jobs that require welding inspection will need welders to keep their low hydrogen rods in a rod oven until they are used. This “baking process” will preserve the rods and their flux until they are ready to be burned.
For non critical applications such as repair jobs, 7018 rods can be exposed for some time before they are compromised. In dry climates like Colorado (where we live) we don’t worry about baking the rods unless we are on a job site that requires it.
These 7018’s from Lincoln are moisture resistant (MR), so they won’t decompose as easily as other brands. These are a classic drag rod that comes in handy on pretty much every stick job we’ve encountered.
Keep in mind that you should wait to open these rods until you are ready to burn them. These rods come hermetically sealed, meaning they are air tight – like a canister of tennis balls. Once you open them, the countdown begins as far as decomposition goes. If you live in a humid area, you will need to be especially careful with this.
The opinion of most professional welders is that Lincoln makes the best 7018 rods in the game. Other companies have tried to compete, but Lincoln stays at #1.
Hobart 1/8″ 7018 Welding Rods
Now as much as we love the Lincoln electrodes, Hobart does offer more affordable options. These 7018’s are comparable to the Lincolns, but they aren’t quite as high end. We also noticed that the slag is harder to remove with these rods. The Lincolns slag pops right off, but these take a little more work.
However, considering the price difference, we think these rods are a great option – especially for beginners. They burn really nicely, and they are just as strong as Lincolns offering.
It should be noted that the Hobart packaging is not hermetically sealed (it’s plastic), so you may want to invest in a rod canister which we have listed below. These rod tubes keep the moisture out and provide the rods with a safe, dry environment. They hold 10 lbs of rod at a time which is the same size as the Hobart package.
These Hobarts have ran nicely for us, and we have built quite a few projects with them. If we are buying 7018’s in smaller quantities, we tend to opt for this small 10 lb package. When we are tackling a big project, we tend to buy the Lincoln rods in a 50 lb container. For beginners, it should be noted that electrodes are sold by the pound. The 50 lb offerings cost more, but they are way cheaper pound for pound.
Forney 1/8″ 6010 Welding Rods
6010’s are electrodes that can weld through just about any contaminant. They can power through rust, oil, mill scale, grease etc. It is always good to prep your metal, but 6010’s can perform even if you don’t take the time to clean and grind your material.
These rods are also widely used to perform the root pass weld on pipe joints. Because of these two varying uses, they come in handy for professional projects as well as nasty repair jobs. They have more “dig” than low hydrogen rods, which allows them to penetrate through metals that aren’t clean to begin with.
We recommend these for all stick welders. If you’re a rig welder, you’re going to want these on your truck. If you’re building projects in your garage, these can also come in handy.
It is a lot easier to strike an arc with a 6010 rod than a 7018 rod. It is more effortless and instantaneous. Instead of “striking off” you can just touch the 6010 to your steel and it will begin welding. This makes 6010’s a great pick for tacking together fabrication projects.
Using a 6010 is more of a “whip and pause” motion than a dragging motion. When done properly, you can lay dimes that look similar to a TIG weld. Conversely, when used on pipe joints, you can drag a 6010 to get a properly penetrated root pass. This is what inspectors will be most concerned about when looking at the interior of the pipe (after you have finished your weld).
Unlike 7018 rods, these rods can weld vertically downhill and uphill. With most rods you are limited to an uphill vertical approach, but 6010s tend to run best when you are performing a weld from top to bottom. This truly makes them an “all position rod”.
Hobart 1/8″ 6011 Welding Rods
6011’s are the cousin of the 6010, but they are known for working really well with AC machines. The most common AC stick machine is a Lincoln tombstone. Although these machines are on the small size, they really perform well with AC stick electrodes. The higher end Tombstones also have a DC option.
6011’s perform very similarly to a 6010, and they are also great for thinner metals. They do well with sheet metal and cause less warping than other rods. If you are fabricating a small project that needs to be strong, 6011’s will do the job.
Think of the 6011 as an all purpose rod that will always come in handy. As we mentioned, if you have an entry level AC stick machine – the 6011 rod is a must have.
If you want to get into stick welding but the DC machines are outside of your budget, the Lincoln Tombstone is a great option. Often referred to as a “buzz box”, these AC machines have started a lot of welders on a successful career path over the past 50 years. They plug directly into your wall outlet and you can be welding in no time. They come with the leads hardwired in, so the only components you’ll need is a box of electrodes and some steel to work with.
Hobart 1/8″ 6013 Welding Rods
The 6013 rod is often overlooked because it is not used on many types of job sites in the U.S. Although it is popular in Europe, we just don’t see people using them that much in the states.
This is a drag rod that can be used on multiple polarities. You can run DC +, DC -, and AC with a 6013 rod.
These rods have very solid penetration, and they can produce some beautiful welds. Similar to a 6010 or 6011 rod, these can power through rust, oil, mill scale, and galvanized coatings.
We really recommend these for fabricating projects that need to have extreme strength. Although the welds aren’t always the most beautiful, you can rest assured that you’ll have a very strong weld if you execute it properly. These rods are great for welding in odd positions, and the arc is relatively smooth.
Forney 1/8″ 7014 Rods
7014 rods are similar to a 6013 drag rod, but they have a larger flux and a higher tensile strength. These are great for repairs and fabrication that require heavier gauged steel.
These rods do not require a rod oven, but they generally work best when they are fresh out of the box. They produce a large puddle which equals high penetration.
If you enjoy burning 6013 rods but you want a larger bead profile, these are a great pick.
Researching and finding the right electrode can seem confusing, but there is an easy way to identify these rods.
- The first 2 numbers equal the tensile strength. “70” means a 70,000 psi strength rating
- The 3rd number equals the positions the rod can weld in. “1” means all positions
- The 4th number refers to the type of flux coating the rod has. This will tell you if it is low hydrogen or cellulose
- Therefore, a 7018 rod means: 70,000 psi strength, all position, iron powder coating/low hydrogen
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