There are many things to learn when you begin stick or any other type of welding but one of the most important things to understand is how to distinguish one stick electrode from another. In this article we will talk about how to determine what type of an SMAW welding electrode you are holding based on some basic numbers and letters printed on the base of the electrode itself.
Each stick welding electrode is unique. Some are good for rusty material, some only for clean steel. Some for uphill, some for downhill. Every electrode type also comes in different diameters. Some of the standard SMAW electrode diameters are 3/32”, 1/8”, and 5/32”. Understanding how base material thickness relates to electrode diameter selection is very important in order to achieve a professional quality weld.
Identifying an SMAW electrode is a fairly simple process. At the base of the electrode where the flux stops is a 4-5 digit alpha numerical code that will tell you a few things about the rod. It will often look something like this.
The first letter you see is the, E, which stands for “Electrode.” An electrode is simply the consumable, conductive part of the welding circuit that creates the welding arc via an air gap to the base material (ground.)
The first two numbers in the identification are often coupled together resulting in a
70 or 60
This is an indicator of the tensile strength of the filler material in the electrode. This is most often referenced in thousand pounds per square inch. The 70 identifier would be a 70,000 lb tensile strength filler material. To properly understand how this relates to your workpiece we need to look at what tensile strength means.
Wikipedia defines tensile strength as such: “Tensile strength is a measurement of the force required to pull something such as rope, wire, or a structural beam to the point where it breaks. The tensile strength of a material is the maximum amount of tensile stress that it can take before failure, for example tearing or breaking.”
Moving forward we will be looking at the 3rd digit in the SMAW welding electrode identification number. In our example above the number is E-7018 so our third digit would be a 1. This number is an indicator of applicable weld position. The number “1” indicates an “All-position” electrode. A number “2” would indicate a flat and horizontal electrode only, we skip the number 3 and a number “4” would identify your electrode as being able to weld only flat, horizontal, vertical down, and overhead.
1 – All position welding
2 – Flat and Horizontal welding
3 – Flat, Horizontal, Vertical Down, Overhead welding
The fourth numerical digit in the electrode identification number indicates flux composition. Each electrode is designed for a different application
0 – High Cellulose Sodium
1 – High Cellulose Potassium
2 – High Titania Sodium
3 – High Titania Potassium
4 – Iron Powder, Titania
5 – Low Hydrogen Sodium
6 – Low Hydrogen Potassium
7 – High Iron Oxide, Iron Powder
8 – Low Hydrogen Potassium, Iron Powder
So what does all that mean to you? Stay tuned for another article in the future on stick welding and understanding how each type of flux affects base material and how to select the correct flux for the project you are working on.