How to Vertical Weld: 7 Vertical Stick Welding Tips

Written By: Liam Bryant

Reviewed By: Russell Egan

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The best way to vertical weld is to select a welding electrode that has been designed for vertical orientation, such as 7018, 7024, and 6010 rods, and to wear sufficient safety equipment to protect yourself from falling molten slag.

Vertical Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) also known as stick welding is growing in demand. Mostly, as a result of a recovering economy and a shortage of skilled welders due to an aging workforce.

The increasing demand for skilled welders with the skillsets to produce quality welds means more opportunities for welding students just starting their careers.

Vertical Stick Welding Tips to Increase Weld Quality.

Where is SMAW Welding Needed?

Jobs in shipyards, the oil and gas industry, pipe fitting, building construction and power plant construction all normally require vertical SMAW welding. Simply because many of the oversized workpieces cannot be moved to the more convenient horizontal welding positions.

The SMAW process is preferred over GMAW (also known as MIG) welding for these applications due to the extra thick structural base materials being used.

In addition, the simplicity of the SMAW machinery is more efficient. For example, the operator may need a long lead from the machine to the welding area. In these cases, MIG machines simply would not suffice.

Vertical Stick Welding Tips You will find Useful

Below are 7 useful vertical stick welding tips which you should find useful. Try out a few of these tips and see if your weld quality increases

1. Select the Correct Consumable Electrode

Selecting the correct electrode for your welding application is always important. But especially important for welding in the vertical orientation.

7018, 7024, and 6010 electrodes may all seem like good choices, but you should typically use the 7018 for general-purpose steel plate welding.

6010 rods require more skill than 7018’s when welding vertically. And 7024 rods do not have the same weld puddle fill characteristics as 7018’s.

TIP: Do yourself a favor and try 7018 electrodes for vertical SMAW welding.

2. Buy the Best Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet You Can Afford

Welders who regularly use the SMAW process can either use a traditional welding helmet or an auto-darkening helmet. Some welders prefer the traditional welding helmet for its simplicity. But more welders are turning to the auto-darkening technology for its ease of use.

Auto-darkening welding helmets have ultra-sensitive sensors in the front, facing the weld area. Once the welding arc starts the auto-darkening mechanism darkens the lens within milliseconds.

What’s more, many auto-darkening welding helmets have variable welding shades built into the lens. For SMAW welding, the welder may want to turn the shade to the darkest setting possible due to the arc intensity.

This, of course, depends on how high the amperage needs to be to produce a great weld for the thickness of the metal being welded.

NOTE: If you purchase a quality auto-darkening welding helmet, you can consider it an investment in your welding career. Especially, since your welds will ultimately turn out that much better with the higher quality equipment. The convenience of the auto-darkening welding helmet allows you to concentrate on the quality of your weld with fewer distractions.

3. Carry Replacement Exterior Welding Lenses

Among the three main arc welding processes (Stick, MIG, and TIG), shielded metal arc welding (stick) has the most spatter and slag which gets projected in all directions. It is particularly bad when welding in the vertical position.

In this position, shielded metal arc welders typically get spatter all over themselves. Including, on occasion, in places, they may not have ever had sparks in before.

In this case, it is good to have high-quality personal protective welding equipment on.

As with all welding processes, your view of the weld puddle is of paramount importance. This is why having some extra weld lenses in your bag is an excellent idea. Having a few replacement lenses will not break the bank. Yet, not having them could diminish the quality of your welds.

They are made from clear plastic and attach over the actual darkening lens in your auto-darkening welding helmet.

NOTE: After welding vertically for a while, you will be glad you can clear up your field of view by simply replacing the plastic lens.

4. Wear High-Quality Work Boots

Your steel-toed welding boots are mainly there to protect your feet from falling objects. Which when welding could mean a falling piece of heavy steel. Many times SMAW welders in the field are on their feet for an entire shift.

It is obviously extremely beneficial to spend as much as your budget will allow getting high-quality work boots with good insoles.

High-performance work boots themselves normally come with features such as linings to wick away moisture. Plus, good boots will be made from premium leather materials. But many lack the comfort which a quality aftermarket insole can provide. In that event, you will thank yourself for spending the few extra dollars to provide extra comfort for your feet.

5. Protect Your Head from Sparks

During a weld, you might ask yourself “What’s that burning smell?” Of course, you should stop your weld immediately in order to inspect your surroundings. Every once in a while it may turn out to be your own hair which caught a spark, singeing a small area. This is not only unpleasant for your haircut but could have been harmful to your scalp!

If you have hair on your head, both men and women, you should consider wearing protective headwear while welding. Especially when welding in the vertical position. Protective headwear can range anywhere in price from $10 for a simple fabric head cover to $80 for a highly durable hood which covers your entire head.

If you find yourself welding in the vertical or overhead position very often, you should definitely consider using a more durable leather head cover. These attach directly to your welding helmet.  Welding spatter which will rain down on you from a high-up vertical, or overhead welding position needs to be shielded away. The better the headcover, the fewer burns you will have to deal with.

TIP: For more info, read Why do welders wear welding caps? 

6. Take Breaks and Hydrate Between Welds

SMAW welders all know how hot their working environment can get. Standing in front of molten metal and hot steel for even a short period of time while wearing protective clothing can quickly challenge your bodies ability to keep itself cool.

When you add these heat factors with other factors, such as a hot day or welding inside of steel pipe, the heat can become a serious health hazard.

If your body becomes overheated (besides the obvious health risks) your weld quality will seriously suffer. When you are dehydrated and overheated your hands will start to shake. And you may lose the ability to clearly focus on the weld puddle. Your welding foreman should acknowledge these hot conditions and allow you to cool off and rehydrate with water before returning to work.

Check with your safety instructor or OSHA standards online for up-to-date information regarding extreme temperatures while working.

7. Document your Optimal Welder Settings

There are many machine settings at your fingertips. You will most likely need to adjust these settings for each welding situation. The ability to fine-tune these settings is tremendously helpful. Through the fine-tuning process, you will ultimately find the best setting for the task in front of you.

However, if you are changing between job types frequently, or if you are sharing a machine with a coworker, the machine’s adjustability can be problematic.

Once determined, document the optimal settings for your machine, in each situation, on a “cheat sheet.” This ensures your ability to repeat your best welds without fiddling with the settings over and over. No two welds will ever be exactly the same. But you can manage your welding consistency by simply keeping this documentation.

Try a few of these tips for shielded metal arc welding and see if any of them help you achieve higher-quality welds.

What works well for someone else might not work for you. But this list of 7 tips should help you manage the continuous improvement of your processes.

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