What Welding Rods to Use? A Beginner’s Guide

The most commonly used welding rods are the 7024, 7018, 6013, 6012, 6011, and 6010. Each one has different properties and applications. Many factors go into the decision of picking the right rod, like the tensile strength, the base metal properties, the welding position, and the welding current.

So, what welding rod to use for your application? You might think that picking a suitable rod is a hassle, especially if you’re a beginner.

However, you’ll be ready for your next project once you understand rod types and the basics of choosing the right rod.

Lucky for you, we’ve prepared all the information you need in this article. Let’s get right into it.

Different Types of Welding Rods

Before we jump into picking the right rod, you need to understand the different types of welding rods first.

Consumable Electrodes

Consumable electrodes, as the name suggests, melt when used to bridge the gap between the metal parts. Here’s a list of the arc welding processes that use consumable electrodes:

Non-consumable Electrodes

Unlike consumable electrodes, the non-consumable electrodes don’t melt or deposit on the weld bead. The electrodes remain intact throughout the welding process.

However, non-consumable rods can wear out due to evaporation or oxidation. When using a non-consumable electrode, you’ll need to manually feed fillers.

Here’s a list of arc welding processes that use consumable electrodes:

Examples of Welding Electrodes

Here’s a list of some common welding electrodes:

Low Hydrogen Carbon Steel Electrode

This type of welding rod is best for low-temperature applications. That’s because the electrode’s coating is made of low hydrogen iron powder with low tensile strength.

Still, this welding rod is highly durable, especially when welding low alloy and carbon steels.

Mild Steel Electrodes

Mild steel electrodes only contain a small amount of carbon steel deposits. This gives it higher tensile strength. Due to the strong bond and the soft weld bead this electrode produces, it’s widely used in the automobile industry.

Stainless Steel Electrodes

Stainless steel electrodes are incredibly easy to operate. The reason is that you can use them in any position. The slag they produce is self-removing and quite resistant to erosion.

Aluminum Welding Rods

Aluminum welding rods are mainly used to weld other aluminum alloys. Unlike other carbon welding rods, they provide dense, crack-free welds with most alloys. For that reason, they work well with any non-ferrous metal.

Bronze Welding Rods

Bronze welding rods aren’t that popular. They have very limited uses due to their low melting point. So, they’re best at welding copper to other metals. Bronze welding rods can also be used in brazing.

Welding Rod Number Explanation

The numbers on welding rods can be confusing, especially to beginners. Yet, once you learn their significance, choosing the right rod will be much easier.

Simply put, the number on a welding rod indicates the pressure that the rod can withstand, the weld position, the flux, and the proper current.

How to Read the Welding Rod Number

The welding rod number consists of four digits, which represent the four parameters of the rod; pressure, position, flux, and current.

The first two digits of the number denote the pressure in pounds per square inch. For example, a 6011 rod can withstand 60,000 psi.

The third digit signifies the best position in which the rod can be used.

Number 1 means that the rod can be used in all positions, while number 2 means it can be used horizontally. Number 4 represents a vertical or overhead position.

Finally, the last digit indicates the flux material and the current. Here’s how to decipher the last digit:

  • 0 — high cellulose sodium, DC+
  • 1 — high cellulose potassium, AC, DC+, DC-
  • 2 — high Titania sodium, AC, DC-
  • 3 — high Titania potassium, AC, DC+
  • 4 — iron powder and Titania, AC, DC+, DC-
  • 5 — low hydrogen sodium, DC+
  • 6 — low hydrogen potassium, AC, DC+
  • 7 — high iron oxide, potassium powder, AC, DC+, DC-
  • 8 — low hydrogen potassium, iron powder, AC, DC+, DC-

Common Welding Rods and Their Uses

Let’s check out some of the most common welding rods and their uses.

7024

The 7024 electrodes are mostly used for their high deposition rates on horizontal and down-hand welding. They have a high amount of iron powder, which helps increase their deposition rates. 7024 electrodes perform best on a steel plate that is at least ¼ inch thick.

7018

The 7018 electrodes are perhaps one of the easiest to use. They produce a smooth arc with low spatter.

Most welders use the 7018 to weld thick metals. The 7018 electrodes contain a thick flux with high powder content. They can be used on carbon steel, low-alloy, and high-strength steel.

6013

The 6013 electrodes mostly produce a soft arc with low spatter. Most welders prefer to use the 6013 electrodes in situations where they need short or small welding work. It’s perfect for applications that require frequent changes in position.

6012

Professional welders pick the 6012 electrodes for their high-speed and high-current fillet welds in a horizontal position. However, the 6012 electrodes produce shallow penetration.

6011

6011 rods are all-rounders. They provide deep penetration that’s useful when welding through rust.

The 6011 are all-position welding electrodes. They produce minimal spatter and deep penetration. Most welders use them for the smooth and clean results they produce.

6010

6010 welding rods are the most common type. As the numbers indicate, you can use it in all positions. This rod offers deep penetration and a highly tight arc, making it great for various applications.

Its fast speed and durability make it optimal for stove-pipe welding. 6010 rods are also used in welding ships, towers, and pressure vessels.

How to Choose a Welding Rod Type

It would be best if you considered some factors when choosing the welding rod for your application. Let’s take a closer look at each factor.

The Base Metal Properties

First, you have to factor in the base metal. Ideally, you’ll want to select a welding rod that’s the same material as the base metal or at least a close match.

However, if you don’t know what metal you’re working with, here are some parameters that you need to check:

  1. Base metal’s texture: Coarse or rough metal indicates that iron is the main component.
  2. Magnetism: If the base metal is magnetic, it means that it’s either carbon steel or carbon alloy. Alternatively, if the base metal is non-magnetic it may be copper, ferrous metal, aluminum, or titanium.
  3. Sparks: Sparks flare when you’re grinding the base metal. The higher the sparks flare, the more carbon content in the metal.

The Base Metal Thickness and Shape

For thick materials, you need to use an electrode with maximum ductility and low hydrogen. This can help prevent weld cracking. That includes electrodes with AWS numbers that end with 15, 16, and 18.

For thin metals, on the other hand, you’ll need an electrode that produces soft arcs, like the 6013 electrodes.

Tensile Strength

You need to match the rod’s minimum tensile strength to the base metal’s tensile strength. Otherwise, you might face cracking and other issues that lead to weld discontinuities.

Welding Current

Some electrodes can only work with AC or DC Power sources, while others can work with both. So, you need to check the compatibility of the electrode before picking it.

Welding Position

You can check the third digit of the AWS classification to determine the suitable position for the electrode.

If the third number is 1, it means that the welding rod can be used in flat, vertical, horizontal, and overhead positions.

On the other hand, if the third number is 2, it can be only used in the flat and horizontal positions.

Pick the Correct Size of Welding Rod

Typically, the thickness of the welding rod ranges from 1.6 mm to 6 mm. To choose the correct thickness of the welding rod, you’ll need to determine the thickness of the weld or the base material you’re working with.

Generally speaking, the thicker the base metal, the thicker the welding rod should be. Here’s a rough estimate comparison between the base material and the welding rod:

  • 1/16″ electrode for metals up to 3/16″ 
  • 3/32″ electrode for metals up to 1/4 
  • 1/8″ electrode for metals over 1/8 
  • 5/32″ electrode for metals over 1/4 
  • 3/16″ electrode for metals over 3/8 
  • 1/4 electrode for metals over 3/8 
  • 5/16″ electrode for metals up to 1/2″ 

Common Welding Electrodes

ElectrodeCoatingPositionCurrentPenetrationTensile Strength
E6010High cellulose sodiumAll PositionsDCEPDeep60,000 PSI
E6011High cellulose potassiumAll PositionsDCEP
AC
Deep60,000 PSI
E6012High titania sodiumAll PositionsDCEP
AC
Medium60,000 PSI
E6013High titania potassiumAll PositionsDCEP
DCEN
AC
Shallow60,000 PSI
E7018Iron powder low hydrogenAll PositionsDCEP
AC
Shallow to Medium70,000 PSI
E7024Iron powder low hydrogenFlat Horizontal FilletsDCEP
AC
Shallow to Medium70,000 PSI
E7028Iron powder low hydrogenFlat Horizontal FilletsDCEP
AC
Shallow to Medium70,000 PSI
Table of Common Welding Electrode Specifications

Conclusion

So, what welding rods to use?

You can use consumable or non-consumable rods, depending on your application. Consumable rods melt to bridge between two metals, while non-consumable rods remain intact.

The most common welding rods include the 7024, 7018, 6013, 6012, 6011, and 6010. When choosing an electrode for your application, there are some factors that you need to consider.

These factors include the base metal properties, the tensile strength, the welding current, the welding position, and the base metal thickness.