When stick welding, you pull the electrode away from the welding puddle at the correct angle and speed. The rod points into the puddle, not away from it.
A better term for pulling the electrode is backhand welding.
But let’s see why it is necessary to pull (or drag) the rod, the correct angle and travel speed, what happens if you push it, and one exception to this rule.
Why do you pull the rod when stick welding?
You pull the rod because this way, you can push back the slag material that exists in the puddle. Furthermore, the arc concentrates the heat on the puddle, and you have better puddle and bead visibility.
The main reason you pull the rod is to control the slag material in the puddle.
Stick welding uses a rod covered with flux material. When the rod burns, slag (molten flux) travels through the arc and goes into the puddle.
In the puddle, the slag cleans the molten metal. After that, the slag needs to stay separate and behind the puddle. There it will start to rise and solidify on the surface.
When you pull the rod, you point it on the puddle at an angle. This way, the arc forces the slag behind.
If that doesn’t happen, you can end up with slag inclusions. These will prevent good fusion between the filler metal and the base metal (or workpiece), resulting in a weak weld.
Another benefit when you pull the rod is that you concentrate the heat in the puddle. This offers higher penetration, something that stick welding is well known for. But this makes stick welding thin metals hard.
Furthermore, when you pull the rod, you can see what is going on in the puddle. For example, how the arc melts the workpiece, the molten metal, and the slag staying behind.
But if you use rutile rods such as E6013, the slag doesn’t stay behind very well. As a result, rutile rods don’t offer a clear view of the puddle.
Finally, you also have good visibility of the bead. For instance, you can see the amount of buildup, the shape, the heat input, the cooling down rate, and so on.
Good puddle and bead visibility help a lot to control your progress.
The other welding process that you pull the rod is Flux-cored welding (FCAW). Again the main reason is to control the slag it produces.
Why don’t you push the rod?
You don’t push the rod when stick welding because you cannot control and restrict the molten slag. Pushing is suitable for the MIG and TIG welding processes that don’t use any flux material and don’t have any slag in their puddle.
Pushing the rod is also called forehand welding. Here you point away from the puddle and towards the direction of welding.
If you could push the rod without defects, you would have better joint visibility resulting in a lower risk of wandering off it.
Also, the final bead would be wider, shorter and it would look better.
Finally, pushing would offer less penetration making it easier to weld thinner metals.
What is the correct angle when pulling a stick rod?
To ensure that the slag stays behind while pulling the rod, you must use the correct traveling angle.
The correct angle to pull a stick rod is 10-20 degrees from vertical. But if you use rutile rods such as an E6013, then a higher 20-30 degree angle would be more helpful to keep the slag back.
The flux of rutile rods produces a smooth arc that cannot force the slag where it needs to be very well.
If you point the rod perpendicular to the workpiece, it is easy for the slag to mix with the molten metal.
What is the correct travel speed when pulling a stick rod?
Pulling the rod with the correct traveling speed is vital if you want to get the best welding results.
When pulling the rod, the correct traveling speed is when the arc stays in the leading 1/3 of the puddle. If the arc covers more of the puddle, then you travel too slow. If it covers less, then you travel too fast.
If you use a basic rod, you can see the slag staying clearly behind the puddle. This makes it easy to keep the arc at the correct spot and ensure you run at the correct speed.
But if you use a rutile rod, you will see that the molten slag and metal don’t stay separate very well. This will make it harder to position the arc.
There is one exception where you don’t pull the rod when stick welding.
When can you push a stick rod?
When stick welding, you always push the electrode when going upwards in the vertical position. Here things change, and pushing the rod is technically more sound. It offers better penetration and fewer defects such as slag inclusions and porosity.
In the vertical position, gravity wants to drag the puddle downwards, which makes welding difficult. If you weld upwards, then the molten metal and slag can step on the previously solidified material. This counters the negative impact of gravity and offers better control of the procedure.
If you push going vertical up, you have more penetration, unlike other welding positions. Vertical up is very slow and inputs more heat in the puddle. Also, heat travels towards the welding direction. Heat also travels upwards by nature.
These two heat directions combine and make the workpiece hotter. When the workpiece is hot, it’s like welding with more amperes which leads to deeper penetration.
One disadvantage of pushing the rod when going vertically up is that you can burn through the workpiece if it is thin.
To prevent this, you can pull the rod going downwards. This is the vertical-down position and allows fast traveling speeds. This prevents burning through the metal.
But gravity makes it harder to prevent the molten slag from running ahead and interfere with the puddle, as mentioned earlier. This results in beads with slag inclusions when welding vertical down.
In a nutshell
Pulling the rod when stick welding is necessary to control the slag material in the puddle. If you try to push the rod, then you will have to deal with welding defects. You push the rod only when welding vertical up.
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