One of the things you may ask yourself when using stick welding (SMAW) is which is the easiest welding electrode (or rod) to use. Especially if you are a beginner and want an easy rod to start welding.
The easiest welding rod to use is a 1/8″ (3.2mm) E6013 rod. The fact that most welding schools start teaching with E6013 rods is proof enough. An E6013 has an easy arc strike and is the most forgiving to manipulation errors during welding.
Let’s see the matter in more detail.
Table of Contents
- Why an E6013 is the easiest welding rod?
- Why is a 1/8″ rod diameter the easiest to use?
- What are the E6013’s welding difficulties?
- E6013s compared to the other rutile rods
- Compared to basic rods
- Compared to cellulosic rods
Why an E6013 is the easiest welding rod?
The main reason why the E6013 is the easiest rod is that it has a flux covering high in rutile (or titania). Rutile is a mineral that creates a very smooth welding arc with low penetration. With this kind of arc, you can have the easiest stick welding procedure.
For the weldor
The arc from an E6013 is very easy to start and restart if necessary. This is one of the advantages against other hard-to-use rods, such as the basic E7018 rod.
After that, when running the bead, an E6013 will keep burning even if you mishandle the arc-length, rod angle, or travel speed up to a point.
Other rod types will stick and extinguish or create various welding defects such as porosity or blowing through the metal if you don’t handle them precisely.
The soft arc of an E6013 offers low penetration, which reduces the risk of blowing through thin metal. This is one of the most common problems when stick welding thinner metals, along with distortion, and an E6013 is the best rod to avoid it.
After finishing each bead, an E6013 rod forms a slag covering that is very easy to remove, or it might even remove itself as it cools down.
The bead is good-looking with fewer spatter than other rods, and in most cases, there is no need to spend any time improving it.
For the welding machine
E6013 rods don’t need a high open-circuit voltage (OCV) (Wikipedia) to strike the arc. OCV is the voltage at the electrode’s tip and on the base metal before you strike the arc. This makes the E6013 rods suitable even for small and affordable stick welding machines with a 50-volt OCV.
E6013s are simple rods, the rutile flux covering they have has low amounts of iron powder. As a result, they do not require welding machines with high amperage output. Moreover, E6013 rods support both current types AC and DC.
As a result, all stick welding power supplies will burn E6013 rods.
Other rods such as the E7018 and the E6011 rods are more demanding and need suitable welding power supplies.
Other factors that make them easy to use
Apart from the arc characteristics and the easy handling of the E6013 rods, some additional reasons make them easy to weld with.
The welding fumes of E6013 rods are the least harmful ones. This makes fume protection measurements such as ventilation and respirators simpler and more affordable.
The storage of E6013 rods is simple. You keep them in their original undamaged packaging to protect them from the atmosphere’s moisture and physical damage.
E6013 rods are popular so you can get a lot of advice about them. Finally, they are easy to find and inexpensive.
Why is a 1/8″ rod diameter the easiest to use?
A 1/8″ welding rod diameter is the easiest to use because it offers excellent stability at the rod’s tip, so you can start the arc easier. At the same time, it creates a medium-sized puddle that is easy to handle.
On the contrary, thin diameters, for example, 5/64″ (2mm), will shake a lot at the tip, making the arc harder to strike and the rod easier to stick on the workpiece.
With a 1/8″ E6013, you can weld workpieces that are 1/8″ and thicker, ideally around 3/16″ (4.8mm) thick.
Furthermore, a 1/8″ E6013’s has an amperage upper limit of 140A. This makes it suitable for many affordable stick welders.
The next easiest rod size would be the 3/32″ (2.4mm), and it is the most common rod size.
What are the E6013’s welding difficulties?
The bad thing with E6013 rods is that you don’t have good puddle visibility. The molten metal and the molten flux (or slag) in the puddle are mixed. This prevents you from seeing the melting of the base metal, the size of the crater, the metal filling it, etc.
Poor puddle visibility is the main reason why many welders do not like to weld with E6013 rods.
With other rods, such as an E7018, you can clearly see what is going on in the puddle, and the slag is staying separate behind it.
E6013 rods also tend to cause more slag inclusions. That is when slag gets trapped in the solidified weld metal. Low amperage, poor rod angle, slow speed, and long arc length can cause slag inclusions.
E6013s compared to the other rutile rods
The E6012 rod is similar to the E6013 rod but has an arc that is slightly more aggressive with more spatter. That makes it a bit harder to weld with.
E7014 is stronger with 70K tensile strength, has better penetration, wetting, productivity, and is less prone to slag inclusions. It is the best overall rutile rod to weld with. But while it is an easy rod to use, it is not as easy as an E6013, especially when you try to weld thinner metals.
The E7024 is like an E7014 with more iron powder in the flux. It is considered a “drag” rod because you can hold it on the workpiece and let it burn without trying to keep a steady arc length. That makes it really easy to use.
But it is restricted to the flat position and horizontal fillet welds of thicker metals. And it needs a much higher amperage to burn for the same rod diameter, thus a stronger power supply to burn them.
While all rutile rods are easy to use, E6013 is overall the easiest one, especially for thinner metals.
Compared to basic rods
Rods with basic (or low-hydrogen) flux, such as the E7018 and the E7016, are not easy to use, especially for a beginner. The chemicals in the flux don’t allow an easy arc strike.
It is even worse if you stop and try to restart the rod. The wire burns back into the flux and gets covered with molten flux right away. This makes it very difficult to restart. These rods are meant to start once and burn them whole with one try.
These rods tend to stick to the workpiece easier, and you need good skill to maintain a steady arc-length from start to finish to avoid defects such as porosity.
Basic rods need a high OCV of at least 70V to start the arc and keep burning.
Compared to cellulosic rods
Cellulosic rods such as the E6011 are more difficult to weld because their arc is too aggressive. It digs and burns through the workpiece very fast with high heat and spatter. These rods need a long time of practice to get used to them.
Like basic rod they need a high OCV to work. Also, the slag is of low volume but hard to clean.
Another rod of this type is the E6010, which is even harder to weld with. Furthermore, most affordable welding machines cannot work with it.
The E6013 is the easiest overall welding rod to use and the best rod for beginners.
It is not perfect, but with it and an affordable welding machine, you can weld many home projects and maintain basic equipment.
As a result, you will build the skills and confidence to progress and use other more demanding rods.
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