How to Use a Stick Welder

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A stick welder is a must-have tool and using one is a skill for anyone wanting to perform metal fabrication or repair. Stick welding is one of the most heavy-duty methods for permanently attaching metal parts together. Stick welders range in size from common buzz boxes, small AC welders, to very expensive gasoline generator sets that can cost thousands of dollars. Regardless of the type and size of the stick welder, the basic procedure remains the same for permanently joining two pieces of metal together.

Things You'll Need

  • Scrap pieces of metal
  • Safety glasses
  • Hand electric grinder
  • Welding leather chaps
  • Beanie or skullcap
  • Welding hood
  • Welding gloves
  • Stick welder
  • Arc type welding rods
  • Old coffee can
  • Slag chip hammer

Safety and Prep

  • Place those safety glasses over your eyes before working with any type of metal. In a heartbeat, a small piece of metal can become lodged in your eyeball ruining your day from any productive work. Remember always---safety first.

  • Lay the pieces of scrap metal on a flat and secure surface, preferably outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Never weld or grind metal without proper ventilation as dust particles and welding fumes can be hazardous to your breathing health.

  • Grind the areas you want to weld together with the hand electric grinder. You should remove all rust and grease from the surface of the metal. The metal should be shiny metallic in appearance for a good penetration of the arc welding rod.

  • Place all arc welding safety gear in place before switching on the welder. Arc welding gives off a very high-intensity light and will cause severe sunburn to any exposed skin.

  • Don the welding leather chaps to your upper body and secure the leather vest with the rear tie straps. Place the beanie or skullcap on your head. This cap may look funny, but it will keep flying hot slag from landing and burning into your scalp.

  • Place the welding hood over your head and adjust the position and tension of the side knobs to fit your sized head. A proper fit and adjustment goes a long way to a good weld.

  • Use those welding gloves and place them on your hands. Not only will the arc flash be hot, but the welding stinger will become unbearably warm the more it is used. The welding stinger is the holder for the arc welding rod.

Operation of the Welder and Tacking

  • Place the grounding clamp of the arc welder unit to the scrap metal piece your are wanting to join. Be sure that this is a solid connection. If the ground clamp comes loose you will notice by not being able to weld or you will receive a heck of an electrical jolt from the arc welder.

  • Place an arc welding rod into the stinger. Practice placing the rod into the stinger by not using your hands. After you weld for a while on a warm day, you will begin to sweat. Sweat is water that conducts electricity and you can get a shock from the arc welder by hand placing the rod into the stinger. A coffee can is a great place to temporarily hold the rods upright and grabbing them with the stinger.

  • Turn on the arc welder and place the amperage setting to about 100 amps.

  • Flip the welding hood down over your eyes and strike an arc on one end of the scrap pieces of metal. Rub the end of the arc rod against it. Hold the rod in place and form a small liquid metal puddle about ¼ inch in diameter, then stop the arc.

  • Move the stinger to the other end of the metal joint, align the pieces and strike another arc, "tacking" the pieces together at each end.

  • Tack the center of the joint. The two pieces should now be temporarily held in position.

  • Observe the tacks by cleaning the slag off with the slag hammer. The tack welds should come out shiny clean with good penetration into the two pieces of metal. If the penetration of the tack welds are not deep enough, increase the amperage by 20 to 30 amperes on the arc welder. If the tack welds is too deep, decrease by the same amount. Penetration depth should be approximately half the depth of the metal welded together. A ¼ inch thick piece of metal should have at least a 1/8-inch or more of weld penetration.

Final Welding

  • Begin the weld on the left hand side of the two scrap pieces. For the most part, it is easier to weld left to right than right to left.

  • Strike the arc by pushing the rod into the metal joint. Observe the weld puddle and keep this puddle size to about ¼ inch wide. Move the rod in a half circle motion, a crescent moon shape, as you move the rod to the right. Remember as you weld, the arc rod will get shorter. Thus, keep pushing the rod lower into the work pieces as you progress the molten weld puddle to the right.

  • Keep the arc rod going until you burn all the rod down to approximately 1 inch in length, then stop the weld.

  • Clean the slag from the weld and observe the penetration and design of the metal weld. Does it look like a continuous crescent moon shape? It should resemble this design for a good-looking weld.

  • Place another rod in the stinger and keep welding till you reach the end of the metal joint. Clean the slag, observe the weld and keep practicing. No one ever laid a perfect weld the first time. It takes practice to properly stick weld. Have fun and keep welding.

Tips & Warnings

  • When arc welding in a vertical position, try beginning at the top and work downward. Then make a second pass starting at the bottom and move the arc rod upwards.
  • Always tack weld the pieces into place before fully welding them together. The heat of the arc welding process will tend to draw the pieces out of alignment. This will create an ill-fitting final assembly.
  • Store all arc welding rods in a dry location. Moisture will ruin stick welding rods.
  • The intensity of the arc flash can damage the eyes, do not allow anyone to watch an arc weld without the proper dark lenses eye protection.

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