How To Buy Welding Rods: Critical Insights With 5 Tips

As a DIY welder, selecting the right welding rods (electrodes) is crucial for achieving strong, high-quality welds. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential factors to consider when purchasing welding rods, ensuring you make an informed decision for your welding projects.

How To Buy Welding Rods

Understanding Welding Rod Classifications

Welding rods are classified using a four or five-digit numbering system (e.g., E6010, E7018). Each digit provides important information about the rod’s characteristics and applications.

  • First two digits: Tensile strength of the weld metal in thousands of pounds per square inch (psi). For example, 60 represents 60,000 psi, and 70 indicates 70,000 psi.
  • Third digit: Welding positions:
    • 1 = All positions (flat, horizontal, vertical, overhead)
    • 2 = Flat and horizontal positions only
    • 3 = Flat position only
  • Fourth digit: Special characteristics, such as coating type, welding current, and penetration.
  • Fifth digit (optional): Indicates the chemical composition of the rod, such as low hydrogen content or specific alloy additions.

Here’s a table of common welding rod classifications and their applications:

AWS ClassificationDescriptionApplications
E6010Deep penetrating, cellulosic coatingPipe welding, root passes, welding dirty/rusty steel
E6011Deep penetrating, cellulosic coating, AC compatibleGeneral repairs, pipe welding, welding dirty/rusty steel
E6013Rutile coating, minimal spatter, easy to useThin metals, sheet metal, general purpose welding
E7014Iron powder rutile coating, fast-freezing slag, easy slag removalWelding clean steel, high deposition rate
E7018Low hydrogen potassium coating, strong and crack-resistant weldsStructural steel, pressure vessels, low-temperature applications

Selecting the Right Welding Rod Size

Welding rod diameter is a critical factor in determining the weld’s appearance, penetration, and deposition rate. Common welding rod sizes include:

  • 3/32″ (2.4mm): Ideal for welding thin metals (less than 1/8″ thick) and precision work.
  • 1/8″ (3.2mm): The most versatile size, suitable for welding metal thicknesses between 1/8″ and 1/4″.
  • 5/32″ (4.0mm): Used for welding thicker metals (over 1/4″ thick) and achieving higher deposition rates.

As a general guideline:

  • For single-pass welds, choose a rod one size smaller than the metal thickness.
  • For multi-pass welds, use a rod with a diameter half the thickness of the metal.

Buying Tips for Welding Rods

  1. Buy in bulk: Purchasing welding rods in 10 lb or larger quantities can result in significant cost savings. However, ensure you’ll use them within a few months to prevent moisture absorption and degradation.
  2. Stick to reputable brands: Invest in welding rods from well-known manufacturers like Lincoln Electric, Hobart, or ESAB to ensure consistent quality and performance.
  3. Carefully read labels: Always check the welding rod label to ensure compatibility with your welding machine’s capabilities, such as AC/DC output and amperage range.
  4. Proper storage: Store welding rods in an airtight container with a desiccant to prevent moisture absorption, which can lead to porosity and cracking in the weld.
  5. Use an electrode oven: For low hydrogen rods like E7018, store them in an electrode oven at 250-300°F (121-149°C) to maintain their integrity and performance.

Welding Rod Storage Tips

  • Use airtight containers with desiccant packets to absorb moisture.
  • Store rods in a dry, temperature-controlled environment away from direct sunlight.
  • Organize rods by type and size for easy access and inventory management.
  • Regularly inspect rods for signs of moisture damage, such as discoloration or coating deterioration.

Recommendations for Beginner Welders

As a beginner, it’s essential to start with welding rods that offer easy arc starting, minimal spatter, and good bead appearance. Consider the following recommendations:

  1. Begin with 1/8″ E6013 rods for their ease of use and versatility.
  2. Progress to E6011 and E7018 rods in 3/32″ and 1/8″ sizes as your skills develop.
  3. Avoid specialized rods until you have mastered the basics and have a specific need for them.

Welding Rod Cost Expectations

The cost of welding rods varies depending on the type, size, and quantity purchased. Here are some general price ranges:

  • 10 lb box of general-purpose rods (E6013, E6011): $15 – $20
  • 10 lb box of premium low-hydrogen rods (E7018): $20 – $30
  • 50 lb master pack with various rod sizes and types: $100 – $150

Remember that investing in high-quality welding rods can significantly improve your welding results and reduce the need for rework.


Selecting the right welding rods is essential for achieving strong, high-quality welds in your DIY projects. By understanding welding rod classifications, sizes, and applications, you can make informed decisions when purchasing electrodes. Remember to buy from reputable brands, store rods properly, and start with versatile options like E6013 and E7018 as you develop your welding skills.


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