How to Set Up a Stick Welder for Reverse Polarity: A Comprehensive Guide

Setting up a stick welder for reverse polarity (DCEN) is a crucial skill for welders who need to achieve specific weld characteristics or work with certain types of electrodes. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of configuring your stick welder for reverse polarity, providing in-depth technical details and expert-level insights to ensure a successful setup.

Identify the Leads

The first step in setting up your stick welder for reverse polarity is to identify the leads that connect the electrode holder (stinger) and the ground clamp. Typically, the electrode holder is connected to the positive terminal, while the ground clamp is connected to the negative terminal. Locate these leads on your specific welder model, taking note of their current configuration.

Switch the Leads

how to set up stick welder for reverse polarityImage source: Manual Metal Arc welding (MMAW)

To reverse the polarity, you need to switch the positions of the leads. Begin by removing the brass plugs from the terminals on your welder. These plugs are typically secured with set screws or threaded connections. Once the plugs are removed, carefully swap the positions of the leads, ensuring that the electrode holder is now connected to the negative terminal, and the ground clamp is connected to the positive terminal.

Confirm the Polarity

After switching the leads, it’s essential to confirm that the polarity has been successfully reversed. Use a digital multimeter to measure the DC voltage between the electrode holder and the ground clamp. Set the multimeter to the appropriate DC voltage range, and touch the positive probe to the electrode holder and the negative probe to the ground clamp. The reading should show a negative voltage, indicating that the polarity has been reversed as intended.

Select the Appropriate Electrode

Not all welding electrodes are suitable for use with reverse polarity (DCEN) settings. Make sure to select an electrode that is specifically designed for DCEN, such as 6011 or 7018 AC electrodes. These electrodes have a different core composition and flux formulation that allows them to perform optimally in a reverse polarity setup.

Adjust the Amperage

Reverse polarity welding typically requires lower amperage settings compared to straight polarity welding. Consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for the specific electrode you are using and adjust the amperage on your welder accordingly. This will help ensure a stable and controlled arc, as well as optimal weld penetration and bead appearance.

Practice Safe Welding

Whenever working with a stick welder, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including a welding helmet with the correct lens shade, welding gloves, and protective clothing. Additionally, ensure that the welding area is free from flammable materials and other potential hazards.

Troubleshooting and Considerations

If you encounter any issues during the setup or welding process, consider the following troubleshooting tips:

  1. Verify Lead Connections: Double-check that the leads are properly connected, with the electrode holder to the negative terminal and the ground clamp to the positive terminal.
  2. Check Electrode Compatibility: Ensure that the electrode you are using is specifically designed for DCEN welding, as not all electrodes are suitable for this polarity configuration.
  3. Monitor Amperage Settings: Adjust the amperage as needed to maintain a stable and controlled arc. Refer to the electrode manufacturer’s recommendations for the optimal amperage range.
  4. Observe Weld Quality: Pay close attention to the weld appearance, penetration, and overall quality. Adjustments to the amperage or other welding parameters may be necessary to achieve the desired results.

By following this comprehensive guide and incorporating the technical details and expert-level insights, you’ll be well-equipped to set up your stick welder for reverse polarity (DCEN) welding, ensuring a successful and safe welding experience.


  1. Forum: When should i reverse polarity? DC+ to DC- – Welding Tips and Tricks
  2. WeldingWeb: Polarity changes….
  3. YouTube: Step by Step: How to Setup a Stick Welder
  4. YouTube: Stick Welding Polarity Explained: AC vs DCEP vs DCEN
  5. YouTube: How to reverse the polarity on a stick welder (DCEN)