What Causes a Stick Welder to Stick: A Comprehensive Guide for DIY Enthusiasts

A stick welder, also known as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), can stick due to several reasons, primarily related to improper technique or equipment settings. This comprehensive guide will delve into the critical details and causes of a stick welder sticking, providing DIY enthusiasts with a thorough understanding of the issue and practical solutions to overcome it.

Improper Arc Length

Maintaining the correct arc length is crucial for a successful weld. An arc length that is too long can cause a ball to form on the end of the electrode, leading to spatter when it detaches and drops into the puddle. The recommended arc length varies by electrode diameter, usually no more than the diameter of the core wire.

To ensure the proper arc length:
– Use a welding helmet with a clear, high-quality lens to accurately gauge the arc length.
– Start with an arc length of about 1.5 times the electrode diameter and adjust as needed.
– Maintain a consistent arc length throughout the weld by keeping the electrode at a constant distance from the workpiece.
– Avoid excessive movement of the electrode, as this can cause the arc length to fluctuate.
– Monitor the weld pool and adjust the arc length accordingly to maintain a stable, consistent weld.

Dirty Base Material

what causes a stick welder to stickImage source: Manual Metal Arc welding (MMAW)

Starting the weld with unclean base material can result in weld contamination and porosity. Properly cleaning the base material before welding and storing welding electrodes properly can help prevent this.

To ensure a clean base material:
– Use a wire brush, grinder, or other suitable tool to remove any rust, scale, or other contaminants from the surface of the workpiece.
– Degrease the surface with a solvent-based cleaner or degreaser to remove any oil, grease, or other organic contaminants.
– Store welding electrodes in a dry, moisture-free environment to prevent the absorption of moisture, which can lead to weld contamination.
– Use a welding curtain or other shielding to prevent airborne contaminants from settling on the weld area during the welding process.

High Welding Current

A welding current that is too high can cause spatter and porosity, as the weld pool freezes before the gas can escape.

To optimize the welding current:
– Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for the appropriate current range for the electrode diameter and type.
– Start with a lower current and gradually increase it until you achieve a stable, consistent weld.
– Monitor the weld pool and adjust the current accordingly to maintain a smooth, even weld.
– Use a welding machine with a stable, consistent power output to ensure the current remains within the optimal range.

Improper Electrode Storage

Moisture absorbed in low-hydrogen E7018 electrodes can increase hydrogen in the weld, resulting in cracking. These electrodes should be oven-stored to prevent moisture pickup.

To properly store welding electrodes:
– Keep electrodes in a dry, low-humidity environment, such as a sealed container or oven.
– Use a desiccant or dehumidifier to maintain a low-moisture environment.
– Avoid storing electrodes in areas with high humidity or near sources of moisture, such as water pipes or outdoor storage.
– If electrodes have been exposed to moisture, dry them in an oven at the recommended temperature and duration before use.

Incorrect Technique

When striking the arc, be sure to strike the workpiece and lift the electrode at the same time. Certain electrodes, such as E7018, may seem easier to strike than others, but they can stick more than other types.

To master the arc-striking technique:
– Hold the electrode at a 60-70 degree angle to the workpiece.
– Lightly touch the electrode to the workpiece and immediately lift it to the desired arc length.
– Avoid dragging the electrode along the surface, as this can lead to sticking.
– Practice striking the arc on scrap material to develop a smooth, consistent technique.
– Experiment with different electrode types and adjust your technique accordingly, as some electrodes may require a slightly different approach.

Low Travel Speed

Using a travel speed that’s too fast can cause porosity, as you’re essentially outrunning your gas coverage.

To maintain the optimal travel speed:
– Start with a slower travel speed and gradually increase it until you achieve a stable, consistent weld.
– Monitor the weld pool and adjust the travel speed accordingly to maintain a smooth, even weld.
– Use a welding technique that allows you to maintain a consistent travel speed, such as weaving or stringer beads.
– Consider the thickness of the workpiece and the electrode diameter when determining the appropriate travel speed.

Arc Blow

Arc blow can occur when welding toward or away from the ground clamp. Changing the location of the ground connection on the workpiece, reducing the welding current and arc length, and using alternating current can help prevent arc blow.

To mitigate arc blow:
– Experiment with different ground clamp positions on the workpiece to find the optimal location.
– Reduce the welding current and arc length to minimize the magnetic field that can cause arc blow.
– Use alternating current (AC) welding, as it can help to neutralize the magnetic field and reduce arc blow.
– Adjust the electrode angle and travel direction to counteract the effects of arc blow.
– Monitor the weld pool and make adjustments as needed to maintain a stable, consistent weld.

By addressing these common causes of a stick welder sticking, DIY enthusiasts can improve their welding skills, reduce unnecessary downtime, and produce high-quality welds. Remember to always prioritize safety, follow manufacturer recommendations, and continuously practice to hone your welding techniques.

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