A good weld depends as much on the materials and supplies you’re working with as it does on your rig and skill. Whether you’re preparing for your first welding project or restocking your workshop, you need to know exactly what to look for. The selection of electrodes, filler metals and other consumables can seem overwhelming to new welders. Before you shop, you should know how to interpret electrode properties and how they relate to your work.
Factors to Consider
There are a handful of key factors in a welding project that determines what electrodes are ideal for use. The metal type determines what filler materials create a compatible weld, while the material’s thickness is proportional to the tensile strength and penetration strength. Electrodes are also rated for AC or DC current and should match the power supply you have available. Tungsten electrodes are non-consumable, but the composition can still affect weld quality.
After identifying the relevant factors of your project, you need to know which electrode to pick. The American Welding Society (AWS) provides systems of classification for the alloys used in electrodes. Manufacturers and retailers use these codes to provide specific definitions for products, such as with Washington Alloy welding supplies. Electrode size is rated independently.
- The code for a stick electrode, e.g. E6010, defines a few key properties: the first two digits convey tensile strength in psi, the third indicates safe welding positions and the last gives a classification for flux coating, penetration strength and current type.
- MIG wires have a few different code formats indicating metallurgic properties for carbon steel, stainless steel or aluminum alloy. All such codes start with ER. The specific alloy also determines the shielding gas to be used.
- Tungsten electrodes for TIG welding, meanwhile, are color-coded based on the grade of tungsten alloy used. Filler metal is supplied separately and has its own alloy classification.
With AWS documentation, you can interpret these codes to know what to expect of the products. This, combined with training and experience, allows you to make an informed decision on welding supplies for your project.