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Do This to Improve Your Stick Arcs

Does your Stick get stuck? Say that three times fast. Well, it may be your technique, the materials, or the machine. Let’s look at all three.

Technique: Starting with the basics, strike an arc, tap the electrode, or use a small scratching motion with a slight lift. During arc start, you can hold a slightly longer arc to prevent the electrode from sticking. Long means 1.5 times the diameter of the electrode or about 3/16” for a 1/8” diameter electrode. Once the arc becomes established, reduce the arc length and move forward.

Here are some other things to check in your process. Are your welding cables in good condition? Did you prep the base metal and put the ground clamp on bare metal near where you’re welding … or did you put the clamp a mile away, on rust and are trying to weld a dirty and oily part?

If you’re like “yeah, yeah, I know all that”, then keep reading

Materials: How fresh are those Stick electrodes? If you’re welding with a 7018, they better be fresh or stored properly in a rod oven. If not, throw them away, as you could risk hydrogen inclusions and weld cracking (this can be a deadly serious issue when welding structural steel).

Next, are you using a quality electrode? You get what you pay for. Trust us – even our accountant can tell the difference between fresh, quality electrodes and a cheap brand that’s been collecting dust in a coffee can.

Machine: This one is harder to fix but worth knowing. Check the nameplate or spec sheet on your welder and look for its open circuit voltage (OCV). OCV is the voltage at the electrode before the arc is struck (don’t confuse OCV with welding voltage, which is different).

A frequent analogy is that OCV is like a garden hose with the water turned on, but before the nozzle is opened. Now, in the electrical world, voltage provides electrical pressure. A welding machine that provides good electrical pressure will provide better Stick arc starts. What you want is a Stick welder with at least 50 OCV, preferably more than 55 OCV, and ideally 60-70 OCV.

Finally, most newer inverter machines have a feature called Hot Start. Hot Start is your best friend. In the first few milliseconds, after you strike an arc, Hot Start increases current beyond the current value you set on the front of the machine. For example, instead of 115 amps of current, you might get 145 amps. As soon as the welder senses an arc, Hot Start shuts off and you’re off and welding!

Still, stuck? Maybe consider taking a two-week seminar class at Arclabs. We can help you work on specific needs with our experienced instructors.