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Weld Beads

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Experienced welders tell you that weld beads are unique as signatures, and they’re right. There’s freedom to express your personality in how you manipulate the electrode.

However, good penmanship isn’t always a matter of aesthetics. Let’s take a classic welding topic: should you make stringer beads or weave when Stick welding with a 7018 electrode?

Our thinking is that you should practice toward a goal, such as obtaining AWS D1.1 certification (or our Arclabs welding certifications, which are basically the same). If you plan to weld structural steel, you need to know how to make both a stringer and a weave.

First, here are the D1.1 parameters:

  • Process: SMAW, DC EP
  • Electrode: AWS E7018, 1/8 in.
  • Base Metal: ASTM A36 plate
  • Plate Thickness: 1.0 in. with 22.5o bevel
  • Backing plate: 1/4 or 3/8 in.
  • Root opening: 1/4 in.
  • Test Position: 3G (vertical – uphill progression; there’s also 4G (overhead), but we’re concentrating on 3G here)

On the root pass, some welders can completely fuse all three plates with a straight stringer bead. That’s where you drag the electrode without any manipulation. The problem is that if you weld too slowly in an attempt to make a wide bead, you probably aren’t keeping the electrode on the leading edge of the weld puddle.

Other (possibly most) welders find that they need to use a slight side-to-side motion to ensure good sidewall fusion. The hot pass, which is the second pass, will require more of a weave. To keep the bead flat, speed across the middle and hold to the sides of the joint. Holding on the side for a fraction of a second helps prevent an undercut that could trap slag, a major cause of rejected welds.

Upward motion of the electrode should be about 1/8 in. Now, is that a “zigzag” motion, “U shape,” “triangle patter” or … well, that’s where the signature part comes in. Everyone does it a bit differently, and instructors will teach it differently. Whatever motion you find that works for you, remember to keep the electrode on the leading edge of the puddle, and that small movements make tight ripples.

After the hot pass, the joint gets too wide to make a weave without increasing the risk of trapping slag. For what reason, make stringer beads after the hot pass. Also, plan your bead size so that you’ll leave a crown no higher than 1/16-in.