Clams are the secret to stick welding. Not like eating them or rubbing them over your body (though we haven’t actually tried that). We mean CLAMS: Current settings. Length of arc. Angle of travel. Manipulation of the electrode and Speed of travel. If you’re just learning the Stick process, remembering these five points will help you simplify and improve your welding technique to perfection.

Current Settings:

The electrode you pick determines whether your machine should be set up in DC positive, DC negative or AC. The key is setting it accurately for your application. DC electrode positive provides about 10 percent more penetration than AC, while DC electrode negative welds thinner metals better.

Choosing the correct amperage is key to your success. If the amperage is set too low, your electrode will be too sticky when striking an arc and cause it to extinguish itself or stutter. Whereas if the amperage is set too high, the arc will sound louder than normal and the excessive fluid will be harder to control.

A general rule of thumb for choosing the correct amperage is 1 amp for each .001 inch of electrode diameter. For example, if you’re using 1/8 inch (.125 inch) electrode, start at 125 amps. Adjust your welder by 5 to 10 amps at a time, until the ideal results are reached. Or if you hate math like us, just use one of our favorite free welding apps to figure out the right amps.

Length of Arc:

Stick picThe best length varies with each electrode and application. A good guideline to
remember is that the arc length should not exceed the diameter of the metal portion (core) of the electrode. For example, a 1/8 inch 6010 electrode is held about 1/8 inch off the base material. Having the electrode too close to the joint will decrease the welding voltage causing it to extinguish itself or produce a weld bead with a high crown. It also has a greater potential to stick to the base material. Burnback can also occur if the length is too close. Whereas, too long of an arc length will produce excess spatter and have a higher potential for undercut. A tight, controlled arc length improves bead appearance, creates a narrower bead and minimizes excess spatter. 

Angle of Electrode (Travel):

When welding from left to right, hold the Electrode perpendicular to the joint, and then tilt the top in the direction of travel, around a 5 to 15 degree angle. For welding vertical up, use a “push” or “forehand” technique and tilt the top of the electrode 0 to 15 degrees away from the direction of travel. Some electrode types require flat welds while others can be used with any position. Here’s a list of all the specifications.

Manipulation of the Electrode:

There’s no perfect way to do this. Most experts suggest developing your own style, by observing others, for your best results. Straight ahead travel tends to work best on material that is ¼ inch or thinner. Whereas, weaving the rod could create a bead that is wider than needed. For the best view, try to keep your head off to the side and out of the smoke so you can easily see the puddle.

 Speed of Travel:

The best travel speed produces a weld bead with a perfect crown, width and appearance. Try to adjust the speed so that the arc remains within the top one-third of the weld pool. Slow travel produces a wide, convex bead with a shallow depth. Burnback can also occur if the speed is too slow. Fast, high travel speeds also decrease penetration, creating a more narrow and/or highly crowned bead and undercuts.

Welding’s always a learning process no matter what skill level you’re at. Turning these 5 points into part of your technique will help you produce higher quality welds while taking a fraction of the time. If you’re interested in Stick welding or thinking about getting a Stick welder, here’s some of our other favorite posts to help you get started.

Using the Right Rods 

Getting The Right Welding Machine