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Basic electrodes for MMA steel welding

Esab Basic welding Electrodes

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Basic electrodes for welding

The welding machine can be seen as the engine of welding, so without it the process is impossible. Electrodes, on the other hand, represent the fundamental component that allows the power of the welding machine to be transferred to the metal, and therefore to finish our creations.

From a technical point of view, the electrode is the component through which the electric arc is created, which, by raising the temperature of the metal, makes it possible to join the two pieces. With these assumptions, in the next lines we will try to understand more about basic welding electrodes.

Electrode welding

Electrode welding is certainly the most common. Thanks to the transportability of the accessories needed for it, but also thanks to a particularly affordable price. As the name suggests, welding is performed using an electrode, unlike MIG welding which uses gas.

Electrode welding is certainly not new, since it dates back to the early 1900s, but originally the electrode was not coated. This particular aspect caused very rapid oxidation, and consequently an ineffective result. With the passage of time and technological evolution, however, things have changed.

It was therefore concluded that by applying a coating of antioxidant material to the electrode, it was possible to carry out a qualitatively superior, but above all a long-lasting work. The electrode is then attached to a clamp, which in turn connects to the welding machine. Welding takes place when the electric arc is generated.

The electric arc, which occurs when the electrode is placed close to the material to be welded, melts the material, the coating and the core of the electrode. In classic electrode welding, this component not only transmits the necessary electricity, but also provides the filler material for the welding itself.

Therefore, the topic of electrodes is particularly complex, much more so than the word might suggest. This is because the component has a dual function, i.e. the "physical" function of conducting electricity, but also that of providing material during welding. Now we will go into detail by looking at the differences between the various types of electrodes.

Electrodes: types

The most common types of Esab electrodes are: rutile, cellulosic, steel and basic. The fourth type is the one we will go into more detail. In any case, there is a method that will help you understand which electrode to use based on the material of the processing.

First of all you must know that electrodes have a classification.

The most used one is of American origin, and the acronym AWS has been used to identify it. However, you may also find other acronyms, depending on the standards to which the electrode refers: EN, European; JIS, Japanese; UK, British; DIN, German. The AWS code consists of an E (electrode) and a 4-digit code.

The first two digits indicate the tensile strength, which in this case is indicated in pounds per square inch. The third digit, on the other hand, serves to indicate which positions the electrode can be mounted in: 1 means that it can be mounted in any position; 2 means that it can only be mounted horizontally or at an angle.

Here are some examples:

- Rutile electrode: E6013.

- Basic electrode: E7018.

- Cellulosic: E6011.

Finally we find the last digit, which can have 9 different values. These refer to the current with which the electrode can be used, if alternating or direct (or both), depending on the type of electrode itself. The complete table of reference for the necessary current is as follows:

0. For cellulosic electrodes with negative polarity, direct current.

1. For positive polarity electrodes, direct or alternating current.

2. For negative polarity electrodes, direct or alternating current.

3. For rutile electrodes, direct or alternating current.

4. For high-efficiency rutile electrodes, direct or alternating current.

5. For basic electrodes, direct current.

6. For basic electrodes, direct or alternating current.

7. For specific high efficiency iron oxide electrodes, direct or alternating current.

8. For high-efficiency basic electrodes, direct or alternating current.

As far as the prices of basic electrodes are concerned, the acronym is clearly not the only parameter to be considered, and in any case the cost can also vary according to the offers. In any case, the diameter of the electrode is very important. Usually domestic or semi-professional welding machines allow the use of electrodes with a diameter between 1.6 and 4 mm. However, we must point out that the latter could short the electrical system of the house, due to the high amperage required to create the current arc.

The electrodes coating

As far as coating goes, we can differentiate the electrodes in two different types, namely rutile and basic:

  • Electrodes with rutile coating. This is the most widespread type on the market, thanks to its remarkable ease of use. To differentiate them from the others we find the fact that they are particularly smooth, silent and switch off and on very easily. This feature makes them clearly suitable for novice welders. The materials indicated for the use of this type of electrode are construction or carpenter's steels. However, they show a great limit: the mechanical seal of the deposit is not assured.
  • Basic electrodes. Welding made with this type of electrode has a decidedly higher quality standard. One of the ideal uses of this type of electrode concerns the welding of highly stressed steels, thanks to its 110% efficiency. The only limit in this case is in the manual skill of the welder, since basic electrodes are more difficult to weld, and consequently more experience will be required to obtain a perfect result.

So, as far as the choice between basic and rutile is concerned, you should keep in mind that the latter are very good for welding thin materials, and that the bead looks good. Their main defect is producing less effective and resistant welds. For their part, the basic electrodes will allow you to weld very resistant, but to use them correctly you will need to have a good experience.

Electrodes with basic coating

The basic coating of the electrodes is in iron oxide, ferroalloys and calcium and magnesium carbonates. By adding calcium fluoride, you will get fluorite. To use this type of electrode, reverse polarity DC current is used. The main characteristics are therefore an unstable arc, due to the fluorite itself, as well as a low fluid pool.

This type of coating is suitable for quality welds with excellent mechanical properties. The basic coating also withstands high drying temperatures. Electrodes of this type are used for position, vertical and overhead welding.

Being hygroscopic, basic electrodes should be allowed to dry before being used. Here below we summarize the main characteristics:

  • Excellent cleaning of the material.
  • Very low contribution of hydrogen.
  • Cold pool.
  • Unstable arch.
  • Difficult residue to remove.
  • Difficult Ignition.
  • DC generators.
  • Difficult storage.
  • Also suitable for large thicknesses.
  • Very high deposition speed.
  • Excellent welding from a mechanical point of view, even with not perfectly pure materials.

TIG and tungsten electrodes

For completeness of information, we must also refer to TIG welding and tungsten electrodes. The material you will be working on in this case will not be affected by other material supplied by the electrode. In other words, the tungsten electrode is not consumed, since its only task is to transfer electricity.

This type of electrode is available in diameters between 0.25 and 6.4 mm. The two extreme values, however, are not designed for domestic but professional use, so domestic welding machines often do not even support them. These electrodes are often used by placing the positive pole on the workpiece.

On the contrary, placing the negative pole on the workpiece is certainly more stable, even if less energy is supplied. This method is used to weld light metals, especially aluminum, which is the most welded material with TIG technology. A further characteristic of tungsten electrodes is that when they are used, they are used with the positive pole on the workpiece.

In this case the electrodes must be sharpened at the end that will come into contact with the piece to be welded, creating a cone with a height of one and a half times the diameter of the electrode itself. In other words, if the electrode had a diameter of 2 mm, the cone of the tip will be 3 mm high, so as to allow the tungsten a better transmission of electrons.

In the case of inverted polarity, you will have to keep the electrode flat, so as to avoid raising the amperage unnecessarily. However, in TIG welding, since the electrode is made of tungsten, it will not melt, so if you need filler material, you will have to add it from external sources, through the use of filler bars.

Filler bars are metal bars available in almost any DIY store, and they are precisely designed to bring material to what is the melt pool.

Basic welding electrodes: in conclusion

At this point the overview of the main types of electrodes is complete. As far as the basic ones are concerned, in conclusion we can say that compared to the others they have a higher resistance, which is why they are used to weld special steels. One of the most classic examples of use is that of shipyards, where clearly the welds made must be of very high quality. The basic electrode also offers the advantage of being able to be used in any position, provided, however, that there is some experience with welding.

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