Step 1 – Pre-Welding Familiarization
Prior to welding, you should read the user-manual of your SMAW welding machine. Welders come with a wide variety of features, and can utilize AC current, DC current, and vary on amperage. Select an appropriate rod for your machine. A 6013 rod will work for most machines, and an amperage setting of approximately 100 amps using AC current will work best with the rod. Again, the user manual provided with the welding machine will layout the procedure for checking this configuration. For additional information on the subject, please see Arc Welding Basics provided courtesy of Oregon State University Agricultural Department.
Step 2 – Safety
Ensure you are in a well ventilated area before beginning welding. SMAW arc welding produces toxic fumes. Ensure you are wearing proper protective equipments. Proper equipment includes a long sleeve shirt, long pants, leather shoes, and gauntlet gloves. The long sleeve shirt is required because arc rays can cause minor skin burns identical to sun burns. Gauntlet Gloves are required because they protect your hands from the immense heat created during the welding process. The gloves must be loose fitting so that in case they catch on fire, they can be quickly and easily separated from your hands. Lastly you will need a face shield or helmet with a #10 shaded lens dawned or ready.
Step 3 – Setup
Ensure the welding equipment is properly set up, plugged in and the ground is connected to the piece of metal you are working on. SMAW welding uses high voltage electricity which runs from the outlet through the machine, into the stick, through the arc, into the piece of metal being welded, through the ground clamp, back into the machine, and back into the outlet. This flow of electricity is critical to the weld, and compromising it could result in sever shock of the welder.
Note: The picture below depicts the welding ground attached to the table. This is done if a metal welding table is used. For other projects, the clamp should be directly attached to the piece of metal being worked on.
Keep the pliers, slag hammer, wire brush, and bucket of water near the area you are working. You will use these tools directly after laying your bead on the metal.
Step 4 – Strike an Arc and Position Rod
With the piece of metal prepped and ready, it is time to begin welding. Turn the SMAW welding machine on, and down your helmet. Strike an arc by quickly brushing the rod against the piece of metal that you are attempting to weld. After brushing the rod across the metal, try to maintain a distance of about 1/16” between the end of the rod, and the piece of metal you are welding. This distance is crucial to make a good weld. You will notice a bright arc that is constant and stable if done correctly.
With the arc struck, the rod should be held pointing directly away from you and in line with the intended weld. The rod should be held at a 45 degree vertical angle with the metal being welded.
Note: The picture above depicts the motion used only, and not the molten metal, or “pool” produced when welding. Using the motion described below will produce a pool that is overlapped with each pass so that no space can be seen between zig-zag strokes.
Step 5 – Begin Welding the Bead
Now, with the arc struck, and the rod position correct, begin welding by pulling the rod towards you in a zig-zag or semi-circular motion. The proper angle and the 1/16” distance between the rod and the metal should be maintained throughout the entire welding process. Remember, that as long as the arc is struck, the rod will continue to get shorter because metal from the rod is “flowing” across the arc and onto the metal being welded. Therefore it is difficult to maintain the 1/16” arc distance and will require lots of practice.
Note: Each stroke of the zig-zag motion should overlap the existing pool by about 50%.
Step 6 – Remove Slag and Examine the Weld
After the weld is complete, the metal will be extremely hot. First ensure you turned the power off on the SMAW arc welder. Then use the slag hammer to strike the bead you just made. A small amount of crusted material called the slag should chip away from the weld revealing the actual bead. Use the wire brush to clean the remaining slag from the bead. Gripping the metal with pliers, dunk it into the bucket of water to cool the metal. After removing from the water, wipe the metal dry clean with the wire brush again if needed. Finally examine your weld.
The welding speed will vary with different welding rods, however, the correct speed should be fairly slow and extremely steady. If done correctly the weld should look like it does below. If the weld is not continuos (like it is below) some common faults are motions that are spread too far apart, or moving too fast across the metal. It will take several attempts before you are able to successfully lay down a bead weld. All I can say is keep practicing.
Because welding is a trade that has been around for a long time, and there are formal schools to learn the subject, there are several text books printed on the subject. Visit your local library and you can check one out for free. Also, feel free to review the Arc Welding Lecture that was presented to me during my welding class.