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Stop Your Welding Rod Sticking

what causes a welding rod to stick

When starting out stick welding, a welding rod sticking to the workpiece is annoying but part of the learning process. Let me give you the tips to make it a thing of the past.

If you are new to stick welding I will start with the fundamentals of why the machine could be the problem before going into stick welding techniques for striking an arc, skip ahead if you know the basics.

Can You Use That Electrode On Your Stick Welder?

Not all electrodes can be used effectively on all welding machines. If you are using the old buzz box type AC stick welder like a tombstone, you can’t run any rods that are designed for DCEP welding like a 7018 or 16TC if you are from Australia.

For those old-school transformer-type machines I recommend 6010, 6011, and 6013. If you were having problems with the 7018’s don’t worry any seasoned welder would.

Most people now have an inverter-style or multiprocess machine like the 205DS. If you are having problems with a 6010 starting. You might need to change the type of electrode to a 6011 or above. Not all inverters will start or run a 6010 without sticking.

The amperage output of the welding machine must be considered when choosing a welding rod. If you are trying to start a 5/32 (4mm) electrode diameter on a 120-volt outlet power source, you will be really pulling your hair out trying to run that size rod.

The Stinger Could Be Why Welding Rod Keeps Sticking

Damaged stinger causing welding rod to stick

A common cause of a welding rod sticking is poor connection between the electrode holder and the welding rod.

  1. The Clamp type stinger has a weak spring holding the rod or the clamp is corroded.
  2. The twist lock type welding rod holder can clamp down on the flux coating of the welding rod giving a very poor connection. 
  3. The welding rod gets stuck and won’t break off for the parent material and as you pull back on the electrode it comes out of the stinger. 

Don’t worry we’ve all done it. Over time the arc shorting out as the rod is pulled from the holder wears the brass away dirtying the contact face and speeding up the corrosion. This reduces the ability to transfer all the current to the welding rod, causing it to stick.

So make sure that the electrode holder is clean and free from any dirt, or debris that may interfere with its grip on the welding rod.

When connecting the electrode holder to the welding rod, make sure that the grip is tight and secure and not on the flux coating at all. A loose connection can lead to poor contact between the electrode and the base metal, resulting in electrode sticking. 

Damaged Electrode Tip Maybe What Causes Welding Rod To Stick

Before you start striking an arc, it’s crucial to check the welding rod’s tip to ensure that it is clean and free from any contaminants.

If the flux has broken away you can use a piece of scrap to burn that part of the rod away or grab a new one. A poor arc start will contribute to the welding rod sticking.

Look for any signs of discoloration, rust, or debris, and remove any contaminants you find. You can use a file or your welding glove to clean the tip if necessary.

How To Prevent A 7018 Welding Rod Sticking

This applies to all low hydrogen rods. The electrode is my personal favorite but it can be a bit temperamental. If you look at a brand new rod the tip has a different color on the bottom. 

This is to aid the rod to start without sticking. Sometimes you get a bad batch that has very little or only covers one side of the rod. 

Seriously they are that hard to start. The flux is thicker and denser than the 6000-grade electrodes. 

When the arc has finished the flux quickly forms over the end of the welding electrode. You can use the tap method ( I don’t recommend it for high-stress or NDT work).

My favored method is to either gently tap the end of the rod with a cold chisel or break the end of with your heavy welding glove. This removes the brown burnt flux and just exposes the wire inside the rod. Be careful not to break too much of the flux away.

Another reason they could be sticking is poor welding electrode care.

Dial In The Amperage

The most common cause of the welding rod sticking is the amperage being set too low for the electrode’s optimal operating range. Each packet of welding rods will have a current range for each diameter printed on a table.

But this is a guide only. The welder might not run as hot as it indicates or the material thickness being welded.

As the thickness of the material increases, the amperage will need to be turned up. The thicker material will require the added amperage to reach a high enough temperature to melt and join the molten pool of the electrode filler rod.

If this temperature isn’t reached the arc will be very weak and unstable. The base material will act as a heatsink, cool the filler material extremely quickly, extinguish the arc, and cause the welding rod to stick to the base material.

This infuriates the welder (you) and then you may wish you had brought or used a MIG welder.

But I still use a stick welder for 60% of the structural steelwork I do on mining construction sites. Being portable and not requiring any shielding gas or using them in less-than-ideal conditions is a valuable skill to know.

It’s also crucial to test the settings on a scrap piece of metal before beginning the actual weld. If you are new to the game.

This allows the welder to determine if the settings are appropriate for the metal being used and to make any necessary adjustments before beginning the actual weld.

How To Strike An Arc 

Welding requires skill, patience, and precision – and one of the most critical parts of the process is starting the arc and running the bead. Done incorrectly, the weld can be weakened, damaged, or even fail altogether. 

1. Proper preparation: Before starting the arc, make sure that the electrode is firmly and securely held in place in the electrode holder. The tip of the electrode should be clean and free of any contaminants, rust, or debris. Additionally, the metal surface being welded should be clean and free of any rust, paint, or other debris that could interfere with the weld.

2. Starting the arc: To start the arc, touch the electrode to the metal at a slight angle. Once the electrode makes contact, lift it slightly, about 1/8 inch, to create an arc. If the electrode sticks to the metal, stop and ensure that the electrode holder is securely in place. If the electrode still sticks, use the side of the holder to break the electrode off.

3. Running the bead: After the arc has been started, begin to move the electrode along the joint at the proper angle. This angle will depend on the type of joint being welded and the position of the welding. A rule of thumb is to hold the electrode at a 10-15 degree angle relative to the direction of travel. As the bead is being formed, maintain a slow and steady travel speed to ensure that the weld puddle is uniform and fills the joint completely.

5. Finishing the weld: Once the weld is complete, release the pressure on the electrode and maintain the arc for a few seconds to allow the metal to cool and the weld to solidify. Then, remove the electrode from the metal and allow the weld to cool completely.

In summary, starting the arc and running the bead correctly is crucial for a strong and successful weld. With proper preparation and technique, welders can ensure that their welds are of the highest quality and meet the required safety and construction standards.

Arc Length Importance

Arc length is a crucial aspect of welding that can significantly impact the quality of the weld. Arc length refers to the distance between the tip of the electrode and the metal being welded. This distance should be maintained within a specific range to ensure proper penetration and deposition rates.

When the arc length is too short, the weld puddle can become too cool, resulting in the arc welding rod sticking.

Pay attention to electrode angle and distance for proper arc length. Shorter arcs are better for thin materials and longer for thicker stock. Different arc lengths are needed for different techniques and joint configurations.

How To Prevent The Electrode Sticking Once Your Welding

When you’re welding, it’s really important to pay attention to the angle and speed you use. If you haven’t been practicing long you could find the light goes out and your rod is stuck.

Going too slow, some fluxes can surround the arc killing it.

Travel speed too fast can have the arc leaving the weld pool hitting a piece of spatter and killing the arc.

The angle of the electrode affects how the weld looks and how deep it penetrates. It’s usually best to drag the electrode backward. The direction you move in depends on how the pieces you’re welding are set up.

The travel speed is equally important as the angle since it affects the weld bead’s size and shape. A slower travel speed can produce a wider bead, while a faster speed can lead to a narrower bead. Depending on the joint configuration and the thickness of the material, the travel speed can be adjusted accordingly.

3. Poor flux quality

Welding electrodes use a flux coating to create a protective gas shield around the weld pool and remove impurities from the base metal. However, poor flux quality can lead to several issues that can compromise the starting correctly.

Low Hydrogen rods absorb moister very easily. If the flux has patches of discoloration it could be a sign f the rods are soaked. Not only causing porosity but extinguishing the arc.

If you are going to restart an electrode after a short weld the side of the flux can fall off completely. I usually bin those rods, They are going to cause a lot of grief trying to start the weld.

2. Prevent Open Circuit Voltage Drops

Low open circuit voltage is another common issue that welders may encounter when using the stick welding process. Open circuit voltage refers to the voltage that is present in the welding circuit when the machine is not in use. It’s important because it sets the overall amperage range that can be used during the welding process.

Check the terminals at the welder are fitted correctly 

Check for the earth (ground) clamp is in good condition. 

Check for any damage to the insulation on the cables to prevent them from arcing to the job.

When the open circuit voltage is low, welding rods may stick to the base metal or the electrode holder, making it difficult for the welder to control the weld puddle. This can be especially problematic when welding thicker materials or when trying to perform deep penetration welds.

In addition to making the welding process more difficult, low open circuit voltage can also impact the overall quality of the weld. When the voltage is too low, it can lead to poor fusion between the weld metal and the base metal, resulting in lower tensile strength and other issues down the line.

To avoid low open circuit voltage, it’s important to regularly check the electrical connections and ground connections to make sure that they are secure. Loose or poor connections can cause voltage fluctuations that can negatively impact the welding process.

5. Dirty metal surface

Welding requires a clean metal surface for optimal results. Bits of dirt, rust, dust, or paint can create problems during the welding process. One of the most common issues that welders face is dirty metal surfaces needing repairs or old stock that’s rusty.

If you are trying to weld over hot rolled mill steel the hard blackish carbon layer over the steel isn’t that conductive so the arc struggles to establish a weld pool quickly.

This goes for the earth too. This was a guy in a workshop I was working at. He was MIG welding inside a tank. But you can see how much amperage is being sucked out of the process because he was too last to clean the surface.

The tank leaked like a sieve when we hydro-tested it.

Look For A Machine With Hot Start

Welding can be a challenging task, especially for beginners. One of the most frustrating issues that can arise during welding is known as ‘sticking’, which is when the welding rod becomes stuck to the base material. Once this happens, the welder must stop and remove the rod, resulting in wasted time and material. That’s why it is important to have a machine with a ‘hot start’ feature.

Hot start is a function that automatically boosts the welding machine’s output at the start of the welding process. This feature increases the amperage for a short period of time, which creates a higher arc voltage and better ignition of the electrode. This results in an improved start and a better flow of molten metal, reducing the risk of stick welding.

Hot start is particularly useful when welding with certain electrodes, such as those with high mineral content “any low hydrogen rods“. These electrodes tend to be more difficult to ignite, making hot start an essential feature for successful welding with them.

Welding rods are the foundation of any metal welding process, but it’s when they stick to the base metal that things can get tricky. This sticking and splattering can be incredibly frustrating and can ruin even a perfectly laid weld. But why does this happen in the first place? The truth is that there are a few different reasons why these welding rods stick to the metal.

Wrong Polarity

Some of the 6000-grade rods run better on DCEN on an inverter machine. This means it has a negative stinger and positive ground. 7018’s on the other hand don’t. They even make a weird squeaking sound, that’s if you manage to get the arc to keep running.

It’s a common problem if you are learning pipe welding and you use a 7016 or a 6011 for the root run on DCEN.

Happy for the hot pass, throw in a 7018.

Next thing….why does my welding rod keep sticking? only to look over at the welder and the terminals are around the wrong way

How To Stop Welding Rod From Sticking

Prevent the welding rod from sticking by increasing the amperage, checking the ground clamp, and the welders terminals. Ensure the weld prep is free from rust and other contaminants. Double-check that you are on the correct welding polarity. 

The most common reason is due to poor technique or improper amperage for a project. If you’re not using a high enough amperage for thicker metals, then your electrodes won’t be able to create an arc with the base material and instead will stick and start smoldering on top of it.

Another issue may arise if your rods aren’t held at the correct angle or distance from the workpiece; both of these factors affect how well your electrode performs. Finally, simply using old or wet welding rods can result in them sticking as well.

Thanks for reading the article and I hope it helps you burn some rods without the frustration of poor starts while using the MMAW process.

Photo of author


Kieran Proven

Kieran has been welding since the age of 11, taught by his father. He loved it as soon as he struck his first arc. At the age of 20, he has been a first-class welder coded from ASME IX to high-end pharmaceutical work. The founder of Welding Empire his goal is to help anyone wanting to further their knowledge in welding. From this website to his YouTube channel.