How to choose the correct welding electrode

Written by chuck brown
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How to choose the correct welding electrode
Welding electrodes are widely used in major construction projects. (welder grinding metal image by Carbonbrain from

Welders the world over are increasingly using flux-cored arc welding along with gas metal arc welding to frame and build with steel. Welders are using electrodes of different types, including solid core, flux core and metal core since the increased availability of these electrodes. Generally, companies who make the electrodes specify which electrode to use with which grade of steel. Over the years, welders have discovered that steels and electrodes need to match ideally if the two are going to create the kind of quality joint so critical in steel construction.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Select the most appropriate electrode. Do this by taking note of the steel being welded. Consider the chemical composition, mechanical properties, the microstructure of the steel and how it was manufactured or processed.

  2. 2

    Use the most similar metals in order to produce a fit, top-quality weld. Weld only with the electrode that is the best marriage with the base metal. Use the electrode that offers a similar, but not exact, chemical composition metal match to limit rust erosion as much as possible.

    How to choose the correct welding electrode
    Quality welds are sometimes tricky to accomplish. (welding image by glgec from
  3. 3

    Choose electrodes which have anywhere from .02% to .04% less carbon than the metal to which they will be welded. Use other alloys to compensate for this carbon reduction, and increase the CEN (Carbon Equivalent Number) back to industry-accepted levels.

  4. 4

    Use only the electrodes which give the metal sufficient tensile strength and impact resistance in the "as welded" or "post weld treated" phases. Do not overmatch welds by using additional metal that gives the deposited metal more strength than the weld metal itself in order to protect weld flaws. Overmatch only when the overmatched metal offers adequate toughness for the overmatch.

    How to choose the correct welding electrode
    Overmatching, on the other hand, is sometimes necessary. (Welding image by Vladimirs Koskins from
  5. 5

    Learn the sizes of arc welding electrodes used in welding shielded metal. Study the AWS (American Welding Society) size guide and numbering system. Review the five sizes, 1/16 through 5/16, and the four or five digit number stamped on the side to know the electrode's application.

  6. 6

    Study and remember this example of the electrode identification system: 1/8"E6011. The 1/8 is the electrode thickness/diameter. E represents arc welding electrode. Remember this is a four- or five-digit number. The first two numbers (first three on five digit numbers) refer to minimal tensile strength in thousands of pounds per square inch.

    How to choose the correct welding electrode
    Electrodes are clearly labelled and coded. (welder image by Kaarel from
  7. 7

    Learn that the 60 of this example means the electrode would have 60,000 psi strength. Keep in mind that the next-to-last digit indicates application/position for that particular electrode. The 1 means it can be used in all positions.

  8. 8

    Commit to memory that the last two digits used together refer to the coating of the electrode and the welding current to use with it. The 11 says it can be used with either AC or DC/DC Straight or DCSP Electrode Negative. Study this sequential numbering system to know which electrode is suitable for which application.

    How to choose the correct welding electrode
    Welders match the electrode to the nature receiving metal. (welder image by Antonio Oquias from

Tips and warnings

  • Keep in mind the proportional relationship that the higher the carbon equivalent, the lower weld-cracking potential.
  • This is serious, heavy-duty work; do not attempt this without first being trained.

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