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age of rod matters? fact or fiction

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  • age of rod matters? fact or fiction

    despite Russ being an expert witness for the prosecution (meaning he's seen the worst i can do ); I actually can do a good job with a stick welder on simple stuff, nice horizontal pieces not too thin etc....

    I was whining to a welding supply place once when having trouble (I've since figured it was the fault of mystery metal, I think some leaded steel) and the guy asks how old are the rods. Proceeds to tell me that once the packaginging is open they'll last for about 6 months at optimal levels. Now i've got some 30 year old rods from when i was a teenager that i still use, but I have to agree newer rods work better....i'd always thought it was because the old ones had gotten wet.

    It would be self serving for welding guy if rods only last 6 months so I thought BS....but I've been going there for years and have a bit of a relationship with the guy; he's a retired welder and spends a bunch time telling this amateur how to do stuff and I'm a regular albeit small customer.... so it would be odd that he'd out right lie....

    what do you guys thing, do the rods go stale after the seal is broken?
    Last edited by Mcgyver; 12-07-2008, 11:30 AM.
    in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

  • #2
    Rods can go bad in a heck of a lot less time than six months after opening the seal but they can also last for decades, it depends on how much moisture they are exposed to. Take a look at the rods, if there is any trace of rust on the exposed end or if the flux has formed a dry powdery coating then these rods are pretty much history for anything except non-critical welding on mild steel. Even after just a half hour or so, or even less time on a humid day, rods should be dried and kept in a rod oven or some other method used to prevent them from coming into contact with moisture. If the rods don't have any rusting and the flux is still solid with no powdery residue then they should be just fine no matter how old but they also should be dried for several hours at around 300 deg or so before use.


    • #3
      Low hydrogen rods are more temperamental than others, but your likely in a summer humid area so...........?? If you can strike an arc and maintain a good stable arc they're likely still ok. I try and save or reuse anything (aka packrat) and they threw out a couple hundred lbs of different rod at work so I became the adoptive parent,,,,,,,radkins is right if the coating is suspect chuck straight in the garbage, I just do homeshop welding and need to be in a relaxed frame of mind which those rods weren't accomplishing......LOL

      I need a guy that knows Unitecs ID system, I'm sure I've got a bunch of different kinds, hardfacing etc, but am having a hard time iding it?
      Opportunity knocks once, temptation leans on the doorbell.....


      • #4
        as long as the flux is on them and you bak them dry they will bo ok. if they are left lay on a bench for years and years with water dripping on them. they mite not be any good.


        • #5
          You cant just bake an old rod and expect the rod to be any good. I believe 6011 is a cellulose based flux rod and if that gets damp its all over with on that rod.


          • #6
            It's true that baking a rod that has been ruined from moisture will not fix it and if the flux is softened or has that powdery residue then they should be discarded or at least not used for anything except mild steel and then only for non-critical welds. However this does not mean that simply being old will ruin them, I have seen and used welding rods that were quite a few years old but they had been stored in relatively dry conditions and had none of the tell-tale signs of degrading.

            On this same subject Aluminum rods for stick welding should not be exposed to the air for more than a few minutes and when the package is opened take out only what you expect to use at that time, the remainder should then be stored in a rod oven on a fairly low heat. If these rods are left exposed to the air for any length of time they will actually absorb enough moisture for the flux to become wet and dissolve! Simply closing them back into the container without baking them will not protect them for very long after exposure and if the flux becomes rough and "bumpy" DON'T attempt to use them! If Aluminum rods in this condition are used they will create several problems when trying to weld, they will tend to pop and splatter and leave a porous weld. I mentioned this because recently I picked up a package of these rods (which are quite expensive BTW) that had been opened before I received them and sure enough they had started to deteriorate. Being aware of the problems this can cause I tried to return them but was told there was none missing from the package and that they had opened them to look at them out of curiosity. I then tried to explain that they had ruined them by doing so but they just got mad and refused to take them back, these rods were definitly ruined and I ended up throwing them away. The lesson here is once that package is opened store the left over rods properly and inspect the packaging before paying for the things!


            • #7
              Low-hydrogen rods such as E7018 have a coating formulated to enhance various properties, one of which is to make it easy for the factory to bake out all the moisture before packaging. But that same property makes it easy for the coating to absorb moisture once the package is opened. Lo-Hy rod is specifically intended for use on carbon and low alloy steels that are subject to hydrogen embrittlement when moisture is entrapped in the weld bead, and these steels should not be welded by anything but low-hydrogen electrodes.

              The best way to buy lo-hy rod is in vacuum-packed metal cans, not cardboard covered with plastic, and I wouldn't buy lo-hy electrodes out of open bins at the suppliers store regardless of his assurances, unless I was only using it for mild steel. They will all tell you that the new coatings make today's lo-hy rod good for longer exposures to the air, but I'm the one that will be held liable for the weld so I buy the vacuum can of rod, period. As to the useful life of this kind of rod, in nuclear work the rod is taken from a newly-opened can at the beginning of a shift, and any rod left after four hours is discarded as suitable only for welding non-critical metals.

              Most of us don't have to be that fussy, but we need to maintain the rod in a warm, dry place. Get only as much rod out of the package as you think you'll need, then immediately cap the container and seal any seam that will admit air with electrical tape. Professional welders leave open rod in a rod oven; a low tech method is to keep rod in a box or old refrigerator with a lightbulb in it for heat. If you leave open rod on a shelf or riding around in the toolbox in your truck, it quickly becomes useless for welding higher strength steels, and eventually becomes useless for anything. If lo-hy rod hasn't accumulated too much moisture, it can be put through a re-drying sequence in an oven, but many professionals still would not use re-dried rod on high strength steels, just on mild steel.

              Ordinary mild steel electrode such as E6010, 6011, 6013, 7014, and such things as chamfering/gouging rod work fine with a little moisture in them, and can be left out on a shelf. But there are limits to this, and I prefer to keep any kind of rod in a box that I tape shut at the end of the day. Unless you are a good welder (i.e., one that has been shown by a welding instructor all of the ways a weld can appear okay but be unacceptable), you are surely better off welding mild steel with E6011 than E7018; it doesn't make as pretty a bead and it throws off lots of sparks, but it is plenty strong, very forgiving, and it's far less likely to hide slag inclusions the way 7018 tries to.


              • #8
                so far iam arc welding and never noticed an expiry date on the boxes so id say fiction, but what do i know i have only been arc welding for less then a year now


                • #9
                  How could they put an expiration date on the package when they have no idea how you will handle the rod? Keep it in an unopened vacuum can and it will last as long as the seal is maintained. Keep it in a 300-degree rod oven and it should also last for years. Actually, how do you want to define "last"? If all you weld is mild steel, even E7018 might do the job for years if the humidity doesn't get too high.

                  If you think any of what I've said is "fiction," I invite you to ask any welding engineer or AWS inspector if he would sign-off on and be held liable for welds made with lo-hy rod that has been out of the can long enough to have absorbed a moisture content at or near ambient humidity.

                  You have your own project requirements. Me, if I'm bolting a latch to a garden fence gate, I'll use any cheap overseas no-grade, twice-used, rust-pitted fasteners I find in the bottom of the drawer. If I'm rebuilding (and I am) an engine for a truck that I will work hard and keep till I croak, I pay extra for ARP rod bolts. If I ever build a little airplane, I will use nothing but verifiable aircraft fasteners, and cost-be-damned. You might want to apply the same principle to welding rod. Are you welding up a bird-bath? Or a trailer hitch? Welding is an activity with possible consequences, and the professional welder is always aware that with some jobs, if he screws up, people can die.


                  • #10
                    Rod performance

                    The fact or fiction part of your question can be answered with a definate yes rods go bad. When you open a new container of rods and start to use them you can judge for yourself. Low Hydrogen rods require proper storage and handling to maintain their properties. In critical applications like power plants etc. there is a lot of quality control programing and planning. In everday type of environments the joint design should be so conservative that hydrogen embriddlement should not be a problem. You still don't want porosity or crap included in the weld. It doesn't take a $5000 rod oven to work for everday type storage situations but you need to build or buy something.
                    Byron Boucher
                    Burnet, TX


                    • #11
                      Check ebay and local auctions. Good rod ovens can be had cheap. Hot, or at least completely dry storage is critical for low-hydrogen rod used for critical work, i.e., any steel subject to hydrogen embrittlement, which includes some of the free-machining varieties, medium and high-carbon steels, HSLA steels, and others.

                      If you're only welding mild steel, which is what most of us do, most of the time, do don't have to go to what might appear to you as radical extremes. Just find or make an insulated box and keep a lightbulb going in it. Or re-seal the container that your rod came in, preferably with a dried packet of silica gel, but if you don't have that, at least re-seal it. Just don't leave open rod of any kind in your pickup or an unheated shed . . . unless you'd leave your lathe out there with no oil on the ways.

                      Welding rod is not coat-hanger wire; lots of engineers have spent their careers developing welding electrodes, and it's improving all the time. This applies to stick electrodes as well as the spooled wire electrodes for the various GMAW processes which outsiders imagine have rendered stick welding a low-tech, obsolete backwater (they're wrong). And if I'm making it sound as if ordinary E7018 low-hydrogen rod is pretty fancy stuff, check into the welding rod and wire made for the REALLY critical work (NASA, DOD, aircraft, motor-racing, nuclear) nowdays, with double vacuum remelt steels, and a price per pound that takes your breath away!

                      The smallest amount of lo-hy rod I've seen available in a vacuum can is 10 lbs. It has a plastic lid that you can snap on right after you pull the rod out, and when I'm done for the day I wrap a turn of electrical tape around the gap between the edge of the lid and the can (if I'm not putting the rod in the oven). Some suppliers sell popular electrodes in 2 lb. boxes, if you don't want to buy a lot of excess rod that will just sit around.

                      OTOH, if that is the real McGyver, we know he can weld his way out of the worst situations with coat-hanger wire, so I have nothing more to say!!
                      Last edited by seattle smitty; 04-08-2009, 10:59 PM.


                      • #12
                        Yes to all above, but, what gives when you buy some at a tool store and they come in a flimsy plastic box, 5 or 6 rods for $5-6 and box not sealed in the least?
                        mark costello-Low speed steel


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mcostello
                          Yes to all above, but, what gives when you buy some at a tool store and they come in a flimsy plastic box, 5 or 6 rods for $5-6 and box not sealed in the least?
                          Lets face it....the people that buy rods like that are beyond redemption.
                          They would neither know nor care if the quality of their welding rods was somewhat compromised.
                          Home, down in the valley behind the Red Angus
                          Bad Decisions Make Good Stories​

                          Location: British Columbia


                          • #14
                            It's only the low-hydrogen rod that needs vacuum-packing. I don't think you can find it packed that way in a hardware store. And I'd be surprised if you can find anybody in a hardware store that knows anything about welding, other than what they've been told for sales purposes. The advantage from buying from a real welding supply house is that most of the employees are or have been welders, and can give better advice. The rod is usually cheaper there, too, although Harbor Freight may have the price advantage for their Chinese mystery-metal rod.

                            As far as using cheap rod or old rod, the question still is, are you welding up a birdbath or a trailer hitch? I don't want to come across as an extremist here, and in fact I have arc-welded with old lo-hy rod and old mild steel rod, and gas-welded with rusty gas-rod and even coat hanger wire when it didn't matter. I sometimes use up old rod for building temporary fixtures or bracing.
                            Last edited by seattle smitty; 04-10-2009, 07:11 PM.


                            • #15
                              Rod Storage

                              When I was doing a fair amount of welding I was given about 100lbs of rod of different grades. ie 7018, 6011, 2024 and so forth. I got an old refrigerator box (no compressor) put the rod in it and put a light socket with a 60 watt bulb in the bottom. That old reefer kept most (not all!) of the rod usable for years. If I had a job that was weld critical I used the new rod in the cans it came in that I had kept sealed in the refrigerator. I was able to use some of that rod over 8 years after I got it. Just use common sense and your rod will last a long time. I live in north coastal California and it get really wet here some times.
                              Good luck and happy welding, Fuzzy