Striking an arc for stick welding is the first and most basic step of beginning to weld, but there are several techniques that have become popular with welders over the years. Here are two ways to begin welding by striking an arc:
The Scratch Start Technique
Think of how you strike a match and then apply that to your stick welding electrode. Drag the electrode across the metal work piece and then lift it slightly so that the arc sparks the weld. You’ll move the electrode across the metal so that you end up right above where you’d like to weld.
The Tapping Technique
This method of striking an arc involves simply tapping the electrode on your metal straight down and then lifting it slightly in order to start the arc. While this is a simple movement, failing to pull it up fast enough will result in the electrode sticking to the metal. On the other hand, if you raise the electrode too high, your arc will go out.
Keep a File Handy
If your electrode sticks to the metal, give it a quick twist in order to free it. Welders generally keep a file or sandpaper handy in order to clean off the tip of the electrode before trying to strike it again. Many welders find that a file does this quite well.
On Keeping Your Arc Going
Once you have struck your arc, you’ll need to make sure you don’t let it get so close that it sticks to the metal or the arc becomes erratic and begins to produce uneven weld beads and a weld bead with a high crown. Though getting too close to the metal can cause problems, the tighter your arc, the better your weld will look and the less you’ll need to clean up your metal. Too much of an arc will cause spatter on your metal work piece.
The ideal distance for an arc will be equivalent to the diameter of the metal core of your electrode. This ensures that you’ll weld with enough voltage, create a clean weld, and save yourself lots of clean up time.