How CLAMS Can Make You A Better Stick Welder

There are several different types of welding methods, and stick welding is one of the most common ones because of the low operating costs and ease of operation. Also called Shielded Metal Arc Welding, stick welding is the process of fusing pieces of metal together using welding rods that consist of filler metal and flux. The filler metal holds the two pieces of metal together and the flux protects the molten metal of the weld. If you plan to do any amount of stick welding, then you need to keep CLAMS in mind. No, not the delicious shellfish. Keep reading to learn exactly what CLAMS is:

What Is CLAMS?

CLAMS is an acronym that means:

C – Current setting

L – Length of arch

A – Angle of electrode

M – Manipulation of the electrode

S – Speed of travel

These 5 points must always be in your mind when stick welding. After some practice, these points will become second nature.

Current Setting

In order to properly weld two pieces of metal together, you have to make sure the welding machine's amperage is set appropriately. The amperage setting depends on the diameter and type of electrode you're using, the thickness of the material you're welding together, where you're welding, and what the finished weld should look like.

Most newer welding machines have a label on them that provides recommended amperage settings for a wide variety of materials and electrodes. Most electrode boxes also indicate the operating ranges on the side. For example, if you're going to use a 1/8-inch 6010 rod, you should have the welder set between 75 and 125 amps. If you're going to use a 3/32-inch 7018 rod, then your machine should be set to 90 amps.

Length Of Arc

The ideal arc length depends on the materials being used. The key is to obtain an arc that isn't bigger than the metal portion of the electrode. This is something that takes practice, and the more you weld, the better you'll get.

If you hold the electrode too close, it will decrease the welding voltage and create an erratic arch that will either go out, cause the rod to freeze, or produce a weld bead with a high crown. Arcs that are too long will provide too much voltage, which results in low deposition rates, rough beads, splatter, undercuts, and even porosity. It's a common beginner's mistake to weld with an arc that's too long.

Angle Of Electrode

The angle in which you hold the electrode while welding is extremely important. When you're stick welding in horizontal, flat, and overhead positions, you need to implement a "backhand" or "drag" technique. To do this, simply hold the rod at a right angle to the joint. Tilt the top of the electrode about 5 to 15 degrees towards the direction of travel. Then weld the metal together.

If you are going to be welding in a vertical position, use a "forehand" or "push" technique. To do this, simply title the top of the electrode about 15 degrees away from the direction of travel. Then, weld the metal together.

Manipulation Of The Electrode

Every welder has his or her own unique style of weaving or manipulating the electrode when joining 2 pieces of metal together. You can develop your own style by watching other welders, practicing, and coming up with a welding method that gives you great results. Just make sure you don't weave the rod when working on metal that is ¼-inch thick or less, because it will create a bead that is wider than needed.

If you want a wide bead on thick material, then move the electrode from side to side to create a serious of partially overlapping circles. Working in a "Z," stutter-step, or semi-circle pattern are also great ways to get a wider bead when welding. Just make sure you don't go more than 2 times the diameter of the electrode core when moving side to side. If you need to cover a wider area, make stringer beads by going over the area multiple times.

Speed Of Travel

The best way to get an ideal bead is to adjust your speed of travel accordingly. When welding at a proper speed, you will get a welding bead with a nice contour – also called a crown, a good width, and a smooth appearance. You need to adjust your travel speed so that the arc is always within the leading 1/3 of the weld pool. If you travel slow, you'll have a wide and convex bead that doesn't penetrate very deep. If you travel too fast, then you'll have a much narrower and a high crowed bead that also doesn't penetrate the metal deep enough. You could also have undercuts. Also, if your weld looks like fish scales, then you're moving too fast.

To ensure you're getting the welding results you desire, make sure you can see the weld puddle at all times. If needed, keep your head to the side and out of the smoke to get a good view of the puddle. And, as with most things in life, practice makes perfect. So don't worry about ugly welds and mistake. You can always grind them out and re-weld the materials, which is what the professionals, like those at Suburban Welding & Steel LLC, do to achieve a perfect-looking weld.