If you ever want to see a fight between welders, you should probably bring up the push or pull debate. It is one of the most divisive topics in the welder community and a lot of people swear by their method claiming their hard-earned experience has backed their methods. The truth is that you should probably do what you feel the most comfortable in depending on the welding method. But as someone who is just starting on the welding journey, it is important to know the basics. I would not recommend jumping straight to starting your own welding project without learning the basics of welding and this one of the most important topics within it.
When deciding if you should push or pull your welding puddle, a good rule to remember is: if it involves flux, you always pull. To elaborate more, you should always pull stick welding as well as flux-core welding. The reason for that is pushing traps slag into your puddle, resulting in poor welds. With regular MIG and TIG welding it is not that crucial.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PUSH AND PULL IN WELDING
The difference between both the technique is quite simple to understand. The push technique which is also known as the forehand technique basically means pushing the electrode away from the weld puddle. Using the push technique often results in flatter and wider beads and also fewer penetration levels because the force of the arc is being pushed away from the weld puddle.
On the other hand, the pull technique which is also known as the backhand technique is exactly the opposite of the push method. The electrode is dragged away from the deposited metal while the rod is pointed back at the puddle. Usually, people prefer the pull method because of deeper penetration and a narrower bead formation among other reasons.
YOU SHOULD PULL THE PUDDLE WHILE STICK WELDING
If you are MIG welding mild steel, then whether you choose to push, or pull is largely dependent on your preference and which style suits you the most. But usually, people prefer the push method because it offers a better view of the workpiece and lets you to better direct the wire into the joint.
But the same situation is not the same when it comes to stick welding, one of the main reasons being that it is one of those methods that produce slag. The majority of the people prefer and swear by the pull method for stick welding in particular and the reasoning makes sense also. The reason is that you can avoid pushing slag into the welding pool and the chances of it getting stuck in a bead are reduced a lot. While using the pull method the slag is usually left behind and can be removed later. The push method however traps the slag, and if the slag gets mixed into the weld pool it can compromise the strength and looks of the final weld.
If you are using the push method with stick welding it increases the chances of you running over the slag and getting it trapped in your puddle. Some welders say that this problem can be dealt with later but honestly, it is just easier and better to use the pulling technique.
In processes that don’t create slag (MIG and TIG) there, some people who prefer pulling over pushing, and the reason they give is the visibility of beads as you are welding. When you are pushing you can see where you are going, interestingly this is one of the major reasons in favor of using the push method. On the other hand, when you are pulling you can see where you are coming from, this is why some people prefer pulling in methods like MIG as they can see the quality of the beads as they are welding so they don’t have to go over the entire weld again.
Read more about porosity in welding here
THE EXCEPTION – WHEN TO PUSH YOUR PUDDLE
With MIG and TIG, some people prefer pushing while welding metals that don’t have a defined edge. As I said earlier if you are pulling you can see where you are coming from but that also means that you cannot see where you are going. This is okay if you are dealing with a metal that has a defined edge or a perfectly straight line so you can guess where you are going. But it can be a real problem if you are dealing with irregular edges or curved edges.
One of the other advantages of using the push method is that it creates a flatter bead which also means that it covers more surface area and, in some situations, creates a stronger weld, even though the pushing won’t give you as deep of penetration. A lot of people claim that one of the only ways to properly MIG weld aluminum is with a push technique.
When to Push while Stick Welding
As we already discussed, if it involves flux, you always pull the puddle. There is one exception however when it comes to stick welding – welding vertical uphill.
Welding uphill is not an easy task, and as a beginner welder, this exception is something to be aware of for your future projects. While welding uphill, it is important to push your welding puddle rather than pulling because of how gravity affects the slag.
Welding uphill is definitely something you want to practice a lot because it takes time to get the traveling speed right. If you run too slow, the metal will start dripping down, and if you run too fast, you’re not laying an adequate, strong bead.
THE REALITY OF PUSHING VS PULLING
A lot of people swear that the technique they have been using is the better one and they have no idea how some people can choose the other technique. But this is a misleading train of thought. The reality is that push and pull techniques can be used interchangeably, although there are situations where one of them might be technically more suitable for the job at hand. (Stick welding and FCAW are an exception of course)
When people are relying on their experience to say that one of the techniques is better, their views can be pretty misleading, let me tell you how. Imagine that you have been welding with the pull technique for over 4 years on the regular and you have become pretty good at it. You have been hearing from a lot of sources that push technique might be better for a particular kind of job, so you decide to give it a shot. If you have not used the other technique much you are bound to get worse results as compared to the one you have been using and a lot of people reach their conclusion from this point.
THE PROPER WAY TO STICK WELD
Before starting off with any type of welding make sure that you have all the safety equipment you need, and you have taken all the safety precautions. After that let’s address, all the basics. A ton of experienced welders also makes a mistake here. Make sure your stick welder works properly with no defects in cables and whatnot. Try to keep slag removing tools with you as well, you might not need them during the welding process, but you will them afterward. Another thing to keep in mind is that even though stick welding is the most forgiving for having dust on your metal, you should still clean all the surfaces before starting your weld.
The setup for stick welding is pretty easy, just keep in mind that your polarity settings match the electrode you are using. There are a few things which if you get them right will ensure a perfect weld.
- Current settings: the settings will largely depend upon the electrode you have selected for the weld and whether the polarity should be DC+, DC-, or AC. The correct amperage settings are usually provided by the manufacturer of the electrode.
- Proper Arc length: this is one of the most difficult things to master. If your arc is too long it will not be stable and produce excess spatter and might even go out. On the other hand, if your arc is too small your electrode might keep sticking to the base metal. As a rule of thumb, your arc length should be around the diameter of the electrode.
- The angle of Electrode: Keep your travel angle around 15 to 30 degrees.
- Speed of Travel: it is important to maintain the proper travel speed. Going too fast can decrease penetration and might result in a narrower or highly crowned bead and undercuts. While going too slow can result in wide welds and might result in cold lapping which basically means that the weld will appear to be simply sitting on the surface of the material.
To steady your hands while starting your weld you can rest your other elbow on the welding table or the workbench you are using and this hand to stabilize the hand which is holding the electrode.
STICK WELDING TRAVEL ANGLE
Before starting your weld, try to get your electrode at the right angle. You should aim between 15 to 30 degrees to the vertical. If you are welding thicker materials in general, or materials thicker than your machine should be able to handle, you can lessen the travel angle to 0 for more penetration. That way the arc pierces right into the base metals providing deeper penetration.
HOW TO STRIKE AN ARC
Make sure that the electrode is in the holder before turning on the welder. There are two major techniques of striking an arc, the first one being the tapping method and the latter being the dragging method. Usually, the latter is preferred by beginners because it being easier.
The tapping method means exactly what it sounds like, you have to tap your electrode on the metal for a fraction of a second and bring it the welding position. This method can be a bit harder to pull off, you might get your electrode stuck or the arc might extinguish.
The second method, dragging is like lighting a matchstick. You have to hold the electrode at an angle and gently scrape the surface of the metal and bring it to its position. A lot of people new to welding find this technique much easier but do give both of these techniques a go.
You can read more about your rod might be sticking here.
WHAT ROD SHOULD YOU USE AS A BEGINNER
The choice of rods you should buy in the beginning can be pretty confusing and tough. There are a lot of articles on the internet where the difference and comparisons between different electrodes are properly explained. Some of the most popular ones out there are the 6011, 6012, 6013, 7014, 7018. If you are working on mild steel any E60 or E70 electrode will do the job. The 7018 is probably the most popular among professionals out of all these but 6013 is usually suitable for beginners as they are very easy to handle and at the same time provide quality welds.
CAN YOU WELD SHEET METAL WITH A STICK WELDER?
It is really not recommended to use stick welding while dealing with thin sheets, the best way to go about sheet metal is to use TIG or MIG methods. While using stick welding on sheet metal it will require a higher level of skill and knowledge. Some people try to use the whipping motion when dealing in this situation which basically means just a back-and-forth manipulation of the arc. This doesn’t let the heat accumulate in one spot. If you address this issue while dragging the rod like you normally would, there is a pretty good chance you will burn through the metal.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION
It is common for people to have a lot of questions regarding the topic. I will try addressing some of the most common ones here and I hope they address some of your doubts as well.
As a matter of fact a lot of consider stick welding to be on the harder side when compared to MIG. A lot of beginners find it easier to start with MIG welding as compared to stick. Even though it is considered easier, the initial setup of MIG welding is much more complicated with all the extra variables like wire size, gas, contact tips and nozzle.
As I have explained before, pulling is just one of the techniques of moving your electrode while welding. As the name suggests it involves you dragging the rod away from the deposited metal while the welding gun is pointed towards the puddle.
Some of the hardest metals to work with are aluminum, titanium, and cast iron. You might need special equipment to deal with aluminum because of its properties, it is also quite hazardous metal to work with. You might need to heat cast iron to work on it because of its brittle nature.
If you are interested in welding cast iron, I have a post about it here.
To sum it all up, the method you go for at the end really depends on you, what welding method you are using and what you prefer and are comfortable with. Remember to follow all the steps to properly go about stick welding, like the arc length, amperage, electrode selection, angle of the arc, and most importantly always pull while stick welding.
Take a look at the post about arc length here as well.
Keep practicing each step of the technique to properly master them.