Arc Welding Procedures, Techniques, and Welding Safety Equipment (Part One)

in Aircraft Welding

Arc welding, also referred to as stick welding, has been performed successfully on almost all types of metals. This section addresses the procedures as they may apply to fusion welding of steel plate and provides the basic steps and procedures required to produce an acceptable arc weld. Additional instruction and information pertaining to arc welding of other metals can be obtained from training institutions and the various manufacturers of the welding equipment.

The first step in preparing to arc weld is to make certain that the necessary equipment is available and that the welding machine is properly connected and in good working order. Particular attention should be given to the ground connection, since a poor connection results in a fluctuating arc, that is difficult to control.


When using a shielded electrode, the bare end of the electrode should be clamped in its holder at a 90° angle to the jaws. (Some holders allow the electrode to be inserted at a 45° angle when needed for various welding positions.)

Before starting to weld, the following typical list of items should be checked:

  • Is the proper personal safety equipment being used, including a welding helmet, welding gloves, protective clothing, and footwear; if not, in an adequately ventilated area, appropriate breathing equipment?
  • Has the ground connection been properly made to the work piece and is it making a good connection?
  • Has the proper type and size electrode been selected for the job?
  • Is the electrode properly secured in the holder?
  • Does the polarity of the machine coincide with that of the electrode?
  • Is the machine in good working order and is it adjusted to provide the necessary current for the job?

The welding arc is established by touching the base metal plate with the electrode and immediately withdrawing it a short distance. At the instant the electrode touches the plate, a rush of current flows through the point of contact. As the electrode is withdrawn, an electric arc is formed, melting a spot on the plate and at the end of the electrode.

Correctly striking an arc takes practice. The main difficulty in confronting a beginner in striking the arc is sticking the electrode to the work. If the electrode is not withdrawn promptly upon contact with the metal, the high amperage flows through the electrode causing it to stick or freeze to the plate and practically short circuits the welding machine. A quick roll of the wrist, either right or left, usually breaks the electrode loose from the work piece. If that does not work, quickly unclamp the holder from the electrode, and turn off the machine. A small chisel and hammer frees the electrode from the metal so it can be regripped in the holder. The welding machine can then be turned back on.

There are two essentially similar methods of striking the arc. One is the tough or tapping method. When using this method, the electrode should be held in a vertical position and lowered until it is an inch or so above the point where the arc is to be struck. Then, the electrode is lightly tapped on the work piece and immediately lifted to form an arc approximately ¼-inch in length. [Figure 5-29]

Figure 5-29. Touch method of starting an arc.

Figure 5-29. Touch method of starting an arc.

The second (and usually easier to master) is a scratch or sweeping method. To strike the arc by the scratch method, the electrode is held just above the plate at an angle of 20°–25°. The arc should be struck by sweeping the electrode with a wrist motion and lightly scratching the plate. The electrode is then lifted immediately to form an arc. [Figure 5-30]

Figure 5-30. Scratch/sweeping method of starting the arc.

Figure 5-30. Scratch/sweeping method of starting the arc.

Either method takes some practice, but with time and experience, it becomes easy. The key is to raise the electrode quickly, but only about ¼-inch from the base or the arc is lost. If it is raised too slowly, the electrode sticks to the plate.

To form a uniform bead, the electrode must be moved along the plate at a constant speed in addition to the downward feed of the electrode. If the rate of advance is too slow, a wide overlapping bead forms with no fusion at the edges. If the rate is too fast, the bead is too narrow and has little or no fusion at the plate.

The proper length of the arc cannot be judged by looking at it. Instead, depend on the sound that the short arc makes. This is a sharp cracking sound, and it should be heard during the time the arc is being moved down to and along the surface of the plate.

A good weld bead on a flat plate should have the following characteristics:

  • Little or no splatter on the surface of the plate.
  • An arc crater in the bead of approximately 1⁄16-inch when the arc has been broken.
  • The bead should be built up slightly, without metal overlap at the top surface.
  • The bead should have a good penetration of approximately 1⁄16-inch into the base metal.

Figure 5-31 provides examples of operator’s technique and welding machine settings.

Figure 5-31. Examples of good and bad stick welds.

Figure 5-31. Examples of good and bad stick welds.

When advancing the electrode, it should be held at an angle of about 20° to 25° in the direction of travel moving away from the finished bead. [Figure 5-32]

Figure 5-32. Angle of electrode.

Figure 5-32. Angle of electrode.

If the arc is broken during the welding of a bead and the electrode is removed quickly, a crater is formed at the point where the arc ends. This shows the depth of penetration or fusion that the weld is getting. The crater is formed by the pressure of the gases from the electrode tip forcing the weld metal toward the edges of the crater. If the electrode is removed slowly, the crater is filled.

If you need to restart an arc of an interrupted bead, start just ahead of the crater of the previous weld bead. Then, the electrode should be returned to the back edge of the crater. From this point, the weld may be continued by welding right through the crater and down the line of weld as originally planned. [Figure 5-33]

Figure 5-33. Re-starting the arc.

Figure 5-33. Re-starting the arc.

Once a bead has been formed, every particle of slag must be removed from the area of the crater before restarting the arc. This is accomplished with a pick hammer and wire brush and prevents the slag from becoming trapped in the weld.