Convenience is very important. Having a multi-purpose tool is every worker’s dream, and the same applies to welding rods.
If you have a rod that you can use for just about anything, then you’ll always be prepared, no matter what the job requires.
Of course, the different types of stick electrodes were created for a reason, and each one has a specialty.
For example, the 7018 welding rod is most commonly used for heavy-duty, structural welding because it delivers a more uniform weld that has a high impact resistance in extremely low temperatures.
The 6010 and 6011 are the most commonly used welding rods when it comes to dirty, rusty, or painted metal. The reason is their deep penetration and aggressive arc which burns through anything in its way.
Understanding the Numbers
If you’re confused by the numbers, here’s a quick explanation…
The first two numbers represent the tensile strength of the weld.
For example, the “70” in 7018 means that to break the weld, you would need 70,000 PSI (pounds per square inch) of pulling force.
The third digit represents the positions in which the welding rod can be used.
For example, 1 means that you can use that welding rod to weld in all different positions. If the third digit is 2, then you can only use that electrode for flat or horizontal fillet welding.
The last digit is for the flux that is used as a coating for the welding electrode and the type of current it uses (AC, DCEP, and DCEN).
The 0 digit means the coating is high-cellulose sodium and it runs on DCEP current.
Number 1 would mean that the rod has a high-cellulose potassium coating and it runs on any current.
Number 8 means the coating is low-hydrogen potassium and iron powder and the electrode runs on AC, DCEP, and DCEN.
Welding rods come in several sizes: 1/16”, 3/32”, 1/8”, and 5/32”.
Logically, as the thickness of the metal increases, so should the thickness of the welding rod.
Here’s a quick chart for how different sized rods should be used:
- 1/16” rods should be used for welding metal up to 3/16”.
- 3/32” rods should be used for welding metal up to 1/4”.
- 1/8” rods should be used for welding metal thicker than 1/8”.
- 5/32” rods should be used for welding metal thicker than 1/4”.
Before we get to my favorite general-purpose rods, I will go through the specifics of each of these three electrodes, covering what they’re made of, what they’re used for, etc.
The first two digits tell us that this welding rod can handle 60,000 PSI of pulling force.
The “1” suggests it can be used in all positions, and the “0” means that the coating of the electrode is made from high-cellulose sodium and it only runs on DCEP (direct current, electrode positive).
As I’ve mentioned before, the 6010 welding rod is particularly good for rusty, dirty, or painted metal. The reason is that the 6010 is a deep-penetrating rod with a violent arc that burns through the impurities.
Another factor that makes the 6010 welding rod one of the most used rods is the smoothness at which it runs.
The puddle is very easy to handle and the slag it leaves behind is very thin and easy to remove. The fact that the puddle freezes so quickly makes the 6010 electrode great for vertical and overhead welding.
Shipbuilding, construction, pipe welding, and out-of-position welding are only some of the jobs where the 6010 is the preferred welding rod.
The arc is easy-starting, stable, and violent, so beginners will have no problem using this stick electrode to create an admirable weld.
Forney 31610 E6010 Welding Rod
Because Forney has a reputation of being a reliable brand when it comes to welding products, you shouldn’t hesitate to buy and try out one of their products. These welding rods are no different.
They come in a thick, plastic box sealed with plastic wrapping to keep them safe during transport, but also to keep them protected while you use them. This link is for the 1/8”, 10lbs package, but you can usually find different sizes in 1lb and 5lbs boxes as well.
Hy-Weld 6010 Electrodes
Hy-Weld packs the electrodes in a metal can, which is super important for keeping them safe during transport.
The 6010 welding rods by Hy-Weld have a great arc start and run smoothly all the way through. You can choose between 1/8”, 3/32”, and 5/32” sized rods in 10lbs and 50lbs boxes.
Lincoln Electric 6010 Electrode
Lincoln Electric is always the go-to brand for many welders, and for good reason. You can always depend on their products, and if anything does go wrong, you can contact the manufacturer and you know they’ll do their best to help.
Their 6010 electrodes have a violent arc start and will run smoothly throughout the entire welding process. You can also find a Stick Electrode, 6010, 1/8 in, 14 L, 5 lb. and a 3/32”, 5lbs pack.
The 10lbs pack comes in a sealed tin can, and the 5lbs is in a hard plastic box. Both do a great job of keeping the electrodes safe.
Just like the 6010, the 6011 welding rod has a tensile strength of 60,000 PSI and it can be used for welding in all positions. The only difference is in the last digit, which refers to the coating of the rod and the current it runs on. The coating is made from high-cellulose potassium and the electrode can run on AC, DCEP, and DCEN.
The arc produced by the 6011 also burns very violently and is capable of deep penetration. In fact, the 6011 burns slightly hotter than the 6010, making this electrode a slightly better option for heavy-duty welding.
And again, just like the 6010, the 6011 electrode runs a very smooth arc and creates a puddle that’s easy to work with. The fast-freezing puddle produces a thin slag that comes off with ease. This is something that’s very useful when you have to perform long welds because you don’t have to spend a long time scraping off the slag.
What really makes the 6011 stand out as one of the best all-around welding rods is the fact that it runs on both AC and DC. No matter what stick welder you have, the 6011 will do a great job. They are most commonly used for the construction of bridges, roads, ships, and other types of work that require extremely strong and durable welds.
Forney 31205 E6011 Welding Rod
This is another great product by Forney. Their 6011 welding rods work great on AC, DCEN, and DCEP and they give good results even on low amperage.
The arc start never fails and will run smoothly until the very end. From the link above, you can choose between 5lbs and 10lbs boxes and sizes of 1/8”, 3/32”, and 5/32”. If you want a 1-pound box, you can order it here. The boxes they come in are made from thick plastic that will keep the rods safe.
Hy-Weld 6011 Electrodes
Hy-Weld’s stick welding rods 6011 rods also work great. The arc starts immediately and will run smoothly if they’re stored properly.
These 6011 rods will penetrate deep in the base metal and provide a strong weld. You can choose between 10 and 50-pound metal cans and 1/8”, 3/32”, and 5/32” sized rods.
Lincoln Electric Fleetweld 180 (6011)
This is a 5-pound box of Lincoln’s excellent 6011 rods. They never fail to ignite and will run a smooth arc that’s easy to handle.
The fact that they come in a sealed tin can means that you can always expect a perfectly protected set of welding rods. If you want a 50lbs box of 1/8” rods, you can order one right here.
As you can see by the name, the 7018 stick welding rod has a tensile strength of 70,000 PSI, so it’s slightly stronger than the 6010 and 6011.
The third digit suggests that this electrode can be used for welding in all positions, but that’s not really the case.
The fact that the puddle is very fluid and it doesn’t harden quickly makes the 7018 not appropriate for vertical downward and overhead welding.
The “8” in 7018 means that this welding rod can run on AC, DCEP, and DCEN, and the coating is made of low-hydrogen potassium and iron powder. The 7018 is known as a low-hydrogen rod or “low-hi”.
The fact that the 7018 are low-hydrogen electrodes makes them very sensitive to moisture. This means that you have to be extra careful about storage.
Some welders use special rod ovens where they keep the electrodes at a high temperature. If the electrodes have been out in the open for less than 4 hours, they need to be reheated at around 700℉.
The 7018 rod produces a moderate arc, and the penetration is not as deep as is the case with the 6010 and 6011.
However, the puddle is very fluid and easy to work with. You can just drag the rod along the surface instead of whipping or stitching.
Versatility is the main feature of the 7018 welding rod.
Although it’s most commonly used when welding structural steel for building bridges, skyscrapers, and other large-scale construction projects, you can also use it in the automotive industry and other everyday projects.
US Forge E7018 Rods
US Forge is an American-based company that’s been making high-quality welding products for over 40 years.
Their 7018 welding rods work great on AC and DCEP. They’re perfect for welding mild steel, carbon steel, and low-alloy steels. This link will let you order a 10lbs box, but you can usually find a 5lbs and a 50lbs box.
The fact that they come in just a cardboard box is not great, but there don’t seem to be many complaints about receiving damaged goods.
Forney 30681 E7018 Welding Rod
As I talked about the other Forney rods on this list, you can expect a high-quality product that will never let you down. These 7018 electrodes will run a very smooth arc and can be simply dragged across the surface without issues.
They run terrifically on AC, DCEP, and DCEN even on low amperage. You will always get a very aesthetically pleasing weld with a slag that peels off easily. You can choose between all 3 different-sized rods and boxes of 1, 5, or 10 pounds. They all come in a thick plastic box to protect the welding rods.
Lincoln Electric Excalibur 7018 MR
This is one of Lincoln Electric’s bestsellers, and for a good reason. The MR in the name of these welding rods stands for “moisture resistant”, so unlike the rest of the 7018 rods on this list, they don’t require such strict measures for storage.
They come with an API 751 certificate for chemical compositions and they exceed the AWS standard for toughness.
They run best on AC and DCEP, but they aren’t perfect for DCEN. You can usually find 50lbs cans in all the different sizes.
Best General Purpose Welding Rod: Buyer’s guide
Before choosing which is the best all-around welding rod for you, you should consider these factors.
If you buy welding rods that don’t offer deep penetration, you can’t use them for thicker metal.
That’s why for general-purpose rods, you should opt for ones that at least offer moderate penetration.
The 7018 rods offer moderate penetration and the 6010 and 6011 provide deep penetration.
It’s very important to consider which positions you weld in before choosing a rod.
As I’ve mentioned above, the 7018 is not great for overhead or vertical down welding, while 6010 and 6011 can pull off any position.
Depending on how much you weld, you should choose the right box for you. You can find 1lb, 5lbs, 10lbs, and 50lbs boxes.
If you haven’t used a certain type of welding rod, just get a smaller box, and if you like them, you can get a 10 or 50-pound box.
You may find yourself in a situation where you have to use a welder that’s different than yours.
In such a case, you’d want to be prepared with welding rods that can run on any current. For this purpose, the 7018 and 6011 rods are better options.
Let’s quickly go through some of the details that make these the best general-purpose welding rods.
The 6010 is a great welding rod for welding dirty and rusty metals. It can be used in all positions, but it only runs on DCEP. All of the 6010 rods will perform flawlessly if they’re stored as instructed.
The 6011 is very similar to the 6010 in almost every aspect. They create an aggressive arc that penetrates deeply into the base metal, always creating a strong and reliable weld.
What makes the 6011 a better option is that it runs on AC, DCEP, and DCEN. Again, any of the three suggested brands would be a safe bet.
The 7018 welding rods will do great no matter what you throw at them. They have a moderate arc that’s very easy to handle, and they’re the best electrodes for beginners because of it.
The slag they create is very thick and peels off beautifully. The only issue with them is storage.
If you decide to go for the 7018, this portable rod oven will make for a great companion.
What’s the difference between 6011 and 6013 welding rods?
The coating of the 6013 is made from high titania potassium and runs on AC and DCEP. The biggest difference, however, is in the penetration ability. The 6013 has a shallow penetration and is used for welding thin metal. It also creates a smooth, flat bead that’s easy to remove.
What is the easiest rod to weld with?
Arguably, the 7018 is the easiest rod to use because it runs very smoothly and creates practically no spatter. The medium penetration is also a helpful feature because it decreases the chances of blowing through the metal.
What is the strongest welding rod?
Well, if we simply look at the numbers, the 7018 would be the winner. That’s because it has a tensile strength of 70,000 PSI, compared to the 60,000 PSI offered by the 6011, which is considered to be the second strongest welding rod on the market.
What makes a good stick weld?
Choosing the right welding rod, the right thickness, the angle at which you weld are only some of the factors that determine how a stick weld comes out. In the end, it all depends on the type of welding that needs to be done, so for T-joint welds, you would use different techniques than you would for butt welding. But all of these things will become clear to you once you’ve gained some experience and tried different methods.
How do you stop a welding rod from sticking?
Again, there are several factors in play here. Cleaning the surface that needs to be welded should be the first step. Adjusting the settings on the welder according to the thickness of the base metal should be the next step. You should also follow the correct arc striking technique because every rod requires a different way of arc striking. This article might come in handy to help clear things up a bit more.
1 thought on “Best General Purpose Welding Rod”
Hello from Oregon!
I’m an independent farm and construction mechanic starting in 1982. Along with stick, I also use short circuit mig, dual shield, and TIG. Thank you for a great article!
I will be sharing this with some of the younger crowd.