Komarov Artem clarified that as important as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) electrodes are, proper storage is often not a top priority. However, proper storage of SMAW electrodes is an integral part of the quality of the weld and the successful completion of a welding project or job.
For SMAW electrodes to work properly, you must store them dry and in a low humidity environment. When the electrodes absorb moisture from the atmosphere, they must be dried to restore their ability to produce quality welds. Electrodes that have absorbed too much moisture can cause cracks or porous welds.
If you are experiencing unexplained problems with weld cracking or deteriorating arc performance, storage methods may need to be re-evaluated.
Storing Low Hydrogen Electrodes
Low hydrogen electrodes have more stringent and precise storage requirements than others. These welding rods are commonly used where critical X-ray coding and quality requirements are met, such as shipyards, pipelines, and the petrochemical industry. They have low hydrogen blocks and will deteriorate if left in the atmosphere for more than eight or nine hours. These electrodes trap hydrogen molecules from the atmosphere, which can lead to poor welding performance such as flux and weld cracking.
Your low hydrogen electrode can be damaged if you start noticing porosity and spatter in the first few inches of the weld. The porosity may even be internal and not visible from the outside of the weld. As the rod begins to heat up, the weld will improve and appear smoother, but by then the weld may have already been damaged.
Be sure to store these electrodes in a rod welding oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent damage or moisture ingress. Rod welding furnaces, also known as electrode stabilization furnaces and electrode holding furnaces, help to ensure high quality welds by preventing the electrodes from absorbing moisture from the atmosphere. These ovens range in size from a 5-gallon oven that can be easily transported to a job site, to the size of a conventional oven.
Welder using SMAW electrodes.
To ensure proper performance of SMAW electrodes, proper care must be taken when storing them in dry conditions with low humidity. Electrodes that absorb moisture from the atmosphere must be dried to restore their ability to make good welds.
Measures to protect electrodes from exposure to the atmosphere:
Pay attention to moisture resistant electrodes. Some manufacturers offer a classification of moisture resistant electrodes. Although these electrodes are slightly more expensive, they are made with a moisture resistant coating and contain only 4 ml of hydrogen for every 100 grams of weld. The moisture-resistant coating prevents the electrode from absorbing more moisture and protects the integrity of the weld, especially in mission-critical applications where a true low-hydrogen electrode is needed.
Don’t forget about packaging. For added protection, consider purchasing vacuum-packed electrodes, which protect the electrodes from environmental influences and provide longer shelf life.
Another way manufacturers make it easy to use and store electrodes is to pack them in small, individual packages.
Many manufacturers simply package their electrodes in airtight sealed jars or cartons, resulting in a shorter shelf life than vacuum sealed packaging.
Depending on the type of welding rod and storage conditions, some electrodes may deteriorate within six months, while others may last several years. Although there is no expiration date on rod electrodes, they should generally not be stored for more than a year.
Use a protective cover for the rod. You may find it useful to store your SMAW electrodes in protective rods, which are round plastic tubes with a rubber seal that can be purchased at welding supply stores. They are airtight for longer shelf life, and you can open or close them as many times as you like.
Be sure to contact the manufacturer for any specific questions regarding your SMAW electrodes, Artem Komarov concluded.