If you’re new to welding, you might not be aware of where you can purchase welding rods, or even what kind of rods are available. Despite this, welding rods are one of the most important supplies you can invest in to get your welding workshop up and running.
So how do you buy welding rods? Welding rods can be purchased locally either new or secondhand, purchased on large online markets, or purchased on welding specialty websites. How the welding rods are sourced depends on the kind of welding rods needed, how many rods are needed, how the rods will be paid for, and what kind of guarantee the welder purchasing the rods is looking for.
Once you find a good source for buying welding rods, you’re that much closer to having all the supplies you need to start your project. Read on to find out more about welding rods and how you can buy them.
What Is a Welding Rod?
A welding rod is a metal wire coated with flux that is used as a filler metal when welding or—in the case of a non-consumable electrode welding rod—is inserted directly into the torch itself and acts as the point of electrical contact with the surface of the weld.
Consumable Rods vs. Non-consumable Rods
There are two basic kinds of welding rods known as consumable rods and non-consumable rods.
Consumable rods, also known as filler wire or filler metal, are used for stick welding and brazing and are melted into the welding pool with the welding torch to form a brazed seam.
The other kind of welding rod is a non-consumable rod, which is used inside the welding torch to conduct the welding arc.
For example, in a TIG welding torch, a tungsten wire sharpened to a 30-degree angle is the typical welding rod used to start an arc.
Whether you use a consumable welding rod, a non-consumable welding rod or both together depends on a variety of factors, such as the following:
- What kind of metal you’re welding
- What type of groove you’re welding
- The welding code requirements of the piece you’re working on
- The physical position that you’re welding in
- The shop environment
- What kind of welding torch you’re using
For versatility in the workshop, a welder will typically want to keep several kinds of welding rods on hand so that he or she can switch up at a moment’s notice since different welding jobs often require very different materials depending on the metallurgy involved.
5 Sources for Welding Rods
When it comes to sourcing welding rods, there are several different options to choose from—you can shop for many welding rods right from your own living room without ever stepping foot outside your house.
There are vendors you can purchase welding rods from that fit almost every budget and which sell any kind of welding rod you can think of.
You’ll want to refrain from buying too many of any one type of welding rods initially if you’re just getting started in welding, as you need to become comfortable with all of them to figure out which type of welding you’ll be doing the most.
Since they are a relatively expensive investment depending on which metal you’re purchasing, you don’t want to buy so many that they go bad before you have a chance to use them. Some can go bad in as little as six months, depending on how they’re stored.
Here are five of the different sources for welding rods:
- Home improvement department stores: This would be your “big box” stores like Home Depot, Lowes, or Harbor Freight. Corporate stores like this can often have some of the most reasonable prices, but the drawback is that their selection is usually limited in comparison to specialty stores, and you’re not likely to find any real subject matter experts on staff.
- Local secondhand: Welders can occasionally get a good deal on welding rods bought secondhand from another welder, as welding is a hobby that people get in and out of, and sometimes welders purchase more materials than they can use in a reasonable time. The drawback to local secondhand is that you are taking a risk on age or quality, as you don’t know the backstory of the product really and can’t reliably return it if it isn’t any good.
- Local welding supply (LWS) shop: If you can locate a nearby welding supply shop, this is often going to be your best option. Not only are they niche enough to offer a wider variety of welding rods than most big box stores, you have a reliable place to return the welding rods if they’re defective. A local welding supply shop can also be a wealth of information provided you develop a good relationship with the staff.
- Large online markets (Amazon, eBay): Welders can sometimes get a good deal for welding supplies on large online markets such as Amazon or eBay, but like most digital markets, it can be a pain to deal with any returns, and the cost of shipping (if present) can sometimes eat up most of the money you’d save over buying locally.
- Welding specialty websites: There are also websites online that specialize in welding supplies, such as Weldfabulous, American Welding Supply, and Welding Outfitter. These kinds of online niche markets often offer the largest variety of materials and rare equipment that you can’t source locally, but you sometimes have to pay the price for it.
The best way to get a good deal on welding rods is to do some shopping around.
Between the Internet and local storefronts, you should be able to get comparative prices on several different types of welding rods to see which vendors are willing to offer the most materials for your buck.
Types of Welding Rods
To decide what kind of welding rod you need to buy, you’ll have to first know what types of welding rods are available.
The main thing to remember when looking at the nomenclature of welding rods is that the first two numbers in a welding rod’s identification indication how many tens of thousands of pounds it can withstand (Ex. 6013 = 60,000 psi) while the latter two numbers indicate what currents the welding rod is compatible with, and in what position.
Here are some of the welding rod types you’ll encounter most often in welding supply shops:
- 6013 welding rods: This welding rod is meant to withstand 60,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. This is a moderately strong filler rod and can be used in a majority of welding projects. The 6013 is compatible with most kinds of currents or power sources, which makes it a versatile “jack-of-all-trades” type of welding rod. The 6013 does tend to splatter.
- 7018 welding rods: These rods, also known as “low-high” rods, are known for producing smooth, sturdy welds. The major drawback of the 7018 welding rod is that they are extremely vulnerable to environmental moisture, and keeping them in a humid environment significantly reduces their lifespan. Preferably these rods should be stored in an oven.
- 6010 welding rods: Because 6010 rods lend themselves well to deep penetration jobs, these welding rods are a good choice for any job where corrosion or other contaminants may cause an issue with oxidation. 6010 welding rods can only be used with a DC+ current and are one of the more difficult welding rods to handle during a weld.
- 6011 welding rods: 6011 welding rods are similar to 6010 welding rods but are different in that they are compatible with both DC and AC current, whereas 6010 welding rods are only compatible with DC current. Like 6010 welding rods, 6011 welding rods are a good choice for doing welding repair work or work on corroded and dirty metals.
When you buy welding rods in the store, they will be clearly marked with one of these enumerated designations. This way, you can easily tell which welding rods you’re looking for.
It might seem overwhelming when you go to a welding supply shop and see how many different kinds of welding rods are available. Luckily the art/science of welding has been around for hundreds of years, and no matter what kind of welding project you’re working on, it’s highly likely someone else has done the project first hundreds of times and knows the optimal welding rod to use.
This is one of the reasons why it’s useful to write up a supply list before you go to the welding supply store, so you’ll know exactly what kind of welding rod you’re looking for to get the best results for the job you’re performing.
See Also: Are welding rods radioactive?
How Long do Welding Rods Last?
The lifespan of a welding rod depends on what kind of flux coating is used on it (if any), and what kind of metal it’s constructed out of.
The welding bars with the shortest lifespan can last only six months or less depending on how well they’re stored, while welding rods of other types—if stored correctly—can still be used years after the fact.
The biggest determinant to a welding rod’s lifespan is how much moisture it’s exposed to while it’s in long-term storage.
Those welding rods that are stored in high-humidity environments will start to degrade much faster than those that are kept in ovens or dehumidified storage.
The only way to really tell if a welding rod is still usable is to inspect your welding rods carefully prior to welding.
If you inspect your welding rod and it has a powdery residue on it, or the flux on the outside of the filler wire has begun to soften, this means that the welding rod is degraded and should be discarded for a newer one.
Once a welding rod has become softened by ambient moisture, there is no use in trying to dry it out, as it has already been rendered unusable.
6013 welding rods hold up fairly well, but 7018 welding rods are vulnerable to moisture and can become degraded quickly when exposed to it.
Consider Shipping Price When Buying Digital
There are several digital options for buying welding rods instead of buying them locally.
The main caveat with online purchases other than an iffy guarantee/return policy is that often the shipping price is included in the cost of the welding rods, making them just as expensive as any rods you would pick up locally in a small welding supply shop.
This means that unless you’re trying to source some rare welding rods or unless you’re buying rods in bulk, you’re likely to get just as good of a deal at a local store as you are online.
You also get the added bonus of helping develop a relationship with local welders who can act as a knowledge pool to troubleshoot your projects off of.
On the flip side of this, many welding supply shops online may offer free or heavily discounted shipping depending on who you buy from and how much you buy, so it pays to shop around.
If you do, there’s always a chance you can get a better deal online than the one you’d get in the store, especially if you’re planning on buying a lot of materials at once and can secure a bulk discount.
Advantages of Buying Welding Rods Locally
As mentioned briefly above, there are several advantages to buying your welding rods locally versus buying them online.
Here are some of the major benefits you’ll experience by doing so:
- Develop a relationship with your local welding supply shop. This is an understated advantage, but if you’re an amateur welder who is still finding your footing, a pool of more experienced welders such as the staff at a welding supply shop can prove an invaluable source of both advice and recommendations for tools, equipment, and materials.
- Return defective materials easily. If you end up with a bundle of welding rods that begins to degrade too quickly without an environmental cause, it is usually much easier to return those rods to a local storefront for a refund or exchange than it is to try and exchange those same welding rods in a digital marketplace.
- Buy at your own convenience. If you order materials online, you’re going to have to wait for them to ship to you, which can take anywhere from two-three business days or more if you don’t want to pay extra for express shipping. But for local vendors, you can walk into a welding supply shop and come out of it with the welding rods you need the same day for a quick turnaround on projects.
- Support the craft and your hometown at the same time. By purchasing your materials at a local small business, you’re not only developing real human connections with other welders, but you’re also helping to stimulate your local economy and put your money directly back into the community, rather than paying it to a faceless corporation.
While you might not be able to find everything you need at a local welding supply shop if you’re trying to find rare welding rods, and a mom and pop place might have slightly higher prices than those you can find through a big box store or an online depot, there are still a lot of advantages to getting your welding rods locally if you can.
Advantages of Buying Welding Rods Online
Just as there are benefits associated with buying your welding rods at a local shop, there are also some distinct advantages of buying your welding rods online too. Here are some of the benefits you can gain from buying your welding rods online:
- Discounted prices. Welding supplies purchased online, especially those that are purchased with a free shipping agreement, often come up cheaper than those welding supplies purchased at a local store.
- Have welding rods shipped directly to your door. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to go shopping, having your welding rods shipped to your home can be one less store you have to visit when you’re gathering workshop materials.
- Rare offerings. You can often find welding gear, welding rod storage, and welding rods available online in exotic metals that you wouldn’t normally be able to find in a local welding supply shop unless they have an expansive inventory. Especially in TIG welding, these exotic metal welding rods can give you an edge in learning how to craft various kinds of welds.
- Customer reviews. Whether you get your welding rods at Amazon or at a niche specialty welding website, you can usually count on there to be plenty of customer reviews to give you the full scoop on the product you’re thinking about buying and whether it’s worth the money. This is sometimes better than depending on the advice of a local welder, who may just be attempting to sell you something expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you get your welding supplies online, you can expect to get a much wider selection to choose from, but you’ll also have to be pickier when trusting your sources too.
Overall, it’s a balancing act between finding an online source that is reasonably priced but also legitimate.
Welding Rods are Easy to Buy
There are so many storefronts available to welders between local shops and the Internet that you should feasibly be able to find any kind of welding rods, respirators, or equipment you need.
Just be sure to research your project thoroughly before committing to a welding rod type, make sure that you have a good source of rods available, and you’ll be welding like a professional before you know it.