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The Importance of Low-Hy Rods in a Welding Job

Low-hydrogen welding rods are the backbone of structural welding. Known as “low-hy” to welders in the field, this versatile electrode is manufactured to contain less than 0.6% of moisture in the covering and is required by currently acceptable welding standards and procedures to be stored in an environment that maintains factory quality dryness. Its low hydrogen content ensures a smooth, strong weld that is very ductile, making it the welding rod of choice for structural welding jobs.

It is well known that prior to beginning a structural welding job that low-hydrogen electrodes must be conditioned properly to avoid damaging defects in the welds. One of the ways utilized to protect the low-hydrogen coating is to double coat using a titania layer to help avoid defects when low hydrogen deposits are required. But problems such as porosity, hydrogen embrittlement, lack of fusion and cracking can result if standard low hydrogen rods are not stored according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Specifically, hydrogen can adversely affect a weld and some steels under a variety of conditions. The primary source for the presence of hydrogen is moisture in the electrode coating picked up through exposure to the atmosphere. For this reason with any welding job proper storage, handling and treatment of low hydrogen electrodes is critical to prevent a defective weld. This is especially important in the construction and erection of multiple story buildings which rely for their support and inner structure on welded steel beams.

A defective weld can result in the collapse of a building or during subsequent inspection rejection of the weld. This requires rebuilding a portion of the metal inner structure of a skyscraper or other building sometimes at a cost of many millions of dollars.

Welding electrodes are manufactured to be within acceptable moisture limits consistent with the type of covering and strength of the weld metal to be used with the electrode. They are then packaged in a container which has been designed to provide the degree of moisture protection considered necessary by the industry for the type of covering involved. A common mistake is opening the container from the wrong end, or tossing them around which can crack the low hydrogen coating on the welding rods rendering them useless.

With any welding job It is very important to maintain your rods or electrodes within a temperature range of 100°F and 300°F. This temperature range has been determined by the welding industry to be adequate to prevent atmospheric moisture from entering the welding rod coating and subsequently entering the weld during the welding process.

In particular, maintaining low-hydrogen electrodes in a dry, consistently heated environment is a must. Ask any welding professional and they will recommend that low-hydrogen electrodes be stored in a rod oven. Any other rudimentary method such as utilizing an old refrigerator or microwave with a 100 watt light bulb is laughable and is in no way acceptable for today’s welding professional.