Can You Hold Electrode While Stick Welding?

When you are in the middle of stick welding, you may often come face to face with a situation where you might need to touch or hold the electrode because it is shaking a little more than you would like.

So, unknowingly or knowingly you are tempted to hold the electrode to make it steadier. But is that really safe? 

Unfortunately, no it is not the wisest thing to do while in the middle of your welding. The electrode becomes electrically hot the moment the stick welder is plugged in for you to begin your welding work. Therefore, the minute you touch it you are going to become a victim of one of the nastiest electric shocks.

Can You Hold the Electrode While Stick Welding

 In this article, I have covered all the basic and necessary information about stick welding and the dangers or complications involved in the process if you are not careful enough.

What will happen if we touch or hold the electrode while stick welding?

If you happen to come in contact with the stick electrode while stick welding, you are likely to get an electric shock, burns, or a severe injury.

There is electricity passing through it when the machine is in use, which generates the heat required for welding. So, naturally, you will hurt yourself mildly or severely (it is quite rare), if you touch or hold the electrode. 

You should also understand that there are two types of shocks, namely primary and secondary shocks. If you end up touching a hot part of the inner welding machine and other grounded metal simultaneously, it will result in a primary shock.

Now, secondary shock takes place when you come in contact with part of the welding circuit, which includes touching the electrode. And this happens to be the most common type of shock that people receive while welding.

The hot electrode is capable of giving you a shock anywhere between 115 to 600 volts with one single touch, which is generally the primary shock, followed by a secondary shock.

However, this is more of a possibility if you are not wearing your protective gear which includes welding safety gloves and clothes that are completely dry. 

Is there any safe time to touch the electrode?

The only time you can actually touch the electrode without hurting yourself is when the machine is completely OFF, as there is no current passing through it, hence, is the safest period.

It is necessary for you to understand that you cannot and should not touch or hold the electrode when the machine is on and not just when you are using the welder.

The screws, metal jaws that hold the electrode, and the stick electrode itself is electrically hot every time the machine is turned on, whether you are using it or not.

This happens because whenever the machine is on the electrode’s voltage is at its highest possible level to be able to commence the arc in welding. And it is called open-circuit voltage or in short OCV.

Therefore, ensure that you do not come in contact with the electrode especially if your skin is not covered properly or you are not wearing completely dry clothes.

Even when you have to change out an electrode with a fresh one, you should first turn the machine off and drop the electrode on the ground instead of touching it directly.

Wait for a few seconds for the electrode to cool off before holding it yourself. Doing this will help prevent getting an electric shock.

These are just a few basic know-how’s that you should be aware of while dealing with stick welding. 

Stick Welding Electrode – Positive or Negative?

To be clear there is no straightforward answer to stick welding electrode being positive or negative. There is a property called polarity that is used to describe the positive and negative pole of an electrical current which is generated when the welder is turned on.

Now, this polarity in an electrode can be either straight or reverse. For negative welding currents, the former polarity is used and the latter polarity is used for positive currents respectively.

Reverse polarity will give you deeper penetration, whereas straight polarity will melt off faster and the deposition rate will be relatively faster as well.

Then we have AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current) which clearly defines the electrical current ignited by the welder and conducted by the electrode.

DC flows only in one direction and creates a smooth and stable arc compared to AC, which is why it is the most commonly used current in stick welding.

You must also note that using alternating current can put you at a higher risk of getting a heart attack due to its high electric frequency. So, it is safe to say that it is the more dangerous current out of the two.

 Safety measures to follow while stick welding

Whichever method or welding machine you use for a welding project, there are certain safety measures and procedures that you should adhere to in order to keep yourself safe from harm’s way.

1.) You should always pick a well-ventilated place for welding to avoid inhaling harmful fumes.

2.) You must cover and protect your eyes at all times from sparks flying into them, hence, wear safety glasses that are specifically designed for welding work.

3.) Cover your entire head, which should include your face with a proper helmet to prevent sparks or any other particles from falling on them.

4.) You need to wear clothes that are resistant to flames, sparks, splatters, and burns. The entire body should be well covered to avoid such accidents.

5.) Always make sure to put the welder on a piece of plywood instead of directly on the ground.

6.) The welder should be installed and grounded correctly to prevent it from moving when working.

7.) Your hands, hair, and clothes should be kept away at a safe distance from any moving part.

8.) Whenever you need to carry out any maintenance work, make sure that you stop the engine prior to it.

9.) You should have a fully equipped and stocked first aid kit in hand at all times, in case of any accidents that might happen.

As long as you make it a point to follow every safety procedure, you will be able to get the welding job done well with the ease of mind.

What to do if you get an electric shock while stick welding?

Firstly, you need to take every precautionary measure that I have mentioned above. However, sometimes you may still be at the receiving end of an electric shock due to certain circumstances despite being very careful.

Before I take you through what you need to do in case of an electric shock, you should also understand the circumstances we are referring to when welding.

If you are working in a wet area, you are likely to get an electric shock. Since water conducts electricity even through your clothes due to being less resistant to it, you will definitely get electrocuted.

Therefore, you need to ensure that you are wearing your welding gloves at all times and the work site is dry. 

In some cases, if your welding machine is not grounded correctly, you are increasing the chances of an electric shock. Of course, if you are going to touch the electrode or any other part of the machine with your bare hands or it touches your bare skin, you will get burns and shocks.

Another mistake people tend to make is not to check the leads before welding. Leads tend to wear out due to the high heat and continuously being bent, stretched, and flexed.

So, not checking them prior to welding can cause serious shocks. Finally, you should not be standing on metal, instead, use a rubber mat to stand on or plywood will work too.

 So, if you do happen to be a victim of an electric shock while stick welding, here is what you should do.

Turn off the machine immediately.

Contact medical emergency helpline.

It is possible that you may not notice any marks initially, but this does not mean that you are fine.

So, follow the instructions given by the medical personnel thoroughly, which are most likely to be washing the burnt area with cold water, bandaging the area after, and then getting treated for the shock.

See also: Can Sunscreen be Used to Prevent Burning from Welding?

There is a possibility for you to not realize how severe the electric shock is instantly, but please do not take it lightly. This is why it is important to know the basic steps to follow through immediately after the shock.

Wrapping up

Working with electricity in any form is highly dangerous and hazardous, which makes you extremely vulnerable to accidents. Being careful is one thing, but being smart is also important.

You should not take injuries and accidents caused by electricity lightly, because it may lead to further consequences in the long run. It is highly lethal as it is capable of damaging your internals.

We cannot stress this enough, please follow all the necessary safety measures that we highlight in our articles for your benefit. Happy welding!

Steve Goodman
Experienced welder with 7+ years of expertise in all the latest welding techniques MIG, flux and stick welding, drill press, crane operation and metal fabrication. Welding certificate course graduate and 2018 Excellence in Welding award winner.

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