I'm just starting out learning to weld, and decided to start out with stick welding. While digging through a pile of electrodes that were given to me, I noticed there are different codes printed on them. What do these codes mean?

  • If you are digging through a pile of electrodes, they are probably in need of drying.
    – Ecnerwal
    Aug 19 '15 at 14:55
  • @Ecnerwal Since I'm just using these electrodes on a practice pad, I don't care about tensile strength or weld quality (since the welds will no be inspected). When I get to the point of welding something that actually matters, I'll surely buy new electrodes.
    – Tester101
    Aug 19 '15 at 15:26
  • The alloys used and the strength are the numbers. If your rods have not been in a sealed package you might want to dry them out. Damp rods don't weld well and if they got wet the rod may be rusty and that can affect the strength of the weld.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 23 '18 at 20:14

Those are classification codes, the most common in the US being the American Welding Society (AWS) numbering system. You may see labels such as AWSE6011, E6011, or simply 6011. These values all mean the same thing, some just provide a bit of extra information.

Carbon Steel


The first part simply tells you which standard is used. in this example, it's the American Welding Society numbering system. This value may or may not appear printed on the consumable.


The E in this example, represents the consumable type. E represents an electrode, which means an electrical current causes the filler material to be deposited. This value may or may not appear printed on the consumable.

Consumable Types
E - Electrode.
R - Rod.
ER - Electrode or Rod.
EC - Composite Electrode.
B - Brazing.
RB - Electrode, Rod, or Both.
RG - Oxygen.
IN - Insert.
EW - Tungsten Electrode.
F - Flux.


The first two (or 3) numerical digits represent the tensile strength of the filler material, measured in thousands of pounds per square inch. In this example, it would be 60,000 psi.


The next numerical digit, represents the position the consumable can be used in.

1 - All positions (Flat, Horizontal Fillet, Vertical Up, Vertical Down, Overhead).
2 - Flat and Horizontal Fillet only.
3 - Flat only (deprecated).
4 - Flat, Horizontal Fillet, Vertical Down, Overhead.


The last numerical digit tells you what the coating material is, and which types of current can be used.

0 - High Cellulose Sodium - (DC+)
1 - High Cellulose Potassium - (AC, DC+, DC-)
2 - High Titania Sodium - (AC, DC-)
3 - High Titania Potassium - (AC, DC+, DC-)
4 - Iron Powder, Titania - (AC, DC+, DC-)
5 - Low Hydrogen Sodium - (DC+)
6 - Low Hydrogen Potassium - (AC, DC+)
7 - High Iron Oxide, Iron Powder - (AC, DC+, DC-)
8 - Low Hydrogen Potassium, Iron Powder - (AC, DC+, DC-)

Stainless steel


The E here is the same as with carbon steel, see above.


The numerical value here represents the filler metal that the consumable is made of, and will be some grade of stainless steel. Note that the filler material, doesn't necessarily have to match the material being welded.


This character may or may not be present, and indicates the percentage of carbon in the filler material. If the character is present, it can be either L for low carbon, or H for high carbon.


The digits after the dash, represent the coating material and allowable current type.

15 - Lime based coating - (DC+)
16 - Titania or Rutile - (AC, DC+, DC-)
17 - Silica, Titania - (AC, DC-, DC+)

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