How To Hook Up Stick Welding Leads

Many welders struggle when it comes to hooking up the stick welding leads properly to the welder. Things get really complicated if you don’t know where an electrode lead will be fixed. If you find it hard to understand this process, do not worry, there are so many people going through the same scenario. Although there is so much confusion, fixing these connections of the stick welder isn’t as hard as it looks.

Stick welding uses electrical current (DC) to melt both the metal and the electrode forming a joint weld or a weld pool. The electrode used in stick welding is covered with flux which protects the weld pool from external contaminants. Stick welding setup consists of the following equipment:

  1. The Welder
  2. Welding Leads
  3. Electrode Holder
  4. Ground Clamps
  5. Stick Welding Rods (electrode)

What Are The Welding Leads?

Welding leads are the electrical conductors which have an insulating rubber cover. The leads come as electrical cables with different diameters and lengths. The leads that have a big diameter are used when the welding application require high electrical current. Leads with small diameters are used for applications with low electrical current.

How Many Types Of Leads Are There In Stick Welding?

There are two types of leads in stick welding. These are:

  1. The electrode lead
  2. The work lead (the ground lead)

The electrode lead connects the stick welder to the electrode holder while the ground leads connect it to the piece or work piece.

How To Hook Up Stick Welding Leads

Types Of Welding Setups

So many welders wonder if stick welding is a ground negative or ground positive process. Stick welding can use both ground positive and ground positive. There are 3 types of welding setups that can be used in stick welding. These are:

  1. Direct Current Electrode Positive
  2. Direct Current Electrode Negative
  3. Alternating Current

Direct Current Electrode Positive (DCEP)

Most stick welding processes use DCEP setup. Direct current electrode positive is also known as reverse polarity. In this setup, the stick welding rod is connected to the positive terminal and the ground clamp is connected to the negative terminal. This results to electrons flowing from the metal piece towards electrode.

Direct Current Electrode Negative (DCEN)

In direct current electrode negative, the electrode holder is usually negative while the metal is positive. Electrons flow from the electrode to the positive metal.

Alternating Current (AC)

In alternating current, the current changes direction frequently. The AC welding setup has no polarity so the heat distributed on the metal and the stick welding rod is the same.

Which Polarity To Use In Stick Welding

Stick welding is very versatile when it comes to polarity. Most welding processes use DCEP to set up welding leads. In DCEP setup, electrons leave the work piece and flow towards the stick welding rod because the work leak is connected to the stick welding welder’s negative terminal.

When the electrons come in contact with the positive electrode, a great amount of heat is produces therefore the heat generated on the electrode is close to two thirds of the welding heat that is accumulated on the metal piece.

On the other hand, in DCEN the heat generated on the work piece is two thirds while on the electrode is a third. This is because the electrons flow from the stick welding rod to the metal piece.

For you to choose a welding setup, you need to understand that every setup has its application and advantages and disadvantages. The type of electrode you use determines the connection you will use for your project. DCEP produces deep penetration but the deposition of the electrode is high on DCEN therefore DCEP is suitable on thick metals because if used on thin metals it will tear down the metal. DCEN produces less heat on the electrode therefore the penetration is less compared to DCEP. If you have thin metals that you want to weld, use DCEN connection to weld.

Arc Welding Current Setting

The Arc Welding Current setting is determined by the type of electrode to be used and its diameter. The electrode box has direction on the amperage to be used on the electrodes. Ensure that the amperage setting marches with the thickness of the metal.  The welder has directions written on the side on the recommended electron size and the power to be used. If you feel confused on the welding rod sizes and amps to use, check both the welder and the electrodes box for direction.

Types Of Welding Electrode Coatings

There are 4 types of welding electrode coatingsThese are:

  1. Rutile
  2. Low Hydrogen Coating
  3. Cellulosic Coating
  4. Iron oxide Coating


They have great properties. Rutile electrodes offer good arc stability and produces less spatter and fumes than the other electrodes.

Low Hydrogen Coating

This electrode coating is made up of calcium carbonates and also fluorite. The electrode has to meet the needed mechanical properties of those steels to be welded. The analytical characteristics of this coating makes it possible to get the needed tensile characteristics on the metal. However it’s hard to obtain tensile and toughness at the same time.

Cellulosic Electrode Coating

This electrode has organic materials like cellulose. This electrode is similar to rutile, the titanium dioxide is a little bit lower in cellulosic coating. When this electrode is burned, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide is produced. The hydrogen and carbon monoxide protects the molten metal. Cellulosic coating also has a deep penetration.

Iron Oxide

This coating produces a good appearance and it increases the arc travel speed and metal deposition rate. Produces less hydrogen gas as compared to other coatings and has low penetration too.

Is Stick Welding Hard For Beginners?

Many people ask “Is stick welding hard?” Stick welding is a complicated application that requires skills and also a good welding experience for someone to be able to produce good quality welds. Unlike other welding applications like MIG where a beginner can easily learn, a beginner will need to go through training before he/she can efficiently stick weld. Controlling the puddle and the fumes formed makes it even harder for a newbie.


After going through this article, I’m sure hooking up stick welding leads won’t be as hard as it seemed before. Familiarize yourself with everything used in the stick welding, from the machine to the electrodes and their coatings. The knowledge will definitely make everything easy to use.


Edward, a seasoned welding expert, shares his extensive knowledge and insights on to help you enhance your welding skills. is reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. See affiliate disclaimer.