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Whilst there are many types of "welding rods" it is first necessary to understand the welding processes involved so that these can be related to the welding materials which fall under this heading.
There are 3 common processes for the deposition of welding rods:-
In MMA the welding rods are more commonly called electrodes. An electric arc is formed when an electric arc passes between two electrodes separated by a short distance from each other. In MMA welding the electrodes is connected to the positive + pole and the material to be welded [now called the base plate] to the negative [please note that this polarity may be changed based on the welding electrode manufacturer's recommendations. This will be dealt with additional technical information, on this site, in the future].The arc is started by momentarily touching electrode onto the base plate and then withdrawing it to about 3mm from the plate. When the electrode touches the plate a current flows, and as it is withdrawn the current continues to flow in the form of a "spark" across the gap first formed. This causes the air gap to become ionized, or made conductive, and as a result the current is able to flow across the gap, in the form of an arc. The electrode must always be touched down, or scratched on the plate before the arc can be started, since the smallest air gap will not conduct a current unless it is first ionized.
If a bare wire is used as an electrode it is found that the arc is difficult to control and the arc stream will wander over the molten pool formed in the base material. The metal globules projected across the arc [ionized] gap are exposed to the atmosphere and the absorption of oxygen and nitrogen takes place, even when a short arc is held.
The arc can be rendered easy to control and the absorption of atmospheric gases reduced to a minimum by "shielding" the arc. This can be done by extruding a coating onto the electrode and as a result gases, such as hydrogen and carbon dioxide are released from the coating as it burns down in conjunction with the melt rate of the rod[core wire]. This forms a covering around the arc and molten pool, thus excluding the detrimental effects from the atmosphere. Under the heat of the arc chemical compounds in the electrode covering also react to form a slag which in its liquid form is lighter than the molten metal. This rises to the surface, cools and solidifies, forming a protective cover of the welded joint, as it solidifies and also slow down the cooling rate. Some slags are self releasing whilst others my need to be lightly chipped with a welders chipping hammer.
The electrode coating normally melts at a slightly slower rate than the core wire so that it extends a little beyond the core, concentrating and directing the arc stream, making the arc stable and easier to control.
When an arc is struck between the metal and the plate, the heat generated forms a molten pool in the plate and at the same time the electrode begins to melt, this metal being transferred from the metal to the plate.
Welding electrodes are selected based on their compatibility with the base materials and the more common ones are listed below:-
AWS A5.1: E6013
EN.ISO 2560:E 42 0 RR 12**
Normally a general purpose mild steel electrode for joints in base materials of similar composition, having Tensile strengths of around 450 – 520 N/mm2.
These can be for down hand [flat] welding or for all positional welding of mild steel, in the vertical and horizontal positions.
AWS A5.1: E7018-1
EN.ISO 2560: E 46 4B 32 H5
These are known as Low Hydrogen, or Hydrogen controlled electrodes and are normally used in steel construction, where components are subject to higher degrees of stress and as such would have a Tensile strength in the range of
530 – 580 N/mm2
AWS A5.1: E7024
EN.ISO 2560: E 42 0 RR 53
Classed as a "High recovery" electrode based on the fact that this type of mild Steel electrode is highly efficient in that by incorporating metal powder in the electrode coating it will deposit weld metal equivalent to up to 160% of the electrode core wire weight. This electrode is very popular in fabrication shops for rapid welding of sheet steel.
** Electrode Classification [British]
Abridged classification to cover carbon and carbon manganese steel electrodes for manual arc welding. BS639 
This classification is for deposited weld metal having a tensile strength not greater than 650N/mm2. The classification is noted by a code consisting of 2 parts: [a] a general code, followed by [b] an additional code in parentheses, for example E 43 2 2 RR 
[a] General Code
[b] Additional Code
A digit recommended welding positions for the electrode.
Also a letter H, indicating a hydrogen controlled electrode.
AWS A5.4 E308L-17
E 19 9 LR 32
For the welding of stainless steels such as Types 304L, 321 & 347. This alloy has maximum carbon content of 0.03% which increases the resistance to intergranular corrosion.
AWS A 5.4 E316L-17
E 19 12 3 LR 12
Used primarily for welding molybdenum bearing low carbon austenitic alloys. Also available as ER316H for elevated temperatures.
AWS A5.4 E307-16 [mod]
E 18.8.Mn LR53
For the joining and overlaying of alloy steels and can also be used as a buffer layer prior to the depositing of a wear resistant [hard facing] coating.
AWS A 5.4 E309-17
E 23.12 LR32
For the welding of corrosion and heat resistant stainless steels. The low carbon content [0.03% maximum] increases resistance to inter granular corrosion. 309L superior to 309 for the cladding of carbon or low alloy steels.
AWS A 5.4 E310-16
E 25.20. LR26
For joining heat resisting stainless steels up to an operating temperature of 1200'C. High oxidation resistance and strength at elevated temperatures.
AWS E Ni-BG11
DIN 8573 E Ni-BG11
High nickel content electrode for the welding of grey, malleable and cast irons. Suitable for contaminated cast iron components, such as cylinder blocks, pump housings and electric motor casings.
AWS E Ni Fe -1-BG11
DIN 8573 E Ni Fe – C1
A nickel iron electrode for repairs to nodular, spheroidal graphite and malleable cast iron components. Suitable for joining cast iron to steel and where an oil tight joint is required.
Cutting electrodes have a special flux coating which produces a forceful non metal depositing arc. This will cut, or pierce, all ferrous and non ferrous materials.
Use for grooving, gouging or otherwise preparing metal prior to welding. This electrode is particularly suitable for sealing the oil contaminated surface of cast iron components before depositing either a Nickel, or Nickel Iron welding material.
Use for protection from components subject to wear whilst in service, from abrasion, impact and other medium. The alloys fall into three common groups.
E1] For wear facing components subject to both impact and abrasion with a hardness of up to 57RC being achieved after 3 passes. Applications include coatings on steels, cast steels and manganese steels, such as crusher rings, earth moving plant and screw conveyors.
E2] Depending on the complexity and percentages of carbides such as chromium and tungsten in these alloys a hardness of up to 70RC can be achieved. Whilst some of these alloys can be used for resistance to impact and abrasion the upper hardness values are for resistance to abrasion with minor impact. Applications include: wear resistant coatings on crusher hammers, bucket lips, chutes, liners and screw conveyors
E3] Consisting of up to 70% Tungsten carbides in a complex carbide matrix, with an approximate hardness of 70RC. This is the hardest of the more popular wear resisting coatings and is used in applications where extreme abrasion is experienced. Applications include mixer paddles, sinter fan, mineral drilling tools, ceramic and glass process plant.
DIN 1732 EL-Al Si 12
AWS A 5.3 E 4047
Whilst there are a number of alloys suitable for joining aluminium and most of its weldable alloys the most common and successful is the aluminium, 12% silicon alloy. Applications include: engine casings, sumps, aluminium framework etc.
DIN 1732 EL-Al 99.8
Coated electrode, 99.8% pure aluminium, for welding pure and cast aluminium alloys.
DIN 1732 EL-Al Si 5
AWS A 5.3 E4043
Coated electrode containing 5% silicon, for the welding of wrought and cast aluminium alloys.
AWS A 5.6 E Cu Al-A2
DIN 1733 EL-Cu A19
For the joining of aluminium bronzes with an aluminium content of up to 10%
AWS A 5.6 E Cu Sn-C
DIN 1733 EL-Cu Sn 7
A tin bonze alloy for repair and reclamation of tin and phosphor bronzes.
AWS A 5.6 E Cu Mn Ni Al
DIN 1733 EL-Cu Mn 14 Al
For joining and wear surfacing of brass, bronze and cast steel. This alloy has a low coefficient of friction which makes it an ideal alloy for sliding surfaces.
AWS A 5.6 E Cu
DIN 1733 EL-Cu Mn 2
A 97% copper electrode for the joining and coating of copper and copper alloys.