Welding Bead

To become a good welder, you need to be able to develop a diverse set of welding skills and knowledge. Every welding project is different and requires you to use different welding processes and techniques to get the job done correctly. 

Everything starts by having a good understanding of different welding processes and bead patterns. The type of joint, welding position, and materials being welded together can all factor into what type of welding bead pattern you use. 

To help make this understanding easier for you, we’ve broken down the different types of welding beads and patterns most commonly used by welders today!

What is a Welding Bead?

A welding bead is created when a filler material is deposited into a joint between two pieces of metal. As the filler material melts, it creates a puddle on the top of the joint. In order to melt the filler material and fill the entire joint, you need to move the welding torch in such a way that it moves the puddle along the joint. 

This way you are able to fill the joint and leave behind a bead. The way the torch is moved will leave a visible pattern along the bead. The way the torch is moved is ultimately what creates different welding bead patterns. 

Moving the Welding Torch

Welding is a lot like sewing in that there are many different ways to join two pieces of material together. 

A tailor or seamstress will use different sewing patterns depending on the job at hand. Welding is practically the same. The biggest difference between the two is that a tailor or seamstress doesn’t have to deal with heat, a welding helmet, gloves, and awkward positions like welders do.

Another factor welders need to account for is gravity. If you’re welding vertically, up and down a pipe, or in an overhead position, gravity can impact your welding bead and how the joint is filled. 

Let’s suppose you’re welding something overhead. If you don’t use the correct torch movement and move quickly enough, gravity could cause the molten metal to start dripping onto your face shield or the floor instead of filling the joint you’re trying to weld. 

To become a good welder, you really need to understand and be comfortable with the different types of welding styles and techniques at your disposal. A big part of welding is being able to assess a situation and make the correct adjustments. 

Now suppose you’ve got a section of pipe in a vertical position that needs to be welded. You’ve got two options: weld up the pipe or down. Both uphill and downhill welding could get the job done but depending on the type of materials you’re working with, one should be used over the other. Each method requires different types of torch movements and welding bead patterns. 

This is where it pays off to understand the different types of torch movements you can make and when it’s best to use them.

8 Common Welding Bead Patterns

When it comes to actually laying welding beads, there are different torch movements and techniques you can use. 

Generally speaking, there are two main types of welding bead patterns—stringers and weaves. 

However, there are different variations of the weave pattern which create slightly different beads.

Stringer Bead

A stringer bead is easily achieved by either pulling or pushing your torch across the weld joint. There should be almost no side-to-side movement. The torch should gently glide along the center of the weld joint. 

When you pull the torch, it should be angled and moved forward in the direction of your weld. This technique creates a deeper weld penetration and overall higher-quality weld. 

If you find yourself working with a thinner or more heat-sensitive metal, you may want to use the push technique. With this technique, the tip of the torch is pointed forward in the direction of the weld and pushes the puddle along the joint. This allows you to keep the heat away from the puddle to let it solidify faster as you weld along the joint. The push technique for stringer beads is especially useful when you have to do a vertical weld and want to avoid drips. 

Weave Bead

The weave bead as the name suggests involves moving the torch in a criss-cross or woven pattern to move the puddle and lay the bead. Weave pattern beads are especially useful when you’ve got a wider joint to weld and want to lay a nice wide bead. 

The weaving technique is about more than just moving up, down, and slightly diagonally as you weld to lay a nice wide bead. The technique is also used to control the heat around the weld puddle. You can also pause slightly at different parts of the weave to ensure a good tie-in and prevent yourself from undercutting the edges.

Weave Bead Variations

Just like with sewing, there are different variations for laying a weave pattern welding bead. The slightly different ways you move the torch affect the weld bead. Other than the simple criss-cross weave pattern mentioned earlier, below are the six most popular weave bead patterns.

Convex Weave Bead

A convex weave bead is created by moving the torch side to side perpendicularly to the direction of the weld joint and direction of travel. 

Rather than moving the torch in a straight up and down pattern, it should be slightly curved like a shark fin or the tooth of a circular saw blade. The convex weave pattern is useful when you’re filling a wider bead. As you move across the middle of the joint, you will want to move the torch quickly to avoid creating a bulge in the middle of the bead, sometimes referred to as a high crown.

Concave Weave Bead

A concave weave is very similar to a convex weave bead. The biggest difference being that it is the inverse of the convex weave pattern and the round edge of the pattern should face away from the travel direction of the torch. As with a convex bead, the concave weave pattern should be used when filling wider beads and you need to avoid creating a high crown. The concave pattern is often used alongside a pushing torch movement.

Curlicue Weave Bead

The curlicue weave is essentially a hybrid of the concave and convex bead patterns. It starts by doing the upward and round stroke of a convex weld. The downstroke is also wide and is the same as a concave bead. It is basically drawing a series of ovals with the torch and helps you lay a nice wide bead. Be careful using this technique if you need to weld vertically as it will get the puddle quite wide and hot which could result in drips.

Triangle Weave Bead

The triangle weave, like the name suggests, is created by creating a series of connected triangles with the torch. Start by moving the torch down across the joint and then diagonally upward across the joint before moving it diagonally back towards the initial downward stroke. The point of the triangle should be directed toward the direction of the torch movement. So, if you’re welding left to right, the torch pattern should look like a series of play buttons with the point facing to the right.

A triangle weave is especially useful when you need to vertically weld something upward. With this technique, you can create a small shelf of solidified filler material behind the weld puddle. This lets you create a solid weld while also preventing gravity from causing filler drip to fall onto the floor.

Ladder Weave Bead

The ladder weave bead is a series of rectangles made by moving the torch. The upward and downward strokes should be slightly curved similar to a concave pattern. At the top and bottom of those strokes, the torch is moved slightly horizontally to create the shorter ends of the rectangle.

Jagged Weave Bead

The jagged weave bead is very similar to the ladder weave bead. It also resembles a series of rectangles. The big difference appears at the smaller ends of the rectangle. Rather than just moving the torch slightly horizontally and straight, you make a few very small up and down movements. These jagged ends should look like the teeth on a hacksaw blade. Using this technique ensures a solid tie-in on the edges of the joint.

Using Different Welding Beads for Different Welding Processes:

In most cases, the way you manipulate the torch to create a certain type of welding bead does have a lot of variation. Whether you are feeding the weld pool using a mechanically fed wire, a separate filler rod, or a stick electrode, the torch movements are quite similar. The welding process you use however can create different looking beads.

TIG Welding Beads

TIG welding beads often look like a bunch of dimes stacked on top of one another. But they are spaced in a way that looks like the dim stack has toppled over. This happens because as the TIG arc travels, the welder is adding evenly spaced dabs of filler material. 

Each dab creates a circular shape that is overlapped slightly on the one placed before it. The travel speed of the torch also plays a role in how the bead looks. 

If the torch is moving fast, the dimes will be placed closer together. The opposite is true if the travel speed is slower. In this instance, the dimes will be farther apart and only slightly overlap one another.

Stick Welding Beads

The filler rods used when stick welding can be quite versatile and produce different welding bead patterns depending on the technique used. When welding metal horizontally on a flat surface, it’s easy to drag the rod to lay a stringer bead. This is a flat bead that is quite straight and narrow. If you’re stick welding something with a vertical joint, the filler rod can easily lay a weave pattern bead using the right-hand technique.

MIG Welding Beads

Hardwire MIG welding is one of the most versatile welding processes. When you choose to MIG weld something there are several different techniques you can use to lay a quality weld. Every welder is different and some prefer to pull the puddle while others choose to push the puddle. In fact, a common debate when MIG welding is whether you get a stronger weld when you push or pull the puddle. With a hardwire MIG welder, you don’t have to worry about flux contaminating the puddle like you do when trying to do so with a stick welder.

When it comes to laying an actual bead, hardwire MIG welders make it easy to lay nice and straight stringer beads. However, if you’re dealing with a vertical joint or wide horizontal one, it may be more beneficial to lay a weave pattern bead instead of a stringer.

Flux core MIG beads

When you flux core MIG weld you can lay a lot of filler into the weld joint relatively quickly. Most of the time you practice this type of welding, you’ll lay a simple stringer bead. But, just like with hardwire welding, you may want to opt for a weave bead pattern instead. This is because when you vertically weld something with a weave pattern, you avoid the molten metal drips that can happen if the puddle gets too hot like when laying a stringer.

Training to Improving Your Welding Beads

If you want to see many of the weld bead patterns we’ve highlighted here put to practical use, make sure to sign up for Welder101

With Welder101, you are granted access to a library of easy-to-follow training videos and resources where we demonstrate different welding techniques, including torch movements and bead patterns. Your membership also includes access to our private Facebook group, plus some amazing discounts on welding merchandise and tools.

Whether you are brand new to welding, or looking to brush up on your skills, Welder101 is a comprehensive program that allows you to tackle these goals at your own pace. Don’t wait any longer, enroll today

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