In many ways, pipe welding is fairly similar to regular welding. However, it can be pretty difficult — coupled with the stress of passing a certification, it can be even worse.
Trust us, we understand that! This is exactly why we have created this guide so you can go into your welding certification with confidence that you will pass and become fully certified.
We will go over everything you need to know from pipe welding positions and techniques to the process and safety equipment you need. So, if you are ready to get started, let’s jump right into it!
Table of Contents
SMAW 6G Pipe Welding: The Basics
Remember that professional welders, like you are trying to be, have to be able to tackle a huge variety of jobs. This means you need to familiarize yourself with different pipe thicknesses, materials, and potentially cramped working environments. And no, this isn’t easy. But of course, it’s not impossible.
The 6G welding certification is not at all a breeze to pass so if you don’t get the result you were hoping for on your first go, try not to be too disheartened. In fact, many people fail it their first time around since it is so difficult.
You might be wondering why on earth the 6G welding certification is so much harder than other structural welding qualifications.
We don’t blame you for asking yourself this — to be honest, we’d be pondering this as well if we didn’t know the answer! The 6G test combines all the pipe and structural welding techniques out there, ensuring you can swap between all of them effortlessly to provide a perfect weld.
Not to mention that there will be one side of the pipe that you find far more difficult than the other depending on whether you are right or left-handed.
Yep, it’s hard. But please do not let that put you off achieving the certification.
By far, the SMAW 6G pipe welding certification is the most sought after qualification — and you can earn a very impressive amount with it too.
Before we get properly started, we wanted to give you a quick bite-sized tip. Make sure structural welding comes like second nature to you before you go and try 6G pipe welding.
In all honesty, there’s a very large possibility that you won’t be able to do it if your structural welding techniques aren’t sound when you start.
Oh, and another thing; don’t go rushing off to sit the exam right away after reading our guide! It is true what they say, practice really does makes perfect.
So, keep going with the basics for a long, long time before you run at the test like a bull in a China shop. It will pay off in the long run, we promise.
Anyway, without further ado, let’s get well and truly stuck into everything you need to know to pass your SMAW 6G welding certification.
Pipe Welding Positions
Pipe welding brings about more than a couple of positions that essentially get harder to weld as they progress down the list. Before we jump into that, however, you should understand what the number and the letters actually mean.
The numeric digits — i.e. 1, 2, 5, and 6 — refer to the type of position, while the letters — i.e. G and potentially R — refer to the type of weld you will be doing.
1G Pipe Welding Position
The 1G pipe welding position can also be called the 1G horizontal rolled position which can help you remember the properties that go along with it.
Here, the pipe can be rolled around the horizontal (or the X) axis to help you out when you’re working. Because of this, it is the most basic pipe weld that you can do.
While you are welding this piece, you should not move. Just remain still and focus your attention on the top of the pipe, rotating it as you go.
2G Pipe Welding Position
This 2G position can also be referred to as the 2G vertical position which, again, helps you keep the right definition in mind on the job.
As you have probably guessed, the pipe is vertical and, akin to its 1G cousin, can be rotated along the vertical (or the Y) axis. While this is technically just the inverse of the aforementioned 1G, it is still a little trickier since gravity can play a bit of a part in the quality of the finished weld.
However, you must remember to remain stationary while performing the weld in a horizontal manner.
5G Pipe Welding Position
This one is otherwise known as the 5G horizontal fixed position. The difference between 1G and this one is that it can’t be rotated — you are the one who has to do the moving here! It is up to you whether you do upward or downward progression but just note that you will be fighting against gravity.
Since this one is a bit trickier than the other positions we have talked about so far, we will give you a bit of a step-by-step guide so you can feel truly prepared for your certification.
- Start welding in the middle of the tack weld.
- Use a drag angle that is somewhere between 5 and 10 degrees.
- Ensuring you stick to a crescent moon motion (the moon should be looking down), move back and forth over the gap.
- Once gravity takes hold, and pushes the puddle into the joint, stop weaving.
- Place the electrode back to the middle of the weld puddle.
- Move from the left to the right at the bottom.
- End your bead on the tack weld.
- Grind the end of the weld.
- Do the root pass.
- Grind out the start and end points before you go on to your fill passes.
6G Pipe Welding Position
The 6G pipe welding position is often referred to as the 6G inclined welding position thanks to its sloping, 45-degree angle.
This can be 45 degrees from either the vertical (the Y) axis or the horizontal (the X) axis. Not to mention that it is also fixed so it won’t roll for you as you weld.
You can probably tell why it is such a hard certification to pass now, right? To weld a pipe in this position shows a lot of skill, experience, and technique.
6GR Pipe Welding Position
Don’t worry, you won’t have to demonstrate your 6GR pipe welding skills in your SMAW 6G certification but we thought we’d mention it anyway so you can get ahead of the game.
Basically, this is the same as the 6G position that we just discussed, but with an added restriction ring (hence the letter “R” in the name).
We won’t go into any more detail about it now since there is really no need, but it’s good to be aware of it.
When you see welding positions written with the digit and the letter, it means the position of the pipe and not the way you should be holding the electrode!
Related reading: The 4 Main Welding Positions You Should Know – Complete Guide
Pipe Welding Techniques
Since we have just looked at the pipe welding positions that you need to be aware of for your SMAW 6G certification (and one you didn’t, shhh), we shall move onto the techniques you will need.
Open Root Pipe Welding Technique
An open root weld is categorized by the gap (known as the root opening) that exists between the two joins.
Typically, this type of welding technique is used to join full penetration joints between welded materials.
Sometimes, you will have to use this method if you must weld a joint at the back, from the front (think a pipe that needs to be able to cope with ridiculously high pressure).
How to Do An Open Root Pipe Weld In The 6G Position
To make this as easy as possible to follow along with, we will give you a full step-by-step guide on how to do it. No fluff, no babble, just the necessary information.
Are you ready? Then we will dive headfirst into how to do this 6G pipe welding technique.
- Think of your pipe as a clock face with 12 o’clock, 9 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and 3 o’clock positions.
- Start your weld at 6 o’clock. If you are predominantly right handed then this may be quite tricky since the electrode will block your view. Having said this, there is a position that you can get yourself into so you can see what you’re doing but it is incredibly hard to maintain without seizing up! Unless, of course, you’re superhuman (in which case, go for it).
- Let the electrode warm here on the tack for a little bit.
- Whip the electrode (slowly) until you find yourself on the feathered edge of the tack.
- When you are burning into the feathered edge, pause.
- Edge the electrode into the bevel so the arc produces the right amount of filler metal.
- Now, use a whipping motion (take your time when you’re still practicing) down to the 9 o’clock position.
- You should have a tack here, so keep going until you get over the feathered edge.
- Grind the 9 o’clock tack down to clean it up a bit.
- Start welding again from the 9 o’clock position (you don’t need to pause for too long this time) until the 12 o’clock position using that same whipping motion from before.
- Go halfway over the tack at 12 o’clock and stop.
- Grind the 6 o’clock tack down to clean it up a bit.
- Preheat your electrode on the 6 o’clock tack again.
- Start the whipping motion up to the 3 o’clock position.
- Stop in the middle of the 3 o’clock tack.
- Grind the 3 o’clock tack down to clean it up a bit.
- Preheat your electrode on the 3 o’clock tack and then continue the same whipping motion to 12 o’clock.
- Stop halfway over the 12 o’clock tack.
Common Problems With Open Root Pipe Weld and How to Solve Them
While there are quite a few things that could wrong with your open root pipe welds (sorry to say), we are going to take a look at the 4 most common issues that almost everyone faces at some point.
Although we will do our best to tell you how to solve each of these problems, you will have to be the one who troubleshoots your own welds to pick the method that’ll prevent the problem.
1. Concave Root — Prevention Methods
- Try slowing down.
- Use a tighter whipping motion so that the electrode is given sufficient time to get down into the root.
- Decrease the amperage on your welder.
- Attempt to make a smaller keyhole.
- Make sure the sound of the electrode is coming from inside the pipe, not outside.
2. Keyhole Becoming Too Large — Prevention Methods
- Turn the amperage down.
- Use a longer whipping movement when welding.
- Make your drag angle bigger.
3. Closing Keyhole — Prevention Methods
- Turn the amperage up.
- Make your push angle bigger.
4. Having Problems With Restarting Welds — Prevention Methods
- Make sure your grind your stopping points down before you attempt to piggyback onto them.
- Pause for a moment when you reach your tack’s feathered edges to ensure they burn into the new weld well.
- Ensure each restart penetrates the tack underneath it.
Hot Pass Pipe Welding Techniques
A hot pass is done when you need to cover the root weld. When you do this correctly, it can actually fix a lot of errors that might have formed due to your root weld.
So, let’s take a peek at how to do it!
How to Do A Hot Pass Pipe Weld In The 6G Position
- Grind down the surface of your root pass well to clean it up. However, be careful when doing this in your certification exam as some evaluators don’t let you grind. Just check before you start.
- After that, use a weaving technique as you weld.
- You will probably be pleased to know that this won’t be as tricky as the open root weld we just discussed!
- Your aim here is to fill the bevel with no slag on the edges.
Common Problems With Hot Pass Pipe Weld and How to Solve Them
The main problem you will come across here is having slag at the edges. However, this should come off when you put the filler pass through.
Sometimes it won’t though, in which case you are not holding your hot pass long enough on the sides so remember that for next time.
Pipe welding Process: SMAW 6G Pipe Basic Certification
When you perform 6G pipe welding for your certification evaluator, there is a certain process that you will want to follow to ensure success.
The correct process becomes quite confusing as different people will tell you different things, however, we are going to take a look at the one we’ve known to get people through.
Step 1. Bevel the Edges
For this certification, you need to make sure your bevels are at a nice 35-degree angle. Remember that this step will be really crucial to your finished weld so take your time here.
Step 2. Prepare and Put Together the Joint
Before you get started, make sure you know the size of the filler metal you are going to be working with. This way, you can ensure the gap is equal to this. If you are not sure, check! Just put the electrode in the gap.
After this, make your tack welds at 12 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 3 o’clock, and 9 o’clock. Some welders prefer to place them at 12, 10, and 2 o’clock but the latter proves to be harder when performing the open root weld.
At this stage, you will also want to think about how you are going to position yourself to be able to see what you are doing at all times.
Step 3. Weld!
You can use a back and forth motion here but you are better off sticking with the side to side movement we talked about earlier. It’s just a lot easier. Having said this, it truly depends on your capabilities and what you are comfortable with.
Step 4. Test Weld Run
To make sure you get into the swing of things, make your first weld run a test (not that the examiner should know that this is what you are doing). It allows you to feel for the right position so you can do your best throughout the whole process.
Testing The Pipe Welds
At the end of the day, you won’t know how well your weld has done until it is tested. There are many ways to do this but they fall into two main categories — destructive and non-destructive.
All non-destructive tests of your 6G pipe welding will be done following EN 288-3, regardless of the material type. Your piece may have to go through the following non-destructive tests:
- Ultrasonic testing — this checks the internal structure of your piece. It makes use of high-frequency sound waves that are not heard by the human ear. They might examine the entire pipe, all they will just take a look at your weld.
- Magnetic particle test — this method determines whether any surface or near-surface flaws are present. Using this test type, any cracks, pores, cold lap, or faulty seam fusion will show up instantly. It is incredibly effective.
For destructive tests, a sample of your piece will be cut out so your specimen can be effectively judged. Your sample may have to undergo the following destructive test types:
- Tensile testing — this examines the yield and the final tensile strength of the pipe.
- Guided bend test (or free-bend test) — this checks the integrity of your joint.
- Impact test — this tests whether or not your pipe can withstand extreme temperatures.
- Creep test — this figures out what the long-term effect of your pipe will be if it is at a certain temperature constantly.
I recently wrote an in-depth article about Physical Weld Testing Guide: Destructive & Non-Destructive, have a look at it.
SMAW 6G Pipe Welding: The Safety Equipment
The final aspect we need to discuss here is the safety equipment. Yep, the bit that everyone yawns over.
But trust us, it couldn’t be more important. Without it, you may suffer serious injuries — and we would hate to see that happen.
Eyes and Face
You need to make sure you have a welding helmet, as well as glasses or goggles. These protect you from radiation, intense light, the impact of flying debris, and lots more.
Clear lenses are used simply for impact protection while welding helmets (preferably with auto-darkening visors) will keep you safe from the light that gets thrown around while you’re doing your thing.
You don’t want to become another welder with retinal damage.
Related reading: How Long Does Welders Flash Last? Symptoms & Treatments
As far as breathing goes, some welders choose to wear a respirator to protect them from fumes. At the moment, this isn’t a requirement, but it is best practice to do so.
Body, Hands, and Feet
Make sure you wear dark clothing that is made from leather, thick cotton, or wool. This ensures that no light is reflected off them and that they won’t rip, tear, or melt during the welding process.
Also, remember not to roll your sleeves (or trousers) up as the creases could potentially catch hot debris that will burn your skin.
Lastly, flame-resistant gloves are super important. We suggest that you don’t just buy the leather welding gloves but also purchase welder’s gauntlets too. This way your entire arm is protected.
Now, go practice and ace your certification!
5 Common Mistakes to Avoid While Pipe Welding
Making mistakes is part of the learning process, but that doesn’t mean that experts can’t have a rough day and fluff up their welds! But, bad pipe welds can lead to all kinds of disasters in the system, so it’s important to know how to prevent the most common mistakes from occurring.
So, let’s not waste any more time and get straight into it!
1. Skipping the Preparation Stage
When it comes to pipe welding, preparation is key. Most of us have heard the saying “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, and this couldn’t be more true here.
To prepare the pipes properly, you need to ensure that the edges are smooth and equal to each other. Make sure to get the grinder out and do your thing before you jump headfirst into striking the arc! You’ll thank us in the end.
Minor surface misalignment can be corrected when you apply the filler metal, however, this won’t fix all your problems.
If you aren’t joining them correctly, you might end up with a bevel that showcases a ridiculously steep angle. No one wants that.
To avoid this mishap, do not rush the part fit-up stage of the welding procedure. If you do, you will end up with a weaker structure and an ugly weld.
3. Disregarding the WPS (Welding Procedure Specification)
Welding Procedure Specification sets out the guidelines that welders can use to ensure they create welds that are in line with the standards. While you probably won’t disregard them when you are learning, we have found that experienced welders like to ignore them.
Our advice? Regardless of how long you have been welding, always stick to the Welding Procedure Specification.
There are so many factors that come into pipe welding that deviating from the code can cause drastic effects.
4. Using Too Much Shielding Gas
Many welders seem to believe that using more shielding gas will provide increased protection. However, this is far from the truth. It could be detrimental to your weld.
Turning your high-pressure welding gas to full speed is just unnecessarily wasting your supplies. There are zero advantages to this practice. Plus, you could distort the weld pool, which ultimately damages your welds.
We recommend that you utilize a flow regulator so you are using the right amount of shielding gas at all times.
5. Blaming Welding Power for Porosity
For some unknown reason, the majority of welders like to blame the welding power for porosity. But it is physically impossible for the power source to cause this.
Factors such as changing the wire spool, utilizing the wrong gas, or poor preparation are usually the cause of porosity in welds.
To combat porosity, you need to stay cautious every step of the way so you can end up with top-quality joints.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few common questions people often have about pipe welding:
1. How Long Does a Pipeline Job Last?
It does depend on exactly what you are doing. Employers may need you for a short-term contract but others might need you for longer. With that in mind, we can’t give you a true figure. We will, however, give you an insight into the average hours and timescale of pipeline jobs.
How long does a pipeline job last? Generally, you will be away, working on the pipeline for around 4 months. As we said, this is subject to change and dependent on your situation, the employer, and the specific job.
During this time, you are probably going to be working 6 days a week. Yep, it is strenuous so you will need to prepare well to cope with the demands. You will be required to get up early and sometimes work well into the night.
However, once your job is done (after the 4 months or pre-specified time frame), you will usually get between 2 weeks and 2 months off! While this might sound scary, it is rather lovely to get a substantial rest period after your 4-month slog.
2. Pipe Welding Salary: How Much Does a Pipe Welder Make a Year?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, $40,000 is the average salary for all welders. However, pipe welding and pipeline welding are among the highest paying welding positions out there.
How much does a pipe welder make a year? A pipe welder should expect to make around $57,700 a year. As you can tell, this is significantly higher than the average salary! Of course, you will have to complete training programs and have enough job experience to get to these lofty heights but once you’re there, the view looks incredibly good from the top.
If you are wanting to earn even more, you could move into pipeline welding. This is where you work specifically for the oil and gas transportation industry.
Essentially, you are paid “danger money” as leaks and the like can be disastrous. However, you will make a whopping $78,000 per year so for many, this is worth it.
The question that typically follows all this up (in our experience) is “can welders make six figures per year?”. The short answer to that is, yes!
It should go without saying that this takes an extreme amount of dedication. You need to ensure you have an almost perfect success rate when welding as you’ll find that these 6-figure-paying jobs have more danger tied in with them than most.
So, while you won’t walk out of your training program and jump straight into a $100,000 per year job, you can get there through motivation, time, and experience.
Related reading: Do Welders Make Good Money? – Highest Paying Welding Jobs
3. Pipe Welding Schools: What Is Required to Be a Pipeline Welder?
To start with, you need to realize that pipeline welding is incredibly demanding on the body. You are more than likely going to be working in awkward positions most of the time. Strength and willpower are the two main qualities you are going to need here.
Moreover, since most pipeline welding jobs are done outside (that probably goes without saying), you might have to continue to work in adverse weather conditions. Sometimes, you will even be inside sewers. So, you need to keep fit, healthy, and strong to ensure you can work safely.
What is required to be a pipeline welder? When it comes to becoming a certified pipe welder, your best option is to follow formal training paths. However, this will be moot if you know a highly experienced welder who will teach you everything you need to know. Although, you’ll still need a certificate so our advice would be to stick with formal tuition.
After you have acquired your qualification, you need experience. It is highly unlikely that anyone will employ you with a certificate and no experience.
So, how do you get this experience then if no one is willing to hire you? Let’s take a look.
The easiest way to go about this is to nab a position as an apprentice (or assistant) to a veteran pipe welder. This way, you will gain the relevant experience and pick up some non-teachable skills from your boss.
After all of this, the pipeline welding world is your oyster.
4. Pipe Welding Clamps: What Are The Top 3 Best Pipe Clamps?
Even though pipe clamps are a simple bit of kit, there are so many brands that it can be really hard to know which one to go with. But don’t worry, that’s why we’re here — to answer this conundrum!
Here are the Top 3 best pipe clamps:
1. Bessey ¾ Inch H-Style Pipe Clamp (Our Top Pick)
We love this one for its durability and top-quality performance. Since it has an H-shaped foot, your pipe obtains two forms of stability which make welding a breeze.
Plus, the base is abnormally high, which allows you to maneuver your torch more easily than with other clamps.
- Lots of clearance
- H-shaped foot makes for increased stability
- Cast clamps
- Weak pipe threading — it’s likely that this will distort in a year
2. IRWIN QUICK-GRIP ¾ Inch Pipe Clamps (Our Runner Up)
This one is very similar to the Bessey clamp which just talked about.
It features a large handle so you can easily grip the product and maneuver your torch easily during the welding process. Not to mention that the big feet offer a whole new level of stability.
The developers have implemented a brand-new clamp system that negates the need for threading. So, it’s a win-win.
- Ergonomic design
- Innovative clamp system
- Expensive when you consider the amount for the Bessey
- Sometimes the clamp loses its grip
3. Yost ½ Inch Pipe Clamps (Best Value for Money)
With the Yost clamp, you are given almost the same quality at a fraction of the price. This is great for those who are just starting and don’t necessarily want to invest their entire bank account on some clamps.
- Best value for money
- Very durable
- Threading defects in some units
5. Pipe Welding Helmets: What Are The Top 3 Best Pipe Welding Helmets?
Pipe welding is one of the trickiest welding processes known to man. With that in mind, it is suddenly obvious why there are helmets made specifically for this job type.
But the problem occurs when you realize just how many brands have conjured up one of their own — you don’t know who’s to pick! Don’t worry, we’re going to show you our top 3 best pipe welding helmets so you don’t have to do all the research.
Here are the Top 3 best Pipe Welding Helmets:
1. Fibre-Metal Pipeliner Fiberglass Welding Helmet (Our Top Pick)
We love this one because of its super-quick response time. This incredibly useful to gain maximum eye protection so your retinas don’t burn out (quite literally).
The lens on this helmet features 10 darkening shades which essentially guarantees that you will be protected 100% of the time. As soon as you spark the arc, the helmet registers it and adjusts to suit the level of emitted light.
It isn’t heavy either, which we were pretty surprised by. It’s super comfortable and allows you to move easily with your welds, regardless of the conditions you’re working in.
2. Fibre-Metal by Honeywell Tigerhood (Our Runner Up)
This one is fantastic for clarity. You get the maximum level of visibility with this Honeywell helmet. Since you’re probably going to be working in dim places, this is the number one solution to combat the hazy contrast.
It will also protect you from the high temperatures you’ll find yourself in as a pipe welder. Not to mention that it is super comfortable to wear and is lightweight considering the technology that has been incorporated.
3. Fibre-Metal 110WH by Honeywell (Best Value for Money)
Honeywell has manufactured this with the pipe welder in mind.
It’s affordable while still offering all the advantages of the two we have just talked about. Perfect for your health and safety, as well as your bank!
6. Why Do Pipeliners Wear Pancake Hoods?
Pancake hoods are round and super-flat (hence the name) to ensure they protect the pipeline welder’s head, face, and eyes effectively.
Why do pipeliners wear pancake hoods? Well, Pipeline welders wear pancake hoods because you can bend, stretch, and weld easily — and feeling safe while welding! the pancake hood has been designed to protect against all of these adverse conditions.
If you get a good one (and ideally you should), it will be the right thickness to make sure they aren’t too heavy. You don’t want to be weighed down.
On one side of the pancake hood, you will notice that a shield is present. The specific location of it will change depending on whether you are right- or left-handed.
This ensures that the side of your face is protected, but your hands can still move freely. There’s nothing worse than feeling restricted when you are trying to complete a job successfully!
Beginners Pipe Welding Rules >> Check out the video below: