Incomplete Penetration Incomplete penetration happens when your filler metal and base metal aren’t joined properly, and the result is a gap or a crack of some sort. Check out the Figure below for an example of incomplete penetration.

a common case of incomplete penetration Welds that suffer from incomplete penetration are weak at best, and they’ll  likely fail if you apply much force to them. (Put simply, welds with incomplete  penetration are basically useless.)
Here’s a list of the most common causes of incomplete penetration welding defect.
The groove you’re welding is too narrow, and the filler metal doesn’t reach the bottom of the joint. ✓ You’ve left too much space between the pieces you’re welding, so they don’t melt together on the first pass.
✓ You’re welding a joint with a V-shaped groove and the angle of the groove is too small (less than 60 to 70 degrees), such that you can’t manipulate your electrode at the bottom of the joint to complete the weld.
✓ Your electrode is too large for the metals you’re welding.
✓ Your speed of travel(how quickly you move the bead) is too fast, so not enough metal is deposited in the joint.
✓ Your welding amperage is too low.If you don’t have enough electricity going to the electrode, the current won’t be strong enough to melt the metal properly

Incomplete Fusion

Incomplete fusion occurs when individual weld beads don’t fuse together, or  when the weld beads don’t fuse properly to the base metal you’re welding,  such as in below.

a textbook example of incomplete fusion

a textbook example of incomplete fusion The most common type of incomplete fusion is called overlap and usually  occurs at the toe(on the very top or very bottom of the side) of a weld. One of the top causes is an incorrect weld angle, which means you’re probably holding the electrode and/or your filler rods at the wrong angle while you’re making a weld; if you think that’s the case, tweak the angle a little at a time until your overlap problem disappears.
Here are a few more usual suspects when it comes to incomplete fusion causes.

✓ Your electrode is too small for the thickness of the metal you’re welding.
✓ You’re using the wrong electrode for the material that you’re welding.
✓ Your speed of travel is too fast.
✓ Your arc length is too short.
✓ Your welding amperage is set too low.
If you think your incomplete fusion may be because of a low welding amperage, crank up the machine! But be careful: You really need only
enough amperage to melt the base metal and ensure a good weld.
Anything more is unnecessary and can be dangerous.
✓ Contaminants or impurities on the surface of the parent metal(the metal you’re welding) prevent the molten metal (from the filler rod or elsewhere on the parent metal) from fusing.


Undercutting is an extremely common welding defect. It happens when your  base metal is burned away at one of the toes of a weld. To see what I mean, look at Figure.


When you weld more than one pass on a joint, undercutting can occur between the passes because the molten weld is already hot and takes less heat to fill, yet you’re using the same heat as if it were cold. It’s actually a very serious defect that can ruin the quality of a weld, especially when more than 1⁄32 inch is burned away. If you do a pass and notice some undercutting, you must remove it before you make your next pass or you risk trapping slag (waste material — see the following section) into the welded joint (which is bad news). The only good thing about undercutting is that it’s extremely easy to spot after you know what you’re looking for.

Here are a few common causes of undercutting:
✓ Your electrode is too large for the base metal you’re welding.
✓ Your arc is too long.
✓ You have your amperage set too high.
✓ You’re moving your electrode around too much while you’re welding.

Weaving your electrode back and forth is okay and even beneficial, but if you do it too much, you’re buying a one-way ticket to Undercutting City
(which is of course the county seat for Lousy Weld County).

Slag Inclusions

A little bit of slag goes a long way . . . toward ruining an otherwise quality weld. Slagis the waste material created when you’re welding, and bits of this solid material can become incorporated (accidentally) into your weld, as in Figure . Bits of flux, rust, and even tungsten can be counted as slag and can cause contamination in your welds.

a weld with slag inclusion

Common causes of slag inclusions include
✓ Flux from the stick welding electrode that comes off and ends up in the weld
✓ Failure to clean a welding pass before applying the next pass
Be sure to clean your welds before you go back in and apply a second weld bead.
✓ Slag running ahead of your weld puddle when you’re welding a V-shaped groove that’s too tight
✓ Incorrect welding angle
✓ Welding amperage that’s too low

Flux Inclusions

If you’re soldering or brazing (also called braze welding), flux inclusions can be a real problem. If you use too much flux in an effort to “float out” impurities from your weld, you may very well end up with flux inclusions like those in Figure . (Head to Chapter 13 for more on brazing and soldering.)

flux inclusion

If you’re working on a multilayer braze weld, flux inclusion can occur when you fail to remove the slag or glass on the surface of the braze before you apply the next layer. When you’re soldering, flux inclusion can be a problem if you’re not using enough heat. These inclusions are usually closely spaced, and they can cause a soldered joint to leak. If you want to avoid flux inclusions (and believe me, you do), make sure you do the following:
✓ Clean your weld joints properly after each pass.This task is especially important when you’re brazing.
✓ Don’t go overboard with your use of flux.
✓ Make sure you’re using enough heat to melt the filler or flux material.


If you read very much of this book, you quickly figure out that porosity(tiny holes in the weld) can be a serious problem in your welds (especially stick or mig welds). Your molten puddle releases gases like hydrogen and carbon dioxide as the puddle cools; if the little pockets of gas don’t reach the surface before the metal solidifies, they become incorporated in the weld, and nothing can weaken a weld joint quite like gas pockets. Take a gander at Figure  for an example of porosity.

a classic case of porosity

Following are a few simple steps you can take to reduce porosity in your welds:
✓ Make sure all your materials are clean before you begin welding.
✓ Work on proper manipulation of your electrode.
✓ Try using low-hydrogen electrodes.


Cracks can occur just about everywhere in a weld: in the weld metal, the plate next to the weld metal, or in any other piece affected by the intense heat of welding. Check out the example of cracking in Figure.


Here are the three major types of cracks, what causes them, and how you can prevent them.

✓ Hot cracks:

This type of crack occurs during welding or shortly after you’ve deposited a weld, and its cause is simple: The metal gets hot too
quickly or cools down too quickly. If you’re having problems with hot cracking, try preheating your material. You can also postheat your material, which means that you apply a little heat here and there after you’ve finished welding in an effort to let the metal cool down more gradually.

✓ Cold cracks:

This type of crack happens well after a weld is completed and the metal has cooled off. (It can even happen days or weeks after a
weld.) It generally happens only in steel, and it’s caused by deformities in the structure of the steel. You can guard against cold cracking by increasing the thickness of your first welding pass when starting a new weld. Making sure you’re manipulating your electrode properly, as well as pre- and postheating your metal, can also help thwart cold cracking.

✓ Crater cracks:

These little devils usually occur at the ending point of a weld, when you’ve stopped welding before using up the rest of an electrode. The really annoying part about crater cracks is that they can cause other cracks, and the cracking can just kind of snowball from
there. You can control the problem by making sure you’re using the appropriate amount of amperage and heat for each project, slowing your speed of travel, and pre- and postheating.


If you don’t properly control the expansion and contraction of the metals you work with, warpage(an unwanted distortion in a piece of metal’s shape) can be the ugly result. Check out an example in Figure.

warpage welding defect

If you weld a piece of metal over and over, the chances of it warping are much higher. You can also cause a piece of metal to warp if you clamp the joints too tightly. (If you allow the pieces of metal that make the joint to move a little, there’s less stress on them.)
Say you’re welding a Tjoint. The vertical part of the Tsometimes pulls itself toward the weld joint. To account for that movement, simply tilt the vertical part out a little before you weld, so that when it tries to pull toward the weld joint, it pulls itself into a nice 90-degree angle! The more heat you use, the more likely you are to end up with warpage, so be sure to use only the amount of heat you need. Don’t overdo it. Opting for a slower speed of travel while welding can also help to cut down on warpage.


Spatter(small particles of metal that attach themselves to the surface of the material you’re working on.) is a fact of life with most kinds of welding; no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to cut it out completely. You can keep spatter to a minimum by spraying with an anti-spatter compound (available at your welding supply store) or by scraping the spatter off the parent metal surface.These are the 10 most commonly found welding defects.

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