Since I started the website, I often get questions regarding specific weld projects or weld challenges. Recently, the question was how to create a weld seam that looks like a stack of dimes. Creating these distinct patterns on the weld bead is not necessarily desirable in weld applications. However, stacking dimes is very popular in terms of weld aesthetics. Therefore I did some research on how to create some nice stacks.
Stack of dimes in welding is created by solidifying the weld seam in intervals through a combination of torch movement and robot-like consistency of the torch and the filler wire hand (for TIG welding). This technique requires a high amount of practice to master.
As always, this was only the shortcut, no thrills answer. If you are interested in creating more visually appealing welds, especially in more customer-facing areas, I wrote my welding strategy below.
What is Stacking of Dimes in Welding?
Suppose you are like me and have limited knowledge about welding art and aesthetics, “stacking dimes” might be a new term for you too. In welding, the term describes solidified ripples of the weld bead that resemble a stack of round coins.
From a mechanical perspective, this has no benefit to the weld and, depending on the geometry of the weld, can even be undesirable, as in the little pockets between “dimes,” corrosion could occur. However, it looks great, and especially when welding highly visible parts with low mechanical stress, looks can be more important.
Laying the Ground Work – How to Prep for Stacking Dimes?
Before we start, independent of TIG or MIG welding, we need to clean the base material properly. It is important to remove all dirt, greases, and mill scale. I wrote a detailed overview about how to clean and prep before welding here.
In short, my recommended workflow for prepping would look like this:
- Clean all relevant surfaces with a DA Pad (example here).
- Remove mill scale with Scotch Brite (example here).
Only with a shiny, virgin surface will we achieve the very even and nice flow of the weld puddle, which results in a beautiful staked weld bead.
After prepping the base material, we are ready to tack the plates or pieces together. Independent of the welding process you prefer to use for stacking dimes (TIG or MIG), I would use TIG welding to tack the pieces together first. Reason being that a TIG weld really only leaves a very small tack weld. We can easily melt-up again on the first pass.
Having to much tack material will create a bump which will be visible on the weld seam and can harm the aesthetics.
How to Stack Dimes with MIG Welding?
Next step is choosing the right wire for your MIG welder. A .030″ diameter wire ER 70S6 spool does the trick.
Welding settings for MIG welding depend obviously on the strength of the material you are going to weld. If you got a .030″ diameter wire, I would start between 15 and 20 Volts. Generally, you would want to travel faster with the torch, and therefore use higher voltage. However, best practice is to start low and adjust higher to suit your welding style.
I would play around with wire-speed settings between 150-200 inches per minute in combination with that voltage. Again, as welding material, welding machines, and welding styles differ, this needs some iterative adjustment until you find your “flow.”
Regarding welding gas, I would go with the most common mixture, 75% Argon and 25% CO2, for MIG welding. The CO2 gives us the depth on the weld, which is not really required. So if you have a mixture with a higher Argon content in your workshop, give that a try as well.
And now we are ready to put the hood on and give stacking dimes a shoot. There are multiple ways to freeze the weld in a stack to create a distinct scale look. My recommendation would be to experiment with the cursive “e” or the triangle (see picture).
While I was researching what the Pros in the field are doing, I came across the “man-cub.” This is a bit of an extended cursive “e” version in which a race ahead with the torch creates solidifying stack.
How do you TIG a Stack of Dimes?
For TIG welding, the same prep work applies as in MIG welding. As filler material, I would start with the ER 70S6 because of its universal application for the filler and its good wetting abilities.
As for MIG welding, probably even more for TIG welding, consistency while welding is crucial. To create a very nice even stack, you need to be very mechanical in laying down the weld. Working with the pulse tone of your machine can create this metronome-like movement when dipping the filler wire into the puddle.
So settings for TIG would be to start between 80 and 100 Amps and activate the pulse function. Settings differ from machine to machine; I would start with 1 Hz (or 1 pulse per second) and see if I can keep up the puddle dabbing.
Pre-flow is at least 2 seconds for me and will be adjusted higher if I see any oxidation. Post-flow starts around 8-10 seconds, highly dependent on the heat input, which depends on the amperage I weld. If the tungsten tip becomes visibly blue, that means the cover was not sufficient and needs to be adjusted higher (also, the tungsten needs to be reground).
For the torch: in contrast to MIG welding, I would recommend keeping the torch as steady as possible and just push along the seam. Make sure that your arm has good support and movement radius to walk consistently along the joint.
There are some tricks on how to get a good start in trying to stack dimes with MIG or TIG welding, however, this is a technique that requires a high amount of skill that can only be learned through practice. Only robot-like consistency will get you a beautiful weld, and that probably will take some time.