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Guide to Cast Iron Welding


Guide Cast Iron Welding

A cast iron is an alloy of iron, carbon, and silicon, in which the
amount of carbon is usually more than 1.7 percent and less than 4.5
percent. The overall weldability of cast iron is low and depends on the material type, complexity, thickness, casting complexity and need for machinability. Ductile and malleable irons have good weldability while grey cast iron and white cast iron are only weldable for small attachments.

The most widely used type of cast iron is known as gray iron.
Gray iron has a variety of compositions, but is usually such that it is
primarily perlite with many graphite flakes dispersed throughout.

There are also alloy cast irons which contain small amounts of
chromium, nickel, molybdenum, copper, or other elements added to provide
specific properties.

Another alloy iron is austenitic cast iron, which is modified by
additions of nickel and other elements to reduce the transformation
temperature so that the structure is austenitic at room or normal
temperatures. Austenitic cast irons have a high degree of corrosion

In white cast iron, almost all the carbon is in the combined
form. This provides a cast iron with higher hardness, which is used for
abrasion resistance.

Malleable cast iron is made by giving white cast iron a special
annealing heat treatment to change the structure of the carbon in the
iron. The structure is changed to perlitic or ferritic, which increases
its ductility.

Nodular iron and ductile cast iron are made by the addition of
magnesium or aluminum which will either tie up the carbon in a combined
state or will give the free carbon a spherical or nodular shape, rather
than the normal flake shape in gray cast iron. This structure provides a
greater degree of ductility or malleability of the casting.

A major factor contributing to the difficulty of welding cast iron
is its lack of ductility. If cast irons are loaded beyond their yield
points, they break rather than deform to any significant extent. Weld
filler metal and part configuration should therefore be selected to
minimize welding stresses.

MMA, flux cored arc, MIG, TIG and gas welding processes are
normally used with nickel-based welding consumables to produce
high-quality welds, but cast iron and steel electrodes can also
produce satisfactory welds in certain alloys.

Weldability by Metal Type

Table Credit:TWI



These types of metal are widely used in:

  • agricultural equipment
  • on machine
    tools as bases, brackets, and covers
  • for pipe fittings
  •  cast iron
  • automobile engine blocks, heads, manifolds
  • water
  • repair defects in order to upgrade or salvage a casting before service

It is rarely used in structural work except for
compression members. It is widely used in construction machinery for
counterweights and in other applications for which weight is required.


  • Grey (Gray) or flake graphiteWhere the graphite exists as branched interconnected flakes; this type of iron is relatively cheap and has poor mechanical properties. Grey irons are usually weldable with MMA (SMA), MIG (GMA) or FCAW as long as special consumables and procedures are used.

    Gray cast iron has low ductility and therefore will not expand or
    stretch to any considerable extent before breaking or cracking. Because
    of this characteristic, preheating is necessary when cast iron is welded
    by the oxyacetylene welding process. It can, however, be welded with
    the metal-arc process without preheating if the welding heat is
    carefully controlled. This can be accomplished by welding only short
    lengths of the joint at a time and allowing these sections to cool. By
    this procedure, the heat of welding is confined to a small area, and the
    danger of cracking the casting is eliminated. Large castings with
    complicated sections, such as motor blocks, can be welded without
    dismantling or preheating. Special electrodes designed for this purpose
    are usually desirable. Ductile cast irons, such as malleable iron,
    ductile iron, and nodular iron, can be successfully welded. For best
    results, these types of cast irons should be welded in the annealed

  • Nodular or spheroidal graphite (ductile iron)Where the graphite exists as graphite in a spheroidal form and the mechanical properties approach those of steel. Nodular irons are generally easier to weld than grey irons, but still require special consumables and procedures.
  • Malleable CIWhere the graphite exists as nodules or rosettes produced by heat treatment. Malleable irons have two main forms: blackheart malleable, which has similar weldability to nodular cast iron, and whiteheart malleable, which is readily weldable with ferritic consumables provided care is taken to limit penetration.
  • WhiteA hard, brittle iron containing no free graphite. White irons are generally considered unweldable.
  • AusteniticWhere the graphite may exist in either flake or nodular form, resulting in good corrosion and heat resistance. Many grades of austenitic irons can be welded with special consumables and procedures.
  • CI with High  Silicon and Aluminum ContentWhere the graphite exists mainly as flakes and the material has good corrosion resistance. This alloy can be welded with special consumables and procedures.

Welding Tips

Tips for Repairing a Crack in Cast Iron

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Most problems have to do with the high carbon content. This results in cracking problems and thermal control issues. Cast irons have approximately 2 to 4% carbon.

Stick welding can be used to repair castings with several types of welds that are machine friendly:

  • nickel 55 soft weld
  • nickel 99 soft weld
  • HTS-528 Brazing Rod (strongest brazing rod made for joining cast iron, with the convenience of a built in flux)

Nickel is a non-ferrous alloy that does not absorb any carbon making it a good choice for repair.

  • Pre-heat any casting to avoid cracking. Control the pre-heating with a temple stick. When it melts it means that you can weld into the casting. Preheating a casting before weld repair can be very useful in controlling the cooling rate after welding. This is particularly important when repairing complex shapes since different thicknesses of material respond differently to the heat from the weld pool, which can result in damaging thermal stresses and distortion.
  • Clean any joints that will be repaired or welded including grease and dirt. Use grinding or cleaning solvents.
  • If after the repair porosity is a problem, grind the area back to the sound metal
  • For repairs where there are casting imperfections, such as blow holes or cracks, all defective areas should be removed by cold chiseling, gouging or grinding. If gouging with a covered electrode or air-carbon arc, a heat affected zone will form around the gouged area. The casting should be preheated to 300°C before gouging to reduce the risk of cracking in this region. The groove should also be lightly ground to remove hardened material before depositing the repair, since graphite in this region may dissolve during gouging, increasing its sensitivity to cracking during subsequent welding. When removing cracks or linear defects, the ends of the crack should be blunted by drilling before gouging, to prevent further propagation during the preparation for repair. The true ends of the crack, which may be very fine, should be located by dye penetrant or magnetic particle methods before drilling.

In video DC positive is used.  Use the appropriate safety gear and eliminate fume exposure.

Cast Iron Welding Repair Preheating Is Recommended


Benefits as a welding metal:

  • More fluid than steel (better castability)
  • Lower melting point than steel
  • Low cost material
  • Can be shaped with sand casting
  • Desirable Properties such as:
    - Damping capacity
    - Thermal conductivity
    - Ductility
    - Hardness
    - Strength

Design Recommendations

Poor vs Improved Cast Iron Weld Design

Modifications to Joint Design that Reduce Risk of Cracking When Welding Cast Iron

Welding Processes

Welding is used to salvage new iron castings, to repair castings that
have failed in service, and to join castings to each other or to steel
parts in manufacturing operations.

Table 7-19 shows the welding processes that can be used for welding cast,
malleable, and nodular irons. The selection of the welding process and
the welding filler metals depends on the type of weld properties desired
and the service life that is expected. For example, when using the
shielded metal arc welding process, different types of filler metal can
be used. The filler metal will have an effect on the color match of the
weld compared to the base material. The color match can be a determining
factor, specifically in the salvage or repair of castings, where a
difference of color would not be acceptable

No matter which of the welding processes is selected, certain
preparatory steps should be made. It is important to determine the exact
type of cast iron to be welded, whether it is gray cast iron or a
malleable or ductile type. If exact information is not known, it is best
to assume that it is gray cast iron with little or no ductility. In
general, it is not recommended to weld repair gray iron castings that
are subject to heating and cooling in normal service, especially when
heating and cooling vary over a range of temperatures exceeding 400°F
(204°C). Unless cast iron is used as the filler material, the weld metal
and base metal may have different coefficients of expansion and
contraction. This will contribute to internal stresses which cannot be
withstood by gray cast iron. Repair of these types of castings can be
made, but the reliability and service life on such repairs cannot be
predicted with accuracy.

Welding Processes and Filler Metals for Cast Iron - Figure 7-19


  1. See AWS specification for Welding Rods and Covered Electrode for Welding Cast Iron
  2. Would be considered a brass weld
  3. Heat source for any brazing also carbon arc, twin carbon arc, gas tungsten arc or plasma arc.


Welding Preparation

In preparing the casting for welding, it is necessary to remove all
surface materials to completely clean the casting in the area of the
weld. This means removing paint, grease, oil, and other foreign material
from the weld zone. It is desirable to heat the weld area for a short
time to remove entrapped gas from the weld zone of the base metal. The
skin or high silicon surface should also be removed adjacent to the weld
area on both the face and root side. The edges of a joint should be
chipped out or ground to form a 60° angle or bevel. Where grooves are
involved, a V groove from a 60-90° included angle should be used. The V
should extend approximately 1/8 in. (3.2 mm) from the bottom of the
crack. A small hole should be drilled at each end of the crack to keep
it from spreading. Complete penetration welds should always be used,
since a crack or defect not completely removed may quickly reappear
under service conditions.

Preheating is desirable for welding cast irons with any of the
welding processes. It can be reduced when using extremely ductile filler
metal. Preheating will reduce the thermal gradient between the weld and
the remainder of the cast iron. Preheat temperatures should be related
to the welding process, the filler metal type, the mass, and the
complexity of the casting. Preheating can be done by any of the normal
methods. Torch heating is normally used for relatively small castings
weighing 30.0 lb (13.6 kg) or less. Larger parts may be furnace
preheated, and in some cases, temporary furnaces are built around the
part rather than taking the part to a furnace. In this way, the parts
can be maintained at a high interpass temperature in the temporary
furnace during welding. Preheating should be general, since it helps to
improve the ductility of the material and will spread shrinkage stresses
over a large area to avoid critical stresses at any one point.
Preheating tends to help soften the area adjacent to the weld; it
assists in degassing the casting, and this in turn reduces the
possibility of porosity of the deposited weld metal; and it increases
welding speed.

Slow cooling or post heating improves the machinability of the
heat-affected zone in the cast iron adjacent to the weld. The post
cooling should be as slow as possible. This can be done by covering the
casting with insulating materials to keep the air or breezes from it.


Cast iron can be welded with a coated steel electrode, but this
method should be used as an emergency measure only. When using a steel
electrode, the contraction of the steel weld metal, the carbon picked up
from the cast iron by the weld metal, and the hardness of the weld
metal caused by rapid cooling must be considered. Steel shrinks more
than cast iron when ceded from a molten to a solid state. When a steel
electrode is used, this uneven shrinkage will cause strains at the joint
after welding. When a large quantity of filler metal is applied to the
joint, the cast iron may crack just back of the line of fusion unless
preventive steps are taken. To overcome these difficulties, the prepared
joint should be welded by depositing the weld metal in short string
beads, 0.75 to 1.0 in. long (19.0 to 25.4 mm). These are made
intermittently and, in some cases, by the backstep and skip procedure.
To avoid hard spots, the arc should be struck in the V, and not on the
surface of the base metal. Each short length of weld metal applied to
the joint should be lightly peened while hot with a small ball peen
hammer, and allowed to cool before additional weld metal is applied. The
peening action forges the metal and relieves the cooling strains.

The electrodes used should be 1/8 in. (3.2 mm) in diameter to
prevent excessive welding heat. Welding should be done with reverse
polarity. Weaving of the electrode should be held to a minimum. Each
weld metal deposit should be thoroughly cleaned before additional metal
is added.

Cast iron electrodes must be used where subsequent machining of
the welded joint is required. Stainless steel electrodes are used when
machining of the weld is not required. The procedure for making welds
with these electrodes is the same as that outlined for welding with mild
steel electrodes. Stainless steel electrodes provide excellent fusion
between the filler and base metals. Great care must be taken to avoid
cracking in the weld, contracts approximately 50 percent more than
because stainless steel expands and mild steel in equal changes of

Arc Welding

The shielded metal arc welding process can be utilized for
welding cast iron. There are four types of filler metals that may be
used: cast iron covered electrodes; covered copper base alloy
electrodes; covered nickel base alloy electrodes; and mild steel covered
electrodes. There are reasons for using each of the different specific
types of electrodes, which include the machinability of the deposit, the
color match of the deposit, the strength of the deposit, and the
ductility of the final weld.

When arc welding with the cast iron electrodes (ECI), preheat to
between 250 and 800°F (121 and 425°C), depending on the size and
complexity of the casting and the need to machine the deposit and
adjacent areas. The higher degree of heating, the easier it will be to
machine the weld deposit. In general, it is best to use small-size
electrodes and a relatively 1ow current setting. A medium arc length
should be used, and, if at all possible, welding should be done in the
flat position. Wandering or skip welding procedure should be used, and
peening will help reduce stresses and will minimize distortion. Slow
cooling after welding is recommended. These electrodes provide an
excellent color match cm gray iron. The strength of the weld will equal
the strength of the base metal. There are two types of copper-base
electrodes: the copper tin alloy and the copper aluminum types. The
copper zinc alloys cannot be used for arc welding electrodes because of
the low boiling temperature of zinc. Zinc will volatilize in the arc and
will cause weld metal porosity.

When the copper base electrodes are used, a preheat of 250 to
400°F (121 to 204°C) is recommended. Small electrodes and low current
should be used. The arc should be directed against the deposited metal
or puddle to avoid penetration and mixing the base metal with the weld
metal. Slow cooling is recommended after welding. The copper-base
electrodes do not provide a good color match.

There are three types of nickel electrodes used for welding cast
iron. These electrodes can be used without preheat; however, heating to
100°F (38°C) is recommended. These electrodes can be used in all
positions; however, the flat position is recommended. The welding slag
should be removed between passes. The nickel and nickel iron deposits
are extremely ductile and will not become brittle with the carbon
pickup. The hardness of the heat-affected zone can be minimized by
reducing penetration into the cast iron base metal. The technique
mentioned above, playing the arc on the puddle rather than on the base
metal, will help minimize dilution. Slow cooling and, if necessary,
post heating will improve machinability of the heat-affected zone. The
nickel-base electrodes do not provide a close color match.

Copper nickel type electrodes cane in two grades. Either of these
electrodes can be used in the same manner as the nickel or nickel iron
electrode with about the same technique and results. The deposits of
these electrodes do not provide a color match.

Mild steel electrodes are not recommended for welding cast iron
if the deposit is to be machined. The mild steel deposit will pick up
sufficient carbon to make a high-carbon deposit, which is impossible to
machine. Additionally, the mild steel deposit will have a reduced level
of ductility as a result of increased carbon content. This type of
electrode should be used only for small repairs and should not be used
when machining is required. Minimum preheat is possible for small repair
jobs. Small electrodes at low current are recommended to minimize
dilution and to avoid the concentration of shrinkage stresses. Short
welds using a wandering sequence should be used, and the weld should be
peened as quickly as possible after welding. The mild steel electrode
deposit provides a fair color match.

Carbon-arc Welding of Cast Iron

Iron castings may be welded with a carbon arc, a cast iron rod, and a
cast iron welding flux. The joint should be preheated by moving the
carbon electrodes along the surface. This prevents too-rapid cooling
after welding. The molten puddle of metal can be worked with the carbon
electrode so as to move any slag or oxides that are formed to the
surface. Welds made with the carbon arc cool more slowly and are not as
hard as those made with the metal arc and a cast iron electrode. The
welds are machinable.

Oxyfuel Gas Welding

The oxyfuel gas process is often used for welding cast iron. Most of the
fuel gases can be used. The flame should be neutral to slightly
reducing. Flux should be used. Two types of filler metals are available:
the cast iron rods and the copper zinc rods. Welds made with the proper
cast iron electrode will be as strong as the base metal. Good color
match is provided by all of these welding reds. The optimum welding
procedure should be used with regard to joint preparation, preheat, and
post heat. The copper zinc rods produce braze welds. There are two
classifications: a manganese bronze and a low-fuming bronze. The
deposited bronze has relatively high ductility but will not provide a
color match.

Brazing and Braze Welding

Brazing is used for joining cast iron to cast iron and steels. In
these cases, the joint design must be selected for brazing so that
capillary attraction causes the filler metal to flow between closely
fitting parts. The torch method is normally used. In addition, the
carbon arc, the twin carbon arc, the gas tungsten arc, and the plasma
arc can all be used as sources of heat. Two brazing filler metal alloys
are normally used; both are copper zinc alloys. Braze welding can also
be used to join cast iron. In braze welding, the filler metal is not
drawn into the joint by capillary attraction. This is sometimes called
bronze welding. The filler material having a liquidous above 850°F
(454°C) should be used. Braze welding will not provide a color match.

Braze welding can also be accomplished by the shielded metal arc
and the gas metal arc welding processes. High temperature preheating is
not usually required for braze welding unless the part is extremely
heavy or complex in geometry. The bronze weld metal deposit has
extremely high ductility, which compensates for the lack of ductility of
the cast iron. The heat of the arc is sufficient to bring the surface
of the cast iron up to a temperature at which the copper base filler
metal alloy will make a bond to the cast iron. Since there is little or
no intermixing of the materials, the zone adjacent to the weld in the
base metal is not appreciably hardened. The weld and adjacent area are
machinable after the weld is completed. In general, a 200°F (93°C)
preheat is sufficient for most application. The cooling rate is not
extremely critical and a stress relief heat treatment is not usually
required. This type of welding is commonly used for repair welding of
automotive parts, agricultural implement parts, and even automotive
engine blocks and heads. It can only be used when the absence of color
match is not objectionable.

Gas Metal Arc Welding

The gas metal arc welding process can be used for making welds
between malleable iron and carbon steels. Several types of electrode
wires can be used, including:

  • Mild steel using 75% argon + 25% CO2 for shielding.
  • Nickel copper using 100% argon for shielding.
  • Silicon bronze using 50% argon + 50% helium for shielding.

In all cases, small diameter electrode wire should be used at low current. With the mild steel electrode wire, the Argon-CO2
shielding gas mixture issued to minimize penetration. In the case of
the nickel base filler metal and the Copper base filler metal, the
deposited filler metal is extremely ductile. The mild steel provides a
fair color match. A higher preheat is usually required to reduce
residual stresses and cracking tendencies.

Flux-cored Arc Welding

This process has recently been used for welding cast irons. The more
successful application has been using a nickel base flux-cored wire.
This electrode wire is normally operated with CO2 shielding
gas, but when lower mechanical properties are not objectionable, it can
be operated without external shielding gas. The minimum preheat
temperatures can be used. The technique should minimize penetration into
the cast iron base metal. Post heating is normally not required. A color
match is not obtained.

Other Processes

Other welding processes can be used for cast iron. Thermit welding has
been used for repairing certain types of cast iron machine tool parts.
Soldering can be used for joining cast iron, and is sometimes used for
repairing small defects in small castings. Flash welding can also be
used for welding cast iron.

Welding Techniques


Studding Method for Cast Iron Repair

Cracks in large castings are sometimes repaired by studding (figure 7-10).
In this process, the fracture is removed by grinding a V groove. Holes
are drilled and tapped at an angle on each side of the groove, and studs
are screwed into these holes for a distance equal to the diameter of
the studs, with the upper ends projecting approximately 1/4 in. (6.4 mm)
above the cast iron surface. The studs should be seal welded in place
by one or two beads around each stud, and then tied together by weld
metal beads. Welds should be made in short lengths, and each length
peened while hot to prevent high stresses or cracking upon cooling. Each
bead should be allowed to cool and be thoroughly cleaned before
additional metal is deposited. If the studding method cannot be applied,
the edges of the joint should be chipped out or machined with a
round-nosed tool to form a U groove into which the weld metal should be

Joint Design Modification

It is preferred that a full penetration weld is used over one where there is partial penetration. Welds that have varying thickness can result in uneven contraction stresses and uneven expansion during the welding cycle.

Changing welding designs to locate welds in an area where there is constant thickness can be beneficial. Another tip is to use a backing fillet weld to support stressed areas.

Groove Face Grooving

Cast Iron Groove Face Grooving

Gouging or grinding grooves into the surface area of a prepared weld groove, followed by using a weld bead to fill the grooves, before filling the whole joint is sometimes a preferred method (see illustration below). This approach lowers cracking risks by deflecting the crack path. Beads that are in contact with the casting are deposited first, when the stress heat affected zone and fusion line are at a low.

Peening (Hammering)

Peening or hammering  using a 13-19mm ball-peen hammer applied to a deformable weld bead, putting it into a state of compressive stress, the tensile stresses caused be thermal contraction can be opposed, thus reducing the risk of cracking in and around the weld.

When the hammer is applied manually, it strikes a moderate blow perpendicular to the weld surface.

The process requires a ductile weld metal. Nickel fillers are used, particularly when working with gray cast iron. Peening is performed at higher temperatures while the metal is soft.

For Additional Reading

Cast Irons and Welding

Cast Iron Welding Guide

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Page Author: Jeff Grill