I'm a total novice at stick welding, but one thing I've noticed is that some rods word better than others. For example, I have these very old Craftsman 7014 Contact rods (looks like they were manufactured in the ,70's based on the package printing) that were never sealed in a air-tight container and weld perfectly. Arc starts just by tapping the metal and if I lift the rod off the workpiece, it seems I never loose the arc. On the other hand, I have new contact rods that are hard to start and leave a horrible weld bead - and I keep these rods in a sealed container with dessicant! I thought specs are specs. If it's a 7014, then it must be 7014, but anyone know why there are differences among manufacturers?

Even with my new 6011's. Hard to start and even harder to maintain the arc. I always end up using the old 7014 Craftsman rods because they work. Too bad I only have like 4 rods left.

It's an AC welder.. I realize I'm a novice, but why does it seem these Craftsman rods outperform all the others?