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Stick Welding Basics

Learn the basics about one of the most commonly used welding methods: stick welding.

Shield metal arc welding, often referred to as simply SMAW or stick welding, is one of the most commonly used welding methods. It’s versatile and simple, making it popular in a number of industries. Maintenance and repair industries frequently use stick welding. It can also be used in construction to join steel structures and fabrication jobs. It can be used outdoors in windy or harsh conditions. The low cost of equipment also makes it popular.

Stick welding is used to weld low and high alloy steel, cast iron, stainless steel, carbon steel and ductile iron. It can also be used with nonferrous materials, such as nickel and copper alloys, and even aluminum.

Stick Welding Basics
Stick welding is used in industrial work, construction and more. Learn the basics of this common welding method with Blain’s Farm & Fleet.

Stick Welding Equipment

Power Supply

Stick welding requires a relatively constant current supply, even if there’s a change in voltage or arc distance. A skilled stick welder will vary the arc length if the current fluctuates.

A ground clamp is clamped onto the workpiece or metal welding table. The ground clamp is connected to the welding power supply, as well as the electrode cable and holder.


A consumable electrode is used to create the weld. Choosing the right electrode depends on what material is being welded, the weld position and the weld properties. Stick welding electrodes are covered in a substance called flux. Flux produces a gas which purifies the weld and forms slag. In stick welding, slag is used to protect the weld and is later chipped off.

Electrodes are categorized as fast-fill, fast-freeze and fill-freeze. Fast-fill electrodes are made to melt quickly. This helps to maximize welding speed. Fast-freeze electrodes are made to quickly solidify. They’re used in situations where the welding position may be difficult. A fill-freeze electrode falls between the former two kinds.

How to Stick Weld

Stick welding is pretty straightforward. The welder uses an electrode holder to secure the electrode. The electrode lightly strikes the metal workpiece, and this starts the arc. Once the arc is started, the workpiece and the electrode melt to form a weld pool. The droplets from the electrode fill the weld pool. The flux from the electrode produces slag, which covers the filler metal from the electrode. After the slag is solid, it’s chipped away to show the weld. A welder may need to stop and use another electrode, depending on the size of the workpiece.

Stick Welding Safety

As with all welding, safety should come first. You need to wear welding gloves to protect your hands from spatter and sparks. You will also need a welding helmet and eye protection.

If you want to learn about different types of welding and welding safety, visit our welding blog.


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