Stick Welding (SMAW) Overview

stick welding

Stick Welding or SMAW is one of the welding types. Further, it uses a consumable electrode covered with flux for laying welds. Shielded metal arc welding uses both the DC/AC depending on the electrode needed for the welding process. Welders perform most of the welding activities using the stick welding process. In simple words, the welding process is simple and affordable. Read various aspects of stick welding in detail.

Post Highlights:

  • What is Stick Welding?
  • Stick Welding Procedure
  • SMAW Basic Equipment
  • Features of SMAW
  • Is Stick Welding MIG or TIG?
  • Safety Measures for Stick Welding
  • Minor Issues in SMAW Process
  • Stick Welding Productivity Tips
  • Applications of SMAW or Stick Welding
  • Advantages of SMAW
  • Disadvantages of SMAW
  • Employment Areas for Stick Welder
  • SMAW Welder Job Types
  • Salary of a SMAW Welder

What is Stick Welding?

Stick welding is a process using a consumable electrode covered with a flux to perform welds. The rod is coated with inert materials that release inert gases for protecting molten metal. Thus, it can perform in any welding position and materials with different thicknesses. Other names of stick welding are SMAW (Shielded Metal Arc Welding), Manual Metal Arc Welding (MMA/MMAW), and Flux Shielded Arc Welding (FSAW).

Stick Welding Procedure

The manual arc welding uses a flux-coated electrode for producing welds. After the electricity is passed through an electrode, the flux forms gas and it shields the electric arc in the space between the metal and electrode. As a result, it stops atmospheric gases and protects the weld from contamination. SMAW being a simple welding process does not require some sophisticated equipment.

SMAW Basic Equipment

The following are basic stick welding equipment.

1. Electrode Holder and Cables

The electrode holder is a device to hold the one end on the electrode. The copper contact shoes of the holder has either a twist grip or spring-loaded mechanism. Further, it provides a tight grip on the rod and the continuous flow of electricity. Besides this, make sure there should be a good electrical connection between holder, electrode, and cable.

Cables are a source of power transmission. They have water and oil resistant smooth, hard-wearing, and protective rubberized flexible sheath. Besides this, it works as electrical insulation. The diameter of the cable depends on the required level of welding current. So, the higher the current, the larger the diameter of the cable.

2. Power Source

The main function of a welding power source is to provide constant and sufficient power to melt the joint. Generally, there are four types of power sources.

i) AC Transformer

ii) AC/DC Transformer-rectifier

iii) DC Generator

iv) DC Rectifier

3. Fume Extraction

All the enclosed spaces require some sort of mechanical ventilation (exhaust ventilation) system. It provides fresh air current in the very area. So, the direction of the air movement should be towards the work. There should be proper ventilation while welding in a tank, ship compartment, boiler, and a welding-shop.

4. Welder Protection

All welding types emit heat, gases, and light radiation. Welders must protect from these harmful gases.

The Head shield is a piece of well-built lightweight head equipment. It is made up of insulating and non-reflecting materials. Besides this, it is fitted with a protective filter glass and sufficiently dark in color. As a result, it absorbs harmful infrared and ultraviolet rays emitted from welding processes. Welders normally use a hand-held or head-shield while performing welding.

Clothing is another protection against hot spatter, burns, slag, and sparks. welders should also wear leather gloves either elbow length or short, part mitten, or full-fingered. Therefore, they may be required to use leather aprons depending on the welding condition and application.

Features of SMAW

Stick welding also has various features the same as other welding types. They are as follows.

  • SMAW uses a flux-coated electrode for laying welds.
  • The equipment of SMAW is portable and comparatively low cost than GMAW.
  • In SMAW, the length of electrodes is shorter and results changing its every time after a certain length of welds.
  • SMAW welding process is more versatile for welding all positions.
  • The filler materials in SMAW can be changed in a few seconds, not as in GMAW it takes minutes.
  • The welding process is a good and efficient welding type for thicker metals.
  • SMAW can weld dirty metals with some certain electrodes. For example, 6010/11 does not mind a little paint coating on metal while welding.
  • Normally, shielded metal arc welding is used in high-pressure pipe and gas lines.
  • SMAW may be considered a good choice in windy areas or if the weather condition is bad.

Is Stick Welding MIG or TIG?

Stick welding or shielded metal arc welding is neither MIG nor TIG welding. Take a look at all three welding types.

Stick welding is a process that uses a consumable electrode covered with flux for laying welds. Further, the electrode is coated with inert materials and it releases inert gas for the protection of molten metal. It uses both the alternating current and direct current. But it depends on the electrode needed for the welding process. Shielded metal arc welding is all welding position friendly.

MIG (metal inert gas) is a welding process that uses a consumable wire electrode. Besides this, it makes an electric arc between metal and electrode. As the process goes ahead, the heat is created between metals, and it melts them and makes joints. MIG welding is used to weld metals like non-ferrous materials, steels, and aluminum as well.

TIG (tungsten inert gas) is an arc welding process that feeds a non-consumable tungsten electrode for laying welds. In this welding process, a filler metal may or may not be required depending on the type of metal. Normally, the type is used in the sections of stainless steel and non-ferrous metals.

Safety Measures for Stick Welding

Personal safety is always a priority in all manual jobs in every industry. Normally, welding emits fumes, gases, radiation, etc. So, safety becomes very crucial for the welder. The basic safety equipment for SMAW or any other type of welding are as follows:

  • A Long-sleeved Jacket – protection from sparks
  • A Welding Helmet – it saves the head from injury and eyes from ultraviolet rays.
  • Heavy Leather Gloves – it protects the hand from sparks, burns, and cuts.
  • Good knowledge – it is a must for welders to know all about the safety measures before starting the very welding type.

Minor Issues in SMAW Process

There are some minor issues in SMAW welding as well. They arise due to the remaining gas in the weld before cooling and solidifying. As a result, the welded metal becomes porous and weak. The reasons which make the welded metal weak are as follows.

  • Slow or Fast travel speed while welding a metal
  • Gas bubbles in welds
  • Inappropriate pieces of metals
  • Poor fusion due to low power and dirty metal surfaces
  • Shallow penetration due to too fast of a travel time
  • Spatter due to low voltage or high amperage
  • Too low or too large current in the electrode

Stick Welding Better Productivity Tips

Getting maximum from a welding process depends on many factors including skills and experience of welders. If all the parameters are not in order then weld quality and productivity will not be as desired. So, for better results, a welder should exercise the following tips.

i) Welders should use a slow travel speed on less than optimal metals. The benefit is, as it will keep the puddle molten and let gases to bubble out.

ii) They should place the work at 45° to 75° slant while working on a thinner stock like 10-18 gauge. Subsequently, the slant will give welder the fastest travel speed along with preventing the joints from becoming wide.

iii) Welders should work the weld flat while working on heavy plates i.e. 3/16 inches or more than this. Another benefit is it allows the best electrode placement.

Applications of SMAW or Stick Welding

Many industries like the repair and maintenance industry; industrial fabrication and the construction of steel structures employ stick welding in various operations. Besides this, SMAW welding is highly portable and a good choice for bad weather conditions.


  • Normally, the stick welding process is used to lay welds on stainless steel, cast iron, carbon steel, ductile iron, and low/high alloy steel.
  • Ship-building and pressure vessel fabrication industries use it.
  • Iron and Steels Industries
  • SMAW welding can also weld the alloys of aluminum, nickel, and copper

Advantages of SMAW

The advantages of stick welding are more than the disadvantages. The following are as follows.

  • SMAW welding is highly portable. Welders can carry it easily from one place to another.
  • Another good point of SMAW is its working capability even in bad weather conditions or windy areas.
  • Further, the cost of SMAW welding equipment is affordable to all. The cost is not so high if we compare it to other processes.
  • Stick welding has the ability to perform on different metals.

Disadvantages of SMAW

Despite being one of the best welding types, it has some drawbacks as well. They are as follows:

  • SMAW gives low productivity due to the lack of automation.
  • The stick welding process has a lower deposition rate comparing to other types.
  • Titanium or zirconium are two exceptions to the SMAW process. It cannot be applied to them.
  • Normally, SMAW requires a well-trained welder for performing welds. A learner cannot handle it properly.
  • SMAW requires frequent clean-up because of so much spatter.

Employment Areas for Stick Welder

The following industries attract thousands of applicants every year for their native and overseas welding operations.

  • Maintenance and Repair Industry
  • Steel Industry
  • Fabrication Industry
  • Shipbuilding Industry

SMAW Welder Job Types

The following are some of the expected positions for applicants.

  • Structural Welder
  • Welder
  • Combo Welder
  • Pipe Welder
  • Code Welder
  • Production Welder
  • Certified Welder
  • Tank Welder
  • Structural Steel Welder
  • Industrial Welder
  • Submarine Welder
  • Steel Welder

Salary of a SMAW Welder

The salary of each welder is not the same. They are paid according to their experience and skills. The salary trends also differ from place to place across the United States. However, a welder with Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) skills is paid $18.52 per hour on an average. But they make $13.59 to $27.60 per hour typically. Generally, the pay scale of welders rises with the increase of experience and years.


Thus, the detailed information on stick welding or SMAW is valuable for students, welders, and other professionals in many ways during their careers.

Related: Other Welding Types

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