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How to Stick Weld – Complete Guide

What is Stick Welding?

Technically called Shielded Metal Arc Welding, stick welding is an electrical arc welding process. Many prefer to use the slang “Stick Welding” as the metal is in the form of a stick. It uses electricity for melting electrode sticks or rods by melting both the electrode and the metal joint together. It will also fill the joint with filler metal.

In stick welding, the current passes through the electrode which is covered in a layer of flux. The electrode protects the weld pool and it can provide a strong weld by fusing the metal joint and electrode together. It has to be noted that the melted flux will have slag on the top. Welders will have to cut it off or brush it to remove the slug.

Stick welding can be great for thicker metals making it ideal for the fabrication of the structural sheets, tractor repairs, plant construction, farm equipment fixing, and welding pipe. You can weld different types of metals like stainless steel, chrome, aluminum, and nickel-based alloys.

stick weld

How Does a Stick Welding Work?

In stick welding, you will have to hook the ground clamp and welding rod picker  to the power supply source. Follow it by hooking up a ground clamp to the metal. Now you will have to insert the welding rod inside an electrode holder. Finally, you can strike that area to weld. With the current flowing through the ground and electrode holder, it will melt the metal piece and electrode together.

The process involves electricity passing from a welder to a rod & then to the arcs for creating a high temperature of 7000 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes the rod melt and it creates a coating from oxygen which can lead to contamination. As it has got coating, it is technically known as shielded metal arc welding. It leaves a shield in the form of arcing over a metal electrode.

  • Is Stick Welding AC or DC?

Determining whether stick welding is AC or DC, depends upon the type of electrode. It can either be AC, DC, or both. For heavy industrial jobs, a DC power supply can be a perfect choice. It helps to provide a stable and smooth welding arc. When you choose DC, you will also have the option to go for DCEP (DC electrode positive) or DCEN (DC electrode negative).

AC power supply serves great when the distance between the work area and the power supply is high. It is not affected when the voltage from the cable drops. You will have to note that the power supply for stick welding should be at a constant voltage. AC has better resistance. However, welding in humid conditions with AC power can lead to shocks.

  • DCEP or DCEN?

In the DC power supply, there will be one marked with a “+” sign and the other with a “-” sign. The “+” resembles DCEP and the “-” sign is DCEN. In these signs, you will have to connect the ground clamp and stick holder. By choosing DCEP, you select the positive connector. On the contrary, the negative connector is the DCEN.

DCEP works by positively charging the electrode and the welding piece is charged negatively. As electricity moves from negative to positive, it will travel to the electrode from the welding piece. This makes sure there will be better penetration and more heat.

When it comes to DCEN, the electrode will be charged negatively whereas the welding piece is charged positively. In DCEN, the flow of current is from the electrode to the welding piece. Here there will be less heat and less penetration on the metal.

  • Materials & Application

Stick welding is one of the oldest and simplest ways of welding metal arcs. The versatility makes it perfect for maintenance and repairs. The materials required are safety equipment, stick welder, ground clamp, and tools for removing slag.

Not just for professional applications, shielded metal arc welding is also used by hobbyists. You can use it on different types of metal ranging from carbon steel to high-quality steel. It is also great for cast iron, ductile iron, copper, nickel, and aluminum. However, it is not suitable for non-ferrous materials.

Advantages of Stick Welding

There are many advantages of stick welding. It offers you the following benefits.

  • Versatility: Stick welding allows you to weld different types of materials.
  • Easy to use: The process of stick welding is very easy. Even beginners can learn it quickly.
  • Portability: Another great advantage of stick welding is that it does not require additional equipment like a wire feeder or gas cylinder. You can carry it conveniently and move around.
  • Outdoor Work: You can easily opt for outdoor work as you don’t have to worry about windy conditions.
  • Disposing Welding Fumes: By utilizing a fan, you can easily dispose of the welding fumes. However, for other types of welding, this is not possible.
  • Affordability: Stick welding is affordable.

Disadvantages of Stick Welding

Despite having a lot of advantages, stick welding does come with some limitations. These are some of the disadvantages of stick welding.

  • Compared to MIG welding, stick welding is slower in process.
  • You will have to equip yourself with more skills for keeping the electrode at a certain distance while burning.
  • There can be reduced efficiency due to the increased time for clean-up.
  • Stick welding produces a lot of slags and spatter.
  • The quality will not be great when compared to TIG welding.
  • It can be difficult to use on thin metals.

Stick Welding Machine & Equipment

Being the easiest welding process, stick welding allows you to set it up quickly. It has four parts which include a stick welder, an electrode holder, a ground clamp, and stick welding electrodes.

  • Cost Of Stick Welding Equipment

The price of stick welding equipment varies according to the brand. You can get any type of stick welder if you are a beginner. However, for professional applications, you will have to consider various factors like the brand, spare parts availability, and warranty. It is important to go for stick welding equipment that comes from a popular brand. Some units allow you to convert it into a TIG welder. For heavy industrial manufacturing, you can get the one that has high-end features.

  • Power or Amperage Requirement For Stick Welder

A stick welder that has a power of 140 amps can be perfect to do almost anything. However, many people get confused with the maximum metal thickness. You can go for unlimited thickness metals with over 130 amps. Do note that more amps will lead to fewer passes. For use with multiple passes, you need to have better skills.

  • Safety Equipment:

While dealing with any type of machine, safety is the prime consideration. Always read the safety information and instructions carefully before going for stick welding. You must completely protect your body from the harmful ultraviolet rays and sparks and also from heat. It would be best to go for long-sleeve clothing that has fire-retardant abilities. Look for a welding helmet and safety glasses. Even while working indoors, make sure that you are working in a well-ventilated area.

  • Slag Removing Tools:

There will be plenty of slags during stick welding. To complete the work, you will have to get rid of the slags. The best way would be to use a chipping hammer. Use a wire brush that has a base metal joint for the cleaning process. For the finishing touches, a wire brush serves great.

How To Choose An Electrode?

Stick electrodes are of many different types and you need to select the one according to your project. It also depends upon the type of material you are using. For mild steel, electrode E60 or E70 will be great. If you are a beginner, electrode 6013 will serve the purpose. For making strong welds, you can opt for 7018.

Some of the most popular electrodes are 6010, 6011, 6013, 7014, 7018, and 7024. In an electrode, the letter “E” stands for the electrode.

The first two digits represent the minimum tensile strength. In this case, stick welding 6018 means the tensile strength is 60,000 PSI.

The third digit is the position at which the electron will be used while welding. If it has the number “1” then it can be used in any position. However, you can use the number “2” only in a flat position.

Finally, the fourth digit represents the current for using the electrode and the coating of the electrode.

By correctly understanding the markings, you can choose the right type of electrode. You can compare the stick electrodes chart to have the right type of penetration.

How to Lay A First Stick Weld?

Once you have set up everything, you will now move on to the process of laying the first stick welder. Before you proceed, you need to ensure that the settings are correct. Look for the arc settings and confirm whether the polarity coincides with the electrode. The other elements in stick welding are arc length, current settings, electrode manipulation, electrode angle, and the speed of travel.

As the process requires skill, you will have to go for a mock test by practicing on scrap metal. You will have to get some metal scrap pieces and put them as a joint butt joint. This will make sure that you are ready for the task.

  • Prepare your Welding Piece:

To make sure that there will be quality weld while using any type of metal, the welding area must be clean. You can use a wire brush to remove grime and dirt from the welding area. If you don’t clean the welding area, it can result in inclusions, lack of fusion, porosity, or cracking of the weld.

Additionally, you must also make sure that the work clamps spot must be clean. Once you are done with everything, you will have to position yourself so that you can see the weld puddle clearly. Always keep your head off to the side and you must be out of weld fumes. You must be in such a position that enables you to manipulate the electrode and have better support.

  • Current Setting:

How you set up the current is according to the type of electrode. Do note that it is very important while dealing with the right type of metal. Set the current appropriately whether it is AC, DC positive, or DC negative. DC positive will provide at least 10% penetration. For thinner metals, straight polarity with electrode negative can be great.

In many cases, you will not be sure what rod to use. It is advised to look at the operating range and set the amperage on the type of electrode. Again you will have to consider the welding position as there needs to be 15% less heat. When you have the right setting, you can adjust the welder by 5 to 10 amps.

When the amperage is too low, the electrode will become sticky when you strike the arc. If you happen to set the amperage too low, the arc will move out or it will stutter. When there is a glowing electrode, it means that the current is too much. Even when the temperature is too high, it can lead to undercutting or excessive spatter.

  • Starting the Arc:

Once everything is done, you will have to start the arc. Hold the stick holder with both your hands. Your position must be in such a way that you must see the area clearly. You will now have to place the electrode’s tip against the metal. When the arc is formed, you can give a slight lift and pull it.

When the arc happens to cut out, it means the stick electrode is lifted too high. There will be a sizzling sound when the arc is lit. Too aggressive sound will reduce the amperage. Again if the amperage is low, there will be a sticky electrode. High amperage will make the electrode char. If there will be too much heat, there will be a negative effect.

  • Angle of Travel:

In stick welding, the angle of travel is an important factor. The backhand or drag technique is for horizontal, flat, or overhead positions. You will have to hold the electrode perpendicularly from the starting point to the joint. Following this, it must be tilted by 5 to 15 degrees to the travel position.

Another technique is the forehand or push. This is suitable for vertical welding where the rod is tilted up to 15 degrees. Whatever technique you adopt, you must adjust your body in the right position. This will provide you with the correct angle. Welders will also have to understand the weld symbol for proper welding.

  • Speed of Travel:

Even the speed of travel determines the overall result. To maintain the arc well, you need to make sure there will be optimal travel speed. If you move too slowly, there will be a wide and convex bead. It can also lead to cold lapping and there will be shallow penetration. On the other hand, moving too fast can reduce the penetration. The fast movement also leads to a crowned and narrow bead. There can be a possible undercut or underfill when the area is outside the weld.

  • Manipulation of Electrode:

Manipulation of electrodes is done with better skills. If you are a beginner, you must try to copy the movement of experienced welders. In doing so, you will be able to make your own style. This will help to provide better techniques and there will be better results.

You can use welding techniques in a circular motion, creating wider fields, or moving it in back and forward motions. Most welders prefer the straight bead. You must never opt for weaving motion if the material has a thickness of 0.25-inch. For making a wider bead on thick material, you need to manipulate it from side to side.


Stick welding is a popular form of welding shielded metal arc. It offers many advantages due to its versatility. You can weld on rods that are made of nickel, stainless steel, or aluminum. There are different types of electrodes that you will have to choose according to the type of applications and metals. However, it does come with limitations as you must be well trained. Without skills, it can be dangerous.

One Response

  1. SMAW/stick welding is done using a machine running at Constant Current not Constant Voltage, your arc length determines your voltage with stick.

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