What Is Stick Welding (SMAW) And Why Does It Matter?

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One thing that every professional welder has in common: They all started off learning about stick welding.

Stick welding is used in so many fields of the industry 1 —all the time, all over the world. If you want to weld, stick welding is the bedrock.

So…what exactly is it?

How Does Stick Welding Work?

Compared to other welding processes, stick welding is actually pretty simple.

As its name suggests, the stick—or electrode—plays a big role in this welding technique.

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After the arc has been struck, the electrode’s flux coating serves as the shielding gas as it burns off. This creates a protective atmosphere that prevents oxygen, water vapor and other contaminants from compromising the quality of the weld. 2

The electrode is also consumable, which means it provides the filler metal, a metal that is added to a welded joint. 3 As it melts, it becomes part of the weld. 4

What Are the Advantages of Stick Welding?

stick welding example

As the most common form of arc welding, stick welding must be pretty useful, right?  It has many advantages: 5

  • No separate shielding gas are required.
  • Basic equipment is used.
  • A wide range of types and sizes of electrodes are available.
  • It can be used with a variety of metals. 6
  • It works well outdoors and indoors.
  • It can be learned fairly easily.
  • It’s good for a range of projects. 7

What Is Stick Welding Used For?

With such common and versatile use, stick welding is also used across many, many industries:

  • Construction
  • Shipbuilding
  • Petroleum 8
  • Field Repair 9
  • Structural Welding
  • Manufacturing
  • Steel Fabrication
  • Mining
  • Nuclear
  • Marine
  • Aerospace 10 11

How Do You Get Started With Stick Welding?

Even though stick welding is a somewhat simple process, it can be more difficult to learn than others, such as wire welding. Stick welding is simple—compared to other welding processes.

But don’t let “simple” fool you. You won’t become an expert at this overnight. You need to develop a high level of skill and master specific techniques if you really want to nail the stick welding process. 12

The best way to learn stick welding isn’t from a friend, but in an in-depth class. When employers sift through dozens of applicants who want a career in welding, the ones with technical training will stand out the most. 13

Stick welding is the foundation of any lifelong welding career. Enroll in our new welding training program to learn everything you need to begin that career.

Additional Sources

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