What is Stick Welding? – Understanding it Thoroughly
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SMAW (Shielded Metal Arc Welding), also called stick welding is the most commonly used welding approach in all arc welding procedures. To join various metals, it utilizes an electric current and an anode at the weld pool.
Its versatility and simplicity makes it more popular. The anode consists of a stick or solid metal stick (therefore the name) encircled by a covering of metal powders and composites with an agent that binds them so that they can fasten to its surface.
Remember that the correct term for the rod is an electrode. The electric current (AC or DC) is used to produce an electric arc between the metals you’re attaching and the electrode. This spot is known as the weld pool.
Stick welding is mainly used in welding steel and iron and is widely used in the repair and maintenance industries, as well as in the construction of heavy steel structures.
How Does it Work?
SMAW dates back to 1889 when Charles L. Coffin patented the procedure. It’s one of the most widely used welding techniques these days as you can use it for both repair welding and production.
Also, you can use it in all welding positions on all ferrous metals. It’s also called manual metal; flux shielded arc welding or shielding metal arc welding. In stick welding, an electrode coated with flux (a metal rod or stick held on an electrode holder plugged to a source of power) is used to create the weld.
The electric current flows via the electrode and touches the parent metal. Meanwhile, the flux creates a gas that protects the electric arc between the metal you’re welding and the anode.
It helps stop contamination from atmospheric gases and makes stick welding, dissimilar to MIG welding, fit for working outdoors. As the anode starts to thaw, the flux covering around it forms a cloud of gases that protects the melted metal and stops corroding.
For this reason, it’s also known as shielded metal arc welding. The gas cloud calms on the pool of melted metal when cooling and changes into slag. It has to be chipped away after you’re through with welding.
The SMAW procedure is relatively easy and doesn’t need a lot of particularized gear.
Although stick welding is among the most widely used welding techniques, it needs expertise and training to achieve clean, premium quality stick welds.
These problems are caused by errors in the welding procedure such as dirty metal, using low voltage or high amperage. Other mistakes comprise using traveling time that’s too fast, gas bubbles, using metals that are unfit for the purpose, and not permitting movement in the weld.
Such pitfalls spell out why the right training is crucial. With stick welding, you also have to get rid of “slag” (a layer of a by-product that you have to chip off after the weld).
Equipment Used in Stick Welding
Basic Stick Welding Safety Requirements
Dissimilar to numerous other professions where safety is preached, and where accidents and injuries occur, mistakes in welding are inevitable if you don’t follow safety precautions to the letter.
If you weld without donning the right safety gear, you’ll mess up big time – and it can even be fatal! Therefore, take it seriously.
To begin with, you have to put on the right clothes and protective gear. You may also require ventilation fan if you’re working in a confined space.
Even with proper safety gear (also called Personal Protective Equipment or PPE), your clothes can catch fire and get burns from melted metal and sparks. The most usual injury is known as “flash.” Flash emanates from the UV light that the welding stick produces.
Technically, flash is ultra-violet radiation. It’s similar to getting sunburned on the parts of your body that are exposed and not safeguarded. Worst of all, the arc light will flash right into your eyes.
You may feel as if you have sand in your eyes. Third-degree burns can also occur and if you get too damp from perspiration or rainy weather, you can get electrocuted.
Also, don’t weld close to anything flammable because it may lead to fire or even explosion. It’s relatively common for welders’ clothes to catch fire as a result of heat or sparks. Ensure that you read the warning labels on your gear and do what it says!
Where is it Used?
You can use stick welding on various types of metal with distinct thicknesses. It’s frequently used for heavy-duty work that includes industrial iron and steel such as cast iron and carbon steel and when working with low and high alloy nickel and steel alloys.
Some of the benefits of stick welding as compared to other types of welding are that the gear is easy to transport and can be used in a wide variety of surroundings, from inside to outside to out on the sea on a vessel.
Although SMAW is among the most ancient welding forms, new technology is constantly improving stick welding procedures and making them increasingly more effective.
If the stick welder knows how to select the right electrode, length of the arc, speed of the weld (and is working using clean materials), a stick welding task leads to dependable welding for various industries.
SMAW for Novices
Stick welding is among the most widespread arc welding forms. However, it’s hard to learn this welding technique. If you want to become an efficient stick welder, you need to learn several techniques and a higher level of expertise.
Q: What stick welder type works best for all-encompassing use?
A: An AC/DC welder is okay. Direct Current provides benefits over Alternating Current for numerous stick welding operations.
Electrode positive (DC reverse polarity) offers 10% more penetration than Alternating Current at certain amperage, while electrode negative (DC straight polarity) welds thinner metals better.
Q: Are there any advantages of having an AC output?
A: Yes, it’s an excellent option when you require welding friction magnetized material like when hay, feed, or water continually rubs against a steel part. Because of arc blow, a Direct Current output won’t work.
It’s where the magnetic field blows the melted filler metal out of the weld puddle. You can weld magnetized parts since an AC output alternates between polarities.
Q: How large of a machine do you require?
A: A 225 to 300-inch stick machine manages nearly anything the ordinary person will confront. It’s because numerous stick welding processes need 200 amperes or less. If you want to weld material that’s thicker than ⅜-inch, make many passes – this is what experts do when welding on 1-inch mild steel
Q: Do you need to get rid of dust or oil before you begin welding?
A: For dirty conditions, stick welding is more forgiving. However, it won’t hurt to clean portions using a wire brush or scrape off excess rust.
If you have an average welding ability and you’ve prepared adequately, you can produce a sound weld. Nonetheless, excellent welding expertise cannot overcome poor preparation because it can cause slag inclusions, cracking, and lack of fusion.
- See also: How Hot is a Welding Arc?
A Quick Reference Guide
When to use MIG welding
When to use Stick welding
When working on fragile metal that’s less than ⅛ inch
If you’ll be working outdoors, stick welding is the best option because you can produce a powerful arc that’s not influenced by wind condition
When you have steel, aluminum, and stainless steel
When welding alloys or joints
When you’re working indoors
If you want strong welds
If you have numerous distinct metal types with varied thicknesses
If you have thinner metals
When carrying out repairs for mower decks, fences, DIY garage, and small structure fabrication
If you’re carrying out repairs on tube frames, lawnmowers, and small-scale automotive repair
If you have commercial projects
When you’re on a budget
If you’ll not be using a shielding gas
Despite stick welding being among the earliest welding forms, it’s still a well-known type among all arc welding procedures.
It’s an easy procedure that doesn’t need intricate or costly equipment. It also brings in portability. The procedure isn’t sensitive to drafts or wind and gives excellent results in numerous surroundings.
The procedure works with numerous alloys and metals and is an excellent option if you’re working in localities with restricted access.
Featured image credit: Christopher PB, Shutterstock