Work Safety

Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)/Stick Welding Process and Applications

By September 9, 2020September 16th, 2020No Comments
Updated: August 06, 2020
Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) is a form of manual processing welding which uses a flux coded consumable electrode. This electrode contains a metal rod at the core which aids in the laying of the flux in the weld.

In the SMAW weld, an electrical current is supplied, either alternating current or direct-current. This acts as the welding power supply and is used to create an electric arc between the metals that are to be joined in the electrode. A pool of molten metal is formed in the joint, which helps to secure the joint in place as it cools.

What Is Stick Welding?

Stick welding gets its name from the shape of the electrode. In this case, it looks very much like a stick. Because of its design and materials that are used, it can easily be applied to weld many kinds of metals together. This includes cast-iron, stainless steel, as well as other types of steel.

The SMAW machine provides either an alternating current or direct-current. The alternating current switches and directions while the direct current operates in different directions based upon how the polarity of the stick weld is determined.

How Does Stick Welding Work?

The process behind the SMAW weld is actually quite simple. As the ark heats up, it melts the base metal and the tip of the consumable electrode. Both the electrode and the base metal become a part of the electric circuit.

By carrying the current and transferring it into the metal, it can heat both. As the flux and the metal begin to melt, small globules of molten metal form on the tip of the electrode. This is then transferred through the ark into the molten pool. The filler is deposited at the same time.

As the metal filler begins to cool, it forms a sturdy, dependable bond that holds the two pieces of metal in place. The fusion process is extremely durable, primarily because the amount of heat generated during the use of the welding process would melt almost any form of metal as it reaches 900°F. This is why melting occurs instantaneously after the ark touches any metal.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Welds can be created in all positions.
  • Because of the heat generated it easily welds any metals.
  • The cost is significantly cheaper than that of other welding methods.
  • Perfect for creating a weld in very tight spaces.


  • The quality of them weld is suspect, as weld spatter, shallow penetration, and cracking are common.
  • Creates a greater quantity of sparks and heat than other welding processes.
  • Cleanup is quite extensive.

It Works in All Directions

One thing that welders really like about this form of welding is that it can be performed in any direction. All positions are available, including:

  • Flat
  • Vertical
  • Horizontal
  • Overhead

This is one of the aspects of this weld that makes it quite popular. Because a welder can create a solid weld in almost any direction, it makes it perfect for use, especially in tight places.

However, the welder must be extremely careful. The amount of heat generated is quite extensive, reaching over 9000°F. In addition, sparks and spatter are a common byproduct of this welding technique. A welder must be well trained and where the proper safety equipment to protect him or her from being injured or burned during the use of the welder.

Keeping the Welder Safe

To help protect the welder during use of this welding process, there are a few variables that a welder can use to control the amount of filler or heat that is being generated to protect him or herself. This comprises several factors, including:

  • Changing the size and type of the electrode.
  • Changing the angle of the electrode to allow for greater or less penetration.
  • Limiting the width of the weld.
  • Changing the direction of the electrical current flow.
  • Changing the distance of the arc length.
  • Altering the amperage of the stick welding machine.

Each of these has been shown to give the welder a greater amount of control in the process. Of course, it takes a skilled welder to understand how to use these variables to his or her advantage to make the best weld possible in the safest of situations.

How Is SMAW Welding Used?

Because of its ability to be used in any direction and the fact that it creates quite a bit of spatter, there are several applications for this type of welding that make perfect sense.

Major Applications of SMAW Welding

Looking at the list, one thing you will notice is that these are the kinds of structures where appearance does not necessarily matter. What is important is that the weld is durable and provides a great deal of longevity. Plus, many of these structures use types of metal that require large amounts of heat to be able to properly weld them together.

  • Shipbuilding. Take shipbuilding or fabrication structures as an example. These are large structures that use heavy duty metals to create. To ensure that these metals are bound tightly, the use of the stick welding process is often the best choice.
  • Repair Work. This is especially true in emergency situations. Should there be damage to a ship while it is out at sea, using this type of welding process can help to create a durable weld when there is little concern about physical appearance. This is why repair work often uses this type of welding process. Because of the amount of heat that is generated, it ensures that welds can be created quickly to prevent any further damage.
  • Construction. In construction, it is often used in interior parts of a structure where the weld will not be seen, but where metals need a large amount of heat to be able to properly weld them into position. This is clearly a weld that does the job.

Other Applications.

SMAW weld was first developed in the early 1800s and has been around as an electrical welding technique since 1881. Hundreds of thousands of welders over the years have used this technique successfully, and it continues to be one of the more popular choices today in pipelines, fabrication structures & machinery structures

Levis Herrmann

Levis Herrmann

Levis has been a blogger for many years, and has a considerable amount of experience as an internet marketing executive. The idea behind the site was actually his brainchild. He spent years using his skills as a marketing executive to help market and promote products & services and wanted to do something that really had an impact on consumers. He built a small team to help him get the site off the ground and to help develop the strategy behind what DefenseHacks is all about.

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