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Stick Welding - Shielded Metal Arc Welding

welding termsThe technical name for stick welding is Shielded Metal Arc Welding, with the acronym SMAW. Mig welding is now referred to as Gas Metal Arc Welding, or GMAW. Tig, or Heliarc welding is now Gas Tungsten Arc Welding, or GTAW.

Out in the shop or field it's Stick, Mig, and Tig.

Stick welding uses a consumable rod, or electrode. The rod is short circuited at the end causing great heat, which in turn melts the end of the rod into tiny molten droplets. These droplets form the weld pool which melts into the base, or parent metal. Some rods penetrate, or fuse deeper into the metal than others.

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Fusion is actually the correct word for how deep the weld pool goes into the surface of the base metal. Penetrate means how far the weld pool goes into or through a joint, although welders in the field usually use penetrate for both.
When doing any welding process, care must be taken to keep the harmful contaminants in the atmosphere out of the weld pool. When hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. get into the weld pool they can cause porosity (worm holes in the weld), or cracking in the weld once it solidifies.

Porosity, cracking, and slag inclusion (slag that hasn't been chipped/brushed welded over and becoming part of the weld) are three major weld defects.

Around World War II, it was noticed that a rusty rod actually performed better than the brand new bare rods used in welding. After experimenting with elements such as silicon, potassium, and others, it was discovered that adding a flux coating to the bare electrode formed a gas which kept the atmosphere out of the weld pool. The slag would then solidify and form a protective coating around the weld which would later be chipped off and brushed clean.

Cleanliness is of utmost importance in all welding processes!

Although aluminum and other metals can be stick welded, most common stick welding is done on mild steel and stainless. Cast iron can be stick welded, but requires pre-heating and post-heat cool down with a high degree of skill level.

Some advantages of stick welding are:

  • Very portable, welder needs only to carry leads anywhere the weld needs to be done.
  • Equipment is affordable.
  • Can be used in all positions, and be used indoors our outside as wind doesn't usually affect weld pool.

Some disadvantages of stick welding are:

  • Only a few inches at a time can be welded before another electrode is needed.
  • Electrode ends (butts) are wasted.
  • High level of skill needed to produce sound welds.
  • Many electrodes have low penetration.
  • Arc blow can occur with direct current. (Arc goes everywhere EXCEPT where you want it to.)

In most structural construction, stick welding is done with 7018 low hydrogen, and 6010 rods.

An easy rod to start out with is 6013.

This is primarily a rod used to stick weld thin surfaces such as sheet metal. It is a drag rod, meaning that you need only to drag it on the surface of the steel as you weld.

Oscillation and manipulating the rod up and downwards slightly as you weld will help wash the weld pool into the base metal, and produce a good looking weld.

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