What is Stick Welding?

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Stick welding is a group of welding processes usually performed with or without pressure or adding joint filler materials as with most of the other welding processes.

The stick welding family includes many welding processes, such as:

  • Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW): This method involves a rod of material usually covered in flux. This rod will serve as the electrode in the resulting electrical circuit.
  • Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW): This method uses a tungsten rod as the electrode. Filler material will be added separately from the electrical arc.
  • Gas Metal-Arc Welding (GMAW): This method is quite similar to SMAW. But it uses a bare wire electrode that will be continuously fed into the weld pool.

How Does Stick Welding Work?

Stick welding is a pretty simple welding process compared to most of the other methods out there. The stick or electrode plays a significant part in the whole process.

Once the arc is struck, its flux coating acts as a shielding gas while it burns. The process will create a protective environment that will help prevent water, oxygen, steam, and a variety of other impurities from adversely impacting the quality of the welding process.

The electrode will provide the filler material in the welding process because it’s consumable. As the electrode melts, it will become a part of the weld.

The History of Stick Welding

The history of stick welding dates back to the 1800s. Sir Humphry Davy – a British Chemist and Inventor – developed an arc between two carbon electrodes using a battery in the early part of the 1800s. In 1881, Auguste De Meritens (A French Electrical Engineer) used the heat of an arc to join lead plates for storage batteries.

From 1907 through 1914, Oscar Kjellberg (A Swedish National) invented a coated electrode that looked like a stick. After that, iron pieces were dipped in a thick mixture of carbonate and silicate to produce stick electrodes.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Stick Welding

Stick welding is considered the most common form of arc welding. Hence, the process has many advantages compared to other welding processes.

Here are some of the many advantages of stick welding

  • Stick welding uses necessary equipment for the process.
  • The material used for the process is quite inexpensive.
  • The process doesn’t require external shielding gas – hence, you save money in the process.
  • The method uses a wide range of types and sizes of electrodes.
  • A wide variety of metals is used for the procedure.
  • Stick welding makes it easy to change electrodes for various metals.
  • Stick welding has a simple learning curve.
  • You can engage in the process even when it’s raining or windy.
  • A wide selection of metals can be welded easily using the stick welding method.
  • The process works well, even on painted or rusty surfaces.
  • You ger clean welds with the stick welding process
  • The process is ideal for a wide range of welding projects.
  • The process can be used in areas where access is limited.

Some of the disadvantages of stick welding include:

  • The process can become tough when working in certain thin metals.
  • The method will leave slag to be chipped away after the welding.
  • Stick welding is somewhat slow compared to other welding processes.
  • The operator requires a high level of skills and experience to perform the job.
  • The electrodes should be placed more frequently compared to other welding methods.
  • The process allows for only short lengths of weld before you need to insert a new electrode.
  • The entire process can be considered to be manual and not mechanized.
  • The stick welding process isn’t suitable for metals such as zirconium, titanium, columbium, and tantalum.

What Is Stick Welding Commonly Used For?

Stick welding is a versatile method compared to most of the other welding processes.

The process is used across many industries such as:

  • Construction
  • Field repair
  • Petroleum
  • Shipbuilding
  • Steel fabrication
  • Mining
  • Nuclear
  • Structural welding
  • Manufacturing
  • Marine
  • Aerospace

How Do You Get Started with Stick and Better at Stick Welding?

Even though stick welding is simple compared to most other welding processes, it has a lengthy learning curve. Just because the process is simple, one cannot become an expert in stick welding overnight.

You should master specific techniques and develop a high level of skills if you want to learn the stick welding process properly. The best way to learn stick welding is from an in-depth class on the subject.

The person with technical training will stand out from the rest of the applicants when employing stick welders. Stick welding should be the foundation of your lifelong welding career.

Here are some of the most important things that a beginner in stick welding should focus on:

  • Current Setting: The electrode you choose for the welding process will determine whether you require AC, DC positive, or DC negative current. You should rely on the correct settings depending on the specific task at hand. Electrode positive will offer more penetration, while electrode negative will give better results for thin metals. One should select the correct amperage based on the welding position, electrode, and the visual inspection of the finished weld. The manufacturer’s recommendation is the best when deciding on the correct amperage.
  • ARC Length: The success of stick welding will depend on the correct arc length. Each electrode and application may need a different arc length that doesn’t exceed the electrode’s diameter.
  • The angle of Travel: If you weld in a flat, horizontal, or overhead position, you should use the “backhand” technique where the electrode needs to be perpendicular to the weld joint If you make a vertical weld in an upward swing, you should use the “forehand” technique. Ensure that the electrode is tilted 15 degrees from its direction of travel. This will affect travel speed as well.

Essential Things About Modern Stick Welding

Stick welding has changed in many ways over the decades. A modern welder will still strike an arc to get the process started. It will lay a bead with the melting electrode. B

ut the electrode and power source have dramatically changed over the years. Here are some of the most important things you need to know about modern stick welding:

The power source used for industrial stick welding is quite different from the small buzz box used in the past. The power sourced is usually based on inverter technology, where the unit will take AC power from the power lines and transform it into DC power. The unit will then invert the DC power into a stepdown transformer. It will allow the welder to dial in the specific current and voltages required for the project.

New power sources have technological enhancements to help the stick welder. Modern power sources are equipped with intelligence to recognize the electrode getting closer to the metal. The power source will raise the current at this point. That way, the electrode won’t stick.

Today’s electrodes are much more moisture-resistant compared to the older electrodes. Hydrogen cracking used to be one of the biggest concerns of stick welders. This isn’t an issue anymore due to the advancement in electrode technology.

What Causes Undercut in Stick Welding?

An undercut is a stick weld that occurs when an inverted U- or W-shaped edge (where the sides have a different relative distance of movement from the centers) builds up in the base metal adjacent to the welding midpoint.

Undercut in stick welding is most often caused by an incorrectly used electrode angle. If the proper angle is not adjusted, undercutting and other defects can develop from a weld that is not tight enough to hold together.

This causes the weld piece to shrink and deform a bit at the edges.

The undercut can be attributed to an amperage greater than that of the joint, or a travel speed greater than recommended. In this case, the metal fails to cover the area thoroughly.

This often happens when stick welding is operated upon with medium grade metals, usually made more durable because of heat treatment.

Undercutting is a problem that even an experienced and skilled operator can create.

How to Avoid Undercut in Stick Welding?

There are several methods of correcting undercutting in stick welding. The first way to fix undercutting is to control the joint’s speed at the point where the defect is located and then reduce the rate to prevent the overbidding.

Then the operator will see that the edges are more symmetrical. The second way to correct undercutting in stick welding is to control the load applied to the base metal while doing the welding process.

This can also help stop the overbidding.

How to Prevent Porosity in Stick Welding?

Excessive gas flow and insufficient diffusion of shielding gas are the most common causes of gas entrapment, leading to porosity in the weld.

The risk of porosity is more significant in high permeability joints than in low permeability joints.

If you have an excessive leak in the welding gas line or the welding process, this will cause a more extensive leak in the joint area and eventually lead to higher porosity in the weld.

Air entrapment levels as low as 1% are documented to cause distributed porosity in welding. If levels are even slightly above 1.5%, the result could be excessive breaking pores at the surface.

Porosity in welding can be prevented and corrected by following the suggestions:

  1. Clean: to prevent weld porosity, ensure the surface is clean and completely dry. Ensure there is no moisture, grease, or rust on the surface as they are often known as a formidable enemy of quality welding. These impurities can get mixed up with weld puddles resulting in trapped gas and ultimately will porosity.
  2. Check equipment: properly check gas shielding to ensure there are no gas leaks. Further inspect for worn-out copper wires and wire feeder for any faulty drive roll.
  3. Slow and steady: the key to a smooth and efficient stick welding is ensuring wire feed comes off smoothly. Inspecting while feeding a system for proper attention and the functional adjustable brake is so essential.

What Is Arc Force in Stick Welding?

Arc force is a temporary boost of the power delivered to your workpiece during welding during the first arc after the welding current has been reduced.

This feature can result in excellent arc performance and also makes stick welding easier for beginners. Arc-Force is particularly useful when the output of your welding machine is already high.

Arc-Current and arc-Force can produce uneven welding, and this is a common source of problems for beginners wanting to start welding without learning to make perfect welds.

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