Shielded Metal Arc Welding, also known as stick welding is a more forgiving weld then other types of welding and has been one of the most popular forms of welding in home garages to shops. With stick welding, you can weld parts that are not necessary clean or parts that are rusty, and is one of the most effective ways to weld different alloys and joints. Granted, it is always better if you do take the time to clean up the parts some first, but it can be done, unlike most other forms of welding.
DC power outweighs AC power in that a stick weld is easier to start, there is less splatter, less arc outages and sticking, better looking weld, easier to weld in different positions, 10% more penetration in a DC reverse polarity over any amp in AC, and you have a smoother arc. However, AC has its advantages too. With AC power, you can stick weld magnetized parts.
Stick welding is limited to welding metals that are no thinner than 18 gauges. It also requires frequent rod changes and splatters more then other methods of welding leaving necessary cleaning of welds when done. Choosing the right electrode for the job will help lessen the splatter and achieve the best weld for the job. The most commonly used electrodes are 6010, 6011, 6013, 7018 and 7024.
When purchasing a stick welders, to have a general all-purpose fine welder consider a 225 to 300-amp machine. Most stick welding procedures only require 200 amps so by having just a little more gives you more flexibility for bigger jobs if needed. If faced with a job that would require more then the 300 amps, such as metals over 3/8″ thick, just make several weld passes. Smaller welders, (115-volt) can only handles metal thickness of 1/8″ where as larger welders (220 volt) can weld a 3/8′ thickness in one pass.
Be sure to know your arc length. Arc length varies with each electrode and application and the best rule of thumb is to use an arc length that is the same distance from the metal as the thickness (diameter of metal portion/core) of your electrode. Be careful not to hold the electrode to close (produces erratic arc and high crown bead due to the decreased welding voltage) or far from the metal, which will produce, significantly more splatter, low deposition rates, and other issues.
As with any form of welding all proper safety welding gear should be worn at all times. Stick welding does produce smoke and fumes. Consider this especially when working in confined spaces and either wear adequate respiration apparatus (preferred) or find ways to adequately provide ventilation. Due to the sparks and splatters created when using stick welders, if working around combustibles or other people, use welding screens. Always wear your welding helmet with the proper shaded lens for the job.