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Welding Starter Guide – Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)

Shielded Metal Arc Welding

Continuing with our “Welding Starter Guide” series, here’s a thorough introduction to shielded metal arc welding.

Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), or stick welding, is a popular welding technique that can be used for a variety of welding projects, indoors or outdoors. Stick welding is a great choice when completing any outdoor welding projects, and with its ability to work with most metals (even if some rust is involved), SMAW welding is a fairly easy welding process to learn.

Like with any welding, you can only truly learn to stick weld by practicing, not just reading about it. So when you’ve completed this guide, check out GoWelding.org for more tips on stick welding, then head to BakersGas.com to get your own stick welder and any other welding supplies you'll need.

This guide was inspired by content from GoWelding.org, one of the ultimate resources for understanding the core aspects of welding.




What Is Shielded Metal Arc Welding?

Shielded metal arc welding, or stick welding, is an arc welding process. It is the most widely used arc welding process and also one of the easiest to learn. A simple equipment list is used for stick welding:

1. Protective gear (helmets, gloves, goggles, etc.)

2. Power source

3. Cables and connectors

4. Electrode holder

5. Ground clamp

6. Accessories (such as a chipping hammer and wire brush)

Are there other names for SMAW welding?

SMAW welding goes by four different names.

  • Shielded Metal Arc welding – The proper name for this process, or the name that the American Welding Society wants welders to use, also what SMAW stands for
  • Manual Metal Arc welding or “MMA”
  • Stick welding – the informal term used to describe shielded metal arc welding.
  • Electric Arc Welding


Factors for using alternative names:

Of course, employers often use the standard name for SMAW welding. This aside, the only other factors I see that determine what the process is called is location. It seems that in the UK they use every name but shielded metal arc welding.

How does the SMAW welding process work?

Just as in MIG welding, SMAW is a one-handed process. This is because the filler rod and the heat source (electric arc in this case) are combined in one unit (the electrode and holder).

Here is how you should work with a rod in the SMAW welding process:

There are a few ways to move the rod and see the puddle of metal in the crater. In stick welding, you normally drag the rod in MIG and in TIG you push the torch with only a few exceptions. If you are right handed, you will point the rod toward your left side and strike it like a match to the right or bounce it lightly off of the metal. It may take a few tries to get the arc started but once you do you want to keep the arc as short as possible while scraping the metal with the edge of the rod on your movements.


Talk to me about SMAW welding electrodes.

Choosing the right stick welding electrode it a very simple and straight-forward selection process. If welding steel, one of these common rods will work perfectly for the job:


Penetration Type

Best Position

Excellent on…

6010 and 6011 Deep All Dirtier Metals
6013 Mild All Clean Joints
7018 Mild All Clean Metals
7024 Mild Flat Clean Joint


Visit GoWelding.org for more detailed instruction and information on SMAW welding. There you’ll find topics such as:

– Basic Stick Welding Machine Set-Up

– Joint Preparation

– Welding Safety, and more!


Dylan B.


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