Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)

For most individuals starting out in learning welding, most technical schools usually require students to start out with Shielded Metal Arc Welding or also known as SMAW. Many folks in the welding industry still use this method especially in the shipbuilding and pipeline sectors.

So basically the technical school that I had attended required me to take two semesters or 144 hours of training before I could become certified in the Shielded Metal Arc Process. If you are thinking about starting off in welding with completely no experience, be prepared to begin with SMAW or "stick welding" as it is otherwise known. To get a better idea about SMAW and how it works, take a look at the SMAW page on the right for videos.


One of the basic fundamentals of Shielding Metal Arc Welding is electricity. Without it, this method of welding is rendered useless. The whole method of operation of SMAW welding boils down to basically creating fusion of metal by means of electric current. It starts at the welding machine, through the cable and electrode holder or stinger as it is sometimes referred to.

Depending on how the welding machine is set up, DC+ or DC-, electrons will jump from either the work piece or the electrode thus creating a brilliant arc flash which creates enough heat to melt the area to be welded. Always take care before setting up the welding machine before use or consult with experienced personnel if at all unsure about proper welding adjustments.

Electrodes that are used in SMAW applications vary in all types and sizes and many have coding for certain welding positions. For instance, most experienced welders would argue that vertical position welding is one of the most difficult positions due to gravity and the molten metal dripping. There are electrodes that are made specifically for this style of welding and have a code that is affixed to them that denotes that tells the individual that they can be used for vertical position welding.

When starting out learning SMAW, be sure to keep in mind that there are several different categories in sizes with regards to electrodes. The most popular electrode measurements are

- 3/32" 2.4mm

- 1/8" 3.2mm

- 5/32" 4.0mm

- 3/16" 4.8mm

7018 Electrode:

- These electrodes are predominantly popular throughout the industry. Namely shipbuilding companies in particular are keen to utilize the 7018 electrode for most welding applications.

- For most people who have been welding for7 quite a while will attest that 7018's finished weld does in fact have one of the nicest looking finishes if done right. For the author of this blog, it was required to start off learning to stick weld with 6010 electrodes prior to learning with 7018.

- Fast Freeze Electrodes

In SMAW, some welding applications call for different positions like overhead and vertical style welding. As mentioned before, most individuals starting out with learning SMAW and beginning these positions will more than likely be challenged as you are working against gravity.

This is where using certain electrodes designed for these positions comes into play.


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