Shielded Metal Arc Welding (oft abbreviated SMAW) is more commonly known as stick welding or shielded electrode welding. SMAW is an electric welding process that uses a consumable metal electrode that is shielded with a variety of flux types. This flux coating helps stabilize the arc and as it melts, generate gas and slag to protect the molten weld pool. The flux also provides a method of adding deoxidizers and alloying elements to the weld. The electrodes have a core of base metal and a coating of flux baked onto the rod, except for the last few inches, where it will be held in the clamp.

SMAW has many benefits, such as

  • Easy to learn and use
  • Equipment is relatively inexpensive, lightweight and portable
  • Can be used for welding in any position
  • Not as affected by wind as TIG or MIG welding
  • Electrode generates its own flux

Since SMAW is arguably the easiest type of welding to learn, many people don't bother learning other methods of welding. SMAW has several disadvantages that other welding procedures don't have, such as

  • Slag must be chipped off weld once completed
  • Flux melting creates noxious (and sometimes poisonous) gasses
  • Large amount of operator downtime to change electrodes or chip away slag
  • Can splatter workpiece with molten metal and slag
  • Only coarse adjustments of parameters can be made

When using SMAW as a DC procedure, and the electrode may either be negative (straight polarity) or positive (reverse polarity), depending on the application. Electrode positive (reverse polarity) is the most common setting for welding steels. AC can also be used for some applications.

To run a bead of weld with SMAW, you first must have the weld machine set up and proper protective gear. Put an electrode in the hand clamp, get in position and flip down your hood. To strike the arc, either tap the end of the electrode on the workpiece or scrape it across the surface, like striking a match. Once the arc is established, maintain the arc length by feeding the electrode into the weld pool while moving in the direction desired. To stop the weld, quickly twist the electrode away from the workpiece to ensure it doesn't get welded to the workpiece. Wait a bit for the slag to cool, then chip it away with a slag hammer. Always wear safety glasses, as the slag remains very hot. Hot slag in your eye can blind you and will make you swear like a motherfucker.

Disclaimer:don't do this unless you know what you're doing or have proper supervision. wear proper safety gear. if you get hurt, it's your own damn fault. remember, you're melting metal with electricity here. IT MIGHT GET HOT AND SPARKY. YOU MIGHT GET BURNED OR SHOCKED.

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