Stick Welding
Stick Welding

by Jason Becker

Stick Welding, or as it is more commonly referred to as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) is one of the oldest forms of welding still in use today. It is often said that Stick welding is the hardest welding process for beginners to learn. I must say that I completely agree.

It requires the most skill, patience, focus and technique to master. I have always told my welding students that I teach stick first, if you can master stick welding, you will have no problem learning the other processes.

By breaking SMAW down into 5 basic steps we can gain a better understanding of the process. By understanding the process and the variables of what effects produce a good stick weld, we can make better welds.

Remember the acronym CLAMS which stands for Current, Length of the Arc, Angle, Manipulation and Speed. These are the driving factors behind a successful weld utilizing the SMAW process. These variables also transfer into other welding processes. By understanding CLAMS and applying them to your welding, you will be able to reliably produce sound welds in many processes.


Starting out with the appropriate current is probably the single most important variable to producing a sound weld. The most common problem new welders face when starting out is the rod sticking to the plate. We have all been there. By selecting the correct amperage, we can help to prevent sticking the electrode. Additionally, if our amperage is set too low we run the risk of not getting adequate penetration into the base metal and the weld not wetting in at the toes of the base metal.