Ever seen the red welding machines in the welding area of Home Depot that look like a red tombstone? They are called Stick welding machines or shielded metal arc welding machines. For less than 300 dollars you can buy one of them and weld all kinds of things. What do you get for that price? You get a 225 amp A/C welder (alternating current) that can weld carbon steel, stainless steel, and cast iron. Because the the buzzing noise that alternating current makes when welding, these stick welders are also known as a “Buzz Box”.
Right next to these tombstone welders are small Lincoln wire welders. But they are not the same.
People seem to want the wire welders these days because the learning curve is shorter to be able to weld with a wire welder. But the stick welder is better. That’s right I said better. why? Because with 225 amps, not only is it capable of welding really thick material like 1 inch thick. But is also capable of welding thin gauge sheet metal as thin as .040″. This is where the extra small 1/16″ stick electrodes come in handy. By using 1/16″ electrodes and welding downhill, you might be amazed at just how thin you can go.
Shielded metal arc welding is old school. It gets a bad rap. But in the hands of a craftsman, stick welding is as good or better than any other welding process for some jobs.
People who learn to weld with a mig machine are often surprised to learn that shielded metal arc welding is still the choice for many pipeline and construction companies. It is the most robust welding process of all because stick welding can be done in the wind and on all kinds of materials. Because stick welding has been around so long, there are all kinds of different welding rods available for nearly every application. There are rods made for cutting and gouging, hardfacing, and even nickel and bronze rods for welding cast iron.