The Ultimate Guide to Stick Welding Settings for DIY Enthusiasts

Stick welding, also known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), is a versatile and widely used welding process that allows DIY enthusiasts to tackle a wide range of metal fabrication projects. Mastering the right settings for stick welding is crucial for achieving high-quality, consistent welds. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the technical specifications and hands-on details you need to set up your stick welding machine for optimal performance.

Choosing the Right Electrode

The electrode is the heart of the stick welding process, and selecting the appropriate one is crucial for the success of your project. When choosing an electrode, consider the following factors:

  1. Parent Metal Compatibility: Match the electrode to the type of metal you’re welding, such as carbon steel, stainless steel, or cast iron. Common electrode types include E6010, E6011, E6013, and E7018.
  2. Electrode Diameter: The diameter of the electrode affects the amount of current required and the size of the weld bead. Typical diameters range from 1/16 inch (1.6 mm) to 5/32 inch (4.0 mm).
  3. Electrode Coating: The coating on the electrode, known as the flux, determines the welding characteristics and the type of weld bead produced. Different flux coatings are designed for specific applications, such as penetration, bead appearance, or positional welding.

To determine the right electrode for your project, refer to the electrode classification system, which provides a 4-digit code indicating the tensile strength, welding position, and flux coating. For example, an E6013 electrode is suitable for welding carbon steel and has a tensile strength of 60,000 psi, can be used in all positions, and has a rutile-based flux coating.

Selecting the Appropriate Amperage

what settings for stick weldingImage source: Manual Metal Arc welding

The amperage setting is crucial for achieving a stable and consistent arc during the stick welding process. The optimal amperage depends on the electrode diameter and the thickness of the material being welded. As a general rule, set the amperage to 70-90 amps per 1/16 inch (1.6 mm) of electrode diameter.

For instance, if you’re using a 1/8 inch (3.2 mm) electrode, the recommended amperage range would be 140-180 amps. However, it’s important to note that the actual amperage may need to be adjusted based on the specific application, material, and welding position.

To determine the appropriate amperage, consider the following guidelines:

Electrode Diameter Amperage Range
1/16 inch (1.6 mm) 70-90 amps
3/32 inch (2.4 mm) 100-130 amps
1/8 inch (3.2 mm) 140-180 amps
5/32 inch (4.0 mm) 180-220 amps

Remember, the amperage setting is just one factor in achieving a successful weld. You’ll also need to consider the travel speed, weld position, and other variables to ensure optimal results.

Setting Up the Welding Machine

Proper setup of the welding machine is crucial for safe and effective stick welding. Follow these steps to ensure your machine is configured correctly:

  1. Connect the Electrode Holder: Attach the electrode holder to the positive (+) terminal of the welding machine. This configuration is known as direct current electrode positive (DCEP).
  2. Connect the Ground Clamp: Attach the ground clamp to the negative (-) terminal of the welding machine. This completes the electrical circuit and allows the current to flow through the workpiece.
  3. Adjust the Polarity: Depending on the type of electrode you’re using, you may need to adjust the polarity. For example, some electrodes, such as E6010 and E6011, require a direct current electrode negative (DCEN) polarity, where the electrode is connected to the negative (-) terminal, and the workpiece is connected to the positive (+) terminal.
  4. Set the Amperage: Refer to the amperage guidelines mentioned earlier and adjust the welding machine’s output to the appropriate setting based on the electrode diameter and material thickness.

Remember to always consult the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines when setting up your welding machine to ensure safe and proper operation.

Adjusting the Travel Angle and Distance

The travel angle and distance of the electrode are critical factors in achieving a consistent and high-quality weld. Follow these guidelines:

  1. Electrode Angle: Hold the electrode at a 45-degree angle to the work surface, tilting it slightly sideways by 10-15 degrees. This angle helps to control the weld pool and prevent excessive spatter.
  2. Arc Length: Maintain a short arc length, not exceeding the diameter of the electrode. A longer arc can lead to instability, excessive spatter, and poor weld penetration.
  3. Welding Technique: Use a dragging technique, where you gently drag the electrode along the workpiece, rather than pushing it. This helps to prevent slag entrapment and ensures a smooth, consistent weld bead.

Proper control of the travel angle and distance takes practice, but it’s a crucial skill for achieving high-quality stick welds, especially in vertical and overhead positions.

Controlling the Travel Speed

The travel speed, or the rate at which you move the electrode along the weld joint, is another important factor in stick welding. The optimal travel speed depends on the welding position and the material being joined.

In general, you’ll want to:

  1. Flat Position: Maintain a moderate travel speed, allowing the weld pool to form and solidify behind the electrode.
  2. Vertical Position: Increase the travel speed and reduce the amperage to prevent the molten metal from dripping.
  3. Overhead Position: Increase the travel speed and reduce the amperage to prevent the weld pool from sagging or falling.

Adjusting the travel speed takes practice, but it’s essential for achieving consistent, high-quality welds, especially in challenging positions.

Choosing the Appropriate Welding Position

The welding position, or the orientation of the workpiece relative to the ground, can significantly impact the stick welding process. Different positions require different techniques and adjustments to the welding parameters.

  1. Flat Position: This is the easiest position for beginners, as gravity helps to control the weld pool and maintain a consistent bead.
  2. Horizontal Position: Welding in the horizontal position requires increased travel speed and lower amperage to prevent the molten metal from dripping.
  3. Vertical Position: Vertical welding requires a higher travel speed and lower amperage to prevent the weld pool from sagging or falling.
  4. Overhead Position: Overhead welding is the most challenging, as you’ll need to fight against gravity. Increase the travel speed, reduce the amperage, and maintain a short arc length to prevent the weld pool from falling.

Mastering the various welding positions takes time and practice, but understanding the adjustments needed for each position is crucial for achieving consistent, high-quality welds.


Stick welding is a versatile and widely used welding process that allows DIY enthusiasts to tackle a wide range of metal fabrication projects. By understanding the technical specifications and hands-on details covered in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of stick welding and producing professional-quality welds.

Remember, the key to successful stick welding lies in the proper selection of electrodes, amperage settings, machine setup, travel angle and distance, travel speed, and welding position. With practice and attention to detail, you’ll be able to tackle even the most challenging welding projects with confidence.

Happy welding!


  1. Stick Welding Basics – Miller Welding
  2. Stick Welding Calculator – Miller Welding
  3. The Ultimate Guide to Stick Welding
  4. Stick Welding Techniques – Lincoln Electric
  5. Arc Welding (Stick) and Amperage Settings