Stick Welding Vs Flux Core: Which One Is The Winner Arc Welding?

The tools or metals that stay in windy places or outside need sturdy welding application to have consistent and robust joints.

When the welders face a question about – which type of welding is suitable for outdoors, the answer can be either flux-core welding (FCAW) or stick welding (SMAW).

They both don’t require shielding gas and can be performed on dirt and rusty material. And they both are suitable for thick work-pieces. However, there are some differences as well.

When pursuing a career as a welder, you need to identify the differences between stick welding vs flux core welding.

For the FCAW, the wire is fed at a continuous rate, and so it is fast, easy, and versatile. In contrast, stick welding can meet all your needs without breaking your bank. However, the stick welding is prone to cracks, porosity, and shallow penetration. Whereas FCAW is pricier than SMAW.

What Is Stick Welding?

Stick welding or Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), also known as manual metal arc welding (MMA or MMAW), is one of the arc welding methods. Here, the welding machine and electrode holder deliver current to the electrode to create an electrical arc between the electrode and a work-piece.

The lighting-bolt-like electric current runs between the electrode or welding rod or, in common words – the part you hold and the substrate or the metal you are welding. The arc melts and fuses material from the electrode and the workpiece to form a welded joint.

Electrodes come in three types and get the name from the material they are coated in.

This is a manual technique using a consumable electrode coated in flux. This method can be implemented to most common nickel and copper alloys, cast iron, mild steel, magnesium, aluminum, and metals and is best suited for thick surfaces. This one is also suitable for welding stainless steel and steel structures in metal fabrication, repairing, and construction.

The name denotes the electrode used to weld the metal, which comes in the form of a ‘stick’.

What Is Flux-Core Arc Welding?

Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW) refers to a semi-automatic or automatic welding process that comes with a continuously-fed tubular electrode and constant current welding power supply.

It uses electrical power to melt the electrode and may or may not use shielding gas from an externally supplied source when depositing material in the weld joint. Its electrode is a composite tubular filler metal consisting of a metal sheath with a core of mineral compounds and powdered metals.

There are three types of flux-cored wires available:

  1. Gas-shielded all position
  2. Gas shielded flat position
  3. Self-shielded

Each has its own advantages. The usage depends on welding position, mechanical properties, the type of joint and its fit-up, and the environment in which the welding is to be performed.

Generally, self-shielded wires are used for welding outside or special applications such as welding galvanized steel. Gas-shielded flux-cored wires are used in shop fabrication, maintenance, and shipbuilding.

This method is beneficial where the base material has some scale, rust, or other surface contaminants present. This method is first developed in the early 1950s as an alternative to shielded metal arc welding (SMAW).

Stick Welding Vs Flux Core: The Honest Comparison

There are some similarities and dissimilarities between Flux-Core Arc Welding And Shielded Metal Arc Welding. Before going any further, go through the comparison chart to find out the right one.

Features Stick Welding Flux-core Welding
Skills Require more skills Require less skills
Working type Suitable for home-shop welders Suitable for heavy machinery
Penetration rate Low High
Deposition rate Low High
Feeding process Continuous Not continuous
Cost Low High

Working type

The FCAW is suitable for thicker joints and heavy-duty tasks. And that’s why it is recommended for plant and heavy machinery repairs. In contrast, the SMAW is most popular among the home-shop welders. And it also goes with the thicker metals.

Since these two are not suitable for thin metals or sheet metals, MIG welding can be a great alternative. 


The flux core requires very little skill. On the other hand, stick welding needs skill, mainly for changing the rod.


Stick welders generally have fewer parts and more portable than other types of arc welders. The stick welding equipment has a welding machine, a flux-coated electrode, and an electrode holder.

Penetration and Deposition Rate

FCAW comes with good penetration. In contrast, the penetration rate is low for SMAW. The deposition rates are generally higher per run with FCAW than SMAW. It is said that the deposition rate is up to four times greater than stick welding.

Energy source

The energy source of Flux-core welding is gas(chemical). And the energy source of stick welding is electric.

Feeding Process

This flux-core technique revolves around a continuous wire feed process. In contrast, the SMAW is not a continuous process as it requires frequent rod changing.


Flux core offers a high-quality weld deposit with an excellent appearance. In contrast, stick welding can be messy.


The chances of porosity are low for FCAW if the techniques are applied correctly.

Remember, the gases from weld metal should be escaped out before the weld metal solidifies. 


SMAW is cheap to set-up and accessible to most welders. As it requires minimal equipment, it is one of the most low-cost processes around. In contrast, fixed-core wires are costly.


SMAW method is quite versatile as it works on a large range of metals. And the electrodes are easy to change.

Smoke Generation

The amount of smoke and fume generated by flux core welding can far exceed that of SMAW.

Tip: If you are facing excessive spatter, try to adjust the travel speed.

Which One To Choose – Flux Core Vs Stick Welding?

Both processes have their inherent benefits and shortcomings. The choice depends on the projects you will work on the most. Keep in mind the varying amperage, power requirements, and duty cycle to achieve the most effective and economical operational results.

Though flux-cored arc welding is gaining popularity, the SMAW continues to be used extensively to construct heavy steel structures and industrial fabrication.

However, when the electrode melts, the welder must periodically stop welding to remove the left electrode stub and insert a new electrode into the electrode holder. This activity, combined with chipping away the slag, reduces the amount of time that the welder can spend laying the weld. In general, the percentage of the operator’s time spent laying weld is approximately 25%.

Why You Should Go For Flux-Cored Welding

Flux core wire is recommended for welding dirty or rusty steel. It is suitable for welding outdoors and windy areas without using compressed gas. It helps to bond metal to metal in challenging situations. The method ensures flexible torch movement and orientation.

The more reasons to go for it are –

  • Out-of-position welding
  • Deep penetration for welding thick sections
  • Increased metal deposition rate

Since the wire quality and welders can make a huge difference, some recommended products for flux-core welding:

Products Name Features Price
LINCOLN ELECTRIC CO ED031448 Tensile strength: 70,000 PSI

Material: Mild steel

Ideal for: MIG and stick welding.

LINCOLN ELECTRIC CO ED031448 Works well on rusty, dirty, and painted material, Low spatter, Tensile strength: 70,000 PSI
YESWELDER Flux Core Gasless Mig Wire Smooth arc action,  Easy slag removal, Easy to weld

Why You Should Go For Stick Welding:

Stick-wielding also requires no shielding gas. It creates gasses from the welding process to shield the weld. This method is effective in all weather conditions. You can apply this method on rusty and dirty surfaces. The more reasons to go for this technique

  • Works well on thicker materials
  • More economical than Flux-core welding
  • a good option to start a welding career.

Some recommended products for stick welding:

Products Name Features Price
Forney Easy Weld 298 Arc Welder 100ST


Inverter power system

120-volt input and 90 amp output, TIG capable (sold separately), Handles up to 1/8 inch rod


2018 AHP AlphaTIG 200X 200 Amp IGBT


Pulse width modulation,

60 percent duty cycle

will do 1/4″ aluminum and 3/8″ mild steel

DEKOPRO 110/220V MMA Welder,


Lightweight Inverter Technology, Energy-efficient, Multi-purpose use



Which Metals Can Be Welded with FCAW?

FCAW works well with most carbon steels, cast iron, stainless steel, and hard surfacing alloys. That being said, exotic nonferrous metals, such as aluminum, cannot be welded using this welding technique.

Can aluminum be welded with SMAW?

Yes, aluminum can be welded with SMAW.

What are slag inclusions?

Slag inclusions are common problems during the self-shielded FCAW process. These can be happened for out-of-position welding and are the result of molten flux.

What can I do to prevent porosity?

You can do the following things –

  • Remove all dirt, rust, grease or oil, paint, and other potential contaminants.
  • When you begin welding, maintain a wire extension of no more than 1-1/4 inch beyond the contact tip’s end.
  • For some applications, using a filler metal that contains additional deoxidizers can help prevent porosity

How Thick Can You Weld With Flux-Core?

In general, using a 115-volt welder, you should reach a penetration level of about 0.25 inches for a 115-volt welder. Again, some 200-amp machines can reach depths of 0.375 inches.

Final Words

Did you find out which one is the winner between stick welding vs flux core battle?

Choose carefully and think about your preferences! If you are confused about determining the thickness a machine can weld in a single pass, the amperage rating on a welder can be a useful guide. Tools with higher amperage ratings can weld thick workpieces.

Let me know in the comment section below which one is your favorite type of welding!