One of my best friend's father was a nuclear certified welder,and could literally weld anything. He was always doing repairs and projects for my father, who was also friends with him. To this day, we still kick ourselves for neither of us asking him to teach us how to weld.
Something I just discovered today.
I do a little stainless stick welding (amateur status only) for various bits and pieces on my boat. I keep the amps fairly low so I don't blow the thin stuff to pieces and consequently find the rods can be hard to start. I am using standard 316L rods and have discovered that if you heat the tip of the rod with a butane micro torch or similar then they start very easily. I don't know why this should be, but it works for me.
yeah - i use a bit of scrap - i call it the smacking plate, hit it a couple of times to get the tip going then start on the weld...