It is true that welding is no child’s play but it isn’t a Herculean task either. In fact, many people consider it a pastime and engage with it on a regular basis.
If you too wish to get started with stick welding and happen to be on the look-out for the best stick welder in the market, then congratulation! You have landed on the right page!
Through the course of this article, we will explore the top stick welders for the money and tell you why you should buy yourself one without wasting any more time!
In a Hurry? Check Out Our Top Rated Stick Welders
Our 7 Best Stick Welding Machine Reviews
Well, you must be raring to find more about the best stick welder in the world available. So without any further ado, let us go about them one by one!
1. Forney Easy Weld 100 ST ARC Welder
At number one, this Forney Easy Weld, a perfect stick welder for beginners! It is a powerful welder capable of catering to basic welding needs. The machine runs on a 120v input and 90amp output.
It can easily weld a 16 gauge up to 5/16 inches. With easy maintenance and easier repair, the welder is ideal for everyday use. Since there is no need to supply shielding gas, the welder can be plugged in and welding can be initiated, immediately!
The accessories provided and the machine in itself are of a simplistic design and easy to operate. What’s more, it is TIG capable, so you have the choice to switch over whenever you like!
Although the TIG is sold separately, you will feel it well worth investing in! With its good enough build quality, the welder is a good fit for those looking for maximum value.
- Easy to use, ideal for outdoors
- Portability at its best
- Inverter power system
- Doesn’t need shielding gas
- Inexpensive price point
2. PRIMEWELD TIG225X 225 Amp IGBT AC DC TIG/Stick Welder
For those of you, who are after a handy and new age stick welder, need to look no further than the Primewild TIG 225X Amp TIG Stick Welder!
This great looking welder is powered by a 225amps AC/DC motor that makes both stick and TIG welding easy. Whether you are looking for a lightweight welder to match your everyday welding needs or one that can serve you on a large-scale project, the AC to DC feature is sure to come in handy.
This machine is reliable and portable, plus it can be carried around the workspace effortlessly. Being a powerful performer, this welder works efficiently on both 110v and 220v. Versatility comes naturally to this welder along with full-fledged features that are ideal for a host welding purpose.
The welder is provided with a torch and CK flex tubing and a convenient foot pedal to make welding easier! This compact yet powerful welder can be used to weld a whole host of metals, without much hassle!
- Works on a range of metals
- Advanced inverter technology
- Precise heat control
- Great TIG for DIYers
- Better power and control
3. LOTOS TIG200 200A AC/DC Aluminum Tig/Stick Welder
For novices looking to get started with stick welding, LOTOS has come up with an excellent welder complete with multiple features and a TIG option.
This welder makes for a great starter and delivers amazing quality at low price. Professionals too can have a great time using the welder, as it conveniently welds through a variety of metals with much ease.
Hobbyists can work on indoor projects such as building utensils, fixing lawn mowers and professionals can use it to weld vehicles.
LOTOS is a reputed brand and produces welding machines known for their high quality and reliability. It can easily weld an array or metals up to ¼ inches making it versatile and handy.
It might not be suitable for heavy duty work, as it is a basic model. But compared to other models within the same range, this particular one will prove to be a great investment.
In fact, you will be amazed at the quality output and how well this small machine can weld. So, if you are looking for a small, good quality, high value machine then this the one for you!
- 80% power efficiency
- Automatic dual voltage
- Comes with square-wave inverter
- Welds a range of metals & steel
- Great machine for affordable price
4. 2018 AHP AlphaTIG 200X 200 Amp IGBT AC DC TIG/Stick Welder
An alpha in all respects, the AHP Alpha TIG 200 AMP TIG/Stick welder combines utility with functionality. The powerful AC/DC welder will suit professionals and hobbyists alike. As a budget friendly welder, this small machine offers multiple features and can double up as a TIG welder.
Performing well on both a 110v and a 220v, the welder delivers reliable and accurate results every time you use it! It combines power width modulation and IGBT technology, that sets it apart from other welding machines in its range.
Versatility and high quality are its top most features, as you will find it easy to switch between AC and DC to suit both low intensity and high intensity welding projects. One noteworthy aspect is the company supplies a separate TIG torch control for those looking to use a trigger switch.
On the other hand, those accustomed to foot pedals will find the supplied attachment easy to use. This welder can weld through ¼ inch aluminium and 3/8th inch steel sheets.
More so, you can alter the Pulse frequency for better use. Quite a few updates were introduced to make the machine more reliable and worthy of every penny you invest!
- Best stick mode ever used
- Does great quality TIG operation
- Advanced inverted technology
- Unbeatable for the price range
- PWM with IGBT technology
5. 2017 EVERLAST PowerARC 160amp HF TIG Stick IGBT Welder
If stick welder reviews are to go by, then this is easily one of the most popular of the lot! The PowerARC 160STH brings together the IGBT design and a powerful DC motor that can weld through 1/8 inches metal.
A TIG attachment is provided that allows you to switch between stick and TIG welding. The 160amp stick is ideal for everyday use and also heavy-duty, outdoor use. This machine features a gas solenoid for automated gas in-flow. It is capable of providing a high frequency start, as also an arc.
If you wish to plug it indoors then you can switch to the AC adapter, or go for the DC adapter for an outdoor project.
One thing to bear in mind is that the foot pedal is supplied as an option and should be separately ordered in case you want it. If not, you may opt for the remote control for the TIG switch.
The welder can be conveniently used for big welding projects such as motorcycles and cars.
- Inverter technology
- Portable and lightweight
- Great welder for its price
- Will last a long lifetime
- Automatic dual voltage
6. ARC Welder ARC160A Stick Welding Machine
Last but not the least, the ARC Welder ARC160A stick welding machine is our pick to round off the best stick welders in the 110v category. With a sleek and smart design, the welder features easy controls and multi-purpose lift switch.
It can be plugged into a 220-240v socket. The welder is easy to move around and uses very less electricity making it a small and economical option. Apart from inhouse projects, it can also be used for outdoor ones such as windows, fences, sheet welding etc.
This machine comes with automatic cut off in case the stick gets too hot. It has a TIG function and an automatic lift to prevent metal contamination. Lightweight and portable, this welder is ideal for beginners and old hands. It’s great for indoor projects and hobbies, and also garage projects such as car bumpers, motorcycles, bicycles etc.
Since the welder is resistant to wind and other factors, it can be taken to places where regular welding machines cannot be taken.
- Easy to start and use
- Top quality item at low price
- Compact and portable in size
- Hardly gets overheated
- Comes with dual voltage
7. Amico Power – DC Inverter Welder
This DC Welder by Amico Power is what we call the best inverter stick welder with good reason! Packing a powerful punch, the welder is equipped with a 115v input and 230v output and a 60% duty cycle, which is quite impressive for a stick welder.
This welder is quite powerful, even when run on a 110v, 20amp circuit, and lets you switch between AC and DC with ease. Both come with individual cooling fans that prevent the machine from heating up too much.
Since the welder is lightweight, it can be easily carried around the work-space. Accessories supplied include electrode holder, a 10 feet cable along with an input adapter and plug that can be plugged into a 110v socket.
With a high safety rating, this welder is highly recommended and ideal for novice welders and professionals alike! So, whether it is for home use or to work on an ambitious project, the Amico Power welder will make for the perfect choice!
- Innovative inverter technology
- Portable and compact size
- Flexible power input-outputs
- Comes with accessories
- 60% duty cycle
Everlast PowerARC 140
For the ultimate in versatility and reliability the EVERLAST PowerARC 140 is a top contender for the best stick welder on the market.
Featuring both stick and TIG welding capabilities this machine produces high-quality welds at an affordable price. This allows you to weld a wide range of metals from dirty, grease soaked steel to wafer thin aluminum. Your only problem will be finding new projects to tackle.
The EVERLAST PowerARC 140 may be small but it certainly packs a punch. Equipped with 120/240 dual voltage and using IGBT inverter technology you’ll be able to weld almost anything and take it almost anywhere. Furthermore this dual stick/TIG welder outputs a solid 140 amps for both processes allowing for a duty cycle of 60% at 65A for 120V and 60% at 110A for 240V.
If you’re looking for a stick welder and want the option to expand your skills through TIG, the EVERLAST PowerARC 140 is highly capable of producing both strong, heavy duty stick welds and gorgeous, aesthetically pleasing TIG welds.
Weight: 18 lbs
Size: L22″ x W9″ x H13″
Power Input: 115V/ 230V
Power Output: 160 A
Duty Cycle: 60% @ 160 A
Thickness: 1/4″ Mild steel
Warranty: 1 year
Amico 160 Amp DC Stick Welder
The Amico 160 amp DC stick welder packs a lot of power into a tiny, convenient package making it the best stick welder for portability.
Featuring both 115V and 230V input options the Amico 160 is not only portable but extremely versatile making it the go-to rig for welders of all skill levels. Measuring 12.5 x 9 x 22 inches and weighing around 18 lbs, you could practically put this thing in a backpack and go. Despite being so small this machine actually has a pretty good duty cycle. Using the maximum power output you can weld for 6 minutes of every 10.
The 10 foot electrode holder and 10 foot ground clamp only add to its capability. The controls on this machine are simple and straightforward. There is an infinite control for amperage and an LED display to show the settings.
If you’re in the market for a great quality, highly portable stick welder without spending a ton of cash the Amico 160 amp DC stick welder is the right choice.
Weight: 104 lbs
Size: L18″ x W13″ x H19″
Power Input: 230V
Power Output: AC 235A/ DC 160A
Duty Cycle: AC 225A @ 20%/ DC 150A @ 20%
Thickness: 1/2″ Mild steel
Warranty: 5/3/1 year
Hobart Stickmate LX235
Hobart is known as a top brand in the industry and after reviewing the Stickmate LX235 it’s easy to see why: they produce top quality products for a fraction of the cost of a Miller or Lincoln.
Unlike the previous two, the LX235 is a transformer welder which means it is a beast. Weighing 104 lbs and with dimensions to match, it is not a welder you want to be lugging around.
The control panel on this machine is what really make it shine. It features infinite control to allow you to adjust the amperage by as little as 1 amp increments. It has an output selector switch making it easy to switch from high to low output and from AC to DC. It also boasts a high duty cycle of 100% at 100A for AC and 65A for DC so you can weld continuously for hours.
Although slightly more expensive than the other two discount brands, when you buy a Hobart you know you’re getting a great machine will excellent customer support and unprecedented warranty. The Hobart Stickmate LX235 is the best stick welder with both AC and DC abilities.
Pitbull Ultra-Portable 100-Amp
Weight: 28 lbs
Size: L18″ x W10″ x H13″
Power Input: 110V
Power Output: 100A
Duty Cycle: 100% @ 45A
Thickness: 1/4″ Mild steel
If you’re looking for a small, inexpensive stick welder for a few minor household repairs then take a look at the Pitbull Ultra-Portable.
Weighing a mere 28 lbs and measuring, at most, 18-inches in length the Pitbull is as portable as they come.
It uses a standard 110v outlet to produce a respectable 100 amps of AC power, which is powerful enough to weld 1/4-inch mild steel.
The control panel is easy enough to understand – turn the knob to the left to decrease power and turn it to the right to increase. The only issue is that the amperage isn’t labeled on the front so you have to test it before committing to the full bead.
While it’s not winning an awards for quality or advanced features, if you need something cheap for some very light-duty work then this is the best stick welder on a budget.
Lincoln Electric AC225 K1170
Weight: 110 lbs
Size: L12″ x W17″ x H24″
Power Input: 230V
Power Output: 225A
Duty Cycle: 20% @ 225A
Thickness: 1/2″ Mild steel
Warranty: 3 year
Another good choice is the Lincoln Electric AC225 stick welder.
First of all, because it’s a Lincoln you know you are getting a quality piece of machinery.
The AC225 is a transformer based welder which produces a smooth, stable arc with enough power to weld 1/2-inch mild steel on a single pass. In addition the AC polarity allows you to weld a variety of other metals like carbon, low alloy and stainless steel.
It features a long insulated electrode holder and cable as well as a heavy duty work clamp which can be replaced as they wear down, instead of buying a brand new welder.
And best of all? It’s extremely easy to use. The only setting you need to adjust is the amperage output which is easily accessible on the front panel – you don’t even have to remove your gloves.
The AC225 is a bit of an investment but – because it’s transformer based – will probably be the only stick welder you’ll ever need to buy.
What Is Stick Welding?
Stick welding is a process that uses a stick electrode and electricity to join together with various types of metals. The structure of a stick welder is made up of metallic rod covered by mineral-based compounds along with a blend of metallic powders used to coat the surface of the electrodes.
A long metallic rod is responsible for powering the arc that melts metal at an angle in order to join two surfaces.
Stick welders can use both AC and DC based on the electrode being used. The voltage for the rods can vary between 16 to 40 volts and 20 to 550 amperes.
The welder is alternately known as Inverter stick welder or arc welder, as the process involves heating up metals and materials such that they coalesce.
Different types of materials can be used during the welding process based on their electricity conducting capacities.
Stick welding, also known as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) is the most common type of welding. It works by melting the metal and the electrode, which is coated in flux, forming a pool of molten metal which then cools to form a joint. As the bead is laid the flux coating from the electrode vaporizes to form a shield around the weld. In addition, it also provides a layer of slag both of which serve to protect the weld from outside contaminants.
SMAW is still the go-to method for many industries including ANYTHING that involves working outside, which is where a huge portion of jobs are. If you want to get into the welding industry it’s vital that you learn stick welding and to get the best results you need the best stick welder.
Why Should You Consider Stick Welding?
Stick welding can be used for a variety of purposes to weld a host of metals. It can be used in welding projects both indoors and outdoors. This welding is ideal for heavy-duty work such as building bridges, pipelines, and similar construction projects.
At the same time, it can also be used for small scale projects such as welding utensils, gardening equipment, etc. Thus, stick welding is a versatile technique that can suit a variety of needs.
What Are the Benefits of Stick Welding?
If you still need convincing then here are some benefits associated with stick welding.
Stick welding is a reliable process that will not let you down regardless of the size of your project! Right from heavy-duty welding to small scale welding, it is easy to weld metals of varying thickness.
If you like to move equipment around while working on your welds then stick welding is ideal for you! Not only is it easy to move the equipment around but also convenient to work with different angles.
You will not require a cart to move it around like in the case of MIG or TIG welders.
The overall cost involved during the welding process will be economical and not as expensive as some of the other methods. Equipment used is comparatively lesser and there is no need to invest in shielding gas.
The overall heat produced should be much lesser compared to other welding techniques, however, there is greater concentration of heat within the process which makes welding a lot easier.
Heavy duty Use
Stick welding is great for heavy duty use. It is used for big projects such as welding bridges, buildings and other such structures.
Pros of Stick Welding
- Stick welding is a multi-purpose welding technique that can be used in a variety of weather conditions including rainy and windy seasons
- Inexpensive process that will not burn a hole in your pocket
- Stick welding is simple and can be customized easily. All you have to do is change up the rods based on the metals to be welded
- Clamp can be placed away from the welding point
- Does not use any shielding gas, which means you get to save a few dollars
- Stick welding is preferred to other types of welding processes, as it does not create too much of a mess
Cons of Stick Welding
- One of the biggest cons associated with stick welding is that it is quite slow and not as fast as other welding techniques
- Slightly more complex compared to other welding processes. This means a regular welder might not be able to take up this process without proper training
- The end result might not be as smooth and instead have a few rough surfaces
- Cleaning-up can be a lengthy process as taking off the slag will take time
- Might not be ideal for metals that are thin or fragile
- The process of welding can get delayed as the rods must be changed frequently
How to Choose the Best Stick Welder?
There is a reason why stick welding is still the most common type of welding today. It’s versatile! There’s not much a good quality stick welder can’t do. From dirty outdoor pipelines to sterile manufacturing plants, stick welding is the way to go for many welders – both inexperienced and professional.
If you weld outside, SMAW is the only real option which is why it’s the preferred method for maintenance, construction, farm work, auto repair as well as a host of other industries. Furthermore it’s the best process for out-of-position and overhead welding because you can get into tight spots that a MIG or TIG torch are unable to reach,
Old-school stick welders used to weigh hundreds of pounds and you needed a cart to lug your machine around with you. It was extremely inefficient and time consuming. Fortunately these days, with the introduction of inverters stick welders can weigh less than 20 lbs while still putting out the power needed. This makes it ideal for transporting around when your buddy eventually asks to borrow it.
Stick welders with transformers (old school) are still available but the point of a stick welder is to be used in almost any situation so, if you are going to transport it around, for the sake of your back, get the best stick welder with inverter technology. It actually costs less and you’ll have the added benefit of portability.
Suitable for All Positions
Overhead, vertical, out-of-position, tight spaces, deep corners. Whatever the job requires, a stick welder is more than capable. In these positions stick welding is preferred because of the variety of electrodes available. Each rod has different distinct properties that is unique to each situation.
The 7018 electrode was designed specifically for overhead welding. It has a lower amount of iron powder which allows the weld puddle to solidify almost instantly, preventing drips of molten metal from sliding down your neck.
One of the main benefits of stick welding is the absence of gas required to produce clean, strong welds. Instead the rods are coated with deoxidizers and other ingredients that serve the same purpose as shielding gas which helps protect the weld from atmospheric contamination.
The lack of gas is a major reason for its portability. Instead of lugging up your huge welder and a tank of gas, just grab your inverter welder and a couple of rods and you’re ready to weld anywhere.
Ideal for Outside
Because no gas used in stick welding it is the ideal method for any type of outside work. Wind, rain, hot, cold, it doesn’t matter when stick welding because there is no gas to blow away. The flux from the rod protects the weld from any outside contamination so you’re only limitation is your proximity to a power source.
If you’re welding thick metal then stick welding is the way to go. It penetrates deep and is forgiving under less-than optimal conditions. Rusted or painted metal? No problem for the best stick welder. There are three main factors when determining the depth of penetration.
Electrode Type: Of course it also depends on what electrode is used for the weld. Each class of rod has its own unique properties and characteristics. Some can penetrate deep while others can’t. For example, the standard E6010 typically has a deeper penetration while the E7024 electrode is much more shallow. That’s why choosing the correct rod is a critical skill when learning SMAW.
Electrode Diameter: If you weld with two different size electrodes with the same current on the same piece of metal the smaller electrode typically penetrates deeper. When the same current flows through both electrodes, the concentration of power is greater in the small rod. As a result the smaller electrode will have much deeper penetration.
Polarity: With stick welding as well as most other processes electrode + provides a much deeper penetration because the current is focused on the base metal rather than the electrode. Alternately electrode – produces a shallow weld because the current is focused more on the electrode.
Unless you’re buying a multi-process welder, stick welding is the cheapest welding method to get started with. You can pick up the best stick welder for around $150. While it’s no professional rig, it’s decent quality and it will last for years.
Although you don’t have to get the best. If you know that you’ll only be using your welder for occasional light-repair work there are several highly-rated sub $100 welders. While there are a few good ones, there are a lot of crappy ones too, so be aware of that. These are usually low powered, cheaply made and potentially unsafe. Before buying one of those please be sure to check the reviews and do some proper research.
Another reason to consider stick welding is the consumable cost. They’re cheap! There’s no torch to replace and you can get 5 lbs of welding rods for less than $15. That’s it. For less than $200 you can get set up with enough supplies for a month and start welding today.
Variety of Electrodes
Here’s the fun part: deciding which electrode is right for each job. With stick welding there are several types and sizes of rods are suitable for different applications.
If you need to weld dirty metal with deep penetration in a flat position an E6010 rod is preferred. However, if you used the E6010 for overhead welding you’d get a nice neck-full of molten metal. For that’d you’d use an E7018 because it solidifies almost instantly.
See the chart below for an explanation of each electrode type.
Easy to Use
In theory stick welding is a simple procedure. You plug in your welder, ground your work then strike the arc. Easy right? So easy a kid could do it.
While it is the most basic form of welding and it’s relatively easy to get started, it takes a lot of practice to become a pro.
One of the biggest disadvantages of stick welding is the speed of the process itself. Especially for beginners, it can be a tremendously slow task.
In addition, you have to constantly replace the electrodes every few minutes after you burn down to the nub. It may seem insignificant but if you weld all day, replacing the rods every few minutes can be a real hassle. Especially during those long hot afternoons.
As mentioned above, stick welding uses, err, sticks or rods/electrodes as the filler material which need to be changed when it runs out. After an 8 hour day of welding you’ll have a nice collection of nubs under you.
The ends can be recycled obviously, but stick welding not only wastes material it wastes time spent changing the rods after every couple of inches.
Hard to Master
I said before that stick welding is easy, and its true. The basic theory of stick welding is the easiest to learn. That’s why its been around since the 1800s. But when it comes to the actual application it’s a whole new ball game.
From selecting the proper electrode to correctly compensating for rod burn to knowing the precise speed to weld, stick welding is an art form that only the true professional can take advantage of.
Even people who have been welding for years have a hard time with stick welding if they aren’t practiced. It’s a skill that takes time and focused dedication to be good. Even then you’re only just good enough.
Not Suitable for Thin Metal
If you need to weld thinner metals then look elsewhere because stick welding is not for the faint of heart.
That’s not to say it can’t be done but if it’s a regular occurrence there are much more efficient methods. If stick is all you have and the metal isn’t too thin+, then there are some steps you can take:
- Use the smallest diameter rods possible
- Knock the flux off the rod so there is less filler
- Low amperage
- Move fast
- 6011 rod works well
You may not have much to clean up before you start the weld but you certainly will after.
During the process flux burns off the electrode to create a layer of slag that protects the weld from outside contaminants. This looks like a layer of black gunk that can easily be scraped off with a steel brush. Furthermore you’ll get spatter and bits of metal dust all over your work area, which doesn’t seem like much at the time but when you wipe your finger over it at the end of the day, you’ll see the mess. It’s not really an issue if you’re already working in a shop but I just thought I’d mention it.
Choosing the right electrode for the job is one of the most important aspects of stick welding. Each rod has it’s own unique properties that work best for certain applications.
Without going too deep into the technical side here is a list of the 7 most common electrode types and what they’re used for:
|6010||Considered an all position welding rod. It penetrates deep with the ability to weld through dirty, greasy metal. Used with DC only. Arc is tight which may be difficult for beginners.|
|6011||Is also considered an all position rod but with the added benefit of both AC and DC capabilities. Basically it’s the AC cousin of the 6010.|
|6012||Works well when gap bridging between two joints is required. These electrodes are meant for fast and shallow penetrating welds on a flat work piece. Lots of clean-up required.|
|6013||Produces a soft, clean arc with minimal spatter and moderate penetration. Great for welding clean, new sheet metal.|
|7014||Offers minimal penetration and are designed for use on carbon and low alloy steels. Contains a higher amount of iron powder which increases deposition rates. Can be used at a higher amperage.|
|7018||One of the easiest electrodes to use, it contains a high amount of flux and iron powder. They produce a smooth, quiet arc with decent penetration and a minimal amount of spatter. Commonly used on thick metals like structural steel.|
|7024||Contains a high amount of iron powder which increases deposition rates. Performs best with quick flat welds at least 1/4 inch thick.|
What you Need to Consider
Before you decide anything else you need to make sure you know what type of welding you’ll be doing and how much power it will require. Another consideration to keep in mind is size of electrode you’re using. The bigger the rod the more power you need. Here’s a handy calculator to help you figure it out.
Output – Measured in amps, output is probably the most important consideration when choosing the best stick welder. If the welder is too weak you’ll waste time and energy doing multiple passes when only one is needed with a more powerful machine. Look for a welder with a maximum output of at least 100 amps. You’ll quickly outgrow anything less.
Input – Measured in volts, you need to have the right amount of power to get the most out of the best stick welder. The standard North American has a single phase power source which is about 110-120V, plenty for most hobbyist stick welders. However, there’s another option – 220/240V. This is for the big boys, the heavy welders that need a lot more power to run to its maximum potential. This higher input uses triple phase power which allows for much higher amperage welds while maintaining a smooth clean arc.
When choosing the best stick welder it’s important to know what the output current is. There are three types of welders to look for when it comes to current: alternating (AC), direct (DC+/-) and both.
AC – Alternating current is usually found on low-cost, entry level welders. It’s also the current used when your material becomes magnetized by friction which causes arc blow. Finally it’s used if AC is the only power source available. Those three situations are the only reason to ever use alternating current.
DC – Direct current is the most commonly used type. It can be used in almost every situation except when the material becomes magnetized as explained above. DC power provides a smoother more stable arc, easier starts, fewer arc outages, less spatter and easier vertical and overhead welding.
With DC you also have two polarities that offer distinct welding characteristics – negative and positive.
DC negative – Less penetration, more deposition.
DC positive – Higher penetration, less deposition.
AC/DC – For the ultimate in control look for the best stick welder with both AC and DC capabilities. This keeps your options open just in case.
Inverter VS Transformer
There are two distinct categories when it comes to stick welders – inverter and transformer. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but inverters are slowly but surely taking over the industry and becoming the go-to choice.
Inverter – These days there is no reason not to go with an inverter welder. They are much more portable (~20 lbs) making them easy to transport from job to job. As a result, less space is needed which makes it ideal if you’re a hobbyist with a small shop. In addition, they also produce higher quality welds with a smooth, stable arc.
Inverters can also save you money in the long run. The efficiency of an inverter welder far exceeds that of a transformer. While the initial cost may be a bit more, the money you save in energy costs adds up in the long run.
Transformer – These types of welders are heavy-duty and built like tanks. People are still using their transformer welders 50 years after they bought them. They tend to take up a lot of space but they’ll last forever.
The initial cost is relatively low but because they are so big they use a lot of power. If you only weld occasionally and have the space available a transformer welder might be the best stick welder for you. They’re powerful, built to last and cheap: the three best things you want in a welder.
Duty cycle is the amount of time you can use your welder before having to let it rest to cool off. This is measured in 10-minute cycles. For example the AHP Alpha 160ST has a duty cycle of 60% @ 160A. That means you can weld constantly for 6 minutes before you need to rest for 4 minutes with an output of 160 amps.
When choosing the best stick welder make sure it has a long duty cycle. While this isn’t so important for hobbyists who aren’t in a time crunch, it can get pretty annoying when you can only work in 3 minute bursts. A long duty cycle ensures that you can weld longer without the possibility of overheating you machine.
Whats better than a high-quality stick welder? How about a high-quality TIG and stick welder packed into a single box. Or even better yet a MIG, TIG and stick welder rolled into a nice package.
While you can still find plenty of single process stick welders out there, more and more they are becoming the exception rather than the rule. With rapidly advancing technology they are able to cram so much machinery into these units that it just makes sense to get a machine that does it all. Sure you’ll be paying a lot more but in return you have a lot more options available to you.
If you know exactly what you are going to weld and you don’t think you’ll need anything more than the best stick welder then by all means go with what you know. But if you want to keep all your options open and learn valuable skills in the meantime then consider an MTS (MIG, TIG, Stick) welder.
With inverter welders becoming much more common the need for portability is also increasing. More and more people are becoming freelance welders going from job site to job site for work, so choosing the best portable welder is critical.
If being portable is a main priority of yours then you must get an inverter welder. The difference in size and power is huge. A good quality inverter weighs anywhere from 10 – 20 lbs while the equivalent power from a transformer weighs 90+ lbs.
Easy Controls/ Display
For beginners it’s vital that they have access to easy-to-use controls and big, readable displays. Fortunately stick welding is so basic almost all welders have easy controls.
At the most basic level you’ll have an on/off switch, a knob that adjusts the amperage and a small display to tell you the amperage. That’s really all you need. But if you do want more there are other options. All are easy to understand and simple to use, it’s a matter of personal preference. Some have a duty cycle warning, some have a switch to go from AC to DC and some just have a single amperage knob. This one is really up to the individual.
Since stick welding has been around since the beginning of time (or so it seems) it’s by far the cheapest method for joining metal together.
You can get a cheap 100 amp welder for around $60 on Amazon but with something that inexpensive you’re getting fairly low quality machine. If, however, you can budget around $200 you can get a solid stick welder that will last you for years to come. That’s considerably cheaper than any other process. In addition, you only have one type of consumable to buy – electrodes – which are also inexpensive especially on bulk orders.
Precautions must be taken to ensure your personal safety, thankfully today’s welders are built with safety first in mind.
Thermal Overload Protection – This ensures your welder automatically shuts off when it gets too hot. Sometimes you get so caught up in your work time just flies by and you forget to rest. With thermal overload protection you never have to worry about getting distracted because as soon as the welder gets too hot it shuts off completely until it’s cool enough to be restarted.
Duty Cycle Indicator – Similar to the overload protection in that it prevents overheating. An indicator lights up, getting brighter and brighter as your approach the end of the duty cycle. If you’re vigilant and can keep an eye on the light then it’s a pretty useful feature, if not the thermal overload protection kicks in anyway to keep your welder from overheating.
Tips for Choosing the Best Stick Welder
Know What You’ll be Welding
The most important aspect of choosing the best stick welder is knowing the type of metal you’ll be welding and its thickness. The last thing you want is to buy a brand new machine only to find out it isn’t powerful enough for the job you need it to do.
I always recommend at least a 160 amp welder. It’s powerful enough for almost any hobbyist task and it’s inexpensive enough to not break the bank.
This isn’t as important as other welding processes because its so cheap already. However, if you are on a tight budget look for a unit with as much power as possible without any extra features. These extra features can add up quickly when all you really need is to stick two pieces of metal together as efficiently as possible.
Craigslist and other classified ads are a goldmine for used welding equipment. People upgrade or lose interest and they just want to get rid of their welder to free up space. Often times they’ll used the best stick welder once or twice and then let it collect dust in the corner of their shop. This is a great opportunity to pick up a slightly used welder as bargain prices.
Disclaimer: I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this option to complete newbies because if you don’t know what you’re looking for it’s easy to get ripped off. But then again, if you’re getting a good deal its not that big of a loss.
Before you buy do plenty of research. You should know what type of metal you’ll be welding and its thickness, power output requirements, power availability, inverter or transformer, safety features and a host of other considerations.
Miller has an informative guide to help you do proper research: here.
For those who do not weld every day, it can be a little difficult to choose the right welder. For such people, here is a list of things to consider while choosing a stick welder.
It is obvious that performance should be the topmost priority to consider. The welder should perform well under pressure and in a host of weather conditions and have multiple settings that can be changed according to the metal being welded.
It will be best to choose one that welds thinner metals just as well as thicker ones.
AC & DC Capability
Next up, it is important to consider the welder’s AC and DC capabilities. Welders with AC power can be cheaper but not weld well enough. DC welders, on the other hand, do a better job and ideal for heavy work. it is best to opt for one that allows you to switch between the two.
Pick a welder that fits into your budget. If you have a limited amount, then go for a basic model that can last long. In case your budget is unlimited, go for a good model that has multiple features and can be used for heavy duty projects.
Most welders prefer to move around and carry their welding equipment with them. If you happen to be one such, then it will be important to consider the weight of the machine. Go for a lightweight one that can be easily carried around.
Welding machines are not cheap and require a sizeable investment. In such a case, it can be a bit nerve-racking to end up with a defective product, and the one thing that can come to your rescue is the warranty!
Make sure to check the warranty being provided so that your product can be replaced if it turns out to be defective.
Common Issues with Stick Welding and How to Solve Them
Below, you have some common issues and their possible solution in times of stick welding sessions.
Spatter refers to molten leftovers that are produced during the welding process. Stick welding can end up creating a lot of spatter. In order to combat this, it is best to reduce the welding current and lower the length of the arc.
Porosity can occur when oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen seep into the weld pool and then gets trapped in the metal after solidification. In order to prevent this, it is best to re-bake or inspect the torch to check for any leakages. It is also advisable to clean out the gas nozzle.
Undercuts are a result of the arc voltage being too high. It will thus be important to check the voltage and also the weave being used.
Cracks can become large over time and thus have to be fixed at the earliest. The correct process is to grind it out and then fill it in. Once done, re-heat it so that it is fixed in place.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of stick welding is versatile?
One that allows you to switch between AC and DC can be quite versatile. DC machines are easier to start up, have lesser outages and make lesser mess. They are smoother as well. AC machines can penetrate through thinner metals quite easily.
How big should the machine be?
You will be fine using a 225 to 300 ampere stick welder. It can weld metals that are 3/8 inches thick.
What does duty cycle stand for?
Duty cycle stands for the number of minutes or seconds the welder can run before a cool down. If a machine generates 200-amp DC at 20% then it can run for a couple of minutes non-stop before cooling down for eight minutes.
What rod is best to weld thin/thick metals?
Rods with 6010 or 7018 electrodes can go deep into the metals while 6013 penetrate lesser.
Is it important to scale or oil before welding?
Stick welding can be carried out even on unclean surfaces. Most welders come with brushes that can be used to gently brush away any rust to make welding easier.
Stick welding can be an enjoyable process and one that can develop into a hobby. We urge you to go through the article again just to make sure you have chosen the top rated stick welder to invest in!