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Stick welding is also commonly known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW). This process is widely used in home and industrial welding applications. It works great for outdoor welding and when you find yourself in challenging positions. There’s a wide range of stick welding machines available on the market today that have different sizes, features and prices. With so many options available, it can be difficult to choose the best stick welder for your needs. That’s why we’ve compiled these stick welder reviews to help you find the right equipment for your next project.
- EVERLAST PowerARC 140
- Processes: DC TIG / DC Stick
- Voltage: 120/240V
- Amperage: 10-140A
- Duty cycle: 120V = 35% at 85A, 240V = 35% at 140A
- Weight: -
- Lotos LTPDC2000D
- Processes: DC TIG / DC Stick / Plasma Cutter
- Voltage: 110/220V
- Amperage: 10-200A
- Duty cycle: 60% at 200A
- Weight: 43 lbs
- Amico Power DC-160A
- Processes: DC Stick
- Voltage: 115/230V
- Amperage: 5-160A
- Duty cycle: 60% at 160A
- Weight: 18 lbs
- Forney Easy Weld 298
- Processes: Stick / Optional TIG
- Voltage: 120V
- Amperage: 90A
- Duty cycle: 30% at 80A
- Weight: 9.65 lbs
- EVERLAST PowerARC 160STH
- Processes: DC TIG / DC Stick
- Voltage: 120/240V
- Amperage: 10-160A
- Duty cycle: 35% at 160A
- Weight: 36.9 lbs
- Century Inverter K2789-1
- Processes: DC Stick
- Voltage: 120V
- Amperage: 10-90A
- Duty cycle: 20% at 70A
- Weight: 14 lbs
Table of Contents
- 1 Top 6 Stick Welders Reviewed
- 2 Amico Power DC-160A – Best Rated Stick Welder
- 3 Everlast PowerARC 140 – Best For Beginners
- 4 Lotos Technology LTPDC2000D – Best For the Money
- 5 Forney Easy Weld 298 – Best Cheap Stick Welder
- 6 Everlast PowerARC 160STH – Best Value
- 7 Century Inverter Arc 120
- 8 How To Choose the Best Stick Welder For Home Use or Workshop?
- 9 What Is Stick Welding?
- 10 How Stick Welding Works? Stick Welding Basics
- 11 Why Should You Buy a Stick Welder?
- 12 Who Should Buy a Stick Welder?
- 13 Basic Stick Welding Electrode Selection
- 14 Commonly Used Electrodes
- 15 Stick Welding Tips For Beginners
- 16 Bottom Line
Top 6 Stick Welders Reviewed
Amico Power DC-160A – Best Rated Stick Welder
The Amico Power DC-160A is relatively new to the market but it has proven to be the best stick welder for home use for many users. It packs quite a bit of power in a tiny, portable package. With 160 amps of output power, it’s capable of welding materials up to ¼” thick. It works on steel, as well as on other hard and dense surfaces.
- Ease of setup. In the box, you get everything you need to set up the rig, except the electrodes.
- Better control. The unit has an inbuilt capacitor bank. So when the welder turns utility power to high voltage, this voltage can be stored in this bank for future use. Later, if it needs to create more power, a microprocessor control switches this energy to a second transformer.
- LED display. This inverter welder displays information in a digital format, making it easy to understand the power being used or needed.
- High duty cycle. With a solid duty cycle of 60% at 160 amps, you can weld for longer periods of time without having to wait all day for it to cool down.
- Dual voltage. To give you full advantage of its 160 amp metal melting power, you have the dual voltage feature. So you can either use it with a standard 115V outlet or use the included adapter for 230V.
- Infinity amperage control. You can control the amperage to fit your exact settings.
- Affordable stick welder. For a very low price, you get a high quality stick welder.
- Portable stick welder. Weighing just 18 pounds and having a compact design, its size will be a lifesaver if you move around a lot.
- Low quality electrode holder.
- DC only.
Everlast PowerARC 140 – Best For Beginners
Everlast PowerARC 140 is a slightly more expensive stick welder. But given its TIG and stick welding capability, portable size and power capabilities, the price is a steal. It’s a great machine for home use or light professional work and would make a great choice for a beginner welder.
- TIG and stick capability, which means more welding opportunities. For TIG, you can use the lift start feature to get a steady consistent arc. For stick welding, you’ll need 1/16” to ⅛” electrodes, with which you can then weld up to 3/16” plate metal.
- IGBT inverter design. IGBT technology offers more efficiency, better control, while the inverter design makes the unit lighter and more portable.
- Portability. As we’ve mentioned above it’s an inverter design, so the unit is lightweight, weighing only 25 pounds. Additionally, it has a handy carrying strap and a convenient carrying case for convenient storage.
- Lift start feature, which is the easiest option for beginners.
- Arc stability. This product keeps up with the big brands, providing exceptional arc stability. For TIG, you have the amperage range of 10 to 140 amps. The stick part has an auto adaptive start, as well as auto adaptive arc force control, which provides better weld and arc quality.
- Dual voltage capability. You can use either 120V or 240V. With the adaptive technology, switching between the two is safe and effortless.
- Great duty cycle, which differs from the voltage used. For 120V, it’s 35% at 85 amps. And for 240V, it’s 35% at 140 amps.
- Complete starter kit. It includes everything you need to get started, except for the welding rods for stick welding.
- No foot pedal
- DC only
- If you plan to use it for TIG welding, it does not include a gas regulator.
Lotos Technology LTPDC2000D – Best For the Money
Lotos Technology LTPDC2000D is a great multi-purpose machine that offers TIG, stick and plasma cutter capabilities. So considering its functionality, it’s the best stick welder for the price. The welder is capable of welding metal ranging up to 1/2 inch thick.
- Non-touch pilot arc ensures efficient cuts through surfaces with minimum slag. You cut the metal without the tip touching the surface.
- 3-in-1 combo: TIG, stick, plasma cutter.
- Dual voltage. You can run the machine on either 220V or 110V with the use of a pigtail (which is bought separately.
- Wide amps range for welding: 10-200 amps.
- It offers up to ½ inch clean cuts on various metals. Also, the max severance thickness is ¾ inches.
- Lightweight and portable.
- 3-year warranty.
- Foot pedal sold separately.
Forney Easy Weld 298 – Best Cheap Stick Welder
Another one of the best inverter stick welders is the Forney Easy Weld 298 machine. It has 90 amps output and 120-volt input. Which is not a lot, but is enough for the best stick welder for beginners, especially at the price it comes.
- TIG and stick capability. Switching between the two is very simple. You just need to flip a switch.
- However, keep in mind that the TIG torch is not included in the welder’s package.
- The inverter system makes the welder lightweight and easy to use.
- Its 90 amp power output is enough for automotive applications and different projects around the home.
- It can handle up to ⅛ inch electrode.
- Welds metals 16 gauge up to ⅚ inch thick.
- The lightest stick welder on our list of top stick welders. It weighs less than 10 pounds.
- The TIG gun needs to be purchased separately.
Everlast PowerARC 160STH – Best Value
This Everlast PowerARC 160STH small stick welder is a power packed machine that is perfect for first timers, hobbyists and professionals alike. If you’re looking for something more heavy duty, this best arc welder is definitely a product to consider. It’s quick and easy to set up and makes an efficient tool for high quality welding.
- Dual voltage feature. The 120v/220v dual voltage feature allows pro-level welding. You can use 120v for quick jobs around the house and take advantage of the 220v for more heavy duty welding jobs.
- TIG and arc. This versatility gives you more welding options. With a simple switch, you can easily go from doing fine details on aluminum to working on ¼ inch steel plates in seconds.
- HF and lift start options. If you prefer welding without the pedal, you can use the lift start feature. HF is perfect for working in bad weather conditions or an area with a lot of wind.
- 5 year warranty for parts and labor.
- IGBT inverter, giving a smooth and stable arc.
- Low power consumption. The duty cycle is rated 35% at 160 amps.
- Great amp range: 10-160 amps.
- Portability. You can easily pack this machine up in the included carrying case and take it anywhere for welding where there’s a source of power.
- Only DC
Century Inverter Arc 120
Century Inverter Arc 120 is another good stick inverter that comes at an affordable price. It comes with great capabilities for taking on most welding tasks.
- Provides a smooth arc. It can weld sheet metal from 18 gauge to ¼ inch steel.
- Good welding amps range: 10-90 amps. It might not be a lot, but it’s a good range for a starter level stick welder and still provides good versatility in a range of applications.
- It runs on 120 volts
- Very light, only 14 pounds, and has a shoulder strap, making it easy to carry and use anywhere you want.
- It’s limit is 90 amps, so it does run real big rods.
- The duty cycle is only 20% at 70 amps, so you’ll need to stop the machine every 2 minutes out of 10 in order to prevent overheating.
How To Choose the Best Stick Welder For Home Use or Workshop?
Stick welders provide a simple, affordable and highly reliable option for creating strong welds on a wide range of materials. Here are a few things to consider before choosing the best arc welder.
One of the first considerations before buying a new stick welder should be what you’ll be using it for and how much power it will require. Think of the metals you’ll be welding and their thickness. Also, in determining the required power, keep in mind the size of the electrode you’ll be using. Below we’ll go into more detail about the electrode types.
- Output. As for power, the output amperage is the most important factor. If your welder is too weak, you’ll need to make multiple passes to complete a weld, wasting your time and energy. If you’re a beginner, looking for the maximum output of at least 80 amps, but you’re doing regular welding, it’s better to get a machine with at least 100 amps.
- Input. The input is measured in volts, and just as with the output, the right amount of power will give you the best results. A standard North American home usually offers a single phase 110v-120v power source. If you’re a hobbyist welder, this is plenty enough. For more heavy-duty work, there’s also the option of 220v-240v. The higher input allows higher amperage welds and a cleaner arc.
When it comes to output current type, you’ll have three options: AC, DC and both options.
- AC. The AC (alternating current) option is usually found on entry-level stick welders. Users often opt for AC, when there’s no DC option available. Another situation where AC can be used is when the metal becomes magnetized by friction and that causes the arc blow.
- DC. This type is much more common. You can use it in almost any situation. The magnetized metal situation mentioned above is the only exception. With DC power, you’ll have an arc that is easy to start, that is more stable, more smooth, and has less spatter. It’s also better to choose DC power if you’ll be doing vertical and overhead welding.
DC also has two polarities, depending on which you have different welding characteristics. DC negative offers less penetration but with more deposition, while DC positive works the opposite way – has higher penetration with less deposition.
Duty cycle means the amount of time you can continuously weld before you need to let the machine rest to cool off. A full cycle is 10 minutes. So for example, if you have a duty cycle of 35% at 160 amps, it means that the machine is able to run for 3.5 minutes before you need to leave resting for 6.5 minutes.
A longer duty cycle will make your work more efficient and you will be able to work longer without the machine overheating. If you’re just using the welder for occasional home repair work or other hobby welding, you might not be in a time crunch. But if the time is of importance, it can get pretty annoying if you need to stop welding every 2 minutes.
Inverter or Transformer
Stick welders come in two types: inverters and transformers. Inverters are more popular and are go-to-choice for many welders. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Inverter. Inverters are the most common choice. And all the welders we’ve covered in these stick welders reviews are inverters. They are much more portable, usually weighing just about 20 pounds. Some of the more simple inverters weigh even just 15 pounds. So it’s easy to transport them and they take up less storage space. Moreover, inverters are commended for a more smoother and more stable arc. Also, it’s worth mentioning that an inverter can help you save money in the long run, as they have been proven to be more efficient in comparison to transformers.
Transformer. This type is suitable for heavy duty work and they use a lot of power. Their solid designs are built like tanks. They are much heavier than inverters and take up quite a bit of space. The initial cost is relatively low but they are built to last forever. It might be a good stick welder for you if you’re looking for just occasional welding.
Especially if you’re a beginner, it’s important that all the controls and the display are easy to view and understand. The controls should also be big enough, so you can switch them even in gloves, so you don’t waste time. Fortunately, stick welding is quite basic, so on most of the welders, you’ll find easy to use controls.
The most basic stick welder would have an on/off switch, controls for adjusting the amperage, and a display where you can view the power. On some of the more advanced welders, you can find extra options. They could include duty cycle warning, AC/DC switch, and voltage switch. But these are extras. So it’s really up to your preferences if you need them or not.
For your personal safety, welders come equipped with certain protective features.
- Duty cycle indicator. The purpose of this safety feature is to prevent overheating. As you approach the end of the machine’s duty cycle, an indicator will light up, getting more and more bright. You can keep an eye on the light, so you can turn off the machine when the cycle ends. If you’re not very vigilant, however, and miss the light, the thermal overload protection function kicks in.
- Thermal overload protection. This feature automatically shuts off the welder before it gets too hot. With this feature, you can just concentrate on the weld and not worry about getting distracted, at the end of the duty cycle the machine will shut off completely and will be ready to start only when it’s cooled down.
If you want a bit more versatility, you can opt for a welder that has both TIG and stick capabilities. For a more multi-process operation, there’s also MIG capability thrown into the package.
Nowadays, the TIG and stick combo is becoming increasingly popular and single process stick welders are becoming more and more the exception. However, you can still find a single process stick welder on the market. But with the advanced technologies that are capable of cramming so much power into these units, why not get a machine that can do all. This way you’ll have a lot more options at your disposal.
If you do know exactly what you’ll be welding and you’re sure that you only need a good stick welder, then sure, you might not need to spend extra money on the multi-purpose machine.
One of the stick welders’ advantages is their portability. And with many welders nowadays working as freelancers, getting from one site to another quickly and easily is very important. So it becomes critical for the welder to choose the best portable stick welder.
If portability is important for you, you should look at inverter welders. With transformers, the difference in power and size is big. Some of the best inverter stick welders weigh just about 10 to 20 pounds. Compare that to 90 pounds or more of the transformers.
Stick welders are the cheapest welding machines on the market. For the price of about $200, you can get a budget stick welder that will provide solid results and will last for years to come. Add a bit more to the price and you’ll have more power, more versatility, and better welds. Also, considering that you don’t buy any gas or other consumable, just the electrodes, stick welders are also affordable to maintain.
Before starting to look for the new welder, set your budget. Knowing your budget, it will be easier to find a product within your price range.
What Is Stick Welding?
Stick welding is a process also commonly known as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW). It can join a variety of metals with the use of an electrode and electrical current.
The history of stick welding dates back to the 1800s when a British chemist Humphry Davy created an arc between two carbon electrodes with the help of a battery. And in the 1880s the carbon arc and metal arc welding were introduced. The first U.S. patent for arc welding was granted in 1890 to C.L. Coffin.
Then around 1900, another British inventor introduced a coated metal electrode. He noticed that a thin coating of clay or lime gives a more stable arc. Later, in the period from 1907 to 1914, a Swedish inventor Oscar Kjellberg produced a coated electrode in the form of a stick that was dipped into mixtures of carbonates and silicates. And in the 1950s, welder’s manufacturers started adding iron powder into flux coating, which increased the welding speed.
How Stick Welding Works? Stick Welding Basics
Stick welding processes involve a flux-coated electrode, which the machine uses to form a weld. With a very light touch of the electrode to the workpiece and slightly pulling it back, it initiates the arc, resulting in the melting of the base metal and the consumable electrode. Droplets of the electrode are then passed to the weld pool. As the electrode melts, the flux coating that covers it creates a cloud of gases. This shields metal and helps to avoid oxidation. After, the gas cloud settles on the weld pool as it cools and then turns into slag. After completing your weld, this slag needs to be chipped off to reveal the finished weld.
Stick welding is very easy to learn, making it the most popular choice among beginners. The hardest thing to learn is striking an arc, which varies based on the electrode and metal composition.
Why Should You Buy a Stick Welder?
Like other types of welding processes, stick welding has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the pros and cons of this oldest method.
- It’s efficient, even when working in windy or rainy weather.
- Works without external shielding gas, saving you expenses.
- The process is very easy to learn and the equipment is usually easy to use.
- Affordability of stick welding machines.
- Is capable of welding a wide range of metals and alloys.
- You can easily switch rods for welding different metals. There’re rods that give more penetration, ones that burn through rust, rods for a smooth weld, and many other choices.
- The process is less sensitive to paint, dirt and rust. So you can cut on the pre-welding cleanup and prep time.
- They work great in tight spaces. For example, if you need to weld edges and corners.
- Stick welders are usually comparatively lightweight and considering that you don’t need to bring along a gas cylinder, these units are easy to bring anywhere you want.
- It provides an efficient weld. It’s ideal for situations when it’s important to get the weld as soon as possible instead of creating a perfect joint.
- Comparatively slow welding method.
- To get an accurate, clean weld, it still requires quite a bit of skill.
- Takes extra time for chipping away the slag that is formed by the gas cloud during the weld.
- Doesn’t work so well on certain thin metals.
- The welding electrodes need more frequent replacement compared to other types of welding.
Who Should Buy a Stick Welder?
Stick welders are widely used among farmers, pipe and hope welders, manufacturing and infrastructure welders. It’s the choice for many people due to its portability, ability to work in just about any condition, and the fact that the welder only needs to change the electrode to be able to match the metal, joint size and position.
The stick welding process is usually used when the appearance of the finished weld is not that critical. So it’s a perfect choice for automobile body work, art and other decorative metals.
Basic Stick Welding Electrode Selection
Consumable electrode rods are what drives the stick welding process. They look like skinny stick-like rods and are available in a wide range of types. Each one of them offers different mechanical properties and works with a certain type of power source. Before choosing a certain type, there are a few factors that you should consider. They include the base metal type, power supply, thickness of the metal and position of the weld.
Most electrodes will work with either AC or DC power source. Some of them can also work with both. The type of power supply affects the level of penetration into the base material. AC is the more common choice as it provides deeper penetration.
To determine the required type of current type for a particular electrode, look at the fourth digit of the AWS classification.
Base Metal Type
Another factor to take into account is the base metal composition. The electrode’s filler metal should match the base metal type.
If you’re not sure which metal you have at hand, consider the following.
- If you’re welding a broken piece or component, inspect the internal surface. If it’s grainy and coarse, it usually means that it’s cast metal.
- If your metal is magnetic, your base metal could be either carbon steel or alloy steel. If it’s not magnetic, it could be manganese steel or a non-ferrous alloy (aluminum, brass or copper).
- When you touch the metal with a grinder and see a flare of sparks, it indicates that it has high carbon content, for example, as in A-36 grade steel.
- If the chisel bites into the metal, then it’s a softer metal and it could be mild steel or aluminum. If it bounces off, then you have hard metal, such as cast iron or carbon steel.
The first two digits of the AWS classification tell the electrode’s tensile strength. Its match is important for the tensile strength of the electrode to match the tensile strength of the metal. This will prevent cracking and other defects of the weld. For example, if you’ll look at the E6011 electrode, “60” shows that the minimum tensile strength of the weld bead would be 60,000 psi. So this electrode would work well with steel that has matching tensile strength.
Base Metal Thickness
If you’ll be welding thicker metals, you need an electrode with maximum ductility, as well as low hydrogen content, in order to prevent metal’s cracking. Opt for electrodes that have AWS classification number with the last two digits being either 15, 16 or 18. They have low hydrogen properties and provide great toughness.
For thin materials, on the other hand, you need an electrode that will give you a soft arc. 6013 electrode is a good option in this case. Also, look for small diameter electrodes, as they will not penetrate deeply and not burn through the material.
Different types of electrodes are also suitable for certain welding positions. To determine what position the electrode is qualified for, consult the third digit of the AWS number.
Number “1” means that you can weld in flat, vertical, horizontal and overhead positions. And the number “2” is qualified for only flat and horizontal positions.
Commonly Used Electrodes
Below is a chart of the 7 most common electrodes and the situations they can be used for.
- 6010. It’s an all-position welding electrode. It offers deep penetration and can be used on dirty and rusty metal. Works only with DC current. The tight arc might be difficult for first time welders.
- 6011. Also an all-position electrode, but works with both AC and DC current. Has capabilities similar to 6010.
- 6012. Commonly used for gap bridging between two pieces. Provide fast and shallow penetration so would work on thin materials.
- 6013. The electrode produces a soft, clean arc with moderate penetration. Needs a cleaner joint. Less cleanup, as it has minimum spatter. Commonly used for welding new sheet metal.
- 7014. With minimum penetration, it works great on carbon and low alloy steel. Can weld with higher amperage. Keep in mind that it has a high level of iron powder, which affects increased deposition rates.
- 7018. The electrode contains high amounts of flux and iron powder. They are used for a smooth arc with deeper penetration and minimum spatter. Work best on clean metals. This easiest to use electrode is commonly used on thicker metals, such as structural steel.
- 7024. High amounts of iron powder in this electrode increase deposition rates. Works best with flat and horizontal positions. Needs a clean joint.
Stick Welding Tips For Beginners
Even though stick welding is one of the easiest welding methods to learn, it still requires a high skill level to master its techniques. Here are some of the most important things to focus one when tackling your first weld.
Since you’ll be working with electricity, you should be concerned about potential shocks. If you want a longer arc, you’ll need higher voltage. Always wear protective gear for shielding against electricity and debris from the weld. Protect your hands with heavy leather gloves, protect your lungs with a respirator and your face and neck with a welding helmet.
Even though stick welding is considered a forgiving method on unclean metals, it’s still best to clean the parts by brushing or grinding off the rust and dirt. This will help to avoid cracking, slag and fusion issues.
The acronym stands for the following techniques: current settings, length of the arc, the angle of travel, manipulation and speed of travel. Remembering these points will greatly improve your stick welding technique.
- Current setting. As we’ve already mentioned above it’s important to make sure that the current is set correctly for the application at hand. Determine if you should set it in DC+, DC- or AC. Also, choose the correct amperage, which depends on the type and diameter of the selected electrode, welding position, and visual inspection of the weld.
- Length of the arc. This point also varies depending on the electrode and application. Arc length should be longer than the diameter of the electrode’s core (its metal portion). If you’re holding the electrode too close to the joint, this will decrease the welding voltage and as a result, you’ll get an erratic arc that will either extinguish itself or freeze the electrode faster. An excessively long arc, on the other hand, will produce more spatter, low deposition rates and can create porosity.
- The angle of travel. For welding in a flat, horizontal and overhead positions, you’ll need to use a drag or backhand technique, meaning holding the electrode perpendicular to joint with a 5-15 degree tilt of the top in the direction of travel. For vertical position, push and forehand techniques are used with the top is tilted away from the direction of travel at about 0-15 degree angle.
- Manipulation. Develop your own style of manipulating the electrode, but first, observe other to find the best techniques. On thinner materials, you can sometimes use just a straight bead, as the bead will be wider than necessary anyway. On thicker materials, on the other hand, you can go from side to side, creating semi-circles or stutter-step patterns. For vertical up position, weld the sides of the joint.
- The speed of travel. For optimal speed, start by establishing the weld puddle and its diameter, and then travel at a speed that will the arc in the leading ⅓ of the puddle. Traveling too slow will result in a wider bead, shallow penetration and too much weld deposit. Excessive speed will also result in decreased penetration, narrower bead and an undercut.
Control the Spatter
Spatter won’t affect the quality of the weld, but it will take more time for cleaning and will leave the metal with a messy appearance. To control the spatter, you can lower the current and make a shorter arc. Also, make sure that you’re using the right electrode and correct range of amperage. You should also check that the electrode is not wet.
Weld cracks can occur due to a number of reasons. They’re unsightly and can lead to complete failure of the weld.
- It can be the result of high carbon, sulfur or alloy content, especially if you’re welding heavy plate and rigid and rigid parts. Instead, opt for low hydrogen electrodes with a smaller diameter.
- Also, when welding rigid parts and heavy plates, use high preheats.
- Weld rigid parts towards the unrestrained end, also leaving a 1/32” gap between plates, so it would have free shrinkage movement during the cooling.
- Before you break the arc, first fill each crater.
- To reduce penetration, you can lower the current and use small electrodes.
A stick welder is a great investment for both novice and intermediate welder. They are easy to learn, efficient and provide excellent welds. Of course, they also have disadvantages, but considering their price and features, we think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
Before you buy, check stick welder reviews to find the available highest quality products on the market. Then keeping your budget and requirements in mind, you can find the best stick welder for the money and applications you’ll be using it for. Also, consider all the factors wisely, to make sure that the power and features of the machine will suit your needs.