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Stick welding is mostly known as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW for short). This process is mostly used in home and industrial welding applications. It works better for outdoor welding and when you do find yourself in challenging situations. There is a wide range of stick welding machines that are available on the market today that come in different sizes, features, and prices.
With these many options presented to you, it can somewhat be a difficult thing trying to pick the best stick welder that would suit your needs. And for this reason, we have put together these stick reviews that will help you find the right equipment for your upcoming welding project.
Best Stick Welder 2019 Review
Lotos Technology LTPDC2000D – Best for the Money
Lotos Technology LTPDC2000D is one great multi-purpose machine that gives TIG, stick, and plasma cutter abilities. So, looking at this machine’s functionality, it is the best stick welder for the price. The welder is able to weld metal that ranges up to ½-inch thick.
- It has a non-touch pilot arc that ensures efficient cuts through surfaces that have minimum slag. You can cut the metal without the tip having to touch the surface.
- It is a 3-in-one combo, consisting of TIG, stick, and plasma cutter.
- Comes with dual voltage. You can run the machine on either 220V or 110V with the help of a pigtail, that can be bought separate from the machine.
- It comes with wide amps range for welding: 10 – 200 amps.
- It gives you up to ½-inch clean cuts on different types of metals. Also, the maximum severance thickness is ¾ inches.
- It is lightweight and portable.
- It has a 3-year warranty.
Forney Easy Weld 298 – Best Cheap Stick Welder
Another excellent stick welder on our list of the best inverter stick welders is the Forney Easy Weld 298 machine. It comes with 90 amps output and 120-Volt input. This does not seem like a lot, but it is enough for the best stick welder for beginners, especially at the price that it is tagged at.
- It has both TIG and stick capability. With this stick welder machine, switching between the two is very easy and simple. All you need to do is flip the switch that is provided.
- Although, you should know this, that the torch is not a part of this welder’s package.
- The inverter system makes the welder lightweight and very easy to use.
- It has a 90-amp power output that is enough for automotive applications and different projects around the home.
- This stick welder can handle up to 1/8-inch electrode.
- It can weld metals 16-gauge up to 5/6-inch thick.
- The lightest stick welder on this list of top stick welders. It weighs just about 10 pounds.
Everlast PowerARC 160STH – Best Value
This machine, the Everlast PowerARC 160STH small stick welder, is a power packed machine that is great for first timers, hobbyists, and professionals alike.
If what you are looking for is something that is heavy-duty, this best arc welder is certainly a product that is worth your consideration. It is quick and easy to set up, and it makes for an efficient tool for high quality welding.
- It comes with a dual voltage feature. The 120v/220v dual voltage feature allows you get the pro-welding experience. You can use the 120v for quick jobs around the house and take advantage of the 220v for more heavy-duty welding jobs.
- It has TIG and arc. This machine’s provided versatility gives you more welding options. With just a simple switch, you can go from doing fine details on aluminum to working on ¼-inch steel plates in just a matter of seconds.
- HF and lift start options are features included in this machine. if you choose to weld without the pedal, you can use the lift start feature. HF is great for the times when you are working in bad weather conditions or an area with a lot of wind.
- It comes with a 5-year warranty for both parts and labor.
- This IGBT inverter gives you a smooth and stable arc.
- It uses low amounts of power. The duty cycle of this stick welder is rated 35% at 160 amps.
- Great amp range: 10 – 160 amps.
- Its portability. You can easily pick this machine up in the included carrying case and you can take it anywhere for welding where there is a source of power.
Amico Power DC-160A – Best Rated Stick Welder
The Amico Power DC-160A is quite new to the market, but it has shown itself to be the best stick welder for home use for the many users of this machine. it come with a bit of power in a tiny, portable package. With its 160 amps of output power, this machine is capable of welding materials up to ¼-inch thick. It works well on steel as well as on other hard and dense surfaces.
- Ease of setup. In the box, you have everything that you will need to setup the rig, everything except the electrodes.
- It has better control. This unit comes with 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 there is a need to create more power, a microprocessor control switches this energy to a second transformer.
- It has an LED display. This inverter welder displays information in a digital form, and this makes it easy for you to understand the power that is being used or that is needed.
- High duty cycle. With a solid duty cycle of 60% at 160 amps, you will be able to weld for longer periods of time without you having to wait all day for it to cool down.
- Dual voltage. So that you can get the full advantage of its 160-amp metal melting power, there is a dual voltage feature for you. So, you can either choose to use it with a standard 115V outlet or you can use the adapter that is added for 230V.
- Infinity amperage control. You have the option of controlling the amperage so that it fits your exact settings.
- Affordable stick welder. You will be getting a high-quality stick welder at such a low price.
- Portable stick welder. This unit weighs just about 18 pounds, and it also has a compact construction; its size is a lifesaver if you are the type that moves around a lot.
Century Inverter Arc 120
The Century Inverter Arc 120 is another good stick inverter that comes at an affordable price. This machine also comes with great capabilities for taking on most welding tasks that you will throw at it.
- It gives a smooth arc. It can weld sheet metal from 18-gauge to ¼-inch steel.
- It has a good welding amp range: 10 – 90 amps. It might not seem like a lot, but it is a good range for a beginner level stick welder and still provides good versatility in a range of applications.
- It runs on a volt of 120.
- It is very light, weighing just 14 pounds, with a shoulder strap, making it very easy for you to carry and use wherever you need to use it.
How to Choose the Best Stick Welder for Home Use or Workshop
Stick welders gives you a simple, affordable, and highly reliable option for creating strong welds on a wide range of materials. Below are a few things that you would need to consider before you choose the best arc welder.
One of the first things that you would need to consider before you buy a new stick welder should be what you will be using it and for just how much power it will require. You should think of the metals that you will be welding and their thickness. Additionally, when trying to determine the power that you would need, you should keep in mind the size of the electrode that you will be using. Below, we will be going into more details about the electrode types that we have.
- When it comes to the power, the output amperage is the single most important factor. If your welder is too weak, you will need to make multiple passes to complete a weld, wasting your both your time and energy. If you are a starter who is looking for the maximum output of at least 80 amps, but you are doing some regular welding, it is better for you to get a machine that has at least 100 amps.
- The input is usually measured in volts, and just like with the output, the right amount of power will sure give you the best results. In a standard North American home, there usually is a single phase 110v – 120v power source. If you are a hobbyist welder, there usually is enough power. If you will be doing a heavy-duty work, there is also the option of 220v – 240v. the higher the input the higher the amperage for welding and for a cleaner arc.
When it comes down to the output current type, you will have three options: AC, DC, and both options.
- The AC (Alternating Current) option is mostly found on entry-level stick welders. Users usually go for AC, when there is no DC option available. Another situation where AC can be used when the metal gets magnetized by friction and that usually makes the arc blow.
- This type of power option is usually more common than the AC. You can use it in about (almost) any situation. The magnetized metal situation mentioned is the only exception. With the DC power, you will have an arc that is quite easy to start, that is more stable, smoother, and has less spatter. It is also better for you to choose DC power if you will be doing some vertical and overhead welding.
DC also has two polarities, and this depends on which you have different welding features. DC negatives gives you less penetration, but it has more deposition, while DC positive works totally in the opposite way, it has more penetration but with less deposition.
Duty cycle refers to the amount of time that you can continuously weld before you need to let the of 35% at 160 amps, what this means is that the machine is able to run for 3.5 minutes before you would need to leave resting for 6 and the half minutes.
A longer duty cycle will help make your work more efficient and you will be able to work for longer without the machine overheating. If you are just using the welder for an occasional home repair work or some other hobby welding, you just might not be in a time crunch. But if you know that the time is very vital, it can be quite annoying if you will need to stop welding every 2 minutes.
Inverter or Transformer
Stick welders usually come in two types: inverters and transformers. The inverters are quite more popular, and they are the go-to option for many welders. Although, there are advantages and disadvantages that come with both of them.
Inverter. Inverters are the most popular choice. All the welders that we have covered in this stick welders review are inverters. They are very portable, weighing just about 20 pounds. Some of the simpler inverters usually weigh just 15 pounds. So, it is quite easy for you to transport them and they take up less storage space. Inverters are usually commended for a smoother and more stable arc. Also, it is worth noting than an inverter can help save you money in the long run, since they have been proven to be far more efficient in comparison to transformers.
Transformer. This type is perfect for heavy-duty work and they take up a lot of power. Their solid constructions are made like tanks. They weigh more than inverters do and they also take up lot of storage space. The initial cost is usually low, but they are made to last for a very long time. This might be a good stick welder for you, that is if you are looking to do some occasional welding.
If you are a rookie welder, it is vital that all the controls and the display are easy to view and understand. The controls should be big enough so that you can easily switch them even when your hands are gloved, so that you do not have to waste your time.
The good thing is, stick welding is very basic, so, on most of the welders, you will find that they have easy to use controls.
The most basic stick welder would come with an on/off switch controls that will work in adjusting the amperage, and there would also be a display where you can view the power. On some of the more advanced welders, you will find the extra options. They come with duty cycle warnings, AC/DC switch, and a voltage switch. But these are just bonuses. So, it is up to your own personal preferences if you need them or not.
For your own personal safety, welders come fitted with some protective features.
- Duty cycle indicator. The main purpose of this safety feature in this machine is to help prevent it from overheating. As you approach the end of the machine’s duty cycle, an indicator will light up, getting brighter. You probably would need to keep an eye on the light, so, you can turn off the machine when the cycle ends. If you are not very vigilant, though, and you miss the light, the thermal overload protection function kicks in.
- Thermal overload protection. This feature would automatically shut off the welder before it gets too hot. With this feature, you will be able to just focus 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 is cooled down.
If you are looking for a bit more versatility, you can choose to go for a welder that has both TIG and stick abilities. For a multi-process operation, there is an MIG capability that is thrown into the package.
These days, the TIG and stick combo is getting more and more popular and single process stick welders are getting more and more the exception. Although, you can still find a single process stick welder on the market. But with the advancement in technologies today that are able to cram so much power into these units, why don’t you just get a machine that will be able to do all? This way, you will have a lot more options at your disposal.
If you know just what you will be welding and you know that you only need a good stick, then, of course, you just might need to spend extra money for the multi-purpose machine.
One of the stick welders’ advantages is the fact that they are portable. And with many welders nowadays that are working as freelancers, moving from one site to another quickly and easily is quite important. So, it becomes very important for the welder to choose the best portable stick welder.
If you know that you are very concerned about your machine’s portability, then you should look at inverter welders. With transformers, the difference in both and size is big. Some of the best stick inverter stick welder have a weight of about 10 to 20 pounds. You should compare that to 90 pounds or more of the transformers.
Stick welders are usually the cheapest welding machines that you can find on the market. For the price of about $200, you can get a budget stick welder that will give you great results and will stay with you for a long time to come. You can add a bit more to the price and you will have more power, more versatility, and better welds. Also, considering that you do not buy any gas or some other consumable, just the electrodes, stick welders are affordable and easy to maintain.
Before you start to look into buying that new welder, you should set your budget. Knowing how much you have will make it easier for you to find a product that is within that set price range.
How Stick Welding Works
Stick welding processes involve a flux-coated electrode, which the machine uses to form a weld. With a light touch of the electrode to the workpiece and slightly pulling it back, it would initiate the arc, and this would result in melting of the base metal and the consumable electrode. Droplets of the electrode are then transported to the weld pool. As the electrode starts to melt, the flux coating that covers it would create a cloud of gases. And this would shield metal and would avoid oxidation. After this, the gas cloud would settle on the weld pool as it cools and then turns into slag. After you complete your weld, this slag would need to be chipped off so that it can reveal the finish weld.
Stick welding is very easy to learn, and for this reason, it is the most popular choice among beginners. The hardest thing that you would need to learn is striking an arc, and this differs, based on the electrode and metal composition.
Advantages of a Stick Welder
- It is efficient even when you are working with it in a windy or rainy weather.
- It works without any external shielding gas, and this saves you some money.
- The process is very easy to learn, and the equipment is also easy to use.
- It is very affordable.
- It is capable of welding a wide range of metals and alloys.
- You will be able to switch rods easily for welding different metals. There are rods that would give more penetration, the ones that burn through rust, rods for a smooth weld, and for many other choices.
- The process of stick welding is less sensitive to paint, dirt, and rust. So, you can cut on the pre-welding cleanup and prep time.
- They work well in tight places.
- They are comparatively lightweight and seeing as you do not need to bring along a gas cylinder, these units are quite easy to bring anywhere you want.
- The stick welder gives you an efficient weld. It is great for situations when it is important for you to get the weld as soon as possible instead of creating a perfect joint.