If you are reading this, you are probably looking for a versatile welder that can handle much of your jobs around the house – but are wondering what to get. In this article, we cover the best five of them, and you will probably find something that does work for you.
Stick welding, also known as Shielded Metal Arc welding (SMAW), is among the most common welding methods for home use, industrial welding, and farm based tasks. It also works quite well when you are doing outdoors welding tasks, or find yourself in challenging positions – much more than what TIG or MIG welding can do for you.
There are numerous stick welders on the market though, and making a definite choice can prove to be a daunting task – each offers you different attributes, price points and features – and if you are unsure, the risk of purchasing one that does not fulfill your needs is very high. However, you do not need to go through the struggle alone, as we have done the hard work for you and compiled it into a guide of the 5 best, which ones to avoid, and what to look for when you are purchasing a model.
Stick welder Model
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Forney Easy Weld 298 Arc 100ST welder
Lincoln Electric CO K1170 arc welder
LOTOS LTPDC2000D welder
10-50A (plasma cutting), 15-200A (TIG)
Everlast PowerARC 160STH welder
SUNGOLDPOWER ARC-200S welder
Forney Easy Weld 298 Arc welder 100ST – best budget buy
Like some of the other picks on this list, this model has an inverter power system, which makes it quite light and efficient in its operations, while allowing you to carry out all your welding tasks with ease.
- Has capability of handling both stick and TIG welding
- Inverter system
- Warranty period of 6 months (though it does not apply to broken or misused components or models)
- Allows for welding of metals that are between 16 gauge and 0.25 inch thick
- Includes an 8’ ground clamp and 8’ electrode holder
This model uses an inverter power system, with a 90A output that is enough to weld most household items and accomplish smaller jobs. It is also quite great for household use, as it uses an input of 120 volts, and the corded electric power supply also makes it possible to carry around with you almost anywhere.
This welder is lightweight – in fact, it is the lightest option ion this list. The cord itself has a length of 6 feet, and the build of the machine is quite durable for use in many settings. If you want to keep the cable and the machine in a safe place, the package also includes a carrying handle, which proves useful when you want to tie the cords and keep them organized.
The only disadvantages this model comes with. First is the lack of a TIG torch – despite the capabilities it has for TIG welding jobs, you will need to buy the torch separately, and the lack of the gas hookup is also disappointing. With that said, it is not a bad buy either, especially considering that it is a budget purchase – so you will largely get what you pay for.
- Great for various automotive applications for your home
- Easy to use and control
- Very lightweight (weighs less than 10 lbs.)
- Lacks a TIG torch in the package
- Lacks a foot pedal
This is quite the versatile budget option, which makes it useful enough to serve you in a variety of situations. It is also quite portable and versatile because of the low weight and compact design.
Lincoln Electric CO K1170 arc welder – our pick
If your aim is to get a portable welder, then this model is not for you. however, that criteria changes when you want a powerful and durable model – following the reputation of Lincoln Electric and their streak of creating useful welders that prove durable and versatile for a variety of situations. The smoothness of its arc makes it a great choice for any classic project you want to undertake.
- Weighs 90 lbs.
- Can weld stainless steel, cast iron, copper and steel
- Output range of 40 to 225A (AC)
- Amperage range for welding is 40-225A
- Metal thickness it can handle is at least 16 gauge
- Duty cycle of 20%
The usual case with any transformer-based welders is the demonstration of strength, and this follows the same case. The performance is quite impressive, as it generates a very smooth and stable arc, and even holds sufficient power to weld almost all metals, even those up to 0.5 inches thick, on one pass. In addition, the AC polarity it has makes it incredibly versatile in welding almost any metal you can think of, including alloys.
There are a variety of useful features, which make it easy to use, and the amp selector also helps in setting the current quickly, ensure the arc uniformity, and high accuracy in the welding process.
The combination of the duty cycle and the broad amperage range will allow you to handle much of your work without straining too much, although the duty cycle is not the highest we have seen. It does have a benefit though – you will rarely run the risk of overheating, contrary to what many other welders seem to have – such as those with a 40% to 60% cycle.
- Quite compatible with a wide range of metals and thicknesses
- Very easy to setup and use
- Produces smooth arcs
- Reasonable pricing
- It is quite heavy
This is the best choice when it comes to selecting reliable welders with a high performance rating, at a budget-friendly cost. Even though its weight will not allow you to carry it frequently to different places, it will still do its best to serve you well for as long as possible.
LOTOS LTPDC2000D welder – best for multipurpose use
If you are a DIY enthusiast or love welding as a hobby, this should offer you sufficient options for the job. However, it has a slight difference compared to all the other welders we see on this list – it does not have MIG welding, instead giving you plasma cutting functions. It will be a good choice for you if you regularly work on copper, stainless steel, aluminum, and steel.
- Non-touch plasma cutter with minimal slag, output of 10-50A
- TIG and stick welding output of 15-200A, though it does not include foot pedal
- Quick setup thanks to the air filter regulator and type D plug
- Advanced cooling system to guard against overheating
- Dual voltage input (110/120V, 220/240V)
- One-year warranty and 30-day money back guarantee
The build quality is among the best you will find, and there are numerous mechanisms to resist overheating issues. The stick and TIG welding functions can put out 200A, while the arc plasma cutter puts out 10 to 50A.
The result is a unit that is highly versatile in its usage, as it permits you to handle both heavy duty and light duty tasks, even at higher voltage settings – due to its dual voltage mechanism and the powerful non-touch arc welding function.
- Intuitive and easy-to-use control panel
- Uses universal frequency and voltage
- 3-in-1 welding functions
- Strong and durable build
- Has powerful plasma welding
- Ground cable is short
- Lacks a control foot pedal for TIG function
With this welder, you will have all the tools you will need for your work, including the welding of special metals – which you might not accomplish with a standard welder.
Everlast PowerARC 160STH dual voltage welder – great choice for beginners
This might be a more expensive option on this list. However, thanks to various factors such as power capabilities, stick and TIG welding abilities portable size and so on, it is a good choice to make – particularly for a beginner.
- Comes with an IGBT inverter design, which makes it lightweight and gives you better control
- Lift start feature, making it great for beginners
- Weighs 25 lbs.
- Comes with a convenient carrying case and carrying strap for portability
Among the best aspects of this machine is its portability, as it weighs only 25 lbs., and also includes a rugged carry case for extra convenience. The case has both a shoulder strap and handle, and it is in a compact size as well, so it will not take up too much space in your workshop. However, do not let its size fool you; it actually performs close to the level of top stick welder machines.
It runs on 120/240V power, which makes it useful for household use, while its digital display makes your monitoring and adjustments much easier. For added convenience, you can save your settings for the next time you use it, saving you from the trouble of remembering these details. Aside from that, you have a dial that runs from 10 to 140A.
If you want to do some welding on materials that have a thickness from 1/16 to 1/8 inches, this will be right up your alley – especially when you are welding steel. It can handle both stick and TIG welding comfortably, making it quite versatile.
The model additionally has an auto adaptive start, which means that you do not have issues with the rod sticking, and the lift start feature provides extra accuracy when using it. Its duty cycle, on the other hand, is 35% when you operate it at 140A, which is quite impressive for a machine this size.
- Gives you more welding opportunities due to the stick and TIG welding abilities
- Lightweight and portable
- Great arc stability for better quality welds
- Easy to use
- Dual voltage
- Good duty cycle
- A complete starter kit
- Lacks a foot pedal
- Only has DC output
- Lacks a gas regulator for TIG welding
If you want a small machine that is highly portable, then this is definitely one to consider in your list. It is also quite economical when it comes to operating costs, since it does not consume as much power. Even though you do not see much when it comes to features – it makes up for it through its efficiency, portability and reliability.
SUNGOLDPOWER ARC-200S welder – best value for money
This is quite the versatile and lightweight tool, which proves useful for a variety of different welding applications. The best aspects about it are the inverter technology, as well as its light weight.
- Advanced control module that supports dual input (110/220V)
- IGBT inverter technology that has 85% efficiency rating
- Anti-sticking mechanism that prevents overloading of the unit
- Includes an electrode holder, AC plug, and earth cable and clamp
- Duty cycle of 60%
- Can be used for all types of ferrous metals – including alloy steel, medium carbon steel, and low carbon steel
Many stick welders will connect to standard power outlets, as you might notice when you go shopping for one. While this is great because it allows you the chance to use it at home, it does not give you a hot weld. However, the Sun Gold will do its best to overcome this obstacle, as it uses an input of 220V, while the innovative IGBT technology (which is also present in a few other models) will allow you to handle a wide array of welding procedures such as MAG and MIG welding.
There is also a chance for you to use flux core welding and gas welding, which ensures you have all that you require on the job.
The duty cycle is also quite high, coming in at 60% at 180A, and this will enable you to tackle heavy-duty jobs with greater ease. The standard material it handles is aluminum, although it can also handle other metals and their alloys such as bronze, nickel, steel, copper and so on. Note that handling aluminum requires you to use a spool gun, and you can purchase that separately.
Inverter technology is the best aspect of this welder, as you do not need to use gases in order to weld items, and you still get plenty of arc stability. Other plus aspects are the selector switch that makes it easy to switch modes as you work, and the advanced control that increases your accuracy and efficiency on the job. There are also a host of safety features to reduce overheating and spatter, making your work easier.
- Portable and compact
- It has low consumption rate, which is economical
- Many safety features
- Uses IGBT technology
- Versatile usage
- The cable is short
If you want a unit that gives you less spatter and ensures your welds are perfect, then this is the perfect choice for you. It will work if you are patient and willing to go the learning curve, and will serve you well for a long time to come.
What we do not recommend
ESAB Thermal Arc W1003203 95 S welder – limited adjustments
Even though this is a welder that is basic enough to handle any small-scale task, and it does its job this way, it is quite disappointing due to its limited aspects and tendency to overheat at times.
It is fine when you look at the affordability aspect, as it comes quite cheap, making it an ideal choice for a hobbyist welder that does not want to spend too much. It also has indicator lights, which tell you the power consumption, whether there is overheating, or any other faults in the machine.
The welder can handle both lift TIIG processes and stick welding, but the major problem here is the limitation in its settings. That also makes one wonder whether it is worth the price it comes at, since it does not give you much value out of your money. The other disadvantage is the lack of knowing the exact settings it has, which make it a poor choice for a beginner welder.
- Low warranty period
- Inconsistencies in the results and the product
- The lifespan of the welder is short
- Limited setting adjustments
In addition, it can operate for a much longer period compared to other similar machines of the same size. However, it does not have as long of a lifespan, because of its low quality. It also gives you an option to connect a TIG torch and do some TIG welding if you want, but the preset settings are unfortunately too limited to handle extensive work.
What to look for in a stick welder
Whether you are buying a stick welder for recreational, professional or personal use, you need to keep some factors in mind when purchasing one. Before doing so though, it is important to understand what stick welding is and how it works.
Types of welding
Also known as Tungsten Inert Gas welding, this uses an electric torch alongside a tungsten electrode, which then gives the welding arc some power. You then add a filler rod, and this will weld the metals.
As a shield gas, you use an inert gas, usually argon – this will also act as a coolant for the weld puddle and protect it from contamination or oxidation. The method does not produce as much heat as MIG welding, and this makes it great for lighter metals and their alloys.
This involves the use of a MIG welding gun and spool wire when welding the metal. It can be used for a variety of surfaces regardless of thickness, such as stainless steel, nickel, or even aluminum (in some cases), and is among the easiest welding methods to learn.
However, it cannot be used for all metals because of the very high temperatures it produces, which can destroy lighter metals and alloys. In addition, the results must be free of corrosion, because the process is not weather resistant.
This involves the combination of the work piece and an electrode, and they are subjected to high temperatures until they melt, then the mixture is welded. In order to prevent contamination of the mixture, you use flux core to coat the mixture.
The process is the most heavy-duty of the three, and it is usually used when you are welding very heavy or thick metals. It also generates a lot of heat – even more than MIG welding. The process is also quite challenging to learn, because you will need to control the different elements of the process. However, it is the most versatile welding method, because you can use it to work on almost all metals.
What should you consider?
This is a combination of several factors – which include quality, brand, power output, and portability. It is good to pick something that fits your budget, but avoid sacrificing quality and the features that you require.
Any good arc welder can run from $100 to $600, but your choice will depend on what you want from it. Keep in mind that there are plenty of good machines that are outside of this range too, so make sure to do some research about it and see what works for your case.
There are numerous stick welders that have plenty of benefits that make them stand out from other similar models. However, there are basic features that all stick welders must have, because these are highly essential to the process. These features are:
- Overloading protection
- Input voltage
- Amperage range
- The type of arc welder
- Weight and size
These are the bare minimum that any stick welder worth your money needs to have, so make sure that these will match your requirements. Afterwards, you can check other aspects such as accessories, digital displays, and so on.
The construction and design
Aside from the previous factor, this may be the most essential factor – since it tells you the type of arc welder you are buying,
The most common type of arc welder is the stick welder, as they can perform plenty of tasks with great capability and ease. There are others you will find such as those that can perform TIG welding, and this is also indicated by the manufacturer.
If portability is a major concern for you, it is important to consider the weight of the welder. This will also affect the storage, as a lighter welder is easier to store compared to a bulky one.
When it comes to welding, the performance quality it has is essential to ensuring your finished work is of the best quality. the weaker the performance, the weaker the results –so you will have issues with your finished weld such as unattractive beads, weak joints, and compromised structural integrity.
Among the ways you can ensure the performance is of high quality, especially when considering a stick welder, is checking whether it has an inverter. The reason the inverter is there is that it helps to establish and maintain efficient and effective performance as you do the task at hand. It also helps in easier switching between DC and AC currents, which make the final result look more attractive.
Control of heat
To achieve a good quality weld, it is very important to control the heat output of the stick welder itself. This is particularly important if you are working with metals that are more delicate, as too much heat will warp them.
For some welders, the use of pulse welding is appealing when they want to reduce the warping of the metals. This means that the current is changing from high to low peak current as they work, while also allowing for stabilizing of the arc and reducing the heat that is getting to the material.
Solid duty cycles
These are the measurement that you will see when you want to know the output the machine runs for every ten minutes of welding. An instance would be having a 250A welder that has a duty cycle of 60% – which means that it will give an output of 250A for six minutes, then you have to allow it to cool down.
For the lower priced welders, they will have a duty cycle of 20% at most, and their power supply is also smaller. The best welders, on the other hand, have a heavy-duty cycle of about 60%, while mid-tier welders have theirs at 40%, but the higher it is the more costly the welder will be.
The simplicity of the operation
The process of stick welding will need plenty of skills to execute well, even more so compared to the other welding methods. However, that does not mean the machine should be extremely difficult to figure out, even if you are a professional welder. You will want your machine to be easy to understand and adapt for your work.
The controls should have a smart design and you should understand them easily, and the inclusion of accessories can make the work much easier. This includes aspects such as the welder having a nicely designed foot pedal, which gives you extra control over the output and allows you to focus on the task at hand.
If you can, make sure it always has a proper foot pedal – otherwise, your task of controlling the power will be difficult. If the machine lacks a foot pedal, you are better off making an extra investment to supplement it.
Protection from Thermal overload
It is a handy feature that increases user safety when using it, as it prevents the welder from overheating and shutting down – although you should still always wear your welding mask and helmet while using it.
Other welders will have a cooling fan when overheating occurs, if they do not use this method. At the end of the day overheating has numerous risks to it – it forces you to waste more time while allowing the machine to cool down, and it leads to an increase in shielding gas consumption. Therefore, if you can find a thermal overload protection mechanism in a welder, it is best to get it.
Regardless of whether you are an amateur or professional welder, it is important to always have a reliable machine that you can count on for your welding applications while still guaranteeing your safety. Stick welding is a highly efficient welding method, but still carries a lot of risks – so choosing a good quality welder is very important to produce high quality results.