Best Stick Welders: Weld Your Steel Properly
Consider these stick welders for high-quality welding of steel, stainless steel, cast iron, and more.
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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON November 20, 2020
If you need a welder, a stick welder is a great place to start. Stick welding, or shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), is one of the most popular welding techniques. With an electrode and an electric current that can join all kinds of metals, it’s a straightforward and versatile machine. A stick welder uses flux-coated electrodes to form strong, secure metals — and an electric arc takes care of the current to make metal molten. You don’t need a lot of specialized equipment when you start stick welding, as a stick welder is the most important part of the process. There are many different stick welders to choose from, making picking the perfect tool complicated. Check out the following top options in stick welders.
This stick welder uses advanced IGBT inverter technology capable of welding steel, stainless steel, and even cast iron. Multiple unique control modes help you tackle any welding work.
- High-intensity body with structural strength
- High-performance fully mute fan motor with instant cooling and synchronous control system
- Some customers have reported damaged products
- Make sure to inspect your product upon delivery for any missing or damaged parts
This option is easy to use thanks to a smart design and great versatility. It operates at 115 to 230 volts with a 60 Hz current and includes an electrode holder and a 6.4-foot cable.
- Can tackle stainless steel, mild steel, aluminum, and other metal materials
- Steel frame and a plastic handle
- Made with inverters that switch from AC to DC power
- Some customers have reported problems with the consistency.
- Some users have found that the welder will not maintain an arc
This stick welder is the perfect pick for anyone who’s just getting started with stick welding or who needs an effortless welder. It is incredibly easy to use, featuring Easy Start technology that makes arc strikes effortless.
- Operates on inverter power with 120-volt input and 90-amp output
- Handles a rod up to 1/8-inch
- Includes an 8-foot electrode holder and ground clamp
- Advanced welders may want to consider a different product for more difficult welding jobs
- For its premium price point, the welder is not quite as advanced as other models built for professionals
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Benefits of a Stick Welder
- Affordable price. Stick welders and all of their associated parts and pieces are relatively affordable compared to other welding tools — and that makes working with one quite budget-friendly. You can purchase a stick welder and other accessories for the same price (or even less) than basic MIG welders, which means you get great value for the money you do spend. Since stick welders require little in the way of maintenance, you won’t have to spend a lot over the lifetime of the device either.
- Increased versatility and flexibility. With a stick welder, you can do a whole lot. This kind of welder is one of the most versatile and flexible you can buy. It’ll work with different types of materials and metals, and you can simply swap out your electrode to tackle different projects. Jumping between different materials is almost effortless. And when it comes to flexibility, you don’t even need different types of gas. With a stick welder, you’re ready for anything.
- Beginner-friendly. Stick welders are fantastic for beginners. Because they’re simpler and a bit more streamlined in process than other welders, they’re easier for first-time users to master. The more affordable price tag also makes stick welders a good choice for those who are just starting out.
- More reach. A stick welder offers increased length and gives you more (or easier) access to tough, hard-to-reach spots. The stick electrodes on these welders give you anywhere from 12 to 16 inches of reach, and you can even weld in various positions and angles so you can get a job done regardless of what kind of reach or maneuvering you need to achieve.
- No shielding gas needed. TIG and MIG welders require cylinders of gas to operate — and each type of metal can require a totally different kind of gas. With a stick welder, however, you can completely forget about gas. This low-maintenance welder doesn’t require any shielding gas at all. A stick welder actually generates its own shielding gas from the electrode, which saves you money, time, and equipment that you need to carry.
Types of Stick Welders
AC stick welders, or alternate current stick welders, are less common and typically only used as a backup option to DC stick welders. AC output can be particularly useful if the available power supply has AC output only. AC output can also be helpful if your welder is having issues with arc blow problems.
DC stick welders, or direct current stick welders, are the most common type of stick welders. DC stick welders are more flexible than AC stick welders, and they can be used on a variety of projects, including DIY projects and professional welding jobs. DC welders are a safer choice, and are better for welding steel, reducing splatter, and are known for more stable arcs.
AC/DC welders can be alternated between AC and DC output depending on the project you are working on. DC output will be used most often, but if you are working somewhere that only has an AC output available, then the stick welder can easily be switched over to AC output.
Headquartered in China, DEKO is a reputable tool and appliance brand with customers around the globe. It’s known for producing high-end tools for both regular consumers and professionals. In addition to stick welders, DEKO is known for power tools, hand tools like impact wrenches, lawn and gardening tools, and more.
Founded in 2014 as an outdoor equipment manufacturer of tents and hammocks, Zeny has developed into a reputable company with a wide range of high-quality products. In addition to stick welders, Zeny manufactures desks, kitchen equipment, musical instruments, fitness equipment, outdoor canopies, and more.
Founded in 1932 and introduced to the public in the 1940s, Forney has developed into one of the most well-known manufacturers around the globe. The company has an extensive customer network approaching 20,000 retailers worldwide. In addition to stick welders, Forney produces TIG welders, cutting wheels, pressure washer accessories, welding helmets, and more.
Chicago Electric isn’t a brand that you’ll find at every retailer, but it’s one that’s growing in popularity. This brand, which is exclusively manufactured for Harbor Freight Tools, offers a product line of affordable electric tools, including an array of different welders and their accessories. Standout choices like the Chicago Electric 225 Amp-AC Stick Welder make investing in this brand’s tools a good idea.
As one of the big-name brands found at Northern Tool, Ironton offers tools that are a fantastic combination of value and performance. The brand’s product line includes tough, capable welding equipment like the Ironton ARC80 Stick Welder, along with an array of different accessories that you can use on the job or well beyond welding alone.
Stick Welder Pricing
- Under $125: Stick welders in this price range provide excellent value. While these stick welders are budget-friendly, make sure to purchase from a reputable manufacturer to ensure that the welder is high quality.
- $125 to $175: This is the most common price range for stick welders. Stick welders in this price range are typically high quality, but make sure to read the reviews and do your research before making your purchase.
- $175 and up: Stick welders in this price range are available at a premium price. These stick welders are typically of the highest quality and include several important safety features.
The amperage and voltage are both critical considerations when choosing your stick welder. The amperage of your stick welder will determine what you can and cannot weld. It is recommended to select a stick welder with 20 to 50 amps more than your work's recommended specs. With regard to voltage, most stick welders are compatible with either 110/120 volt input or 220/240 volt input. The higher the input power, the more powerful your stick welder will work.
Another important feature to consider is the duty cycle. The duty cycle of a welder represents the amount of time you can constantly weld before you have to let the machine cool off. A full duty cycle is typically 10 minutes. The longer the duty cycle, the more efficiently the welding machine can accomplish your job. If you are a professional welder or using your device for industrial applications, a higher duty cycle is needed.
Safety features are another one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing your stick welder. It is very important that your stick welder does not overheat while in use. There are safety features with many welding machines that prevent overloading, over-voltage, under-voltage, over-current, overheating, anti-stick protection, and thermal overload protection. Along with essential features like welding gloves and a welding helmet, a stick welder should be in your safety toolbox.
- Material. The type of material you will be welding and the kind of material your welding machine is constructed from are important considerations. While some welding machines come with a premium price, it is important to choose a machine that is built to withstand the test of time. Stick welders can be made from various heavy duty metals, including steel, carbon steel, and steel alloy.
- Portability. The overall weight and portability of your stick welder can be important considerations, particularly if you will be traveling with your welding machine or carrying it around your worksite. Most stick welders are relatively portable and can easily be carried by one person. Despite its lightweight and compact size, stick welders are still high quality and can be used on the toughest jobs.
- Warranty. The length and type of warranty are important considerations when choosing your stick welder. Most stick welders are produced by reputable manufacturers who stand behind the quality of their machines. Look for some type of limited warranty to be included with your stick welder. The limited warranty will cover any manufacturing defects or issues with your machine for at least many years.
- Versatility. While most stick welders are quite versatile already (especially when it comes to welding different metals easily), you should also consider how versatile it is in the types of welding that can be performed. Some — in fact, many — stick welders can also be adapted and used as TIG welders. Others can be adapted into multiple kinds of welders, all in one single device. This extra layer of versatility gives you even more possibilities and options.
Best Stick Welders Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Stick welding works best with steel that has minimal sulfur and silicon content. Try to use steel with sulfur content below .035 percent and silicon content below 0.1 percent to prevent cracking when you’re trying to weld.
- Make sure to properly clean each joint before welding. Remove any rust, oil, paint, and grease from your metal surfaces before welding a joint. If you cannot remove these contaminants, then you must use an electrode.
- Make sure to use the properly sized electrode for the type of welding you will be performing. For the best results, try to use the largest electrode that you can while maintaining the quality of your weld.
- If you are experiencing inconsistent arcs, then you may have a wet electrode. Make sure you always use dry electrodes to prevent issues with your welding arc.
- If you are worried about cleaning up, then you may want to consider lowering your current. Reducing your current will help to reduce the splatter from your weld.
Best Stick Welders FAQs
Q: Is stick welding stronger than MIG?
Stick welding has a much better metal penetration rate than MIG welding. Maintaining the arc on a stick welder will require additional amperage input for the welding machine.
Q: What is the best 110v stick welder?
There are a number of great 110v stick welders available on the market. Some welders even include multiple voltages. Read our reviews and do your proper research to determine the stick welder that is the best for your needs.
Q: What kind of welding is the strongest?
In general, TIG welding is the strongest and higher in quality than other types of welding. Depending on the welding job, it may require stick welding or MIG welding.
Q: What is the best stick welder for beginners?
All stick welders are actually fantastic for beginners. Stick welders are relatively easy to learn and master, and their ability to work with all kinds of metals without extra equipment or know-how means they’re great to learn on. However, if you’re looking for a quality stick welder that beginners can try and depend on, our top choice, the DEKO Pro MMA 160A Arc Welder, is a great option to begin with.
Our Top Pick
Our best overall stick welder is the DEKO Pro MMA 160A Arc Welder, which features IGBT inverter technology to deliver a powerful stick welder capable of welding steel, stainless steel, and even cast iron. There are several other great stick welders available, so make sure to read all of our reviews to determine if another option is the best choice for your welding needs.
For a high-quality stick welder, consider the DEKO Pro MMA 160A Arc Welder, featuring multiple unique control modes, or the Zeny Arc Welding Machine, featuring Easy Start technology that makes arc strikes effortless.