10 Best

Stick Welders

of September 2023

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A Guide to Selecting a Stick Welder

Yehudah Posnick

A stick welder, also known as a shielded metal arc welder (SMAW) or manual metal arc welder (MMA), is a type of welding machine used for joining metal components. It is a popular and versatile welding process that is widely used in various industries and for different applications.

Stick welding is known for its simplicity, reliability, and portability. It can be performed in various positions, including flat, vertical, overhead, and even in confined spaces. Stick welders can be used to join a wide range of metals, including steel, stainless steel, cast iron, and some non-ferrous metals.

One of the advantages of stick welding is that it does not require a shielding gas like other welding processes such as gas metal arc welding (= MIG) or gas tungsten arc welding (TIG). This makes stick welding a suitable choice for outdoor and remote locations where wind or drafts might disperse the shielding gas.

However, stick welding does have some limitations. It tends to produce more spatter compared to other welding methods, and the weld quality may not be as high as with some other processes. It also requires more operator skill and experience to achieve good results. Overall, stick welders are widely used in construction, fabrication, maintenance, and repair work, making them an essential tool in the welding industry.

We’ll go through some of the stick welders in the Best Reviews Guide list, looking at the various features that make one stand out from the others!


How does a stick welder work?

A stick welder operates by creating an electric arc between a coated metal electrode (also called a welding rod or stick) and the workpiece. The electrode is made of a core wire that is coated with a flux material. The flux coating serves multiple purposes, including stabilizing the arc, protecting the molten metal from atmospheric contamination, and creating a slag that covers the weld bead and helps in the cooling process.

When the electrode comes into contact with the workpiece and the arc is struck, the intense heat melts both the electrode and the workpiece, forming a weld pool. As the weld pool cools down, it solidifies and creates a strong, permanent bond between the two pieces of metal.

What kind of jobs would require a stick welder in particular?

Here are some reasons why you might need a stick welder:

  • Portability: Stick welders are generally more portable compared to other welding processes like MIG (Metal Inert Gas) or TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding. They are typically compact and lightweight, making them suitable for on-site welding or projects where you need to move around frequently.

  • Outdoor Welding: Stick welding is well-suited for outdoor welding applications. It can tolerate wind, rain, and other adverse weather conditions better than some other welding processes. The stick electrodes used in this process have a flux coating that creates a shielding gas to protect the weld pool from atmospheric contaminants.

  • Versatility: Stick welding can be used for welding a wide range of metals and alloys, including carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron, and certain non-ferrous metals. With the right electrodes, you can weld thick and thin materials, making it suitable for various projects.

  • Cost-Effective: Stick welding is generally more affordable compared to other welding processes. The equipment is relatively inexpensive, and stick electrodes tend to be more affordable than other types of welding consumables. This makes it an attractive option for hobbyists, do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiasts, and small-scale welding projects.

  • Simple Operation: Stick welding is considered one of the easier welding processes to learn and master. It doesn't require a high level of technical expertise or complex setup. With some practice and proper technique, you can achieve satisfactory welds using a stick welder.

  • Maintenance and Repair: Stick welding is often used for maintenance and repair work, such as fixing farm equipment, machinery, or structural components. It can handle dirty or rusty materials, making it suitable for jobs that require welding in less-than-ideal conditions.

Types of Stick Welders

There are several types of stick welders available on the market, offering different features and capabilities. Here are some common types of stick welders:

  • Conventional Stick Welder: This is the basic and most common type of stick welder. It consists of a power source, usually a transformer or an inverter, and it requires a separate welding electrode holder and a ground clamp. Conventional stick welders typically have adjustable amperage settings to control the welding current. An example is the Tooliom 195A Stick Welder.

Tooliom 195A Stick Welder

  • All-in-One Stick Welder: These are compact and portable welders that combine the power source, electrode holder, and ground clamp into a single unit. Instead of needing a separate generator, or requiring an electrical outlet, they’ll have a generator built in. All-in-one stick welders are often used for light-duty welding tasks or for hobbyist applications. They are easy to use and convenient for on-the-go welding.

  • Inverter Stick Welder: Inverter-based stick welders use advanced electronic technology to convert AC power into DC power. They are typically smaller, lighter, and more energy-efficient compared to conventional stick welders. Inverter welders provide better arc stability, more precise current control, and are suitable for welding a variety of materials. An example is the Zeny Arc Welding Machine.

Zeny Arc Welding Machine

  • Multi-Process Stick Welder: These welders offer multiple welding processes in a single machine. In addition to stick welding (SMAW), they may also support other processes like MIG welding (GMAW) or TIG welding (GTAW). Multi-process stick welders are versatile and allow welders to switch between different welding methods based on the project requirements. You’ll see them as “3-in-1” or “4-in-1 welders”. An example is the Amico ARC-160D Stick Welder.

Amico ARC-160D Stick Welder

Tomahawk 15 HP Engine-Driven Stick and TIG Welder

When choosing a stick welder, it's important to consider factors such as the intended use, the type and thickness of materials to be welded, portability requirements, power supply availability, and the desired welding processes.

What reviewers say

We went over some customers’ impressions of the stick welder that they bought:

  • Safety features: There are a number of safety features that you should look for on a stick welder, especially if you’re just starting out.

    • Overload Protection: A stick welder should have built-in overload protection mechanisms to prevent damage to the machine from excessive heat or current. This feature helps protect the internal components and ensures safe operation.

    • Thermal Overload Protection: This feature automatically shuts off the welder if it reaches a certain temperature threshold, preventing overheating and potential damage to the machine. It helps to avoid electrical malfunctions and reduces the risk of fire or electrical hazards.

    • Voltage Stabilization: Some stick welders come with voltage stabilization features that ensure a consistent and stable arc during welding. This helps maintain a steady weld pool and prevents fluctuations in welding current, improving safety and weld quality.

    • Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI): A GFCI is a safety device that quickly shuts off the power supply in the event of a ground fault, protecting the welder and the operator from electrical shocks. It is particularly important when working in wet or damp environments.

    • Overvoltage and Undervoltage Protection: Stick welders with overvoltage and undervoltage protection help guard against voltage spikes or drops in the power supply. These features protect the welder from potential damage caused by voltage fluctuations and ensure safe and reliable operation.

    • Electrode Holder with Insulation: The electrode holder should have proper insulation to prevent electric shocks to the welder. Look for a holder with a sturdy and well-insulated handle to minimize the risk of accidental contact with live electrical components.

Also, sometimes you can purchase a welding helmet together with the stick welder. Look for a helmet with eye protection, such as auto-darkening filters (ADF). These are preferable as they provide better visibility and protection during welding.

Important Features

Here are some tips about purchasing a stick welder:

  • Digital display: A stick welder does not necessarily need a digital display. But it can provide convenient and precise control over various welding parameters, such as voltage, amperage, and wire speed. It can also provide feedback on the current settings, welding progress, and any error codes or diagnostics. These displays can offer more accurate control over the welding parameters and provide additional information for monitoring the welding process.

  • Electrode types: There are a variety of electrodes available to use with your stick welder. They’re identified by a code that indivates the welding position, the tensile strength, and the electrode coating. The specific electrode types to use depend on the base metal being welded, the desired weld characteristics, and the welding conditions. Here are some common electrode types used with stick welders:

    • E6013: This is a general-purpose electrode suitable for welding mild steel. It provides good arc stability, produces relatively smooth welds, and is easy to use. It works well for thin to medium-thickness materials and is commonly used in maintenance and repair work.

    • E7018: This is a low-hydrogen electrode that provides high-quality welds with good strength and crack resistance. It is commonly used for welding medium to high-strength steels, including structural steel, pressure vessels, and pipe welding. It requires careful handling and storage to prevent moisture absorption.

    • E6010: This electrode is designed for welding in difficult conditions, such as when working on rusty, dirty, or painted materials. It has a deep penetration capability and can handle welding on mild and low-alloy steels. It is often used for pipeline welding and root passes in heavy structural welding.

    • E308L-16: This is an electrode specifically designed for welding stainless steel. It provides excellent corrosion resistance and is suitable for joining stainless steel to carbon steel or for welding stainless steel components.

    • E4043: This electrode is used for welding aluminum and aluminum alloys. It provides good strength and ductility and is commonly used for repair work or fabricating aluminum structures.

    • E7014: This electrode is similar to E7018 but provides a slightly higher deposition rate. It is commonly used for general-purpose welding, including fabrication, maintenance, and repair work.

These are just a few examples of electrode types used in stick welding. There are many more specialized electrodes available for specific applications and materials, such as cast iron, nickel alloys, and hard-facing. It's important to consult the electrode manufacturer's guidelines and consider the specific requirements of your welding project to choose the appropriate electrode type.

Final Verdict

We went through some of the best stick welders and their features, including their range of use and safety features. Whether you’re a beginner, or an experienced welder, you should find a stick welder that suits your needs!

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