Best Stick Welder – DC Inverter Portable Arc Machine Reviews [110v & 220v]

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You are looking for a good Stick welding machine for your garage and work around the yard, or people told you that if you want to learn to weld properly, you need to start with “Stick first.”

But… The budget is limited and there is not much and room for an error..

image of best stick welders

With that in mind, you should pick the best stick welder you can find.

Not easy, I know…

The solution: Take a little time before you spend your money on reading some reviews and comparing some stats and features (don’t worry, SMAW welders are more or less simple inverter welding machines, it won’t be a hustle) and pick the best one for your needs

Best Stick Welders Comparison Table

Welder ImageNameSpecialsVoltage InputsOutput Current TypeAmperage OutputDuty cycleCheck Price
yeswelder arc 205DS
YESWELDER Arc 205DSDiscount Code: 10% WELDPROS110/220VDC20-205A60% at 205 ampsCheck Current Price YesWelder
hobart stickmate 160i
Hobart 500570 Stickmate 160i/120/240VDC20-160A30% at 160 ampsCheck Current Price Northern Tool
hobart stickmate 160i
Eastwood Arc200i/240VDC20A – 200 A160 A @ duty cycle 30%Check Current Price Eastwood
Yeswelder MP200i image
YesWelder FIRSTESS MP200 5-in-1 Welder & CutterDiscount Code: 10% WELDPROS110/220VDC20-200A60% at 68FCheck Current Price YesWelder
hobart stickmate 160i
Forney Easy Weld 298 Arc Welder 100ST/120VDC10 A – 90 A30% at 80 ampsCheck Current Price Northern Tool

Lincoln Electric Stick Welder.../230VAC/DCAC: 40 A – 225 A
DC: 30 A – 125 A
AC: 20% at 225 amps, DC: 20% at 125 ampsCheck Current Price Northern Tool

Best Stick Welders Review

Whether you are searching for the best stick welders for beginners or want versatility and performance, our stick welder reviews will help you determine all of that. Here are our best picks.

  1. YesWelder 205A SMAW Welder
  2. Hobart Stickmate 160i SMAW Welder
  3. Eastwood Arc 200i Inverter Welder
  4. YesWelder FIRSTESS™ MP200 5-in-1 Welder & Cutter
  5. Forney Easy Weld 298 100ST, 120-Volt, 90-Amp SMAW Welder 
  6. Lincoln Electric CO K1297 AC/DC 225v/125v SMAW Welder
  7. ESAB MiniArc Rogue ES 180i Pro  SMAW Welder

1. YesWelder ARC-Welder 205A – Best Budget Stick Welder

Image of a YesWelder ARC 205DS

The YesWelder ARC-Welder 205A is a portable stick welder for both professionals and hobbyists. This is a perfect little machine for DIY projects and all kinds of work around the garage as it is designed for the easy weld.

The unit uses IGBT inverter technology with dual voltage input and offers automatic compensation for voltage fluctuation which provides arc stability. In addition, over-current protection, overload protection, and thermal overload protection features make sure you don’t damage the internal components.

Even though the manufacturer states you can run tricky 6010 electrodes, many owners report Arc-Welder 205A performs best with 7018. To deal with 6010, you will have to get a hand with settings, and you still might not get the best results.

This stick machine is our pick as the best budget stick machine in terms of the quality that it provides. Some of the features present on the YesWelder 205A, such as Automatic Hot start and Auto Adaptive Arc force you don’t find at some pricier machines. Brand-name welders may offer better quality but when it comes to the money, this one really takes the cake with its price range and should be considered as a good investment.

One of the things users had a disagreement with is the welder controls. Some welders found given amperage too hot, while others had to tune the power 20-30% up to achieve the best results. However, all agree instruction manual is poorly written. So if you are an absolute beginner, you might spend some time practicing. Nevertheless, the digital display shows amperage, meaning you can get it right every time.

On the other hand, most welders are surprised with the welding capability. This little welder is powerful enough to weld 1/4 inch (220V power supply) and 5/32 inch(110V power supply) thick steel. It is lightweight, convenient, and portable as it weighs only 11 lbs. Besides portability, it is also a reliable piece of equipment for any kind of home use as the components are strong.

Read the full review on this page

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Pros & Cons Summarized

Pros

  • Affordable price 200 amps welder
  • Dual voltage input model
  • Great performance
  • Lightest in comparison to other units, meaning it can be carried anywhere which is a big deal
  • Excellent versatility
  • Great customer service
  • Basic welding tools included
  • Digital display
  • Best for the money
  • Best at price point

Cons

  • Poorly written instruction manual
  • You might need some time to get a hang of controls

Specifications

  • Processes: Stick (SMAW) and TIG (GTAW).
  • Weld Thickness Range: Steel – 25 ga. – 1/4 in.
  • Weldable Materials: Steel, Stainless, Aluminum (stick-only).
  • Input Voltage: 110/220 V, 60 Hz.
  • Input Phase: 1-Phase.
  • Current Type: Direct current.
  • Rated Output: 205 A @ duty cycle 60%
  • Amperage Output Range: 20 A – 205 A limit.
  • Weight: 11 lbs.

2. Hobart Stickmate 160i – Best Stick Welder under 500

image of a Hobart Stickmate 160i stick welder

The Hobart Stickmate 210i may be an expensive product for some welders, but the 160i is specifically designed to meet the needs of beginners and hobbyists, but seasoned welders will like it also.

More so, its design breathes the quality and reliability that many welders look for. In addition, the Hobart stick welding crew went out of their way and added some decent features in this one. For example, the infinite amp control mechanism is worth every penny.

This Stick/Arc welder comes with is hot-start technology, which helps you strike an arc every time. The dual voltage input of 120/240V increases versatility, as you can use it in the garage, small shop, ranch, or remote job site location The sturdy and rugged design does not mean that it is heavy. In fact, at 15-lbs (6.8 Kg) of weight, it is easy to take around the various work sites. In addition, the small shape and shoulder strap increase portability greatly.

With the maximum output of 160 amps at 220V welding voltage, you can use Hobart Stickmate 160i DC stick welder to weld up to 3/8 inch mild steel with no effort but is also applicable for other thicknesses. However, you cannot use this welder for industrial welding applications. In addition, you can use electrodes of maximum size 3/32.

The entire package comes with a full set of accessories that include an electrode holder and a 2-meter power cord with a multi-voltage adapter so that the buyers are all set. However, more costly welders, such as Miller Thunderbolt 160, provide a better ground clamp and electrode holder. Nevertheless, Hobart offers an industry-leading 5/3/1 limited warranty, meaning your machine is well protected.

Even though most Hobart units are developed and manufactured in Appleton, Wisconsineep, keep in mind that Stickmate 160i and 210i units are built outside the US. Nonetheless, both units meet the quality standard manufacturer states.

A full review of Stickmate 160i is here.

Pros & Cons Summarized

Pros

  • Dual voltage unit
  • Easy to use arc welder
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Excellent user experience
  • Duty cycle indicator
  • Rugged case
  • Comes with everything
  • Has a shoulder strap for the convenience of its users
  • Hobart 5/3/1 Warranty, parts and labor

Cons

  • Duty cycle on the low end
  • Not for heavy-duty projects
  • Built outside the US

Specifications

  • Processes: Stick (Shielded metal arc welding).
  • Weld Thickness Range: Steel – 25 ga. – 3/8 in.
  • Weldable Metals: Steel, Stainless, Aluminum.
  • Input Volts: works with 120/240 V, 60 Hz.
  • Input Phase: 1-Phase.
  • Current Type: DC
  • Rated at: 160 A @ duty cycle 30%
  • Amperage Range: 20 A – 160 A.
  • Weight: 15 lbs.

3. Eastwood Arc 200i Inverter Welder – Best 220V Arc Welder

Eastwood welders are slowly becoming an essential part of the auto body and hobbyist industry, and Arc200i welder is no exception. This is a lightweight and compact, but well-built and capable arc welder. However, compared to other inverter welders on this list, this is a 220V only unit.

Nevertheless, this portable stick welder can output 20-200 amps, which covers the thin auto body plates and sheet metal, up to 3/8″ thick steel and alloy steel.

The rated duty cycle of 15% at a maximum output of 200 amps is more than enough for medium to light-duty welding projects. In addition, you can use 1/16″ up to 3/16″ rods.

Besides MMA, Eastwood Arc200i is also a TIG welder. You can change the given process by flipping the switch, but keep in mind that the TIG torch is not included. Nonetheless, you can buy it as part of the TIG welding bundle which also includes shielding gas regulator and extension cords, but with added cost.

Most owners complimented the smooth arc. In addition, the machine will fluctuate amperage when needed to keep your electrode from sticking to the workpiece. This feature makes Eastwood Arc200i a perfect arc welder for beginners. Still, as with other budget-friendly inverter welders, this DC stick unit can struggle with 6010 electrodes.

Even though Arc200i weighs only 11.9 lbs. this is still a durable and built-in USA welder. To protect your investment, Eastwood offers a 3-year warranty. With a thermal overload indicator, your internal components are safe. So, the overall value you get for the money spent is outstanding.

Some welders complain about the short 6 ft. power cord. While earth clamp lead with 12.5 ft. is longer than the competition, the power cord is significantly shorter. In addition, some welders offer shoulder straps which increases the portability, but you don’t get one with Eastwood Arc200i.

Pros & Cons Summarized

Pros

  • Great value for the money spent
  • Stick and TIG modes
  • Decent welding performance
  • Best for medium to low-duty projects
  • Can join both thick or sheet metal
  • Protection features
  • Built-in the US
  • 3 years warranty

Cons

  • Not for heavy-duty use
  • Short power chord
  • TIG torch not included

Specifications

  • Processes: (SMAW) and DC TIG welding capability (GTAW) methods.
  • Weldable Materials: Steel, Stainless steel, Aluminum (stick-only).
  • Input Power: 240 V, 60 Hz.
  • Input Phase: 1-Phase.
  • Current: Direct current.
  • Rated Output: 200 @ duty cycle 15%
  • Amp Range: 20A – 200 A.
  • Weight: 11.9 lbs.

4. YesWelder FIRSTESS™ MP200 5-in-1 Welder & Cutter

Image of a YesWelder Firstess MP200

While most people are after a cheap and durable stick welding machine, I’d seriously encourage you to take a look at YesWelder Firstess MP200.

It’s way more expensive than the YesWelder ARC-205A we mentioned above, but it also does MIG, flux core, and TIG welding, as well as and plasma cutting.

Nevertheless, this is a fully portable, dual voltage inverter welder. Best part? It’s actually incredibly cheap, considering what is packed under the hood.

The MP200 is not the lightest DC stick welder on the list, and with its 25lb, it is significantly heavier than other welding devices we reviewed. That’s because other devices are not 5 in 1 though.

Stick welding itself is very straightforward. The large digital display allows for simple stick electrode type selection, diameter, and detailed amperage adjustments. Just like Hobart Stickmate 160i, it allows for infinite amperage adjustment but unlike Hobart, it displays everything on a big LCD digital display.

With the maximum output current of 200A at a 60% rated duty cycle, you will weld thick steel without a lot of downtimes. But do keep in mind that this is a hobbyist-level machine. It’s unlikely to survive a brutal day in and day out the operation.

The arc start is excellent. Just scratch the metal with your electrode, and you are good to go. Even the 6010s will work very well with MP200, and that’s where ARC 250A struggled. Compared to other arc welders capable of TIG welding, this unit also includes a TIG torch and other accessories.

The large display on the front is very intuitive. You won’t waste much time setting up the machine, especially since it allows up to 10 saved settings.

image of the front panel on Firstess MP200

Most of us have our ways of getting things done, and this arc welder lets you save various settings and quickly load them up.

This is the best value welder on the market, all things considered. While you might be after a cheaper solution that only stick welds such as Zeny arc welding machine, please do check out the MP200. What if you change your mind and you want to get a MIG welder as well? What if you need a plasma cutter down the line? In that case, this will be a much better choice value-wise.

Full Review.

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Pros & Cons Summarized

Pros

  • 5 in 1 Machine, including a plasma cutter.
  • Dual voltage
  • High duty cycle
  • Intuitive large digital display
  • Ten memory settings
  • Everything is included in the box
  • Best value for the money
  • One year manufacturer warranty

Cons

  • Not recommended for heavy duty jobs
  • Expensive when compared to standalone stick welders

Specifications

  • Welding process: FCAW, GMAW, GTAW, MMA, and plasma cutting.
  • Metal Thickness: MIG: .031″-0.27″ (0.8-7.0mm), TIG: .031″-.098″ (0.8-2.5mm), MMA: .059″-0.19″ (1.5-5mm).
  • Weldable Materials: Steel, Stainless-Steel.
  • Input Voltage: 110/220V.
  • Input Phase: 1-Phase.
  • Current Type: DC.
  • Rated Output: 60% at 68F, 25% at 104F.
  • Amperage Range: MIG/FC/Stick/TIG 20-200A, Plasma 20-40A.
  • Weight: 25lbs

5. Forney Easy Weld 298 100ST, 120-Volt, 90-Amp – Best Stick Welder Under 200

image of Forney 100ST

The Forney Easy Weld 298 is an arc welding machine with an inverter technology power system. It comes with a 120 volts input and 90 amp output for light-duty projects ad home repairs. The manufacturer states that this welder is capable of handling electrodes up to 1/8 inches thick. However, with the given power, most users recommend the optimum maximum of 3/32 electrodes.

With the Forney Easy Weld 100ST, you can weld metal 16 gauge up to 1/4″ thick. Still, some welders find settings a bit cold, so you want to turn the machine up as much as possible.

The duty cycle of 30% is rated at 80 amps, meaning you can work for three minutes straight, before making a break. Even though this welder is capable of GTAW welding, the downside is that the TIG torch is sold separately. Still, having TIG welder abilities is an advantage as it increases versatility.

Easy Weld 298 from Forney is one of the best arc welders for starers. Novice welders can benefit from the fact that it is really easy to learn how to use it. You can make home repairs or maintenance work with it or any kind of DIY job. Also, this might be the lightest stick welder on our list. It is not larger than a bread box and thanks to this reason you can move it about any way you like and use it in different positions as it weighs only 9.65 lbs. (4.38 kg). The compact dimensions also save you lots of storage space.

Some added accessories are an electrode holder and a ground clamp with 8″ leads. Both clamp and electrodes are sturdy and, they will hold well. Since welder it is easy to use, it is also good for beginners who are just getting started or for someone for work around the home – great for consideration.

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Pros & Cons Summarized

Pros

  • Very portable and light
  • Easy to transport to the field situation
  • Stick and TIG machine
  • Great value unit all factors and stuff considered
  • Simple controls for amp settings
  • Infrequent arc outages with little exception

Cons

  • TIG torch is sold separately
  • Settings might be a bit cold

Specifications

  • Processes: (SMAW) and TIG welding function (GTAW).
  • Weld Thickness Range: Steel – 16 ga. – 5/16 in.
  • Weldable Materials: Steel, Stainless, Aluminum (stick-only).
  • Input Power: 120 Volt machine , 60 Hz.
  • Input Phase: 1-Phase.
  • Current: Direct current.
  • Rated Output Power: 80 A @ duty cycle 30%
  • Amperage Range: 10 A – 90 A.
  • Weight: 9.65 lbs.

6. Lincoln Electric CO K1297 AC/DC 225v/125v

image of Lincoln Electric K1297

Lincoln Electric might be a brand that is a bit on the expensive side of welders on the market. But it is one that provides quality welding units with great warranty options.

All of their products are NEMA rated, UL listed and CSA approved, and the CO K1297 AC/DC is o exception.

This Lincoln Stick arc welder is very easy to operate and is a multi-purpose machine. The Alternative/Direct current setting is mounted on the front side and it provides a smooth arc, which makes it easy to weld using different polarities.

This unit requires a 230V power source to run, but the output differs according to polarity. So with DC stick, the unit can output 30-125 amps which are good for 1/8” (3.2 mm) sizes consumable welding electrodes.

With the AC polarity, this welder provides 40-225 amp output, perfect for 3/16” (4.8 mm) diameter general purpose mild steel electrodes. The welding machine is easy to install as it comes with an attached input power cable and plug.

Although compatible with its size, Lincoln CO K1297 is a heavy-weight industrial welder which is not really easy to carry. With a 124 lbs. you will find it hard to move around without a cart. So, this unit combines the overall weight of all welders we reviewed so far.

Since this is a transformer-based welder, it also lacks infinitely adjustable controls. Nevertheless, transformer welding machines have proven reliable over time, but they are slowly overrun by the latest IGBT inverter stick welders. But don’t get me wrong, Lincoln AC/DC arc welder is still a good machine for versatile task use, particularly for a hobbyist for some use around the house.

When buying a renowned welder like this one, you get a 3-year warranty which is always a good option. In addition, due to popularity spare parts are easily found. However, some owners report welder damage due to poor shipping and packaging. So, make sure you buy it from trusted suppliers, such as the one we listed below.

Pros & Cons Summarized

Pros

  • The device can use both AC and DC input current
  • NEMA rated, UL listed and CSA approved
  • Welds carbon, low alloy, stainless steel, and cast iron
  • Great for the workshop, repair, store tasks or farm work
  • Runs great and the bead results are exceptional
  • Overall great quality MMA machine
  • 3-year warranty

Cons

  • More expensive than others on the list
  • Low duty cycle
  • Heavy body

Specifications

  • Processes: (SMAW).
  • Weld Material Thickness Range: 16 ga. – 1/4 in.
  • Weldable Metals: Steel, Stainless, Aluminum.
  • Input Power: 230 V, 60 Hz.
  • Input Phase: 1-Phase.
  • Current: Alternating/Direct. (You can use Dc or Ac)
  • Rated Output Duty cycles: AC: 225 A @ 20%, DC: 125 A @ 20%
  • Amperage Output Power: AC: 40 A – 225 A, DC: 30 A – 125 A.
  • Weight: 124 lbs.

7. ESAB MiniArc Rogue ES 180i Pro Dual Voltage Stick Welding Machine

ESAB Rogue ES 180i pro is an exceptional dual voltage Stick/TIG welder that can run on both 110/220V. The latest high-performance power electronics ensure reliability, easy and smooth arc start. With the DC current output, you can weld steel and a variety of other metals, such as alloyed steel, stainless steel, and cast iron.

One of the biggest advantages of dual voltage machines is that you can use a 110V power source to weld sheet metal and thin stock. Once you feel like you need more power, you can turn it up to 220V, and weld with 5/32″ electrodes on thicker materials.

The duty cycle of 25% is rated at the maximum power output of 180 amps, which is more than enough to finish any welding project without overheating. However, welder controls might be the main feature that distinguishes ESAB Rogue ES 180i from budget welding machines.

All settings are precise, and the display shows exact readings. A simple mode selection button helps you choose between regular stick/arc, 6010 stick, and TIG welding. In addition, welders can adjust electrode DIG for the best weld pool, or make start easier by turning the heat up or down. Working with tricky 6010 electrodes has never been easier, and you might have noticed many budget welders struggle with them.

Many seasoned welders that tried Rogue ES 180i complimented the bead quality. In addition, novice users report that the welder is easy enough to use. For increased versatility, there is a TIG welding option. However, you don’t get any accessories or a TIG torch. Nonetheless, none of the welders on this list provide it, so it is no surprise there.

Don’t get compact dimensions and a weight of 18.2 lbs fool you. This is a small, light but super sturdy welder. You can carry it around easily, or use a shoulder strap to keep it close. The casing is durable, and everything seems well packed. In addition, ESAB company guarantees a high-quality build and provides a 3-year warranty. However, you will have to be ready to pay some bucks for the brand, as it might be a bit costly unit.

Pros & Cons Summarized

Pros

  • Dual voltage input
  • Excellent build and bead quality
  • The smooth arc with advanced control features
  • TIG weld and 6010 modes
  • Portable and lightweight tool
  • Great for beginners and experienced arc welders
  • 3-year warranty

Cons

  • Expensive
  • TIG accessories not included

Specifications

  • Processes: (SMAW), Lift TIG
  • Input Power: 120/230 +/- 15%, 50/60 Hz
  • Input Phase: 1-Phase.
  • Current: Direct current
  • Rated Duty Cycles: 230V/ 25% @ 180A & 115V/ 25 %@ 115A
  • Output Range:  230V/ 10-180A & 115V/ 10-140A
  • Operating Temperature: +14 to +104 °F
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Weight: 18.2 lbs.

Stick Welder Buyer’s Guide

To better understand how to choose a stick welder or the best portable welder in your bight range here are some things that you need to consider and have to be aware of. It is going to help you when buying either a small stick welder or any kind that you need.

Basic Features to Pay Attention to on Every IGBT Inverter Stick Welder

There are certain things that not a lot of people will tell you about when it comes to setting, maintaining, and generally using stick welders. Certain practices can be acquired with experience and usage. But there are some things that you still need to hear from someone.

We are not shy about divulging such information and there are a few things that you have to pay attention to.

Amperage Output Range

When it comes to stick welding, considering the amperage is an important part of the process. First of all, making single-passes is the most beginner-friendly path of welding.

But in order to do it as best as possible, you should look at IGBT inverter technology welding machines that are capable of handling the thickness of the material a little higher than those you are planning to work on.

image of a worker

For making multi passes, more knowledge is required. A 150 amp stick welder can be a good choice as it provides good weld depth and can melt pretty much anything. Combine that with the skill of making multi passes and you are on your way to being capable of doing any kind of work that you have in mind.

However, the main thing to consider is still the amperage range. You should know how many amps you are going to use for a certain electrode. This is particularly important for working on thicker materials. Check the amperage range on the electrodes that you are going to be using. Each one of them has a recommended amperage that you will need to adjust your stick welders by.

The Duty Cycle

A duty cycle is the amount of time a welding machine can operate at a given output without exceeding its temperature limits. So, if a 285 amps/28 volts welder possesses a 40% duty cycle, it means that it can properly function for 4 minutes at 285 amps/28 volts after which it will need to cool down before you can come back at it again.

However, there are certain subfactors that welders need to consider.

The duty cycle and welding output are proportional. Therefore, when welding at lower outputs the duty cycle should increase. In that case, the machine mentioned above should increase its duty cycle to 60%. A duty cycle needs to be evaluated at a certain temperature. Most welders agree that the golden standard is 104o F. If the ambient temperature is lower the duty cycle will increase. Thus a machine welding at 70o F could potentially increase its duty cycle to 100%.

If you are using a multi-process welder with a multi-voltage system the welding outputs will change based on the process used and input power.

Material Thickness

With a stick welder, you can weld almost anything, even the thickest metals. It is meant for heavy-duty work so there isn’t even a maximum threshold that you have to worry about. However, you can’t go through a 1-inch plate in a single pass, it will most certainly require making more.

With a 120 amps welder, you can easily weld a 1-inch thick metal plate, in multiple passes, and with 140 amps one you can work on almost anything.

Inverter Stick Welder Useful Features to Look for

Let’s not forget some features that a welder comes with that you can use to your advantage.

Hot Start Feature

Hot start is a very useful feature that some welders simply can’t go without. Having a welding machine with a hot start can greatly improve your stick weld performance. It is a special feature for MMA where a peak current is created by the machine once the arc is struck.

This comes in handy if you are working in unlawful conditions by working outside as it allows you to start the electrodes without issues. Some problems that welders run into are damp electrodes or others that are difficult to run. You might be even working on an imperfect job surface.

All of that can be avoided if your machine has a hot start function, so you can just run it and you are good to go. It works best with the basic 7018 electrodes.

Arc Control or Arc Force Feature

image of a worker making a stick weld

Arc control, or as some like to call it arc force, is a very useful feature and a must-have if you are planning on doing some serious welding work. It is similar to the aforementioned hot start, except that it works during welding and not just at the ignition.

When the welding machine notices a short circuit while welding, it will immediately deliver a peak of current. It helps to stabilize the arc and will not cut you off while welding. It also prevents the electrodes from sticking.

Arc control is perfect when making small adjustments in arc length. Basically, the higher the value the longer the arc length while keeping it lower will result in a shorter arc length. From an operator’s perspective, it is comparable to amperage control, but still totally different.

In MIG, arc control allows you to set the inductance and slope. While in Pulse or Accu-Pulse mode, this feature can change the arc characteristics which you can do by preprogramming the factory pulse data. However, tinkering with the factory settings should only be done if you are having major issues with the program that you are using and is not something a beginner should do.

Anti-Stick

The anti-stick does exactly what the name suggests – prevents the electrode from sticking. There are a number of situations when this could happen and it even occurs to experienced welders. Having an anti-stick mode on your side allows you to detach the welding electrode if it starts to stick to the workpiece.

What the machine does is collapsing the welding current once it senses that the electrode is sticking. The electrode will not continue to weld itself to the workpiece and you can break it free easily.

The anti-stick function is something that you should consider using and will help you not to waste so many electrodes.

Multi-Process Machines

A multi-process machine is a great tool to have in your welding arsenal. The biggest advantage of these kinds of machines is that they work as a swiss-army knife. You can use it for different types of welding without having to unplug and set an entirely different machine up. Even professional welders have these types of machines in their garage, just in case.

A single MIG/TIG/Stick multi-function machine allows you to weld in three different styles with a flick of a button. But there are downsides to it, as cheaper machines don’t really perform every individual process properly. If you want a really good one, you should invest more money and buy a bigger one.

However, we still recommend getting one. Even cheaper versions are enough for smaller jobs around the house. Plus, a beginner can use this type of machine and start learning some welding processes without having to invest in a single expensive machine.

TIG Capability – Scratch Start vs Lift Start vs High-Frequency Start

A good TIG welder can come with some advanced features that will help you start the arc. There are three of them, scratch, lift, and high-frequency, and each one of them is beneficial in its own way.

Scratch start TIG ignition means scratching the tungsten electrode on the workpiece and pulling it away quickly to start the arc. At the same time, you can’t lift it away too far as it will extinguish the arc.

Image of welding using Stick and AC

It is the most basic and rudimentary method, but still effective, and is used on the cheapest kinds of inverters.

Lift start TIG ignition involves touching the workpiece with the tungsten electrode and lifting it away. The starting current is not too high so the electrode is not in any danger of sticking to the work. Once the machine senses that the contact is broken, it will start supplying a full welding current.

Finally, High-Frequency TIG ignition is the most advanced and simple one to use as you only need to position the tungsten electrode near your work and press the trigger to ignite the arc.

Comparing all three of them, the scratch start is the least expensive one. However, it is the least effective one as well. If you happen to find a machine with either lift start or HF start, don’t miss the opportunity to get one. HF start is particularly good to have and you can usually find it on professional welders.

Budget

People who are simply looking for a welder to help them with occasional work around the house or simple DIY projects are not going to look to spend large amounts of money on a 115-volt welder.

So unless welding is your source of income, you should look at some stick welding machines that do not cost so much but are still able to offer you what you need for occasional work. For those people, stick welders from YesWelders are perfect. They are the least expensive ones on the market but at the same time are capable of providing you with good, quality results. They are also quite superior to the other welder in the same price range.

But if you are ready to spend more cash you should look for stick welders from brands from a manufacturer like Hobart or Lincoln Electric. You should also be aware of the fact the stick welding machines that cost more money also come with a longer warranty as well and may even last for life.

What Type of Projects are you Planning?

You should consider the type of stick welder you need based on your future plans. For example, if your intention is to do some basic work or run a small welder’s workshop, you are not going to need all those big and strong machines.

However, even for that type of work, a medium-grade machine works best. The smaller 110v ones should only be used out of necessity. You can’t do a lot with them.

Pen to paper and determine the workload and projects that you are planning to work on. That way you can determine the best type of machine that you need to get.

Advantages

Stick welders hold a number of advantages compared to other machines. They can basically do it all. You can work outside and in different weather conditions, not even hampered by the breeze. You can weld in various positions and work on various projects.

Pipe welding and other similar kinds of jobs can be done with a stick welder, the only thing that matters is the power.

Basically, this is the most inexpensive welding method which also does not require expensive equipment. Stick welders themselves are also far less expensive than other types of welding machines.

Disadvantages

Unfortunately, even the best stick welders have their downsides.

You can’t weld fast with it as it is generally one of the slower welding processes. It also takes more to master as opposed to other types of welding. You can’t be a beginner and start welding off the bat, it takes some time to really get good and learn all the ins and outs.

Also, it is not a process that can be used for welding thinner materials.

Should you Use a Stick Welder for Auto Repair?

In theory, one can use a stick welder for an auto repair, but it is not recommended. Stick is not really good when working on thinner metals and may cause burn through. Using stick for auto repairs will require substantial skill and experience which not a lot of people have.

Being that auto parts are very thin, the most appropriate method to use is MIG. So if you are planning to repair some auto parts, don’t waste your time trying to do it with a stick welder. You will just end up losing valuable time.

Input Voltage and Household Current [220v or 110v]

A stick welder can come with both 110v and 220v welding power supply and can perform at both settings well. However, switching to 110v from 220v means working with half the power.

The advantage of using a 220v household circuit lies in having much more available amperage. You can also use larger diameter rods and weld thicker materials. It also has a larger duty cycle as opposed to the range where the 110v one tops out at.

If you run your welder on at or below the maximum output of your 110v welder you’ll see no difference, with perhaps the only one being the diminished duty cycle time for the 110v welder.

At 220v, you get more concentrated heat and more penetration.

Accessories and Consumables

Let’s not forget about the accessories and consumables that can sometimes prove to be much more valuable than they seem.

Cable Length and Thickness

A welding cable is used to supply the electric arc welder with power. These types of cables are meant to be both durable and flexible. A welder will constantly need to move around a workshop so you better have a cable that is both long enough and thick enough for the work you are doing.

A weaker cable can easily get damaged due to abrasions, cuts, burns from sparks, and oil and water exposure. When you buy a new machine, they don’t tend to supply you with the most quality cables. So it is a good practice to make a trip to the hardware store and get a more quality one. The weaker ones are subject to wear and tear and you are not going to want that while welding.

Things to consider when getting a suitable cable are ampacity, gauge, length, insulation, flexibility, and color. You might think that the color doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, but it helps to distinguish cables from one another if you have more of them.

Ground Clamp

Grounding is a necessary safety practice when working with electrical equipment, in this case, an arc welder that may consist of several electrical circuits. Grounding is usually made with the help of a ground clamp. The best ones available are those made entirely of copper as it is the best conductor of electricity.

There are several ground clamps, even magnet ones, but choosing which one to use entirely depends on the work you are planning to do. The most important thing is that the ground clamp is made out of solid material and that you are able to tightly fasten it to the workpiece.

It is very important that the area where the ground clamp is connected is wiped off and cleaned thoroughly. You don’t want dust or slag hampering the connection. Also, if the material originally has paint, be sure to brush the paint off to establish a better connection.

If you notice your ground clamp heating up, it may mean that it is faulty. You should definitely replace it as it could potentially start a fire.

Electrode Holder

An electrode holder, also called a stinger, is a device that a welder uses to clamp down an electrode and securely and safely hold it while working in any position.

However, you can’t have just any old piece of equipment here, you have to get one made of solid material, copper works best, that can clamp the electrodes properly. The electrode should fit tightly inside and should not be able to move around. If the electrode is loose it can cause a short-circuit.

So our advice is to not be stingy with something that doesn’t seem all that important but can create bigger problems at some point.

Basic Stick Welding Electrode Selection

image of a box of electrodes

Stick welding is not only difficult to master because of the technique, but it also involves knowing which electrodes to choose. There are many variables that come into play when picking the correct ones. You have to think about electrode diameter, flux composition, storage techniques, and performance.

There are literally thousands of welding rods to choose from, but the most commonly used ones are E6010, E6011, E6012, E6013, E7014, E7024, and E7018 electrodes.

The best practice is to pick an electrode that matches the strength properties and the composition of the metal you are about to work on. Next is matching the electrode type to the welding position and the used power source. Some electrodes are only meant for either DC or AC usage, but there are some that are meant for both.

Assess the joint design and choose the electrodes that allow for the best penetration. You should also consider electrodes with maximum ductility to avoid cracking on thick materials. Finally, one should also have production efficiency in mind. Using electrodes with high iron powder content (E7014 or E7024) will offer a suitable deposition rate.

Learning to Weld on a Stick Welder

Stick welding remains the most difficult welding process to learn and that is why you should learn it first

Good preparation and extensive practice are what will help you get the skill level for proper stick welding. Learning how to weld some basic stuff and small repairs will require around 5 hours of practice. It is not going to be pretty and the welds might seem rough, but if you are not looking to make a career out of it, this should be enough.

However, if you are aiming at an entry-level, about 500 hours of practice is needed while intermediate requires 900 hours. Making it all the way to the top requires 1,200 hours of practice and additional training that might last between 18 months to 2 years.

There are some courses that you can apply for and also find certain schools. But it is going to be hard to start doing it by yourself. You are more than likely going to need some professional help.

Inverter or Transformer

Choosing between an Inverter or a Transformer is like picking from being modern or old-school. Inverters are modern machines with constantly incising build quality that are light and efficient. They can be set to weld in different styles. You can use one to weld a wider range of metals as well. They have overheating and overload protection. Transformers are traditional welders. They are mostly used for industrial-grade stick welding and other heavy-duty work.

disassembled MIG inverter welding machine

Picking between them depends on your project. Inverter welder is more flexible and allows you to switch from one process to the other with ease. They can also be carried around a site as they are a lot lighter.

Transformers are famous for their durability and can be used in various working conditions. It doesn’t matter if you use them outside or inside. They do pack a bigger punch and can help when working on thicker metals, but you will need more experience to work with them. A novice is not going to be able to learn how to use it that quickly.

These days most of the main brands don’t even consider building transformer machines. The inverter efficiency, its features like overheating and overload protection, light weight, and the ability to weld everything from stainless steel to nickel and brass outway all the benefits of transformer welders.

Should You Buy a Used Stick Welder

It might seem that a used stick welder sounds like a better option but you should consider the risks involved. For instance, it simply may not be able to perform the way you imagine it would. This goes particularly well with the 220v/110v ones.

If you are going for a smaller and cheaper option, you should get a new one. They already come with a warranty and are generally not going to cost you a fortune. But if you have an opportunity to get a used industrial stick welder, you better jump at it. Those machines, even though they are used, can last a lifetime as they are build to last and are high-quality.

Safety

When it comes to safety, there are some standard safety procedures that you have to follow when it comes to arc welding. However, stick welding does create more spatter and a lot of sparks can flay around while you work. This is why you have to take some special precautions.

A welding helmet is a must. The mask will protect both your eyes and face from sparks and spatter. The same goes for your hands and arms. Wearing heavy leather gloves, an apron, and body protection with long sleeves is also necessary. You should button the sleeves up and the collar as well to prevent hot chunks from getting inside.

Finally, ventilation is equally important as with any other welding process. However, with stick welding process, some electrodes might give off dangerous fumes. It helps that most of the stick welding is done outside so the only thing that you have to think about is not holding your head directly above the fumes. But if you are working inside, a proper ventilation fan is needed. Opening a door or a window is basic but you should install an advanced fume extracting system. Also, pay close attention before starting to weld on a possible faulty circuit breaker or damaged power or welding cables.

Frequently Asked Questions [F.A.Q]

Are arc welders any good?

Yes, stick welders are good. The best stick welders are still capable of providing quality work compared to other forms of welding. Arc welding may be a timely process and some see it as a process for the past. However, nothing like that is true and it is a great choice for making quality welds in almost any condition and in all positions without a hassle of using shielding gasses.

Metal arc welding may not be as fast as MIG welding but it doesn’t need shielding gas which is a big factor and it can provide great quality weld whether you are working on cast iron, alloy, carbon-steel, copper, aluminum, or any kind of material that you have.

Are inverter welders better?

According to many welder reviews and research, these types of welders have massive advantages as opposed to traditional transformer ones. Inverter machines are very light allowing for more moveability around the worksite. Also, inverters are high-quality machines in terms of functionality.

They have multi-process possibilities. A single machine is capable of TIG, Stick, MIG, FCAW, arc gouging, plasma cutter, and pulsing. Also, machines like a 220 arc welder have the capacity of arc tuning for better arc control. Finally, these types of welders consume less energy than transformers and will help you save money. Thanks to these reasons they are clearly better for the buyer.

Is stick welding hard to learn?

Learning to weld with a stick welding unit if you are a beginner can be somewhat hard. The process these welders use is more difficult to learn but when you do master the skills, you will be able to make quality and exceptional welds and learning other kinds after will be much easier down the line. However, learning how to do it from scratch can cause some difficulties in the beginning.

First of all, beginners might find it hard to start and maintain an arc. Not being able to lay a weld bead can cause them to get discouraged. This kind of welding also creates a lot of slag and smoke from welding rods. The smoke will make learning weld puddle and temperature control a lot harder. Also, the slag needs to be chipped off the weld beads when you are done.

It is definitely a harder process for hobby welding or the first process that novice welders should learn. Learning how to weld with this process requires a bit more of a skill level, no one denies that. It is a necessary process to learn but perhaps later when one acquires more skill.

Is stick welding better than MIG?

Using a Stick welding machine can be much harder than trying to MIG weld. Both are used today, but the welding stick can provide deeper penetration when compared to certain MIG welding setups. However, it is harder to learn particularly for a novice welder. Some of the disadvantages are that the process takes longer and will require you to chip off the flux from the weld pool after you are done.

MIG welding technique is very easy to learn and you can start immediately off the bat by plugging it in the power outlet. Both can be applied for various welding applications and have the ability to weld different types of metal alloys, like stainless, copper, and many others. Although MIG welding is easy to use and allows you to make a good weld fast, the difference is that it can in certain situations provide deeper pene and stick welders can work with the less clean metals.

Conclusion

This may be an age-old welding process but it is definitely one that will not be replaced for a long time. With the quality that it provides and the various welding applications that it offers we are definitely going to see more of it in time.

These welders may not grace the covers of magazines nor do they look like pieces of art but they can come for an affordable price. We have reviewed the best offers that we could find and emphasized their top qualities in this resource. It is up to you and your personal needs to determine which one will be the most applicable one for you.

Photo of author

Adam Mason

Welder by trade for a decade and more. Now also a web designer and a blog owner. Doing product reviews and writing blogs about welding trade and perks and minuses of being a welder.

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