Shielded Metal Arc Welding is popularly known as stick welding and it is one of the most common type of welding processes for both home-based and industrial welding applications. Normally, a stick welder will be customized to perform stick welding applications only or it will be a multipurpose welder whereby it can perform a wide range of welds including stick welds. Both have their advantages as we have explained in our review.
There are quite a number of stick welders available in the market and choosing the best machine is a daunting task especially for many beginners. We have selected the best and listed them below and we have also provided some important tips to help you choose the most appropriate machine.
Here is a quick comparison of the product’s key features even before we go into detail of these top-rated stick welders.
Comparison Table for the Best Stick Welders 2021
1. Amico ARC-160D Review Overall Best for 2021
Amico ARC-160D is solidly built yet very portable and it delivers a very smooth arc making it one of the most highly reliable and very efficient stick welder in the market. This compact machine welds at 115V/230V dual voltage and it a complete package with outstanding features and it comes with the necessary accessories such as the electrode holder, a plug, an input power adapter and a 10 feet cable to get you started right away
Amico ARC-160D Key Features and Benefits
- LED Meter: One important feature with Amico ARC-160D is the LED meter which gives the user an upper hand when it comes to the amperage of the machine. This meter enables you to determine your own settings for the machine and apply them as per the needs of particular welds.
- Voltage protection: Voltage protection is another important attribute that comes with Amico ARC-160D whereby your machine is protected from both over-voltage and under-voltage. This helps to improve the lifespan of the product. In addition to voltage protection, this machine has feature that protect it against overloads and over-current which is coupled with a 60% duty cycle to deliver an outstanding performance.
- IGBT technology: Amico ARC-160D employs the An insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) technology for energy efficiency which means that this machine consumes little power hence saving on energy costs. This machine also has an inverter system which works together with the IGBT technology to enhance the results and reduce costs of operation. Additional, this machine has the ability to work on different electrode forms ranging from a basic electrode to the acid electrode.
- Broad range of applications and accessories: Amico ARC-160D works on broad range of material from thin to thick surface for various applications ranging from simple home-related tasks to moderate repair and maintenance jobs. This machine also comes with all accessories that are necessary for it operations meaning you are ready to go soon after you set it up.
- This unit is versatile as it can be used for different welding operations..
- Very lightweight, hence it is highly portable.
- Easy to set up and it comes with all accessories.
- It is ETL listed meaning it has met all safety requirements.
- Prevents overheating.
- It is DC compatible only.
- It is not durable.
Amico ARC-160D is our number one pick based on its advanced and outstanding features. Although it is a small machine, it is solidly built and has so much power behind it enabling it to deliver great results.
2. AHP AlphaTIG Review
From the name itself, this is a TIG welder with stick function which means that any welder whether a professional or hobbyist can use this welder over a wide range of operations. It is AC/DC compatible with an output of 200 amps and it also provides dual voltage for running simple household tasks or heavy-duty applications.
AHP AlphaTIG Key Features and Benefits
- 2T/4T Compatibility: AHP AlphaTIG is compatible with 2T/4T functions which allow the machine to be controlled with a remote switch. These functions also allows other programmable feature such as control of pre and post flow, start and end cycle amperes among others without the need for the foot pedal. Ideally, this feature allows you to weld in awkward positions where the foot pedal cannot be used.
- The Advanced Inverter Technology: AHP AlphaTIG is designed with the advanced inverter technology which responsible for converting DC current to AC as well as controlling input voltage and output voltage. The inverter technology works together with the IGBT technology to elevate the working frequency, prevent power loss thus delivering consistent welding.
- Proper Control: It is crucial for you to have better control of any device for better results and for safety measures as well. That said, AHP AlphaTIG comes with a conveniently placed foot pedal which allows you to work with both hands enabling you to deliver precise welding. It also has TIG accessories, an anti-stick control along with other control functions which allows the user to have better control of the machine hence making it easy to operate.
- AC/DC capability: AHP AlphaTIG is AC/DC enabled and you can easily switch between the two currents depending on the nature of the weld which is enabled by the IGBT technology. For example, if you are working on steel, DC output will be enough but if you are dealing with other metal such as aluminum, then you will need to use AC current.
- It offers a great duty cycle (60%).
- It is a dual-voltage machine as such it is perfect for both professional and DIYer users.
- It does not overheat even at high amperage.
- Outstanding arc control
- AC/DC output.
- The foot pedal requires some rubber feet for it to be stable on the floor.
- It is sometimes hard to set it up as minimal information is provided in the user manual.
AHP AlphaTIG is a useful device for your welding operations which can be used for different purposes and under different conditions. It is a reliable and user-friendly machine for learners and experienced welders as well.
3. LOTOS TIG200 200A AC/DC
The TIG200 200A AC/DC from LOTOS provides the perfect versatility for any kind of project and one amazing thing is that this machine is very user-friendly as it is packed with an array of controls that are conveniently placed and are very easy to use. This welder doesn’t overheat and it produces AC/DC 200 amps with a seamless switch between the stick and TIG welding modes.
LOTOS TIG200 200A AC/DC Key Features and Benefits
- Perfect for Aluminum Welding: This machine features a TIG 200’s square-wave inverter which makes it perfect for aluminum welds. It is very tricky to weld aluminum which where this inverter comes, enabling to you to achieve accurate aluminum welds. The square inverter delivers consistent temperature continuously and it can also be used to weld stainless steel and mild steel.
- Automatic Dual Frequency and Dual Voltage: This unit runs on dual voltage of 110V /220V and dual frequency 50Hz/60Hz enabling you to work over a wide range of applications. The machine has an adapter plug that enables the user to switch between the two voltages depending on the necessity of the voltage. As such you don’t have to worry on whether you need 110V or 220V as the machine will adjust accordingly
- Control Functions: LOTOS TIG200 200A control panel features various control functions for pre and past flow, voltage effect, down slope among other effects. These control effects gives the user a lot of control over the weld hence delivering quality welds. These controls are simple to interpret and they are well placed.
- Extra flexibility and High Protection Grade: This machine ensures maximum convenience for your home workshop or heavy duty /industrial applications. It also features high-grade protection which means that it can be used for serious welding projects and the good thing is that this machine does not overheat. As such it user-friendly even for beginners.
- The panel features advanced control functions.
- It is user-friendly even for entry-level users as it does not overheat.
- It has both AC and DC output.
- Dual frequency and dual voltage benefits.
- Great performance due to great precision control.
- It is not portable, limiting you from moving around with it.
- It requires regular dust removal to avoid build up.
- Handling the foot pedal can be hard to learn.
LOTOS TIG200 200A is designed to handle a lot of different operations and it is packed with great features and it is certainly a good unit for welders on a budget.
4. Forney Easy Weld 298
The product’s name defines itself, “easy weld” which means that Forney Easy Weld 298 is a simple to use machine ensuring a stress-free operation, delivering high results. It is packed with innovative features and it is efficiently designed to deliver a 120V input not forgetting that it is very cost effective, ready to use from the box and it is TIG compatible.
Forney Easy Weld 298 Key Features and Benefits
- Stick and TIG Capability: Just like most welders in our review, Forney Easy Weld 298 has both stick and TIG capabilities and you can switch between the two modes by just a flip of a switch. This means that you can use this machine to weld almost all metals and it comes with a variety of filler metals to meet different weld parameters. However, this unit does not come with the TIG torch as such you need to buy it separately.
- The Inverter System: Forney Easy Weld 298 features a very powerful inverter system that eliminates the need for compressed gas. This system also enables the machine to work in rusty, windy, and dusty environments that limit other ordinary welders. In addition to this, it delivers a smooth arc and it can weld from different positions and it can also weld from a long distance.
- Flexibility and Portability: Forney Easy Weld 298 is lightweight and you can carry it to different workstations. It comes with a 6 feet cord which makes you flexible around your work area, and you can wrap the cord neatly around the inbuilt carrying handle. It is safe to use in various settings and it is quite durable. It is best suited for both indoor and outdoor activities which make this unit an inexpensive, versatile and reliable product in the market.
- Innovative Features and Specs: The Easy Weld 298 has the ability to weld 16 gauge up to 5/16 inches and it has 90A maximum amperage and 120V input which is powerful enough for most home-based and automotive applications. It is easy to use, very durable and it is popular with amateur welders and hobbyists.
- You can work on a number of metal fillers with this welder.
- Easy to switch from Stick to TIG.
- Compact and sleek design for easy transportation.
- It is versatile when it comes to welding positions.
- No need for compressed gases.
- The foot pedal is not included.
- Not suitable for heavy-duty applications.
- The TIG torch is sold separately.
Easy Weld 298 from Forney is a superb machine with unique features that separate it from the rest. It supports both stick and TIG welding operations enhancing its versatility and it is designed to comfortably fit in your hands.
5. ARC Welder ARC160A
ARC Welder ARC160A should not be underestimated for it size as this portable machine boosts of an all-around protection in terms of over-current, over-heating, and over/under voltage. In addition, it is well suited for all kind of ferrous metal like alloy among others. ARC Welder ARC160A is resistant to wind and other limiting factors giving it a competitive advantage over regular welders.
ARC Welder ARC160A Key Features and Benefits
- Sleek Design Enhanced with Digital Control: ARC Welder ARC160A comes in an attractive design that features digital controls for easy manipulation. This includes the LED display, working status indicator, abnormal indicator all housed in its user-friendly control panel.
- Anti-sticking and Hot start feature: The hot start feature helps to boost the output current at the beginning of the welding operation hence making the process of forming an electric arc easier and faster. It will work together with the anti-sticking feature to reduce welding power in an event an electrode sticks; thus minimizing the chances of overloading the machine and easing the removal process.
- Auto-sleep function: In addition to the above features, ARC Welder ARC160A has an automatic sleep function that cut off the power source in case the stick gets overheated, ensuring that the machine is not overloaded. This welder has TIG capability and an automatic lift for preventing any contamination by metals as you switch between the two modes.
- Portability and Versatility: This unit is lightweight and it a good choice for entry-level users or “old hands”. This welder is resistant to wind and other undesirable factors and as such, you can use it to weld areas where other welders deem impossible. It is also a great choice for indoor welding operations and hobbies.
- It only weighs 9.5lbs meaning it is highly portable.
- You can get started right away as it comes with necessary accessories.
- It is easy to switch from Stick to TIG if you have the TIG gun.
- It comes with the IGBT technology.
- The arc is stable enough even when run on a generator.
- No proper set up directions.
- Running it with a generator requires about 6000 wattage.
- Not suited for heavy-duty/commercial applications.
ARC Welder ARC160A in an incredible welder when it comes to overall protection of your machine. It protects the machine from overheating, over and under voltage as well as over-current protection which helps on energy saving and giving your device a longer lifespan.
Buying Guide for Best Stick Welder
As we mentioned in our introduction, stick welding is simple process and this is why most welders prefer this operation for their welds. However, choosing the right machine is sometimes stressful than learning to use the machine. This buyer’s guide will equip you with everything you need to know before choosing the best stick welder.
Here are some important things to consider before choosing the best stick welder;
i. Type of Stick Welders
Stick welders comes in two major types. These are;
- Inverters: Inverters are the most common stick welding machines but also the most expensive and they are popular amongst freelance welders and hobbyists due to their portability aspect. They weigh less than 20lbs. making it easy for you to move with it from one task to the other.
- Transformers: Transformers are the most appropriate welders for heavy-duty applications thanks to their robust construction. They use a lot of power and they require more space due their size. They are relatively cheap but they are built to last. Transformers are normally preferred for occasional welding.
ii. The Type of Current
- DC (Direct Current): This is where an electrical current flow in a single direction. Most welders utilize this form of current because it is produces smoother arcs it is more reliable especially for vertical and overhead welds. In addition to this DC has the ability to work on both positive and negative polar offering you more flexibility.
- AC (Alternating Current): With AC, the electrical current has the ability to reverse direction in an electrical circuit at various intervals. It is the most common type of current in most home but unlike its DC counterpart, it does not produce smooth arcs but at the end of the day, it gets the job done.
- AC/DC: AC/DC welders are the most viable options as they utilize both AC and DC currents thus giving you a choice depending on the situation at hand. As a welder, you ought to ensure that your machine has adequate power to get the job done and that the power output can handle the voltage of your unit.
iii. Power Output
This is simply the amperage of the welder and it should be an important consideration before you buy any stick welder. The higher the amperage, the less the time is required to complete the task and the other way round is true. That said we recommend a stick welder with 100amps and above for better results.
iv. Input Voltage
Most stick welders have will have an input voltage of 155V and 230V. Some welders, however, have the ability to use both voltage. Such welders are commonly referred to us dual-voltage welders making them more powerful and versatile. The ones that use 115V are popular among hobbyists that do not require a lot of power while the 230V ones are more powerful and they require an established power outlet.
v. Duty Cycle
This is the amount of time that the machine can work before letting it to cool down. The duty cycle is based on 10 minutes session and it is denoted in percentage whereby a machine with 50% duty cycle implies that you can work for 5 minutes before you allow the welder to cool for 5 minutes. Typically, the duty cycle will depend on the output power and the higher the output the lower the duty cycle.
For multi-purpose welding applications, choose a welder that has both stick and TIG capabilities and if possible MIG capabilities as well. This will save you money and time that you need to find a welder that is dedicated to a single welding operation.
vii. Safety Control Features
- Duty cycle indicator: This feature prevents the machine from overheating. The indicator will light up as the duty cycle nears the end signaling you to switch off the machine.
- Thermal overload protection: In cases where the duty cycle indicator is not working or in case you miss the light, the thermal overload feature will come in handy as it will shut off the machine automatically before it overheats. With this feature, you can weld worry free as the machine will switch off on its own at the end of the duty cycle.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced welder, you require a reliable machine that will help you perform welding applications effectively and safely. Our review has captured a wide range of machines some providing dedicated stick welding or a combination of operations, mostly with TIG operations.
If you consider the important aspects wisely, choosing the appropriate stick welder should not be hard. Most importantly, no single welder will be the best to buy but rather it will be dependent on the project of consideration and as such one welder will be better than the other one in every case.