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The 5 Best Stick Welders – [2020 Reviews]

Stick welding is the most widely-used method of arc welding processes used. It is an extremely versatile and effective means of welding metals and alloys. Typically, it is the easiest form of welding to learn and is also one of the cheaper methods to get involved in.

In this guide, we will explain our top five picks for the best stick welders currently on the market. There are also useful tips to keep in mind while shopping for your ideal welder, and some of the most commonly-asked questions will be answered. Also see our buyer’s guide, How To Choose The Best Stick Welder.

Best Stick Welders

  Forney Easy Weld 298 Arc Welder ARC-160D 160A STICK ARC IGBT Welder ZENY Arc Welding Machine
editors choice
Volts120v115v 110v and 220v
Amps 90A160A160A
Duty Cycle30% at 80A60% at 160A 60% at 160A
Customer Ratings
4.5 / 5.0 Stars4.4 / 5.0 Stars4.5 / 5.0 Stars

Also see: Best Stick Welders Comparison Table


Quick Answer: The 5 Best-Rated Stick Welders – [2020]

  1. Forney Easy Weld 298 Arc Welder
  2. ARC-160D 160A STICK ARC IGBT Welder
  3. ZENY Arc Welding Machine
  4. Reboot Stick Welding Mini Portable ARC Welder
  5. HZXVOGEN 120A Arc Stick Welder

Best Stick Welders Reviews

#1- Forney Easy Weld 298 Arc Welder


Forney Easy Weld 298 Arc Welder At A Glance:

  • Volts: 120v
  • Amps: 90A
  • Duty Cycle: 30% at 80A
  • Weight: 10 pounds
The Forney Easy Weld 100ST Arc Welder is one of the best small welders on the market. It has amazing versatility, able to handle welds that range from 16 gauge all the way up to 5/16 of an inch. It can handle up to a ⅛ inch electrode with ease and reliability.

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At only 10 pounds, this is the best portable welder for the price point. The 298 100ST model is a  great starter welder that is also reliable and versatile enough to handle comprehensive welding jobs.

The Forney Easy Weld 100ST Arc Welder is an inverter welder. This means that the welder will plug into AC outlets, but the output actually runs a DC current output.

Forney-298-Welder-120-Volt-90-Amp best stick welder

This makes DC welding for stick welders in particular much more affordable than some other options, as this unit is not very costly in comparison.

For most around-the-home repair jobs, sculpting or other art, or other small welding tasks, this arc welder can handle it. Forney offers a 12-month warranty against manufacturer defects, to help give you peace of mind during use.


#2- ARC-160D 160A STICK ARC IGBT Welder

ARC-160D 160A STICK ARC IGBT Welder At A Glance:

  • Volts: 115v
  • Amps: 160A
  • Duty Cycle: 60% at 160A
  • Weight: 16 pounds
Amico has a reputation for making great welders, and the ARC-160D is no different. This lightweight 16-pound stick welder is the best inverter welder that you will find for that price point.

If you’re on a budget but looking for a quality unit, this is the one for you.

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This welder sports a sturdy, durable case and a convenient shield that covers and protects the setting adjustments.

The earth and electrode clamps that come with this unit measure an impressive 10 feet, and are manufactured with higher quality materials than most stock leads by comparison.

ARC-160D-Inverter-Voltage-Welding-Soldering best stick welder

The ARC-160D consistently scores high ratings and reviews from customers across all platforms. Some customers have used this unit to weld even thick steel with amazing success.

Using the latest IGBT inverter technology, it is optimized to deliver splatter-free, efficient stick welds with the stability you would expect.

Amico backs up this powerful welder with a one year warranty, as outlined in the owner’s manual.


#3- ZENY Arc Welding Machine

ZENY Arc Welding Machine At A Glance:

  • Volts: 110v and 220v
  • Amps: 160A
  • Duty Cycle: 60% at 160A
  • Weight: 18 pounds
If you’re looking for the best cheap welder within a manageable price bracket, you want to take a look at the ZENY Arc Welding Machine.

The low price speaks nothing of its quality, durability or versatility. In the case of this unit, cheap certainly does not equal bad.

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This stick welder is one of the best options for new or amateur welders. Its relatively low weight, compact design, and comfortable handle makes it easy to carry, move, or store.

This welder has a step-down transformer included. This transformer ensures consistent welding performance by smoothly transitioning from an AC to a DC current.

ZENY-Welding-Machine-Inverter-Voltage best stick welder

No matter what you happen to be welding, you can be sure you get the results you want and need with this amount of control. The smooth transition also ensures that you have an easy strike every time.

This stick welder is great for multi-purpose uses. You can weld a variety of metal materials at different thicknesses without worry.

It is advised not to use this welder for aluminum, however, as DC currents are not advisable with the alloy and will result in a more unstable arc.


#4- Reboot Stick Welding Mini Portable ARC Welder

Reboot Stick Welding Mini Portable ARC Welder At A Glance:

  • Volts: 110v and 220v
  • Amps: 120A
  • Duty Cycle: 60% at 120A
  • Weight: 55 pounds
The Reboot Stick Welding Mini Portable ARC Welder is one of the best home welders you’ll find for the price. With a 120 amp output and a 60% duty cycle at 120 amps, you will be able to do any at-home welding without a worry or problem.

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Customers that purchased this stick welder praised the ease in which the unit was able to be operated and used. Reviewers have also written that they were more than impressed with the unit’s durability, power, and portability.

Inverter-Welding-Machine-Portable-Electrode stick welder kit

Reboot offers an impressive and unparalleled four-year warranty for this stick welder for an additional $40, which equates to $10 a year. It’s a great deal that offers an elevated sense of security for when you purchase this welding unit.


#5- HZXVOGEN 120A Arc Stick Welder

HZXVOGEN 120A Arc Stick Welder At A Glance:

  • Volts: 220v
  • Amps: 10 to 120A
  • Duty Cycle: 60% at 120A
  • Weight: 03 pounds
At an unbelievably low price – below $100! – the HZXVOGEN 120A Mini Arc Stick Welder is the best cheap stick welder you can get, and the price simply can’t be beaten.

This compact arc stick welder is the lightest welder on this list at just over seven pounds. Even so, it has an attractive and convenient carrying handle for easy movement and relocation.

Its small size and weight make it easy to store safely, as well.

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This stick welder also happens to be highly rated and seen as the best welder for home use, hobby-related welding, and light professional use.

It features an easy-to-read digital panel display that has a multitude of functions to help you weld efficiently and effectively!

HZXVOGEN-Digital-Portable-Inverter-Electrode stick welder

Despite its super-compact, miniature size, this welder packs a lot of power. It does operate off of a 220-volt industrial outlet, however, so you may need to have an adapter handy.

But with the overwhelmingly positive reviews, great manufacturer customer service, and one year warranty, it’s definitely worth the investment.


Stick Welders Comparison Table

  VoltsAmpsDuty CycleCustomer Ratings
Forney Easy Weld 298 Arc Welder120v 90A30% at 80A4.5 / 5.0 Stars
ARC-160D 160A STICK ARC IGBT Welder115v160A60% at 160A4.4 / 5.0 Stars
ZENY Arc Welding Machine 110v and 220v160A 60% at 160A4.5 / 5.0 Stars
Reboot Stick Welding Mini Portable ARC Welder 110v and 220v120A60% at 120A4.3 / 5.0 Stars
HZXVOGEN 120A Arc Stick Welder220v 10 to 120A60% at 120A4.7 / 5.0 Stars

How To Choose The Best Stick Welder

When you make the decision to purchase a stick welder for personal, professional, or recreational use, there are some key factors to keep in mind.

What is Stick Welding?

Stick welding is also known as manual metal arc welding (MMAW), shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), or flux shielded arc welding. It is a welding process that uses consumable electrodes covered in flux to lay a weld manually by use of an arc.

best stick welders buyers guide

Using an electrical current, whether AC or DC, an electric arc is formed between the electrode and the metals that are being welded together. The workpiece and electrode are melted during this process, forming a weld pool of molten metal, and cooling to form a joint.

Stick welding is an extremely versatile method of welding. Despite being one of the first forms of metal arc welding, it remains one of the most popular and commonly utilized methods. Any kind of metal can be welded with the stick welding method.

Price

Price is one of the biggest factors that most people consider when looking to buy any product, not just stick welding equipment. Pricing can be affected by several factors, including brand, portability, power output, and quality.

Decent arc welders will typically run from the range of $100 to $550, depending on how powerful a machine you think you’ll need and what features you are looking for specifically, but there are quality machines outside of that range as well, so be sure to look around and check reviews.

Choose the welder that fits your budget, but don’t forego quality and necessary features in order to save extra money. This may be an important investment in your personal or professional life, so weigh your options accordingly.

Features

Many stick welding units will have features and benefits that make them unique from other brands or models. However, there are some features that should exist on every model for basic functionality when it comes to stick welding. These include:

  1. Input Voltage

  2. Amperage range

  3. Size and weight

  4. Inverter

  5. Type of arc welder

  6. Overload protection

As mentioned, these are the bare minimum features that you need to look at when choosing your welder. Make sure that the features match your needs in these areas first, and then you can look for other features like digital displays, accessories, and things like that.

Design and Construction

The design and construction may be the most important factor in choosing a welder because typically, these things will tell you what kind of arc welder you’re purchasing if it is not immediately obvious otherwise.

Stick welders happen to be the most common type of arc welder and can perform most any task with ease and great capability.

But you may also come across stick welders that can also perform TIG welding and are advertised and designed to handle both forms of welding beautifully.

The size and weight of the welder also fall into this category. Portability can be extremely important in deciding on a welder.

If you won’t be working in one stagnant area with your welder, chances are you’ll want to be able to move your equipment with ease and as little hassle as possible. Smaller, lighter welders can also be stored much easier than large, bulky ones.

Performance

The quality of performance that your welder can operate at is immensely important for the quality of your weld. Weak performance can equate to weak joints, structural integrity, or unattractive beads.

One of the ways to guarantee performance is to make sure that the welder has an inverter.

Inverters often help with establishing and maintaining effective and efficient performance during a welding task.

By switching either automatically or manually between AC and DC currents, it can make tasks easier and make final products look much more attractive.

Ease of Use

The easier you can use your stick welder, the more you will enjoy it and the better your quality of work will be.

Digital displays, overload protection, being lightweight, and ergonomic designs can all be factors in determining the ease with which you’ll be able to operate your machine.

With these things in mind, you will be able to pick out a great stick welder that will meet and even exceed your expectations.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

Q: What type of stick welder works best for all-around use?

A: Welding units with an AC/DC output are the best for the sake of versatility when it comes to different applications and uses.

Technically speaking, DC current welding of best for most stick welding jobs. It offers easier starts, less splatter, simple overhead welding, and a smoother arc. It also has the benefit of making it generally easier to learn to weld in the first place.

InDC reverse polarity, with positive electrodes, will provide approximately 10 percent more penetration at any given amperage than AC. DC current straight polarity, using negative electrodes, will weld thinner metals better.

Q: Does an AC output have any advantages?

A: AC current output does have some advantages and benefits. It’s a good option if you need to weld on material that becomes easily magnetized by friction, for example.

DC current output won’t work on a magnetized material because of the arc blow. This is when the magnetic field forces the molten filler out of the weld puddle. Since an AC current output alternates polarities while active, it enables you to weld magnetized parts without arc blow as a result.

Q: How big of a welding machine do you need?

A: A 225- to 300-amp stick welder handles nearly anything an average professional welder will encounter. This is because most stick welding procedures only typically require 200 amps or less.

If you need to weld material that is thicker than 3/8 inch, you can simply make multiple passes. This is what professionals tend to do, even in situations where they are welding on 1-inch structural steel.

Q: What does duty cycle on product spec sheets refer to?

A: The duty cycle is the number of minutes taken out of a 10-minute consecutive cycle a welder can operate actively. For example, if a welder creates a 200-amp DC output at a 20 percent duty cycle, it can weld continuously at 200 amps for two minutes before needing to cool down for eight minutes to prevent overheating and damage to the machine.

The duty cycle and amperage are sometimes inclusively proportional. If you are operating at 90 amps, the same aforementioned welder can operate at a 100 percent duty cycle, meaning you can theoretically weld without stopping.

This inverse proportionality rule is not necessarily true of all welding units. Consult your owner’s manual or the manufacturer directly if you are unsure or have any questions concerning the duty cycle of your welder.

Q: What type of rod should I use for general welding on steel?

A: The most common electrodes used for general purpose welding work include 6010, 6011, 6013, 7018 and 7024. Each of these has specific and unique properties. The 6010 electrodes penetrate deeply, while 6013 electrodes will penetrate less.

To get a better bead appearance or work on higher strength steels, you would use a 7018 rod. If you need to get better penetration on thick materials, you can grind the joint to a 30-degree bevel and make multiple passes. Alternatively, you can make the first pass with a 6010 rod. Follow this up by making a cap pass with a 7018.

Last but not least, the 7024 rod is arguably the easiest rod to use. Also referred to as a drag rod, this electrode’s thick flux naturally maintains the correct arc length. This will allow you to drag the rod directly along the piece being worked.

Q: Do you need to remove rust or oil before stick welding?

A: As a general rule, stick welding is more forgiving while working in or on unclean conditions or materials. That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to clean soiled parts with a wire brush or grind off excess rust where needed.

With the right preparation and practiced welding abilities, you can make sound welds without much hassle. But even great welding skills cannot overcome poor planning or preparation and can lead to cracking, slag infusions, and lack of fusion.

Q: What does CLAMS stand for in stick welding?

A: CLAMS is a popular acronym among welding apprentices and the masters that train them. It helps to remind new or learning welders to keep certain things in mind while they weld with an arc.

1. Current Setting

The correct current and amperage settings primarily depend on the diameter and type of electrode selected. The side of the electrode box on your stick welder will usually indicate the appropriate operating ranges.

You will select an amperage based on the material thickness, welding position, and an observation of the finished product to check for inconsistencies, problematic, or weak areas.

Newer models of welding machines have a permanent label that offers recommended amperage settings for a wide variety of electrodes and material thicknesses you may find yourself working with. If your welder has one, use it as a guideline when you first start welding and as a reference for later.

2. Length of Arc

Depending on the application, project material, and position of the weld, your arc length will vary. A good starting point for reference is to remember that your arc length should not exceed the diameter of the metal core of the electrode.

The active welding voltage will suffer decreases if your electrode is being held too closely. This can also create an erratic arc, and that may result in it extinguishing itself or causing the rod to freeze. It may also produce a weld bead with a high crown.

Excessively long welding arcs may produce splatter, low deposition rates, undercuts, and even porosity.

If you happen to be a beginner and you find that you’re producing a lot of welding splatter or are producing rough beads, adjust your arc length. With a little practice, you will eventually get a tight, controlled arc length.

3. Angle of Travel

Depending on if you are stick welding in flat, horizontal or overhead positions, you will be using a drag or backhand welding technique. This means that you will hold the rod perpendicular to the joint and tilt the top of the electrode in the direction of travel.

If you find that you need to weld in a vertical up position instead, use a push or forehand technique. You will need to tilt the top of the rod 15 degrees away from the direction of travel for this.

4. Manipulation

As is the case with many professions that require any kind of technique, each welder will have a unique style that they use to manipulate or weave an electrode. Observe others, practice and create a method that produces good results for you and the style that is comfortable and effective for your needs.

Specifically, when welding in the vertical up position, you should focus on welding the sides of the joint and during that process, the middle will take care of itself. You’ll want to pause just to the side so that you can allow the far side of the bead to cool and the weld puddle to catch up. This will ensure a solid tie-in to the sidewall.

5. Speed of Travel

Speed of travel is the final aspect of the CLAMS acronym. A properly-established and maintained travel speed produces a weld bead with the desired crown, width, and appearance. You will want to adjust the travel speed so that the arc stays in the leading one-third of the weld pool.

Slower travel speeds produce a wide, convex bead that has a shallow penetration. Conversely, an excessively high travel speed will also decrease penetration. It will also create a narrower and more highly-crowned bead, and may possibly result in undercuts.

Versatility
Portability
Quality

We chose the Forney Easy Weld 298 Arc Welder as our Editor's Choice for the best stick welder.

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Richard Moore

Richard is an avid adventure traveler with extensive trekking experience. In 1998 he weathered category 5 Hurricane Mitch on the northern coast of Honduras. He has mountain-biked, hiked and 4x4 toured extensively in the U.S.A. , Mexico and Central America. He is a motorcycle enthusiast and enjoys road touring, dual-sport and motocross riding. Richard lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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