At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Stick Welders & Welding Carts
Welding is a process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by softening with heat and applying pressure.
The main categories of welding are MIG, Arc, Gas, and TIG welding. Why is stick not one of these? Stick welding, aka Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), is actually the most popular and common welding technique of Arc welding.
In this article we detail everything you need to know about this type of welding. We'll also review the best stick welder units available on the market.
Quick Overview: Our Top Picks for Stick Welders
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Quick Overview: Our Top Picks for Stick Welding Carts
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our latest stick welder addition Of 2020
Our Score: 95
stick welding basics
Stick Welding, also known as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), is the most widely-used welding technique among the arc processes. It uses an electrode and electric current at the weld pool to join a variety of metals. Its simplicity and versatility contribute to its popularity.
The electrode is made up of a solid metal rod or stick (hence the name) surrounded by a coating of compounds and metal powders with a binding agent to help them bind to its surface. Keep in mind the proper term for stick is electrode.
Electric current, either alternating or direct current, is used to make an electric arc between the electrode and the metals to be joined. This area is called the weld pool.
The electrode conducts electric current to the arc and provides filler metal for the joint and bead.
It is used primarily to weld iron and steel and is used extensively in the maintenance and repair industries and construction of heavy steel structures.
Stick Welding History
The history of Stick Welding can be traced back to 1800s. In 1800, British chemist and inventor Sir Humphry Davy developed an arc between two carbon electrodes using a battery.
Gas welding and cutting was introduced in the mid-1800s. It was in the 1880s that arc welding with the carbon arc and metal arc was developed.
In 1881, French electrical engineer Auguste De Meritens used the heat of an arc to join lead plates for storage batteries.
His student Nikolai N. Benardos was awarded a patent for welding. In 1890, C.L. Coffin of Detroit was granted the first U.S. patent for an arc welding process using a metal electrode.
Around 1900, British inventor Strohmenger introduced a coated metal electrode. He used a thin coating of clay or lime and noticed that it provided a more stable arc.
During the period of 1907 to 1914, Oscar Kjellberg of Sweden came up with a coated electrode which looked like a stick.
Later on, pieces of iron wire dipped in thick mixtures of carbonates and silicates were used to make stick electrodes.
Stick Welding 101 - How Does It Work?
Stick Welding is a process that uses a flux-coated electrode to form the weld.
The electric current passes through the coated electrode or rod and arcs at the point of contact with the base metal, or weld pool.
As the electrode begins to melt, the flux coating around it creates a cloud of gases that shields the molten metal and prevents it from oxidizing.
This is why it also called shielded metal arc welding. The gas cloud settles on the pool of molten metal as it cools, and turns into slag which must be chipped off after welding is completed.
The Stick Welding process is quite simple and does not demand a great deal of specialized equipment.
Stick Welding Equipment
- Power Supply (constant voltage) or a stick welder
- Electrode/rod holder
- Ground clamp
- Welding safety equipment (gloves, helmet, apron, etc)
AC vs DC
Stick welders can both be alternate current (AC) or direct current (DC). However, typically DC is better since it is more flexible and can be applied to more projects (commercial vs hobbyist). It's better in the following situations:
- welding steel
- much more stable arcs / easier starts
- less splatter
- different welding positions
While AC can be advantageous (such as if you want less penetration), DC is a safer choice.
Pros and Cons of Stick Welding
Like any welding process, stick welding has its pros and cons. Here are some of the most important ones:
Stick Welding for Beginners
Though Stick Welding is one of the most common forms of arc welding, it is a difficult welding technique to learn.
To be an effective stick welder, one requires higher skill level and mastery of certain techniques.
Here are three important things that a beginner needs to focus on.
The electrode you choose determines whether your machine requires DC positive, DC negative, or AC. Use the correct setting for your specific task. Electrode positive offers more penetration, while electrode negative gives better results for thinner metals.
Select your amperage based on the electrode, welding position, and visual inspection of the finished weld. Follow manufacturer’s recommendation for ideal amperage setting.
Having the correct arc length is crucial for stick welding. Each electrode and application require a different arc length not exceeding the diameter of the electrode. For example, a 0.125-inch 6010 electrode is held about 1/8 inch off the base material.
Angle of Travel
For welding in the flat, horizontal and overhead positions, use a ‘drag’ or 'backhand’ technique. The electrode should be perpendicular to the weld joint.
Tilt the electrode's tip at 5 to 15 degrees in the direction of its travel. For vertical welding that moves upward, use a ‘push’ or ‘forehand’ technique. Tilt the electrode away from the travel direction at 15 degrees. This affects travel speed as well.
Best Stick Welders
Now let's have a look at some of the stick welders that will serve you best.
Lincoln electric ac225 stick welder
The Lincoln Electric AC225 compact stick welder produces an extremely smooth AC arc which enables you to weld a wide range of materials including carbon, low alloy, and stainless steel as well as cast iron.
It's super-easy to install as it comes with attached input power cable and NEMA 6-50P plug (K1170 only, though).
The full range 40-225 amp makes it easy to operate using the selector switch which quickly sets the welding current and ensures a uniform arc every time you weld. Although it's not the latest model from Lincoln, it's proven the test of time which made us give it a fresh review.
The Longevity Stickweld 140 is an ideal unit for welding enthusiasts and repair people. Weighing just 13 lbs., it is super portable and efficient.
The ability to connect to 110v or 220v outlet is a big plus. This machine is lift TIG operation ready and makes it a cinch to attach a TIG torch to work with a variety of metals and its electrode can also handle aluminum. It welds 6011, 6013 and 7018 stick welding rods with great ease.
With the Longevity 140 you get a well-designed machine with a low learning curve which works well for less experienced people since it has a digital display to tell the amp setting and an electrode automatic recovery mechanism . It comes with power plugs and a power switching adapter.
This compact unit runs on 110v and has a 100% duty cycle. It is ideal for occasional welding, small operations, homes and even small local businesses.
It can weld mild steel that is up to ¼-inch thick. It weighs 28 lbs. and is flexible to move around for different jobs. This machine is small, rugged, and well built.
It requires a 1/8-inch diameter rod but can even work with 3/32-inch diameter rod or 1/2 rebars. Penetration is good at full amp loading.
The Forney 298 is another lightweight and inexpensive unit with inverter power technology with 120v input and 90amp output.
The unit performs well in dirty, rusty, and windy environments. This portable unit is ideal for your outdoor tasks and it can handle a wide range of filler metals to meet your specific requirements. It is also capable of doing a few automotive tasks and projects at home.
It is also capable of TIG welding. It handles up to 1/8-inch electrode and welds up to 5/16 inches material.
Best Stick Welding Carts
Of course, you're going to want something to lug your machine around on. Let's have a look at some of the top carts.
The Goplus Universal Welder Cart is a great sliding cabinet which keeps all your stick welding tools and supplies organized in one place.
This 4-drawer cart’s maximum holding capacity is 100 lbs. It comes with ample storage space for a small welding setup and is easy to assemble.
This steel-built cart with durable finish will sustain rigorous usage and may last for dozens of years.
Its organized drawers will store all your small welding needs, low and high.
The Metal Man Universal Welding cart makes your welding activities easy. This compact and sturdy cart has a maximum weight capacity of 110 lbs.
The single cylinder rack is capable of holding up to a 7-1/2 inch diameter, 80 lbs. cylinder and comes with a securement chain to hold the cylinder in place.
The slanted top shelf suits most equipment and places the welder controls at an easy-to-use angle.
With its new fold-down handle, you can easily move your welding equipment around your work area.
Like most welding carts, this unit is designed to accommodate all types of welding machines.
The Yaheetech offers large amounts of space that will easily handle your stick welder and all the other supplies you might want to bring along.
Three levels of storage; the top level is slanted and the lower two levels are flat, it is easy to maneuver, with two front casters and two quality fixed wheels.
It is not an industrial-quality cart and doesn't have enclosed storage, only open shelves, but its sturdy build has the ample space for gas cylinders when you use other welding types.
Video stick welding tips
To become a good stick welder, it is very important to learn the right way. Getting the basics right is crucial in stick welding and it will help you master the skill at a higher level as you go forward.
Here are a few links which have good tips and tricks to learn stick welding:
As the old adage correctly says, practice makes perfect. So, remember to practice often.
In spite of its being of the earliest forms of welding, stick welding is still the most popular type among the arc welding processes.
It’s a simple process that brings in portability and does not require sophisticated or expensive equipment. The process is less sensitive to wind or drafts and gives great results in most of the environments.
The process is suitable for most metal and alloys and is a great option when you are working in areas with limited access.
Get our favorite stick welder here.
1. What is the best welding rod for a beginner?
The 6013 and 6011 are excellent beginner rods. The critical factor with ANY rod is to ensure that it is completely dry before welding. Welding rods absorb moisture from the air, and the more wet they become, the more they stick and splatter. Even with ancient welders, a good dry rod can produce some very attractive welds.
2. Is stick welding good for beginners?
From a technique standpoint, flux core welding may be the simplest process to learn for beginners. Stick welding requires a little more practice to master, but it is extremely versatile, one of the few processes that can be used on cast iron, and the machines are the least expensive available.
3. Is stick welding easy?
Stick welding is also more difficult to learn and use for a beginner. Striking and maintaining an arc is a particularly difficult skill to master, but once mastered, everything becomes much easier. At the moment, stick welders are available in AC, DC, and AC/DC configurations. AC-powered welders are the most cost-effective.
4. What is the easiest welding to learn?
MIG Welding is considered the simplest type of welding to learn; it works by feeding a wired welding electrode through a spool at a constant speed as you work. The arc melts the wire and connects it at the base, forming a strong and clean weld.
5. What is the difference between 6013 and 7018?
While both wires are made of mild steel, their coatings are quite different; the 7018 has a low hydrogen potassium coating, whereas the 6013 has a high Titania potassium coating. Additionally, the electrodes differ in terms of yield and tensile strength, with the 7018 having higher specifications in both areas.