What is a stick welder?
A stick welder is a welding machine that uses electric currents and an electrode to join various metals. The electrode is a sturdy metal stick that is surrounded by a coating of metal powders and compounds that have a binding agent.
The electric currents (AC/DC) makes an electric arc between the metals to be joined and the electrode. A stick welder is mainly used for welding steel and iron in the construction and repair industries.
Benefits of stick welders
Here is why you should get a stick welder ASAP:
- It works well in windy and rainy weather
- It is cheaper because it works without external shielding gases.
- Most of the machines are affordable.
- They are lightweight and highly portable.
- Stick welding is easy to learn, and the machines are also easy to use.
- The welders are not sensitive to paint, rust or dirt, saving you time and energy.
- A stick welder can weld a variety of metals.
- It works better in tight spaces, especially if you need to weld corners and edges.
Features to consider when choosing a stick welding machine
There are features that you must look out for when buying a stick welding machine. They determine their quality and functionality. Some of the features include:
There are 2 types of stick welders based on process type; single process sticks welders and the multipurpose stick welders. The single process stick welders are much more affordable than the multipurpose ones or MIG and TIG machines. They are a perfect option for anyone with a TIG or MIG machine and needs to perform stick welding.
The multipurpose stick welders like the Lotos LTPDC2000D reviewed above also come in handy if you want an all-around welder. They are a bit costlier.
AC/DC power source
Alternating current (AC) is usually found in beginners’ stick welders, while DC is much more common because it can be used in any situation. DC reverse polarity welding is more favorable than AC because it features easier and quicker starts, fewer arc outages, less spatter and better welds on thin metals.
Going for a stick welder with both AC and DC options is the best for optimal performance.
Inverter vs. transformer
Inverter stick welders are increasingly becoming popular than transformer ones because they are more versatile, have a higher arc and welding quality, and are highly reliable. They also use less electricity than transformer welders.
Transformers are best suited for heavy-duty work, are a lot heavier, and occupy much space. They are built to last forever and their initial cost is pretty low. They are a perfect choice if you want something to use occasionally. It all boils down to personal preference but anybody would like something affordable, reliable, and is easy to use and maintain.
Most welders have an input voltage of either 115v or 230v. Some are capable of using both like the Hobart Stickmate 160i reviewed above. The 115v is best suited for hobbyists or DIYers in need of just a little power. They can be plugged into the standard home power outlet.
As for the 230v welders, you might need a robust power outlet like a generator to be able to use them because they are too powerful.
The welder’s amperage will show you how much power you can get out of it. A welder with a higher amperage can penetrate deeper and easily weld thicker metal items. They are faster as you won’t have to repeat your passes to achieve a weld.
It is better to settle for a higher amperage because you can always reduce the amps, but you can never increase it in a welder with lower amperage.
Size and weight
This determines the portability of the stick welder. If you need a welder that you can easily carry around to repair projects or construction works away from home, then you better get a lightweight one with a compact design. The Forney Easy Weld 100 ST ARC Welder reviewed above is an excellent lightweight choice for easy transportation and storage.
This is the period of time that you are able to weld before stopping to let the welder cool down. It is displayed as a percentage, and 30% usually means you can go for 3 minutes before cooling down. It usually varies with the welder’s power output, the higher the amperage, the lower the duty cycle.
If you want to weld for more extended periods before cooling down, then you have to choose a welder with a higher duty cycle. There are welders that have better duty cycles at set amperages compared to others, you have to look out keenly to get the best.
The electrode’s diameter determines a welder’s amperage. A smaller electrode diameter requires a lower amperage and vice versa. You have to be keen to ensure you pick the right amperage for your welder’s electrode diameter.
It is better to settle for a stick welder with thermal overload protection to prevent thermal overload which could cause damage to the machine. It automatically shuts down the unit temporarily when it becomes too hot.
Welder quality and performance
The welder’s quality and performance will be determined by its versatility, construction, power, safety features, and other convenient features. A high-quality welder should be durable, portable, easy to use and highly efficient.
Warranty is always an indicator of high quality. Go for products with a warranty like Hobart Stickmate 160i reviewed above. In case you encounter any challenges, you can always get help from the manufacturer.
It is essential that all the controls and display is easy to learn and use. They should also be big enough that you can easily use them with gloves on. The basic controls include on/off switch controls, AC/DC switch, duty cycle warning, and a display that indicates power.