- 1 Overview of Stick Welding Performance
- 2 Types of Stick Welders to Consider
- 3 Factors to Know and Apply for Buying the Best Stick Welder
- 4 Top 5 Stick Welders
- 5 Conclusion
Have you ever done some welding during your school days? Do you recall any such scene in or around your home workshop? If yes, then it would be most probably using a stick welder, a form of arc welding. It has been the most popular welding technique for fulfilling a variety of home-based welding needs.
Usually, in stick arc welding, an electric current reaches up to the metal by passing from the welding stick. This current is termed as the arc-welding electrode. Capable of holding most alloys and joints, the technique is versatile, as it performs reliably even on rusty metals, drafty areas, as well as both indoors and outdoors. Thus, arc welding is preferable by several home workshop owners, farmers, and hobbyists.
The most distinct ability of stick welding is that it is most economical for bonding dirty or rusty metals, although being slower than MIG welding. This makes it ideal for use in quick home repair, maintenance and repairs, plant fabrication/repairs, general construction, ranch applications, and shipboard installation/repairs. In fact, stick welding is the initial process that most naives choose to learn. This is perhaps because most stick welders are easy to learn. However, what is yet challenging to learn is the ability to strike and retain an arc.
Some of the biggest benefits of stick welding are: Performance in any pose as well as in difficult-to-reach locations, dependable outdoor usage, good results on most alloys and rusty steel or iron, and most affordable to get started. Welding on a cleaner surface results in a stronger bond due to which it is always suggested to grind off the debris such as paint or rust.
Stick welding is a better arc welding technique for windy conditions. It works perfectly on thicker metals such as stainless steel and cast iron, and for heavier construction chores where appearance or spatter is insignificant. However, it is restricted to metals with 18 gauge or above, which it is ideal for bonding thicker metals having a thickness of 1/16-inch or more. However, unlike other forms of arc welding, stick welding results in much metal spatter as well as demands for rod replacement quite frequently. Further, you need to clean the welds post completion.
Overview of Stick Welding Performance
In stick welding, electricity from the welding unit goes through the rod and arcs, forming a temperature of up to 7,000° F. At this temperature, the rod starts melting and its external coating generates a shield to protect from oxygen whose contact can pollute the weld. This is the reason why this form of arc welding is technically termed Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) or Rod Welding. Around the metal electrode, the shield is arcing. When the rod moves over the joint, it continues to melt, while forming a crater and filling the joint.
Types of Stick Welders to Consider
Well, you will find a variety of stick welders, with AC, DC, or AC/DC options. Below are the major types of stick welders.
- DC Inverters: These are modern units that are lighter, smaller, and more portable than the traditional models (below 10kg) and are ideal for starters. They are highly efficient working on almost 140 amps on a 240V of 13 amps supply and allow longer welding on higher setting, possess good duty, easy start due to DC output, less crater at the end and better coping up with dirty plate through arc force (voltage) adjustment. Most models work on 70V or 80V Open Circuit Voltage (OCV). However, inverters are complex in design, which can cost you much for repairs. The more affordable ones are vulnerable to voltage spikes. However, protection features do exist in costlier ones.
- AC/DC Inverters: These are usually preferred for both stick and TIG welding and have a few rods designed to work with AC current. However, these models are costly, but worthy for arc welding and TIG welding aluminium.
- DC Transformers: These are heavy and aim for TIG welding in a shop or at a fabrication site for long usage at high amps. However, they are easy to use, affordable to repair, and ensure superb quality with higher duty cycles than the modern inverters welders. These models can last up for 30 years. However, they need huge power and are noisy. You can consider buying a second hand model if budget is an issue.
- AC Oil Cooled Welders: These are heavily built, simple models lasting for years. Featuring 50V and 80V options, they have a great duty cycle for ensuring smooth and consistent arc. However, they are not portable, do not have TIG welding capabilities, and need some skills to use.
Factors to Know and Apply for Buying the Best Stick Welder
Many entry level customers or beginners can find it a bit overwhelming to pick the best stick welder. However, it becomes easier to choose one, when you know what to look for while buying such a welding unit. Knowing them in required detail helps preventing unnecessary confusion and wrong selection, which can finally save a lot of time and money. Let’s now explore what to look for, the buying factors!
Metal to be Welded
Using stick welding, mild steel is the most commonly bonded in both manufacturing and construction. You can use such steel for different types of artwork and projects. It is also quite easy to find such a metal. Such steel is ferrous, which means it has some amount of carbon (0.33%) and iron.
It is the carbon that makes steel tough. However, it also does not take much time to alter the level of hardness, as you only need to increase the carbon content by 0.5%. This altered steel is considered high-carbon steel. While mild steel may bend without breaking, high-carbon steel is more brittle to bend and break.
You can consider stick welding for steel, stainless steel, and cast iron metals. For other metals such as copper, magnesium alloys, and aluminium, stick welding is not recommended.
Location of Welding
The place where you will weld is one of the critical factors to consider, which can be either indoors or outdoors. For welding indoors, stick welding will work. Even for welding outside, it will perform well, but do not consider buying a model that can even TIG weld. Even in winds, stick welding can go smoothly.
It is perhaps in the wind that this arc welder comes out on its own, perhaps due to absence of gas and presence of flux on the rod. You can even use it in the rain. For example, if you wish to repair a lawn mower outside amidst not so stormy wind, stick welding is the perfect technique to choose. However, the condition here is that the welding rods should be right.
Stick Welding Electrode
This is another critical factor to consider while investing in a stick welding unit. However, selecting the right rod is quite straightforward. If you are repairing a steel tool, a 6011 welding rod will do the job well. This general maintenance rod works nicely in all positions and bears a just-below-perfect joint. Similarly, there are other popular rods to consider for welding steel, which are:
- 6010 for dirtier metals and deep penetration in all poses
- 6011 for use on AC with 6010 design
- 6013 for beginners and farmers requiring mild penetration in all poses with a cleaner joint
- 7018 for repair, pipe, and structural steel welding with mild penetration works well in all poses on clean metals
- 7024 for a heap of fast weld with mild penetration works well in horizontal or flat poses with a clean joint
The aforementioned rod numbers itself indicate the tensile strength of a weld. For example, in 6011, the first two digits indicate a minimum tensile strength of 60,000 pounds per square inch (psi) of weld. This means that in case of one square inch of metal in a slow straight haul, the welder will continue to work until your application of 60,000 pounds.
Similarly, in 7018, it is 70,000 pounds per square inch. In comparison, typical steel, which is graded A36 steel, has 36,000 pounds of tensile strength per square inch. The weld is usually two times stronger than the steel it is welding!
The last two digits in the number show the position and polarity referring to flux or shielding, respectively. For example, the second last number if 1 confirms that this rod can work in all positions. If the number is 2, it indicates only in flat and horizontal positions, which is why 7024 rods are likely to attack back if tried them overhead. If the last digit in the number, denoting the shielding, is higher; it signifies more shielding or flux being deposited. For example, 6011 has lesser coating then 7018.
Well, in short, selecting the right electrode as per your task reduces the splatter as well as maximizes the output quality. Usually, you should choose only from the aforementioned rods. Moreover, these rods should match the base of metal to be welded.
Usually, 6011 and 6013 are recommended for thin materials as well as for beginners, while 7018 is perfect for the hobbyist. While 6011 is derived from 6010, its flux is somewhat harder and that it does not perform so smooth. However, 6010 works with DC only, while 6011 can be used with even AC. Even 7018 rods perform well on AC or DC.
Do also consider the diameter of the rod. 3/32- and 1/8-inch diameter rods are for a cracker box if the heat supported is up to 120 amps. On the other hand, 1/16-inch diameter rods are ideal for very thin stuff.
Input Power (Voltage)
Generally, welders run on input voltage of 240v or 110v to 220v. In short, the more is this input power, the more robust is the welding unit. However, the welders demanding higher power usually do not sun properly on normal circuit in your home, which means it needs special power circuit. Therefore, it is wise to choose a stick welder that adheres to your power affordability.
Maximum Output Power (Maximum Amperage/Amp)
This is also important to consider, as it affects your selection of rods. The output of 140 amps comes from the 240V 13 amp source of supply for inverters, which accept 3.2mm rods. Similarly, 2.5mm rods operate with output of 100 amps. Using any smaller rod perhaps needs much usage skill. In shorter, the more the output, the thicker will be the rods in use. Such rods decrease the number of passes for welding thicker metals.
It is best to go for a general all-purpose welder and for that, 225 to 300-amp specification is required. While a majority of stick welding tasks need 200 amps only, having a bit more increases the flexibility for bigger tasks. In case a task needs over 300 amps, such as welding over a surface that is 3/8-inches thick, you only need to go for several weld passes. A small welder of 115-volt is capable of handling metal thickness of only 1/8 inches, while a bigger 220v unit can handle a thickness of 3/8 inches in a single pass.
This factor is actually confusing for many. However, the fact is that DC is easier to get used to the welding tool for the beginners as well as is also safer due to lower peak volt, relatively. The good news is that a majority of rods can operate on DC.
For several stick welding tasks, the reverse polarity of DC offers more benefits than AC, such as faster starts, less spatter, smaller amounts of arc outages, smoother arc, more penetration over any amp, better welds, and easier welding in a variety of positions on fairly thin stuff.
However, it is wise to possess both AC/DC options. This is because AC, too, has its benefits. The major ones are welding magnetized parts and economical rates.
Open Circuit Voltage (OCV)
OCV is an equally important factor as input and output power, as it affects arc stability and the ease to start. A more economical stick welder usually has 50v OCV due to which it is relatively tougher to start, results in less stable arc, and averts usage of special rods. However, a modest transformer and inverter have an OCV of 70-80v, which you need to look for.
This is another vital aspect to consider. A cheaper stick welder has approximately 10% duty cycle @ 70 amps but a good quality unit will offer a minimum of 35% to 60% at this output power rate. The costlier and high-end ones are available at 70% to 80%. Well, you should choose the one as per your workload.
The duty cycle signifies the duration for which it can weld in 10 minutes prior to cooling down. So, if is rated at 80%, the unit will weld for 8 minutes over 10 minutes after which the cycle decreases with the increase in amps. In other terms, duty cycle help in measuring the size of output power – how much of it can be formed in the specified duty cycle.
If a welder states the ability to generate 200 amps of AC at 50% duty cycle, it means it can weld for four minutes at 200 amps. For the remaining six minutes, it must cool down to keep overheating away. Well, the amps and duty cycle details are given on the manufacturer’s specification label. However, it is not so easy to compare these details, as the standards for the same differs from one manufacturer to another.
Amperage and duty cycle are inversely proportional. Duty cycle increases with decreasing amperage. Running at 130 amps, the power supply is associated with 100% duty cycle, which means the unit can weld incessantly at this level of amperage. On the other end while running at 300 amps, it might have almost 20% duty cycle meaning it can weld efficiently for only two minutes.
It is vital to note that thin metals need less amperage than thicker ones. For example, welding 18-gauge steel in just one pass consumes almost 70 amps. In case of a stick machine, most electrodes are consumed within two minutes. Around 80% of stick welding happens through an electrode of 1/8-inches in diameter, which gets consumed in just a minute. Due to the possibility of thin passes made to thicker material per pass, amperage requirement is less. Nevertheless, several passes consume more time.
A few air cooled transformer welders feature a low duty cycle and burn just up to two rods at the full potential of power before cooling. Other types usually have a decent duty cycle.
The length of arc differs for each electrode as well as job. As a rule of thumb, consider using an arc length having the distance from the metal, which is same as the electrode’s thickness or diameter of metallic core. Just avoid holding the electrode too far or close from the metal, as otherwise you will encounter an erratic arc movement and high crown drop because of reduced voltage and can lead to less rate of deposition as well as more splatter.
Ease of Use
Most modern stick welders have easy to install and use capability, which takes less time to set up and learn. Such capability is essential for all entry level users. Then, another feature to look for is digital amp readout for setting the amps precisely. This means you need not take much effort in setting the amps. One more feature to look for is more start current. Several DC units and inverters raise the current while triggering the arc. This is hand, as it makes it easier to begin the arc.
Stick welding produces fumes and smokes, which is a big consideration if you are working in a restricted space. Therefore, you should ensure proper ventilation or have proper respiration apparatus. Welding screens are essential if you are working with other people or combustibles, as splatters and sparks are common with stick welders. You can look for modern units with safety features that can reduce splatters.
Top 5 Stick Welders
With 110v and 100% duty cycle, this unit can weld up mild steel that is up to ¼-inch thick. It is designed for occasional welding and small tasks of home projects and maintenance procedures. The unit is also compact and comfortable to handle. The welder is small, rugged, and well and heavy built. The stinger is of contractor grade but is limited to welding thickness. It needs 1/8-inch diameter rod but can even work with 3/32-inch diameter rod for 1/2 rebars. Penetration is good at full amp loading.
This is new model ideal for welding ¼-inch aluminum and 3/8-inch mild steel with 7018 and 6013 rods. The duty cycle is 60% and 100% at a bit less than 150 amps and 116 amps, respectively. The unit features advanced inverter technology with pulse width modulation due to which it is ideal for accurate welding of materials of thinner gauge.
This is an ideal lightweight stick welding unit for repair professionals. It efficiently welds with 6011, 6013, and 7018 rods. It is more of a general purpose welder but comes ready with lift TIG operation for associating a TIG torch. It has a digital display for telling the amp setting.
This is perhaps the lightest model in this list, which is designed for DIY, beginners, and home hobbyists interested in light fabrication, light maintenance, and repair tasks. For high quality of welds that it makes, it is truly an affordable option to consider even for field and garages. The unit has even lift TIG capabilities and delivers 95 amps on 115v circuit. It features fault, overheat, and power indicator lights and amperage control knob.
This is another lightweight unit with inverter power mechanism featuring 120v input and 90amp output capable of doing a few automotive tasks and projects at home. It is also capable of TIG welding (apparatus sold separately). It can deal with up to 1/8-inch electrode and welds 16 gauge material up to 5/16 inches.
Selecting a stick welding unit requires you to strike a balance between what you wish the unit to do and how much you have decided to spend. The decision of selecting a 120amp unit for welding 10mm steel is not rational, as it is not that robust and powerful enough to handle that task. Therefore, always take care of your requirements and choose accordingly.