Shielded metal arc welding (also referred to as stick welding) is a type of welding that uses electrical currents jumping from one end of a piece of metal (welding rod) to another metal location (the metal you are welding). That same current jumping from one source of metal to another is how we get the name “arc welding.”
The most common type of arc welding (and subsequently the most common type of welder) is stick welding. Stick welding uses an electric current hot enough to melt the steel and bond the two pieces of metal together. It is reliable for both outdoor and indoor use and thus is the most common type of welding that you will use for in-home welding projects.
Why Arc Welding?
Arc welding is among the cheapest and most reliable welding methods. Because it does not need to run extremely hot currents very often, arc welders can be made much smaller and more portable, making them significantly less expensive and allows you to take the welder with you making stick welding more versatile than other methods.
We understand looking for a good arc welder for home use can be a daunting task (especially if you are looking to purchase your first welder). So to help you on your purchasing journey, we have put together a list of moderately priced welding machines that will be able to handle most of your in-home welding needs.
List of Top 5 Best Arc Welders in 2018 :
#5 Best Welding Starter Kit: Forney 29801 100ST
There are several different things that you will need to have when you are welding. You’ll need a welding mask, protective gloves, welding electrodes (sticks), grinding wheels, and a brush for cleaning debris off of the surface.
If you have never owned a welder before, then you are not going to have all of these things available. To save you a little bit time (and money) this starter kit from Forney will come with everything you will need to begin welding. And of course, you’ll get the arc welder with it, so let’s talk about the performance of the machine itself.
The Arc Welder 100 utilizes an inverted power system, giving it a lighter weight and consequently making it more portable than most other welding machines. The trade-off you will be making is in the power department, where it only has a 90 amp output. It uses a ⅛ inch welding rod that will work with 16 gauge metals up to 5/16 of an inch thick.
The machine is extremely portable weighing only 7.9 pounds and dimensions of 15 x 7 x 11.5 inches.
Pros of the Forney 29801:
- Very lightweight and portable
- Comes with everything you will need to begin welding
- Great for those who are just learning how to weld
Cons of the Forney 29801:
- Not very powerful
- The included welding sticks are difficult to get going
If you need a device that you take with you for simple tack welding jobs, this will be an excellent pick up for you. Because of its small size, you shouldn’t expect to get much power out of it, but it is perfect for small home projects and those who are just learning how to weld.
#4 Best Low-Cost Welder: Blue Demon Bluearc 90 STI
Here is another 90 Amp inverter welder that you can take with you for smaller jobs on the go. This small welder can produce more significant power outputs than you would typically expect from a device this size, giving you unparalleled portability and still providing sufficient power for most smaller jobs.
This machine will run at an amperage range from 20 to 80 amps at a duty cycle of 20 percent at 80 amps (this means in ten-minute intervals, you can weld for 2 minutes at 80 percent power). The machine will come with a ten-foot electrode holder, 6.5-foot ground clamp, and a shoulder strap that will allow you to throw it on your shoulder when transporting it.
Let’s take a look at some of the positives of this machine:
- Low-cost welder
- Extremely portable device
- Perfect for spot welding
- Great for home use or beginner welders
- DC welder creates strong welding bonds
- Ten-foot electrode holder gives you plenty of slack while performing your weld
- Can perform both stick and tig welding
Cons of the Blue Demon 90 STI:
- Because it is such a small device, the duty cycle is a tad underwhelming (20 percent at 80 amps)
- Runs too cold for 7018 ⅛ and 3/32 inch rods
The Blue Demon 90 STI is excellent for beginners, and the do-it-yourself types that enjoy working on projects during their off time. Of course, because it is a small device that only operates at 90 amps, you shouldn’t expect to be able to handle your larger welding jobs with it. But at this machines listing price, this is easily a great purchase for home use.
#3 Best Middle-tier Arc Welder: Hobart 500421 Stickmate
If you require a device that can handle precise welds in a unit that is great for home use, then the Hobart 500502 Stickmate is an excellent buy. It uses a polarity switch making your welding experience easy and convenient when you need to switch polarities (the alternative is changing cables to reverse polarity).
It offers 235 amp of AC output and 160 amp of DC output and very good for home use. You’ll find the 15-foot electrode holder gives you plenty of slack during the welding process giving you more freedom to get into a comfortable position. The gauge is very easy to adjust and simple to read, however, after a while, the gauge develops a lot of play making it difficult to know exactly how many amps your machine is running at.
Let’s take a look at the pros you can expect with this machine:
- Offers AC and DC welding options
- 10-foot work cable for grounding your welder
- 15-foot electrode holder gives plenty of room
- Easy to start your arc
- Very good price for what the machine is capable of doing
- Can last you more than a decade if you stay within the recommended duty cycle
Cons of the Hobart 500421:
- The grounding clamp is somewhat flimsy
- Cumbersome machine weighing 104 pounds
- Due to a lot of play in the gauge dial, it can be tough to know your exact amperage
Hobart is a company that makes excellent welding machines, and the 500421 Stickmate is no different. The ability to switch from AC to DC really isn’t that big deal for too many people because DC welding is so much easier and way more efficient than AC welding, so you’ll probably only use the DC option. However, having the option to switch to AC is always a welcomed addition.
It would be a good idea to purchase a different ground clamp (the one that comes with this welder is a little too flimsy), but outside of that minor flaw, this is a near flawless machine for medium to larger projects.
#2 Best Stick Welder: Everlast PowerArc 200ST
The arc on the Everlast PowerArc is ridiculously powerful, capable of piercing through a 3.8-inch steel plate. This has one of the best arcs of any machine we’ve seen at this price point.
The setup of the machine is very easy and user-friendly (even for those who aren’t accustomed to setting up welders). Also, because it is a dual voltage unit, you can weld using 240 volts or 120-volt power depending on your set up. There are no extra steps needed; the machine will make the adjustments necessary automatically.
The Everlast PowerArc comes with a copper line ground clamp (something that most welding machines no longer come with and you have to purchase separately). The stick welding leads are ten feet and sturdy enough for most uses. It also comes with a very high-quality power cord that you don’t get with even the most expensive units from other brands.
The machine is roughly the size of a computer tower, weighs only 32 pounds and utilizes a single board design (making replacement much easier since you are only dealing with one part). But you probably won’t have to be replacing any of the parts because of the five-year warranty you will get from the manufacturer.
Here are some of the pros of the Everlast PowerArc 200ST:
- Excellent arc in a compact, versatile device
- Easy to find affordable aftermarket products for it
- Uses AC and DC power and is easy to switch between the two
- Superb arc quality
- Five-year manufacturer’s warranty
- High-quality ground clamp make from copper (very rare for today’s welders)
Cons of the Everlast PowerArc 200ST:
- Can be difficult to control in stick mode at times (won’t be a problem for experienced welders)
- The lead for the arc cable is only serviceable, and you may want to get an aftermarket lead
Everlast is not a company with a longstanding history (relative to the bigger companies), so some of their products are still improving, but this arc welder is an excellent product. It is helpful to them to include a proper copper ground clamp, but it also would have been nice for them to add a high-quality welding lead.
All in all, this has excellent arc quality and can do almost any medium to large jobs you will find yourself needing to do. Factor in its generous price tag and you have a winning arc welder on your hands.
#1 Best 3 in 1 Combo Welder for home use: Lotos 2000D Plasma Cutter 3 in 1 Combo welding machine
The machine excels when cutting through sheet metal, giving a smooth cut every time. You’ll quickly realize that this is great for carbon steel, stainless steel, and aluminum under an eighth of an inch thick. It works decently well with metals above 3/16 of an inch, but you will likely have to run through it twice (take your time with thicker steel).
It utilizes AC and DC power sources that run at 110 volts and 220 volts respectively. The top of the plasma cutter has a sturdy handle attached to make transporting it around much easier. It comes included with a 12.5-foot torch cable, a six-foot ground cable, and an 8-foot air flow cable.
Some of the pros of this welder include:
- 3 in 1 use allows the machine to be more versatile
- Leight enough in weight for transporting (would not consider this a portable device)
- VEry easy to strike an arc
- Strong enough to get most jobs done
Cons of the Lotos:
- Welding leads are not long enough
- Consumables are expensive and specific to this machine alone
- The ground clamp and wire is flimsy and too short
If you are looking for a 3 in 1 machine that can tig weld, stick weld, and plasma cut for in-home use, this is probably one that you should look at. It’ll give you excellent quality results without breaking your pockets, and it comes with a three-year warranty in case you were to have any issues with it.
We would recommend that you purchase some aftermarket torch leads as well as a better quality ground clamp but overall, this machine is worth taking a serious look at.
When purchasing an arc welder, you should be sure look at everything you are getting with it. It isn’t all about the output power, or the recommended duty cycle because they are typically around the same for each machine.
One of the major contributing factors is the peripherals that come with it (i.e., cable leads and ground clamps). Getting leads that are too short will limit your ability to perform the job comfortably and safely. You need high-quality leads and ground clamps, which is why we the Hobart Stickmate is our favorite arc welder on this list.
Remember when you are welding, you should follow ALL safety guidelines when welding. Wear all personal protective equipment, and if you are using a plasma cutter, you should get a respirator.