Veteran Advisor
Posts: 5,977
Registered: ‎10-25-2010

Re: Which stick welder should I buy?

Well, for an inexperienced welder, a stick is probably a good place to start.

Look for an AC/DC welder, where the cables plug into the main unit (instead of being hard-wired), so you can reverse the polarity in just a few seconds, if need be.

I would consider 225 amps the bare minimum, 250+ as better.   Not so much that you will often NEED more than 225 amps, but remember that as the welder approaches its maximum output, it loses duty cycle.  Duty cycle, is a measure, of how many minutes out of 10, you can actually weld, without overheating the welder.  Many welders taper off to 10% duty cycle at the high settings, which is roughly two electrodes.  Remember, as you weld thicker materials (that require more amps) you are also talking about welds that will require more rods to complete.  The weld will be stronger, if you don't have to stop and let the welder 'rest' so much.   If you can keep welding, while the base metal is still hot, your welds will have less stress in them, and be stronger.  A 225 amp welder running at 225 amps generally will have a 5-10% duty cycle.  A 250 amp welder might have 30-40% duty cycle, when set at 225 amps, allowing you to do 3-4 times as much actual welding in the same time. 

AC isn't required much any more, except for a few specialized rods, but if you have A/C, you can do cutting with an arc welder.   Not all that precise, when compared to a torch or plasma cutter, but it is a fast way to do demolition work, or just to cut off a mangled part.

DC is what you will be doing most of your actual welding with, and whether straight or reverse polarity is better, depends on the situation. 

As for what brand to buy, I don't consider that too terribly important, as long as it is a reputable maker.