Stick welding is still the preferred welding process for many welders. The simplicity of the welding machines is probably the biggest reason for that. You can literally find stick welding machines that fit in a backpack, or a handbag (I don’t judge), so you can be mobile when you need to work outside the workshop.
Because there’s not a lot of equipment required for stick welding, it’s a smart idea to invest in a quality stinger. A loose stinger will result in a bad weld, and that can lead to serious problems. Nowadays it’s very common to run into cheap stingers that seem durable at first. That’s why I’ve taken the time to do thorough research on the market, and select the best seven stingers you can find online.
Because I’m an old-school guy for most things, I prefer a classic clamp-style stinger, so five of the stingers on this list are clamp-style. The other two are screw-type electrode holders, and if you don’t know the difference between the two, here’s a short explanation.
It’s very self-explanatory, it’s a clamp that holds the electrode in place. There’s a handle, usually made of brass, covered with plastic or rubber for insulation. Then there’s a clamp which you squeeze in order to open the jaw, that has a tread, where you put the bottom of the electrode. That tread is usually called a “jaw pattern”. The pattern allows you to place the electrode at a 90°, 45°, or 180° angle, depending on the position where you need to weld.
These are relatively new, and that’s why most welders still use the classic, clamp-style stingers. The way they work is, there’s a hole in which you put the bottom of the electrode, then by turning the handle, a screw squeezes the electrode and holds it in place.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at my top picks.
Overall Best: STINGER Stv002
This is a stinger made by Stinger, so you can expect a well-made… electrode holder. The V stinger is a true classic, and most welders swear by them. It’s a very simple design, and not a lot can go wrong with it.
The spring is insanely strong, and you can’t pull out the electrode even if you’re a bodybuilder, or a professional arm wrestler, or the toughest of them all – a mechanic. The stinger is made from a combination of brass, iron, and copper. The handle is made from brass, and there’s a rubber tube covering it. Simple.
Stinger claims it’s the most heavy-duty electrode holder on the market, and I have to agree. This stinger can withstand anything, I’ve personally used it to hammer small nails. Of course, that’s not recommended, but it really says a lot about the quality of it. And last but not least, it’s made in the USA.
The only real issue is that the spring is not insulated, so if you’re not careful, you might pinch your finger when you need to release the rod. Actually, there’s one more, minor issue: the price. This stinger costs almost $90, which is three times more than most of the electrode holders on this list.
- Very tough and durable;
- Super strong spring.
- Spring is not insulated.
Runner-Up: Lenco Model AF-25
This is a mid-range stinger because it supports up to 250 amp welding, but it’s so well made that it feels like it can take much more. It’s a classic clamp-style stinger, so there’s not much that can go wrong with it.
The stinger is made of very tough plastic and it feels like it can take a beating. A detail I really enjoy is that the spring is also covered with plastic, so there’s no way for it to come out, or worse, pinch your finger.
The Lenco AF-25 electrode holder is recommended for electrodes up to 3/16” and up to a 2/0 gauge cable. This means it can be used on a large rig and on large-scale projects. Something worth mentioning is that the Lenco electrode holders are made in the USA.
A minor drawback is that the “teeth” can’t be replaced, instead, you would have to replace the entire jaw.
- Made in the USA;
- Very tough and durable;
- Very affordable.
- Teeth can’t be replaced.
Best Design: Tweco Tong T316MC
This Tweco electrode holder has a very ergonomic design, and it’s made of smooth plastic that feels nice in the hand. It’s not very light, but it’s very sturdy and should last you quite some time. Tweco has been making high-quality welding products for years, and this stinger is no different.
It has a strong spring, which is covered with plastic for your protection. The jaws also look quite well-made, so I doubt they’ll wear out quickly. That is important because like with most of the new stingers, you can’t just replace the “teeth”, you actually have to replace the entire jaw (I feel like a dentist while writing this).
The recommended maximum amperage for this electrode holder is 300 amps, but it feels like it can handle more. It can fit a cable with a maximum thickness of 2/0 gauge. The only issue with this stinger is the hex screw that is used to hold the cable. It’s simply not a common thing, so you might have to buy a hex screwdriver especially for this.
- Ergonomic design;
- Super strong spring;
- Sturdy and tough.
- Hex screwdriver is required to set up the cable.
Best Value-for-Money: Lincoln Electric KH521
This Lincoln Electric stinger is surprisingly cheap considering how well made it is. It’s a stubby little electrode holder, but it’s something I rather enjoy. I prefer shorter stingers because it feels like I have better control over the rod.
The stinger feels very light, but the plastic it’s made of is very tough, so no need to worry about dropping it. It’s actually a really good thing that the stinger is so light because, after hours of holding a heavy stinger, your wrists will feel fatigued.
It’s not recommended to use amperage higher than 300, and even at 300 amps the handle gets warm, which is not a pleasant feeling, but it isn’t an uncommon issue. This electrode holder can use a cable up to 2/0 gauge, so don’t worry if you need to use it on large projects.
Although everything seems well made, some welders have complained about receiving faulty items. One user claims that it literally fell apart after only a few days, which is terrible.
- Very light;
- Short handle;
- Very affordable.
- Faulty items have been reported.
Best for Heavy-Duty: Reboot Welding Electrode Holder
Made from brass, this welding stinger is a real heavy-duty product. Too bad the plastic handle doesn’t match the quality of the rest of the stinger. The plastic feels very cheap, and it doesn’t look like it can handle too many drops.
The handle is not too long, so it’s easy to maneuver. The spring is very strong, and it’s isolated with a plastic cup, so it won’t come off or pinch your finger. Another minor issue is that the “teeth” aren’t separate, so if they wear off, you would have to replace the entire jaw.
On the Amazon page, you can choose between a 300 amp and a 500 amp version, both look identical, and both can handle a lot of hours of welding without heating up. Installing the cable is super easy, and the allen wrench that’s required to do it comes in the package.
- Short handle;
- Very affordable.
- Plastic cover seems cheap.
Best Screw Type: ESAB 300 Amp Welding Electrode Holder
I’ve never been a fan of screw-type electrode holders, but they seem to be the choice for a lot of new welders, and I can see why. This ESAB stinger is really something. It has two holes for an electrode, one at a 90° angle, and one at a 45° angle, which is not a common feature.
The head is also fully insulated, so you don’t have to worry if it touches a metal surface. The handle is made of rubber, so it provides a soft but firm grip. ESAB has been proven to be a high-end brand when it comes to welding products, and the quality of this stinger really proves that.
The stinger doesn’t feel very heavy, but it’s far from being cheap. It was made in Sweden, and everything on it just really feels well made and durable. The stinger comes in a package that also includes an allen wrench for the screw that holds the cable. You can use up to 2/0 gauge cable, and you can run a maximum of 300 amps. However, it does feel like it can handle more than that.
Honestly, I can’t find any drawbacks about this stinger, other than it’s slightly more expensive than most stingers on this list.
- Made in Sweden;
- Short rubber handle;
- Two holes for the electrode;
- Very sturdy and durable.
- Slightly more expensive than most stingers.
Screw Type Runner-Up: Hobart 770028
This Hobart stinger is very light and stubby, which is great for maneuvering and for long working hours.
The plastic it’s made of seems very thin, but sturdy. With a simple turn of the handle, the finished electrode will fall off. There isn’t much else to say about the design, because it’s simple and practical.
This stinger can handle up to 400 amps, and it can fit a cable up to 2/0 gauge. The only issue that seems to come up is that the screw that holds the electrode might loosen after a while. If that does happen, you can take the stinger apart and tighten the screw. It should work fine afterwards.
- Ergonomic design;
- Short handle.
- Screw that holds the rod may loosen after a while.
Best Stick Welding Stinger: Buyer’s Guide
Things to consider before choosing an electrode holder:
A high-end brand is usually a safe bet, no matter what you’re buying. The only issue can be the price, but luckily, there are mid-range brands that provide excellent quality products, and the ones listed above are perfect examples of that.
Clamp Style or Screw Type?
This is really just a matter of personal preference. I’ve never liked screw-type stingers, but young welders seem to really enjoy them. Clamp-style stingers are much simpler, and the fact that you can place the electrode at different angles is a big advantage.
With screw-type stingers, if you need to reach a weird angle, you have to bend the electrode. That could result in the flux cracking, and then you will have interruptions in the arc. However, I have met old-school welders that tried switching to a screw-type stinger, and now they won’t go back to clamps. As I said, it’s a matter of personal preference.
Light stingers may feel cheap, or like they won’t last too long, but your wrists will be thankful. If you have to spend 8 or more hours welding with a heavy electrode holder, your wrists will get really fatigued, and you may even experience pain in them the next day.
If you don’t work on large construction projects, like building skyscrapers or bridges, you will probably never need to use more than 250 amps. Consider buying a 300 amp stinger. They’re cheaper than the 500 amp stingers, and as I said, you will probably never need to go higher than 250 amps.
Best Stick Welding Stinger: Conclusion
If you’re looking to buy an electrode holder that you can put in your will for your grandchildren to inherit, then the STINGER Stv002 is the way to go.
If you need something slightly less heavy-duty, the Lenco Model AF-25 is a perfect choice. It’s very sturdy, well-insulated, and with a super-strong spring. Honestly, your grandkids might inherit this one, too.
The Tweco Tong T316MC has the most ergonomic design out of all the stingers on this list, and that’s very important if you need to weld for 8 or more hours a day.
Any product by Lincoln Electric is a safe bet, and the Lincoln Electric KH521 is no different. For around $20, you will get a high-quality product that could possibly last you a lifetime.
If you’re into screw-type stingers, nothing beats the ESAB 300 Amp Welding Electrode Holder. I love everything about this electrode holder. If I ever decide to switch to screw-type stingers, this is the one I’m buying. It’s durable, has a soft, rubber handle, and will probably outlast me. Something else to leave for my grandkids I guess.
Why does my stick welder keep sticking?
There could be many reasons for this. Improper current for one – both too weak and too strong a current can result in the rod sticking. A loose rod could be another reason. Lack of experience yet another one. Even an unclean stinger could result in sticking.
What amp stinger do I need?
Rarely does stick welding require anything above 250 amps, so if you’re not a professional welder, just get one that works for up to 300 amps, and you should be fine.
How do you hold a welder stinger?
With your hand. You could also try using your teeth, but the sparks and spatter will burn your face. Jokes aside, you should wrap the lead once around your arm, so that the weight of it doesn’t pull down on your hand, and weld away.
Can you touch the stick when stick welding?
You can touch the base of it, nothing will happen. Just don’t touch it where it’s hot.
Is stick welding stronger than MIG?
Yes, it is. Stick welding uses higher amperage and therefore penetrates deeper into the base metal.