I keep finding out that better equipment makes learning a skill easier for the novice. The Hobart Stickmate is such a piece of equipment.
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Hobart Stickmate® 205 AC “Stick” Welder

Dependable, “Dial it in” flexibility and US-Made!

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 12-13-2010

Basic stick welders remain very popular because of their combination of affordable pricing and the ability to effectively weld relatively thick metal. The Hobart Stickmate® was named specifically in several emailed review requests received since I posted the first welder review on NewMetalworker.com. Since you demanded this review I made the “sacrifice” (OK, fun) and have been thrashing the Hobart Stickmate® for several days now. As with the Hobart Handler 125 EZ reviewed earlier the Hobart Stickmate® is impressive in its capabilities, performance and price. Plus, the Hobart Stickmate® is Made in America, not a small attraction these days.

The Basics

The Hobart Stickmate® runs on 220V 1-phase power and produces and output range of 30 to 205-Amps. The output is infinitely variable within that range and we will look at that important feature later in this review. The cabinet is 18-3/4” tall by 12-3/4” wide and 17-1/2”-deep. The electronics within the cabinet that power the Hobart Stickmate® are stout which explains the 83-lb overall weight.

 

Assembling the work and Stinger clamps (left) onto the cable ends really is the whole setup procedure! Though not required I used several types of Hobart rods (right) throughout the evaluation both to give them a try and because I kept hearing welders saying that they are a very good quality rod.
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The Hobart Stickmate® comes with a simple but effective work clamp and stinger (electrode/rod holder) that you install on the factory prepared cables as part of the setup. Actually, aside from plugging it in, putting the clamps on IS the setup. The work cable comes with a loop-type terminal already installed and ready to be connected to the work clamp on its lugs. The electrode/stinger cable is stripped and ready for installation into the stinger handle using the included hex wrench. With the cables prepared like this novices do not have to fear getting the polarity wrong. The work clamp cable is 10-feet-long while the electrode cable is 15-feet-long. Those cable lengths allow you to do more work and less repositioning of the project or the Hobart Stickmate®.

The Hobart Stickmate® comes with a standard welder plug attached to a heavy 5-foot-long cord.

Variable Output

The Hobart Stickmate® features a crank operated amperage selection system that lets the operator pick the best setting (in 1-ampere increments) for the job at hand. The crank on the front of the machine moves a shunt block in and out of the transformer to create the various amperage levels. The clearly printed scale surrounding the amp-setting crank makes tweaking the setting up or down easy and fast. I found this scale to be very easy to use because when you tweak the amperage output it is by a quarter, half or full turn of the crank. Not having single amperage markings would just make the overall scale harder to read quickly. I also found that with just a little experience I grew accustomed to this scale.
The instruction manual and a sticker on top of the Hobart Stickmate® cabinet provide suggested amp ranges for common rod types, diameters and material thicknesses.

Beginners can follow these coarse recommendations initially and then later after gaining more skill and experience can make use of the fine-tuning capability of the Hobart Stickmate® to fine-tune the amp setting for the work being done. The same charts also give a brief description of each rods use, difficulty and penetration capabilities. As simple as they sound, these stickers can be a major help to new welders.

The amperage adjusting crank (left) on the front of the Hobart Stickmate turns out to be very handy, especially for someone with less than pro welding skills. When you turn the crank it is moving this shunt block in and out of the transformer to vary the amperage. Simple, trouble-free but effective.
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The only maintenance this system requires is applying a bit of high-temperature grease to sliders on the shunt block on a recommended schedule of once per year! The instructions show how to get to the shunt block and where to put the grease. Aside from that just don’t knock it over of crunch it with a vehicle and the Hobart Stickmate® will keep on welding stuff together! I’d try to offer a life expectancy but so far all of the Hobart Stickmate® owners I have corresponded with are still using the first one they bought.

In the Shop

From the first time I turned the Hobart Stickmate® on it has been easy and fun to use. Despite my lacking pro welder skills I was able to dial the Hobart Stickmate® in to help me produce decent welds with good penetration on a variety of material thicknesses. I never felt like the arc or amperage was fluctuating, something that is especially important to the novice. Armed with some of the many photos of beads on the Internet that show typical overly hot, overly cold and other welding mistakes even a novice user can learn to use the amperage adjusting feature on the Hobart Stickmate® to achieve better results.

I tried making simple one-sided butt welds in 3/16”-thick steel and then hammering them over to see how strong they were. I used 7014, 1/8”-diameter Hobart rods with the Hobart Stickmate® set at about 140-amps. The first weld failed fairly early so I cranked the Hobart Stickmate® up to about 160-amps and tried again. This time the steel adjacent to the weld bent well over 45-degrees before the weld began to crack. I know that a pro could probably get an even stronger weld with this same setup but I was happy with my progress. What is important to me is that with more experience I also will be able to make this joint stronger in part because of the simplicity of using the Hobart Stickmate® as well as its adjustable amp feature. I know that I am fighting my skill level, not the Hobart Stickmate®. It is ready when I am.

Video Tour

If there is anything about the Hobart Stickmate® that I would like to see changed –and this is admittedly nit picking - it is the rod gripping plates in the stinger. The detents meant to secure the bare end of the rods (electrodes) seem to be just a bit shallow. Making them a tad deeper would let the spring loaded jaws get a firmer grip on the electrode. Before you get excited about this “shortcoming” it is important to understand that lots of people like the stinger just as it is. If you find yourself feeling like me a small round file will cure this problem (my perception) quickly.

I had one fellow email me saying that he would love to buy a Hobart Stickmate® but he considers the 205-amp upper limit to be just too low. I realize that there are stronger welders out there in this class but unless you are consistently running into materials over 3/8”-thick the Hobart Stickmate® amp range is more than sufficient. I personally have not been over 180 amps during this evaluation despite trying to weld virtually every piece of scrap metal I could find in my shop. For everything I have built in my shop so far the Hobart Stickmate® would be turned down well below 180 amps anyway. I think that the Hobart Stickmate® 30 to 205 amp working range is more than sufficient for the vast majority (if not all) of the needs of Hobbyist Welders as well as a bunch of the pros as well. In fact I have heard from several pro welders that keep a Hobart Stickmate® in the shop for the odd welding task.

Conclusions

After burning up around 20-lbs of rods during the evaluation I remain very impressed with the Hobart Stickmate®. In fact, my next metalworking project will be designing and welding up a cart for the Hobart Stickmate® because it will be assuming a permanent position next to my MIG machine. I will probably use the MIG more often but when thicker materials need to be welded, the Hobart Stickmate® will be standing by with all of the capabilities I need in my home-based shop.

The Hobart Stickmate® is a very stout, US-made welder with a range of capabilities that serves the needs of Hobbyist Welders as well as the lighter duty work of some professionals. With a street price of around $300.00 (12-11-2010) and often substantially less for factory reconditioned units the Hobart Stickmate® can bring its substantial welding capability to your shop without tripping the budget circuit breaker.

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