mig vs stick

There are many different types of welding including MIG, TIG and Stick welding. Each type of welding method comes with their own advantages and disadvantages and learning a single method can take a lot of time and effort. But when you know the differences between these types of welding, their pros, and cons, and how they work, it would become easy to choose which method suits you perfectly when you are assigned a welding job or if you just try to pick a method to learn. In this article, we will be looking at the major differences between MIG welding and stick welding, how each method works and the pros and cons in both these welding methods.

About MIG Welding

Metal Inert gas (MIG) Welding is a type of welding that is generally used to weld small weld joints and for finer welding jobs. It is also called as Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW). When compared to TIG welding, MIG welding is quite easy to learn as TIG involves a lot of processes. But when you compare MIG welding with Stick, welders need to acquire a lot of knowledge about the proper shielding gases used based on the metal to be welded and the voltage settings to be used along with the wire speed etc.

How MIG Welding Works

In MIG Welding, the welder makes use of a welding gun that takes care of pushing the electrode wire from a spool to create continuous filler feeding into the weld pool. Unlike Stick welding, where the electrode wire comes coated with a kind of flux containing shielding gases, in MIG welding the shielding gas is fed separately into the electrode wire that takes of protecting the puddle. So in MIG welding, you need an additional tank that stores your shielding gas.

Pros:

  • Welding quality is much better with MIG welding when compared to stick welding
  • MIG welding is quicker than stick welding
  • The only thing that is hard to learn in MIG welding to set the machine correctly with proper settings. Once you learn that, welding is quite easy.
  • There are also MIG welding machines available in the market that come with pre-set features

Cons:

  • A clean surface is required for MIG welding
  • Even though MIG welding can be used to weld different types of metal, it requires a lot of experience to set the proper parameters and use the correct type of gases for welding different metals.
  • Not recommended for welding cast iron
  • Cannot be done in wet or windy conditions

About Stick Welding

Stick welding also known as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) is one of the easiest forms of welding when compared to MIG and TIG welding. It is said that some people have completed stick welding jobs using jumper cables and car batteries. The reason we are saying this is because for stick welding it requires much less equipment and the welding cost is also lower when compared with other types of welding. Beginners who are taking up welding as a career can start with stick welding as it is easy fairly cheap.

How Stick Welding Works

In stick welding, the workpiece is first attached with the cable from the welding machine as it allows the electricity flow to create an arc when it comes into contact with the electrode. But initially, the welder creates the arc by touching the base metal and then passing the arc towards the electrode to create a molten pool. Once that welding pool is cooled, it forms a strong weld joint on the workpiece.

Pros

  • Creates strong welds
  • Perfect for welding thick materials
  • Mostly preferred in construction welding works and heavy repair jobs
  • Great for cast iron welding
  • Cheaper equipment
  • Can be done in all kinds of weather

Cons

  • Cannot be used to weld thin materials
  • Can be difficult to create an arc initially
  • Work can be ugly if not handled properly
  • Leaves slag
  • Need finishing touches to get the desired results

The Margin for Error in Stick Welding vs MIG

The margin for error is not as high in MIG welding when compared to stick welding. Because in MIG welding you have various settings provided for the welder to customize the machine according to the job on hand. Even though it is an advantage in many ways, it could lead to a disaster as the possibility of error is quite higher as there are various settings to set and if any setting is not done properly it could damage the base metal. To get the desired results in MIG welding, you need to provide the right amperage, gas flow speed, electrode stick out and technique etc.

Weld Joint Penetration in MIG Vs Stick

When it comes to weld joint penetration, stick welding always comes on top as it penetrates the metal much better than MIG welding. But if you use the right kind of uphill technique and provide the right amperage, you can get the penetration in MIG welding too, but that requires a lot of skill and experience.

Operating Cost of MIG Welding vs arc Welding

When it comes to operating costs, stick welding is not always cheaper when compared to MIG welding. Even though you can find equipment that is both expensive and cheap, stick welding rods can cost hefty amount of money depending on the job. In MIG welding your costs could go a little higher with the cost of shielding gas tanks and the shielding gas may differ based on the kind of metal you are welding. The welding process is quite easy with stick welding when compared to MIG welding. In MIG welding, it takes a lot of prep timing as you need to have a cleaner surface and setup the proper parameters. But with stick welding, you can continue through with the welding, even if there are any impurities in the workpiece. But still in my opinion GMAW method is a lot easier to execute.

Weld Quality – MIG Welding vs Arc Welding

While the quality is mostly good in both kinds of welding, top-notch MIG welders will give you a much nicer finish with the first attempt, you may need to add some finishing touches in stick welding to get the desired quality. While MIG welding can produce optimum results with thin metals, stick welding can be used for welding thicker metals. However, the proper technique, correct settings, the type electrode wire used along with your experience and skill can even things out with MIG welding and stick welding.