MIG and stick welding are two of the most popular welding methods in the industry today.
They are often compared, and it can sometimes be challenging to determine which one is best for your needs, especially if you are new to welding.
Today, I’ll be doing something a bit different and giving you a complete guide that will explore MIG vs. stick welding, their pros and cons, the differences between them, and finally, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions to help clear up any confusion that you might have with regards to these types of welding.
A lot of this information was in learning myself, and I’m going to try and share what I gathered from my research as best as I possibly can. Bare with me!
What is MIG welding in simple terms? (GMAW)
MIG welding, in simple terms, is a welding process where a wire, called an electrode, is continuously fed through a welding gun to join two pieces of metal together. A gas, known as shielding gas, flows around the wire to protect the weld from contaminants, ensuring a strong and clean connection.
MIG welding is popular because it’s easy to learn, fast, and works well on various materials.
What is MIG welding used for?
MIG welding is used as a popular method of connecting different metals and alloys together, in a range of applications.
It’s widely used for creating metal structures, repairing vehicles, and fabricating parts in industries such as aerospace, shipbuilding, and furniture making.
MIG welding is a popular choice for artists working with metal and DIY enthusiasts tackling home improvement projects, as it offers a reliable and efficient way to join various metals in a fairly easy way.
Advantages of MIG welding
- High Productivity: MIG welding is known for its speed and efficiency. The continuous wire feed allows for faster welding, which means you can complete projects in less time.
- Easy to Learn: MIG welding is considered beginner-friendly, as it requires less skill and experience to produce clean, strong welds.
- Versatility: MIG welding is suitable for various materials, including steel, nickel, iron, copper, and aluminum.
- Clean Welds: MIG welding produces minimal spatter and slag, resulting in cleaner, more aesthetically pleasing welds.
Disadvantages of MIG welding
- Cost: MIG welding equipment can be more expensive than stick welding equipment, and the consumables used in MIG welding, such as shielding gas, can add to the cost.
- Limited Portability: MIG welders usually require a gas cylinder and external power source, making them less portable than stick welders.
What is stick welding in simple terms? (SMAW)
Stick welding, in simple terms, is a welding process that uses a rod, called an electrode, to join two pieces of metal together. The electrode is coated with a material called flux, which, when it’s heated, creates a gas shield that protects the weld from contaminants.
Stick welding is known for its versatility and portability, making it a popular choice for welding various metals, even in outdoor or challenging conditions.
What is stick welding used for?
Stick welding is used for a variety of purposes, including joining and repairing metal parts in industries like construction, infrastructure, and heavy equipment manufacturing.
It’s also commonly used for maintenance and repair work, such as fixing machinery or reinforcing metal structures.
Due to its portability and ability to handle rusty or dirty surfaces, stick welding is a preferred choice for outdoor projects and fieldwork. Similar to MIG welding, hobbyists and DIY enthusiasts use stick welding for home improvement tasks and creative metalwork.
Advantages of stick welding
- Low Cost: Stick welding equipment is generally more affordable than MIG welding equipment, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious welders.
- Portability: Stick welders are compact, lightweight, and do not require a gas cylinder, making them more portable than MIG welders.
- Good Choice For Outdoor Use: Stick welding is more suitable for outdoor use, as it is less sensitive to wind and drafts that can affect shielding gas in MIG welding.
- Versatility: Stick welding is effective on a wide variety of materials and thicknesses, including rusty or dirty surfaces.
Disadvantages of stick welding
- Slower Process: Stick welding is generally slower than MIG welding due to the need to replace electrodes frequently.
- More Skill Required: Stick welding requires more skill and experience to produce clean, strong welds.
- More Dangerous Than MIG Welding: Stick welding is generally considered more dangerous than MIG welding due to the production of more smoke and fumes, higher amperage current used, and a greater risk of fire hazard from sparks produced by welding rods.
Key differences between MIG and stick welding
- Electrode Type: MIG welding uses a continuous wire electrode, while stick welding uses a consumable rod electrode.
- Shielding Gas: MIG welding requires shielding gas to protect the weld from contaminants, while stick welding uses a flux-coated electrode that produces a gas shield when it’s burned.
- Equipment: MIG welding equipment includes a welding gun, wire feed system, and gas cylinder, while stick welding equipment consists of a welding machine and electrode holder.
Frequently Asked Questions on MIG vs. stick welding
Here are a few questions that I thought might be helpful to answer when it comes to this topic. If you have anymore questions that you’d like the answers to, please let me know in the comments below!
Is MIG welding easier than stick welding?
Yes, MIG welding is generally considered easier to learn and master than stick welding, as it requires less skill to produce clean, strong welds.
Is stick welding stronger than MIG welding?
Both MIG and stick welding can produce strong, durable welds when done correctly. However, the strength of the weld will mostly come down to factors such as material type, joint preparation, and welder skill.
What type of welder is best for beginners?
MIG welding is often recommended for beginners, as it is easier to learn and produces cleaner, more consistent welds with less skill required.
What type of metal is best suited for MIG welding?
MIG welding is best suited for metals like mild steel, stainless steel, and aluminum.
Mild steel is the most common material used in MIG welding, as it’s easy to work with and produces strong, clean welds.
Stainless steel and aluminum are also well-suited for MIG welding, although they may require specific wire types and shielding gases to achieve the best results.
MIG welding is particularly effective for thin to medium thickness metals, providing a quick and efficient way to join them.
What type of metal is best suited for stick welding?
Stick welding is best suited for a wide range of metals, including mild steel, stainless steel, cast iron, and some types of aluminum.
It works well with thicker materials and can handle surfaces that are dirty, rusty, or coated with paint.
What type of welding is best for DIY?
Both MIG and stick welding can be suitable for DIY projects, depending on your specific needs. MIG welding is ideal for thin materials and clean, aesthetically pleasing welds, while stick welding is more versatile and suitable for outdoor use.
Consider factors such as portability, cost, and the materials you plan to work with when choosing the best welding method for your DIY projects.
What other types of welding are there aside from MIG and stick?
Some other common types of welding that are used are:
- Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)
- Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), also known as TIG Welding
- Submerged Arc Welding (SAW)
- Electroslag Welding (ESW)
- Resistance Welding (RW)
- Laser Welding (LW)
- Electron Beam Welding (EBW)
- Plasma Arc Welding (PAW)
Which type of welding is best to learn for jobs?
The need for various welding methods can change based on the industry and area, but overall, the four primary welding types (SMAW, GMAW, FCAW, and GTAW) are sought-after for jobs.
However, certain welding techniques might be more popular in specific industries which could steer you towards a certain type. For instance, GMAW (MIG welding) is frequently used in manufacturing, car repairs, and building projects, while GTAW (TIG welding) is typically employed in aerospace, aviation, and advanced manufacturing.
What are the highest paying welding jobs?
Typically, the highest paying welding jobs tend to be the following:
- Underwater welder
- Aerospace welder
- Pipe welder
- Nuclear welder
- Robotics welder
- Certified welding inspector
- Oil rig welder
Can welders make $100,000 a year?
Yes, welders can make $100,000 a year, but it often depends on factors like experience, skill level, location, and the specific industry.
Highly skilled welders working in specialized fields, such as underwater welding, pipeline welding, or the aerospace industry, may command higher salaries. Welders who work in remote locations or take on overtime hours may also earn more.
However, reaching these levels on income usually requires years of experience, advanced training, and a strong reputation in the field.
The bottom line when it comes to these two types of welding
When it comes to MIG vs. stick welding, the best method ultimately depends on your specific needs, budget, and skill level.
MIG welding offers speed, efficiency, and ease of use, making it an excellent choice for beginners and projects requiring clean, attractive welds.
On the other hand, stick welding is more portable, affordable, and versatile, making it suitable for a wider range of materials and environments.
By understanding the advantages, disadvantages, and differences between MIG and stick welding, hopefully you’ll be able to make a better decision on which type of welding you should learn and why to choose one method of the other.
Keep practicing and honing your skills, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a proficient welder, no matter which method you choose.