When you first start out learning how to weld, it can be confusing figuring out the different styles. Eventually, you find yourself wondering is MIG welding easier than stick?
I brought in an expert to answer the question and here’s what I learned:
MIG welding is much easier for a beginner than stick welding. However, the initial setup of the equipment can be more complicated than stick due to the larger number of variables, such as wire size, gas, contact tips, and nozzle. MIG welding also gets smoother welds with less cleanup needed compared to stick welding.
So if you’re confused about whether MIG or stick welding is the right process for you, this guide explains how the processes differ, which process is easier to learn, the strength of the welds and how dangerous they are.
Guest Author John Ward of Kings of Welding
How does MIG welding differ from stick welding?
MIG welding and stick welding are two very different welding processes.
MIG welding feeds a wire electrode surrounded by shielding gas through a MIG gun into the weld pool. Stick welding uses a consumable flux-coated electrode which is melted into the weld pool, producing lots of spatter.
Stick welding is better for welding outdoors, is better on rusty metal, and is easy to set up. MIG welding gets cleaner results, is better for thin metal, and is an easier process to master although it has a more complex setup.
MIG welding produces higher quality welds than stick welding because the shielding gas protects the weld pool from contamination from the atmosphere.
In stick welding, the flux coating on the electrode turns into gas, creating spatter and slag which covers the weld bead. Stick welding requires a lot more cleanup time to remove the slag, whereas MIG welding produces cleaner results.
MIG welding also requires you to clean any rust, paint or oil from the metal before you start welding. Stick welding is better if you don’t have time to clean the metal and need to weld rusty or painted metal.
I still recommend you clean the weld before stick welding, but you can still get results even if you don’t.
If you’re stick welding, you can’t weld thin metal. You can weld anything ⅛ inch and upwards. Anything thinner than this you’ll need to use MIG.
Stick welders are also cheaper and more portable than MIG welders.
You can pick up a good stick welder for $170 but you’ll be paying more like $500 for a good MIG welder. Stick welders weigh around 15lb and MIG welders around 45lb, and you have to use a gas cylinder for MIG too.
It’s also less expensive to weld special metals with stick welding as you only need to buy a new electrode instead of a whole spool of wire.
Stick welding is a better choice for welding outdoors.
If you try and MIG weld outdoors, the wind can blow the shielding gas. This prevents it from protecting the weld, causing contamination and porosity. Stick welding doesn’t have this problem.
If you’re indoors, welding clean metal and want better results, you should use MIG.
Is MIG welding easier to learn than stick?
MIG is easier as a process than stick welding once you’re up and running. However, the MIG machine is harder to set up than stick.
To set up a stick machine all you need is your portable stick welder, a power source and an electrode then you’re good to go.
The main problem that beginners have when stick welding is in striking the arc and the electrode sticking to the base metal instead of melting.
If your amperage is too low you will have trouble striking the arc.
But if your amperage is too high you will cause excess spatter. Beginners will have a lot of trouble laying smooth welds and it’s a slower process than MIG welding due to the stopping and starting.
It will get easier with practice but it’s quite difficult to master and you should expect the electrode to stick for a while till you get the hang of it.
With MIG welding it’s much easier to start and maintain the arc so the process will be much smoother with fewer stops and starts.
Plus you can MIG weld with one hand as you just need to hold the trigger on the MIG gun.
The downside is that the setup is more complex. In MIG welding you need to have the right wire, the right gas, contact tips, gas flow for the wire, wire feed speed, nozzle, etc. There are lots more variables to consider before you can start laying your bead.
Luckily, most MIG welders come with detailed manuals and instructions on how to set up for MIG. They also have charts on the inside of the machine and some have special features which automatically select the right settings to make life easier.
However, if you don’t get your settings right it can be very frustrating as a beginner.
Is MIG welding as strong as stick?
With a stick welder you can get more penetration off the same amperage than a MIG welder, so stick welders can penetrate metal better than MIG.
That being said, both can produce equally strong welds if they are done the right way. A weld that is penetrated correctly will hold strong, whichever process is used.
If you’re a hobbyist, you’ll probably be better using your stick welder for more penetration because you might not be able to get the same amperage off your MIG welder. MIG was designed more for thinner sheet metal so most popular MIG welders won’t get the power to adequately penetrate the metal as well as stick.
If you’re torn between the two and have similar power, you’re best choosing the process that you feel most comfortable with. If you’re a skilled MIG welder there probably wouldn’t be much point switching to stick just to try and get more penetration as you’ll produce a worse weld.
Is stick welding more dangerous than stick?
Both stick and MIG are dangerous welding processes and you should take the proper safety precautions to protect yourself.
MIG and stick offer different dangers, stick produces more fumes and sparks, but MIG requires you to look after a gas cylinder.
Both welding processes require an electric arc, so there is a possibility of electric shock if you do not follow the correct safety precautions. Always follow the instructions thoroughly of any equipment you’re using.
Stick welding produces more fumes than MIG welding.
The fumes produced by stick welder are hazardous and you need to ensure there is sufficient ventilation in your workplace. If you’re working in a small area you should have an extraction fan fitted to remove the fumes.
Stick welding also produces more spatter than MIG welding.
With sparks flying everywhere, you need to protect your body and take extra precautions for fire hazards in your workplace. Skin that is exposed is at high risk of being burnt. Cover your skin and wear flame-resistant clothing.
Any cloth, paper wood, solvents, and flammables must also be removed from the welding area to prevent them from catching fire.
One of the main dangers of MIG welding is that you have to take care of a gas cylinder.
Gas cylinders should be stored stationary, upright, and secured in place so they don’t fall over. If a gas cylinder tips over, gas could start leaking. While argon gas is non-flammable, you certainly don’t want a gas leak. In fact, asphyxiation is the primary danger of working with argon gas and not fire.
Fasten a protective cap on the cylinder when it’s not being used.
The gas hose is also dangerous in MIG welding. They are an extra trip hazard in the workspace. So you should take care to position it out of the way. Check the cables for leaks as well as if they have a hole they will leak gases into the workspace.
Did we cover everything you wanted to know about whether MIG welding was easier than stick?
In this article, I turned the reins over to guest author John Ward who runs a welding website and is a true expert.
John took a look at the world of welding for beginners. He examined both MIG welding and stick welding. Then he explores the dangers or both, the pros and cons, and also which method might be better for beginners.
Ultimately he answered the question Is MIG welding easier than stick? That answer is that despite a more complex initial setup, MIG welding is indeed easier to learn for a beginner than stick welding.
Which welding method do you prefer?
About the author of this post:
John Ward is the editor of Kings of Welding. When he’s not working in his workshop he’s usually writing tips and tricks to help DIY hobby welders.
Want to write for Middle Class Dad too? Check out everything you need to know on my Guest Blog Page.