MIG, TIG and stick welding: what's the difference?

Before you hire welding equipment for your work site or personal use, it's important to know what type of metals you'll be working with and the welding process you're planning to use.

The three most common welding processes are MIG welding, TIG welding and stick welding, each of which has its advantages and limitations. Deciding which approach you or your team will be taking will help you choose the right electric welder or engine-driver welder for the job.
MIG Welding 

Suitable for: steel, stainless steel, aluminium alloys.

Metal inert gas (MIG) welding is one of the easiest types of welding to learn, as it's partly automated. This efficient process offers more control when working with thinner metals, higher welding speeds and less clean-up at the end.

MIG welder units continuously feed wire at a speed chosen by the user, which is melted by an electrical arc to fuse metals together cleanly. It can be used on steel, aluminium and alloys in a range of thicknesses.

Flux-cored arc welding is an alternative to MIG welding that doesn't use a shielding gas, making it easier to weld outdoors in a range of conditions. These welders are popular in construction for their speed and versatility.
TIG Welding 

Suitable for: steel, stainless steel, aluminium alloys, copper, brass, exotic metals.

Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding also uses an electrical arc to weld, the main difference being that it uses non-consumable tungsten electrodes rather than a wire feed. This results in high-quality, high-precision welds with an aesthetically pleasing finish.

TIG welding is also one of the most versatile methods, being suitable for most types of metals including thinner gauge sheet metal.

The downside is that this more complex process is difficult to master and requires a welding expert. Welding projects can also take significantly longer compared to MIG or stick welding, and costs can be higher.

Stick welding

Suitable for: steel, stainless steel, cast iron.

Another process that uses a non-consumable electrode, stick welding is less complex than TIG welding as it doesn't require the use of gases. This means it can be used outdoors, even in windy conditions.

This method can be effective for welding older rusty and dirty metals that are otherwise difficult to weld, but it's less effective at welding thinner metals. The lack of shielding also means that oxygen-reactive metals such as titanium and zirconium should not be stick welded.

Many experienced welders consider stick welding to be the most economical option, but it also produces more waste than MIG welding.

Which process is right for you?

If you're welding for the first time, semi-automated MIG welding could be the best option for steel or aluminium.

Stick welding can offer higher yields on more diverse types of metals, but requires some level of expertise and more clean-up afterwards.

TIG welding should be reserved for precision work where quality is more important than quantity. You'll also need to hire a welding professional.

Whichever option you choose, make sure you hire all the welding equipment you need, including gas kits, specialised attachments and safety gear.

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