MIG Welder Vs Arc

If we talk about mig welder vs arc welder, what can we discuss about these machines that you or every beginner welder should know? Actually, there is also a bit of confusion here about what’s going on with the mig welders and arc welders because basically, a MIG welder also falls under the category of the arc welder. More so, other arc welders are unlike the MIG welders as they use different arc welding processes.   Gases for MIG WeldingMIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding is a form of arc welding where the spark is the primary agent to accomplish a weld. When the positively charged electrode meets the negatively charged metal, a strong electrical spark will travel from the electrode to the base metal and form an arc. This arc is what will melt the electrode or filler which turns into a weld pool and gets deposited into the joints. So any welding application that goes through this process is called an arc welder.MIG Welder Vs Arc

The molten filler, however, should not be contaminated by oxygen or hydrogen because if this happens, oxidation can occur and the weld can become porous. This is why there’s the need for a shielding gas for most of the arc welding. For MIG welding, it requires carbon dioxide (CO2) with a mixture of argon (Ar). These gases will be ionized by the current produced in the mig gun and when it gets  exposed to spark will burn and become a shield. However, some arc welding applications don’t require any kind of gas as it can depend on their electrodes which are mixed with metal compounds that when burned also can produce plasma shields.  

So what are the different types of arc welders? 

MIG Welder Vs Arc


Types of Arc

There are 6 types of arc welding applications that many industries use today and these are the following: 

Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)

Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) which MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding is a sub-type

Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) or known as TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding

Plasma Arc Welding (PAW)

Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) or known as stick welding and;

Submerged Arc Welding (SAW) 

But among these, the most common are the MIG welding which is a sub-type of GMAW (so-called MIG because it uses inert gas as a mixture to CO2), the GTAW (TIG welding), and the SMAW which is also called the stick welding. For now, we shall talk about the stick welding vs mig welding because aside from they are both arc welding applications, they have quite interesting differences in how they are done, what are their requirements for their welding processes and what are the things they need to utilize their capacities. 

Weld Spatter

Stick Welding Vs MIG Welding

Stick welding used to be the most popular type of welding. Very basic to use and highly adaptable for welding many types of ferrous metals, it is also the oldest form of welding. Yet, people consider MIG welding to be more user-friendly than stick welding as well as its parameters can be learned easily.   MIG Welder Vs Arc

Furthermore, with regards to stick welding vs mig welding and the use of electrodes, a stick welder doesn’t need a gun torch to hold the electrode but uses an electrode holder. Its electrode is also a separate consumable and not part of the machine unlike with the MIG. Some people call the stick welder a “covered electrode” because its electrode is covered by mineral compounds or metal powders that are bounded by combustible agents. At the core of the stick is a solid drawn rod that could be made of ore wire or cast material.MIG Welder Vs Arc

In MIG welding, the MIG welder needs electrode wires. These wires are available in different types, sizes and thicknesses. To use the wire electrode and turn it into a filler, the wire must go through the MIG gun to be electrically charged. Once the electrode touches the base metal, this creates a spark and melts the electrode while the ionized gas burns and creates a hot plasma and shields the spark. With stick welding, the rod is clamped by a positively charged electrode holder and when it is scraped into the metal surface, this will create a spark and burn the electrode and the compound altogether and the burning compound serves as the shield.MIG Welder Vs Arc

MIG Welding Vs Stick Welding

MIG Welder Vs Arc

In stick welding, the sticks are usually coated with potassium, Titania, sodium, or iron oxide. There are also 3 primary kinds of stick electrodes – cellulose, rutile and the basic electrodes. And basically, their names will tell you about their purpose.

Cellulosic stick welding rod contains wood flour that when it melts, it forms into carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen. These rod types are best for digging or driving the arc for deep weld penetration. The rutile electrodes contain titanium dioxide and best for welding stainless steel and favored for general applications where tough fusion is critical. The basic electrodes which are coated with iron powder and calcium fluoride are considered the all-purpose electrodes. They provide medium penetration but can build up strong mechanical properties on its weld.  

mig welder vs arcIn MIG welding, the available wires are made of carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminum. So for example, you need to weld two stainless steel bars together, you must use a stainless steel electrode and so on. Each wire type also has different sizes so you have the option to choose the size of the wire depending on the thickness of metal you want to weld. So remember that when it comes to stick welding vs mig welding, the electrode in the MIG welder is within the torch while in stick, this is a separate consumable.  

MIG Welder Vs Arc

MIG Welder Vs Arc

Arc welding has simple principles. The important thing is that there must be enough heat that should be generated by an electric arc to burn and melt the electrode. So the strength of the electric arc also depends on the amount of electricity the machine can put up. So we are talking here about the amperage and the voltage. MIG Welder Vs Arc

With MIG welding, there could be issues on the weld if high amperage is used while the voltage is low and the wire electrode is not the right type for the welding project. In this scenario, spatters could occur. The same thing with stick welding where spatter could also happen because the amperage or the voltage does not suit the type of electrode being used.   mig welder vs arc 

Since we are discussing mig welder vs arc welder, you should also know that in stick welding the only main requirement is a strong current and the use of the right electrode and you get to go with your welding. The voltage requirement on stick welding also depends on the types of electrodes but this can be within the range of 16 to 40 volts while the amperage requirement could be within the 20 to 550 amps. Like the MIG, the current could be in AC (alternating current) or in DC (Direct Current) based on the electrode being usedmig welder vs arc

MIG Amperage

In MIG welding, your amperage and voltage setting will depend on how thick the material you need to weld. For example, if you want to weld 1/2” inch thick mild steel, you must have the 220v current to produce a very hot arc. But if you need to weld 1/4 inch thick material or even thinner, your voltage must not go over the 110V. On the other hand, you can go for a 3-phase MIG welder that can give you 300 to 600 amps of power if you need it for high-end production but you also need a 3-phase power to run such a machine.  mig welder vs arc

According to some experts, there are a lot of benefits to having a high amperage welding machine regardless if it’s a stick welder or a MIG welder. Here are the benefits: 

The welder could produce deeper weld penetration. The higher the amperage limit, the stronger the current, the better the machine could produce a much hotter arc. And the deeper the weld can go, the stronger the bond it can hold.

mig welder vs arc

Welding thicker metals will not be a problem. A low-amperage machine would not be able to produce a high current so needless to say the higher the amp the machine is capable of, the thicker the metals it can deal with. 

Higher amps can produce a clearer and consistent weld. This is true with stick welding. But you must also set your amperage depending on the type of electrode you are using. In MIG welding, the thinner wire would only need low amperage which is better when welding thin metals.

A high-amperage welder can provide more options on the metal you need to weld. If you have a high-amperage unit, you can go from low to high settings. So obviously this gives you the advantage to deal with thin to thick metals or from ferrous to non-ferrous metals.

Pros and Cons of Stick and MIG Welding

Stick welding has been used for decades and until now this is used mostly for general repair and for maintenance work. It can deal well with painted metals, rusty or dirty metal surfaces and this is its greater strength against MIG welding. It can also be used outdoors because its electrodes will provide the shielding action. On the one hand, MIG is better for fabrication but the metal should be clean, with no paint and the working environment must be draft-free. However, we also have the flux-core wire for the MIG if we need to weld outdoors.

In terms of weld aesthetics, a MIG welder can produce a more refined weld than a stick welder. Spatter is also less as long as the amperage, voltage and wire speed is set right. In stick welding, there could be a lot of spatters but this can also be controlled by minimizing the amperage but nothing more. In terms of metal preparation, stick welding is more of the hardcore type. As long as you can connect the ground clamp near the welding spot, you could produce a good arc. So stick welders are more preferred for farm use and construction sites where joining thick and rusty metals are common.

In mig welding vs stick, the obvious advantage of stick welding is it doesn’t need gas for shielding because as we have mentioned, its electrode will take care of shielding the weld itself through burning the compound that is coated around the metal rods. With MIG welding, carbon dioxide must be used for shielding and though it can help weld thick ferrous metal, it still needs an inert gas like argon to weld thinner metals to prevent burn through.

Stick and MIG Welding

In mig welder vs arc welder wherein we specifically pertain to arc welding in the form of stick welding, the downside of stick welders is that it cannot also deal with thin metals. The standard A/C stick welders if you want to weld, say 1/8-inch thick metal could produce a burn through or in simpler words, it could make a hole on thin metal. A MIG welder can weld as much as 0.0239 inches (24 gauge) or 1/32 of an inch if the parameters are right. 

But according to some professional welders, you can prevent a burn through if you use straight reverse polarity on DC for stick welding to change the flow of current and hence reduce the potentials of burning through the thin metals. If you have the new versions of stick welders this becomes easy. But if you are using an old machine which your father gave you, you might find this difficult to accomplish. With a MIG welder, shifting from DC to AC is much easier especially that the DCEN (Direct Current Electrode Negative) can help provide the right reverse polarity when dealing with thinner and non-ferrous metals. MIG Welding Without Gas

We also know that lots of people who live in country areas prefer to use the stick welders because this is perfect for outdoor use and this is true among farmers who own farm equipment. Yet, the MIG welder also has an option to be more flexible in an outdoor environment and like we have said, this is by changing your regular MIG wire into a flux-cored wire and changing the drive roll into the knurled groove drive roll that is designed for flux-core wires. You also need to change your polarity into DCEN. The only problem we see with flux on MIG is it produces so much smoke so you need a good ventilation system to use it safely indoors.

Stick and MIG Welding

What’s more, you need to know in mig welder vs arc is their use of electrodes. In MIG welding, although there are a variety of wires available for certain types of metals which makes it an ideal choice if you need to weld different types of metals, changing the wire can become a tedious task. That’s because, for every wire replacement, you have to open the machine, pull out the wire electrode from the mig gun, change the groove roll if necessary and set the new wire into the MIG gun. Weld Spatter

In stick welding, one type of electrode can be used on different kinds of metals and no need for disengagement of any part if changing electrode is concerned. You just need to pull out the stick electrode and insert another electrode into the electrode holder and there you go again. Contamination with stick welding is also not a very big problem because if you are using good quality stick electrodes, they can surely produce hot arcs and will protect the weld even against a strong draft.

So in terms of mig welding vs stick welding, which machines are cheaper and could provide more savings with its operational cost? Looking closely at the number of stick and MIG welders available in today’s market, we can assume that stick welders are a bit more expensive than the MIGS and probably because there are a lot of cheaper imported MIGs that are flooding the market lately. However, we should also consider the brand in terms of pricing. The more popular the brand, the costlier the unit can become regardless if it’s a stick or a MIG welder. In terms of welding production cost, the stick welding electrodes are also cheaper to buy. 


Stick and MIG welding are both important parts of our metal fabrication industries and also very useful for our personal use. Stick welding being the pioneer among welding applications is best for fixing thick metals and have more available reinforced electrodes that can be used on a variety of metals. It does not require gas for shielding and maintenance is quite easy.

MIG welding is versatile and easy to learn. Homeowners also prefer the MIGs for maintenance and repair work while they can also use it outdoors for more productive use. However, when it comes to thicker metals, people still prefer the stick welders because it can produce a hotter arc which is necessary when fusing tougher and thicker metals. So in terms of debating about mig welder vs arc welder, we should say that the MIG welder is best for indoor and garage use while the stick is best for outdoor and for more rugged use.

Are you interested to know  about dc vs ac welding too? We will have this in our other article and we will tell you the difference between these two and how each can be useful for your welding tasks.

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