What Is the Difference Between a MIG and TIG Welder

If you’re new to welding like I once use to be you might be wondering what the difference between MIG and TIG welder are so in this article I’m going what I’ve learned about these two types of welders.

What is the difference between a MIG and TIG Welder?  MIG (Metal Inert Gas) feeds a continuous wire or filler metal at a set wire speed, and amperage, along with a shielding gas.  TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) uses a non-consumable tungsten rod in a welding torch which heats the metal and allows you to feed a filler metal in with the other hand.

Both types of welding can look very similar but they work altogether different and in this article, I’m going to go in depth as to how they work and more.

How MIG and TIG Differ

To help you understand MIG and TIG let’s dig in a little deeper

MIG Welding

First MIG welding uses a consumable wire feed from a spool that feeds through the welding gun and arcs with the material.  When the electrons from wire connect with the metal it melts the wire fusing with the metal.

With MIG things are designed to be set and let you weld.  So wire, amperage, and shielding gas are all set to the type of metal and thickness. This means you can control the entire process with just the welding gun.

MIG also produces sparks and creates a splatter as you weld which can create a bit of mess and may require clean up if needed.  

It also can be used on heavier materials if needed and used on a wide range of metals from aluminum, to stainless steel.  Overall it is one of the simplest type so welding to learn.

TIG Welding

TIG Welding also know as Tungsten Inert Gas, uses a welding torch that has tungsten non-consumable rod inside of it.  Tungsten is used because it doesn’t melt unless is hits 6192 degrees. 

A TIG machine will run a negative electrode instead of a positive.  Unlike MIG welding, TIG will push about 80%of the heat to the metal you are welding and 20% to the torch gun.

However TIG is much harder to control because you have to control all 3 elements of the weld at the same time.  This means you’ll have to operate the torch head in one hand, the filler metal in the other hand, and you’ll also have to use a foot pedal to control the amperage as you lay the bead.

Overall it can be one of the most complex forms of welding to learn and is not typically recommended for beginners.

Which Type of Weld Looks Better

When it comes down to in TIG will offer the cleanest looking weld over MIG welding.  This is because MIG produces a splatter as you weld and will need to be cleaned off afterwards.

Side Note:  It’s good to have a chipping hammer, or a hand grinder to clean up your welds.

TIG, on the other hand, produces a bright glow that does not produce any sparks.  In fact, you can even TIG without filler metal. 

So if you’re looking to do an sculpting or looking for a very clean weld then TIG is the answer.  However, if looks are not as important than MIG will do just fine.

Which Type of Welding is Faster

However, if speed is the most important thing to you than MIG welding is your best answer here.  Once all of your settings are in place then you can lay beads over and over without having to constantly adjust your amperage, filler metal, or shielding gas.

For example, at my shop we weld a lot gating for hog barns and when it comes down to it time is money, and TIG while it looks good does not do well if you’re trying to run a lot of production.

The only time where this doesn’t work is when you need something welded that needs to be done very precisely.  If this is the case then you’ll want to go with TIG.

What Are the Similarities Between MIG and TIG 

However MIG and TIG do share some similarities even though they are for the most part very different.

First, they both require a shielding gas.  No matter what you weld you will need a shielding gas to protect the weld.  In fact you will use the same type of gas for MIG as you do for TIG.  

So if you’re welding mild steel you’ll like likely use 90/10 Argon, or Stainless Tri-Mix if you plan to weld stainless steel.

Second, both types of welders have a welding torch also known as a gun.  The torch is responsible for bringing the shielding gas to the metal, creating the arc between the weld, and even delivering the filler rod as with a MIG welder.

What Can I Weld With MIG and TIG

As you can tell speed and looks play at opposite ends of the spectrum.  So what can you weld with MIG and TIG.

With MIG you can weld all types of metals from aluminum to stainless steel, to your normal mild steel.  If you have a small project around your house or farm a MIG machine can be a great way to go.  

MIG also does great for welding thicker metals whereas TIG does a great job welding smaller metals together.  I’ve seen people weld everything from soda cans to raiser blades together with TIG because you can control the amperage and be more precise than any other welding process.

TIG also does great for sculpting welds.  So if you have to fill in a weld and make it look good then TIG is the way to go.  

Which Type is Better to Learn First

When it comes down to it MIG is by far the easier of the two types of welding to learn.  As I mentioned earlier once all of your settings are dialed in you’re good to go.

If you can point and click a trigger then you can likely lay bead and weld.  In fact the first time I did it I was amazed at how simple the entire process really was

TIG is known to be more of a two-handed operation since you have to control the torch, filler metal, and the amperage through a foot pedal.  

With TIG it’s not the type of welding where you can learn it in just a few tries. It takes a lot of practice to get your groove in place and understand when and how much amperage you need, how much filler you should add, and how to position the torch to get an optimal weld.

Quick Tip: Start with MIG first and once you get a feel for how that works move onto TIG.

Related Questions

Which has a stronger weld MIG or TIG?  Both types of welding create a strong weld but MIG is typically better for welding heavier thinker metals that can take a lot of abuse.

What kind of gas do you use for MIG and TIG?  For most MIG and TIG operations you’ll use 90/10 Argon for mild steel, Stainless Tri-Mix for stainless steel welding, or helium for welding aluminum.

When it comes down to it MIG and TIG both have there strengths and weaknesses.  Knowing these will help you in become a better welder.

Which type of welding are you most interested in, MIG or TIG welding?

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