Skip to Main Content

MIG vs Stick Welding: Which is better? [In-Depth Guide] 

What is better, MIG or stick welding? What are the primary differences and similarities between MIG and stick welding? MIG welding uses a spool gun, a tool that feeds a wire electrode, much like a spool, through the machine.

Stick welding, on the other hand, uses a removable stick electrode and moves through the welder at a consistent speed while emitting a stream of gas, which provides a measure of protection for the weld from oxygen and nitrogen.

While stick welding is an older technique, it’s often the standard or popular choice for professionals due to its adaptability to work with complex projects. MIG welding is a newer method developed through technology and electricity advancement.

Both widely available welding technologies provide several advantages and disadvantages worth considering before deciding which welding machinery is best for your project or worksite.

This article will provide an in-depth review of the significant differences between a MIG welder vs stick welder, the benefits and drawbacks, and determining which welding technique and machinery is the right fit for your building or project requirements.

Other types of welding machines and options are also worth considering compared to MIG and stick welding, including TIG welding, laser welding, and flux core welding processes.


MIG Welding (Pros and Cons)


MIG welders perform with a wire welding electrode, fed automatically through the welder on a spool at a consistent speed. The electrical current created by a MIG welder flows between the wire and metal base and forms an arc.

The extreme heat generated by the current melts the wire and the metal base, which forms a joint between these two points. It’s a reasonably clean method that doesn’t require much clean up once welding is finished. While the setup process for MIG welding is more time-consuming than stick welding, you’ll find the results are precise and clean, without much, if any, clean up.

The inert metal gas or MIG welding process takes approximately two weeks to perform basic MIG techniques properly, or less time if you’re an experienced welder. When you learn the fundamentals of MIG welding, it’s essential to choose the correct shielding gas and how to set the parameters on the welding machine.

After you’ve mastered these initial parts, the next step is getting acquainted with the welding technique, which functions like a hot glue welding gun and produces a high-quality weld with a clean, defined result.

This type of welding produces robust welds, which doesn’t require extensive cleaning or sanding after use. MIG welding machines work well with many types of metal surfaces and thicknesses, including stainless steel, filler metal, and thinner metal, which is ideal for delicate, precise welding. It’s essential to get familiar with the setup requirements when you work with different metals, as you’ll need to choose from various gases and spool wires.

One of the most challenging aspects of MIG welding is learning which combinations are needed for each metal or project. However, many new welding machines offer automatic setting features that assist new welders in getting familiar with MIG welding machinery.

MIG welding should be used on thin or thicker metals with a clean surface for the most accurate results. It’s also best to set up and use MIG welding equipment indoors, such as in a manufacturing building, warehouse, or similar working space in a controlled environment.

While outdoor welding is possible, it may become difficult due to the gases required during the MIG welding process. It’s crucial to work on a clean surface that’s level and free of any dirt or debris, including previous materials used, or other items, including pieces of rust, paint, and residue from other parts.


The Pros of MIG Welding


What are the benefits of MIG welding? There are several reasons why many professionals choose MIG welding as a preferred technique, which often depends on the project, the metals used, and experience in using welding equipment.

  • MIG welding creates clean, precise results, which provide a smooth, visually appealing surface free of splatter. The weld is cleaner and doesn’t require much cleaning after completing a project
  • It’s a relatively easy welding technique to learn and usually takes just two weeks or less to become comfortable with the process. MIG welding is also an ideal option for anyone new to welding
  • MIG welding results are precise and clean, so you can create thin, delicate welds that are impressive in appearance, including detailed, intricate designs
  • It’s a highly productive style of welding, as you can reach a quick welding speed when you use MIG welding machinery, which provides fast results
  • MIG welding is a great option for flux-cored welding projects
  • It’s easy to replace a stick rod, and stick MIG welding uses a spool during the process, allowing you to switch it without interruption quickly


The Cons of MIG Welding


While MIG welding offers many advantages for new and intermediate welders, there are a few drawbacks to consider when choosing this machinery and technique.

  • Pressurized bottles of inert gas are required for MIG welding, which can be challenging to use and work within the field
  • It’s essential to maintain a stable work environment without any wind, breeze, or sudden temperature change, as this can impact the shielding gas and the quality of the weld
  • If you choose to use clamps during welding, placing them only on bare metal and close to the weld is essential, as this can affect the final appearance
  • While you won’t have to change the stick often, which is an easy process, the entire spool of wire needs to be changed when you switch between working with different metals
  • The entire working surface (metal surface) needs to be cleaned and free of debris, even slight, seemingly undetectable dirt, or material residue, as this can result in porous welds that are weak and inconsistent


STICK Welding (Pro and Cons)


Arc welding, also known as stick welding, is one of the oldest welding methods and is a common technique that professional welders often practice. This type of welding uses a charged metal stick to provide an arc at a high temperature, which transmits an electric current from the welding stick to the metal to form joints in the material.

Stick welding is often considered the primary method because it’s been around for centuries and offers excellent versatility. Stick welding is the preferred method for various projects, including home-based welders, small shops, electricians, and similar workspaces.

Stick welding is one of the best methods for welding joints and alloys, and it’s easy to use indoors and outdoors, as it can withstand changes in weather, especially in windy areas. Stick welders require more time for beginners in this profession, as striking and maintaining a consistent arc is complicated until it becomes routine.

It’s a highly economical way of welding and adaptable for many materials, including thin metal, mild steel, and thicker metals. It’s also effective on uneven surfaces with residue, rust, or dirt. Stick welders are available in various currents, including AC/DC, AC, and DC, with AC input as the most cost-effective option. This type of welding is commonly used for home projects and maintenance, fencing, outdoor projects, and farmers.


The Pros of Stick Welding


Stick welding is an excellent technique for many projects, materials, and locations, with the benefit of adapting to different surfaces and metals, which is ideal in many settings.

  • Stick welding creates a large arc that’s durable and not impacted by temperature or weather changes, which makes it perfect for outdoor construction and worksites
  • Changing welding rods is easy when you need to weld specialized metals and materials like stainless steel
  • If you weld with the DC (direct current) option, this will change the electrode's polarity, reducing the risk of burning through thin metals
  • When you use a clamp to stabilize the metal, it doesn’t have to be positioned too close to the welding point. Other welding machines require clamps to be placed closer to the point, which can be challenging for beginners or anyone unfamiliar with this process
  • If a metal contains rust, paint, or corrosion, stick welding is possible and doesn’t impact the final result


The Cons of Stick Welding


A few drawbacks associated with stick welding are essential to keep in mind when choosing this technique for a project.

  • If a metal width is too thin, under a one-quarter inch, this is typically difficult to work with if you choose stick welding. Thinner metals are incredibly challenging because the arc is powerful and produces extreme heat
  • When you replace the rod, it’s an easy process, though it can disrupt welding, which needs to be set up again to continue, and this must be done often
  • There is a higher instance of splatter when you stick weld, though you can reduce this effect to a degree by using DC instead of AC currents
  • A slag or deposit is left on a metal surface after welding a joint, which must be sanded or scraped off before you apply paint or other finishes


What Do MIG and Stick Welding Have in Common?


There are several similarities between stick welding and MIG welding. Both techniques are arc welding processes and shielding gas to protect the weld pool from gases. MIG and stick welding is considered the best methods for producing a high-quality weld, and they can be mastered with practice. MIG and stick welding use a consumable electrode, which must be replaced regularly to produce high-quality results.


How Are MIG & Stick Different?


Generally, MIG and stick welding share many similarities on the surface, though there are distinct differences to consider. While each welding method offers excellent results, there are significant characteristics of MIG and stick welders, which are great for various projects.

Stick welding is the best option for beginners because it’s easier to learn compared to other welding methods and cost-effective. Initially, the outcome may not look clean immediately after completion, and it takes a bit of time and effort to sand and scrapes the area to improve its appearance.

Stick welding is one of the oldest welding techniques, whereas MIG is a newer method that incorporates modern technology for large-scale projects in various environments.

While stick welding is an excellent option for beginners, it can take longer to complete specific welding tasks, whereas MIG is cleaner and more efficient. While MIG welders require more experience for setup, due to the complexities of this machinery, it’s a widely preferred option in construction sites and manufacturing facilities, including indoor and outdoor settings.

Stick welding, however, requires a stable setting indoors, where any change in the temperature or atmosphere is minimal. MIG welding is ideal for professional, experienced welders, whereas stick welding is best suited for beginners.


More Welding Equipment Questions? We Can Help!


Are you looking for welding tips and suggestions on your upcoming project or building structure? Whether you’re searching for MIG welders or stick welding equipment, Sunbelt Rentals offers a wide selection of plasma cutters, welding machinery, and related tools and equipment for all your construction and manufacturing needs.

We offer high-quality welding equipment that produces excellent results, and all our machinery is well maintained and regularly serviced, so you’ll see consistent quality.

If you’re weighing the pros and cons of MIG and stick welders, our expert team can provide you with the information you need to make an informed choice when renting your worksite. While MIG welding machinery is ideal for advanced tasks and machinery, stick welding is an excellent option for new welders.

When you rent welding equipment from Sunbelt Rentals, you’ll have the advantage of saving on costly repairs and investments, as our service team can provide the online and phone support you need for all your rental needs. We also provide all the materials and supplies you need to set up quickly and professionally.

Contact Sunbelt Rentals to inquire about our extensive selection of welding equipment for your construction or worksite.