I am getting really close to buying a welder. The problem is that I have
been vacillating back and forth between whether to buy a Mig or a Tig. I've
weighed the pluses and minuses for both, and I'm still on the fence. Last
week I was almost 100% positive that the Tig would be the best, but then I
was in the welding supply dealer yesterday and after talking to the guy
there I was back to thinking I should get the Mig. Looking at the
Millermatic 251, by the way.
He told me they hardly sold any stick welders any more and that there were a
number of ways to deal with the shortcomings of the Mig, like using
shielding when welding outside so wind isn't a factor, and the Mig is a lot
less expensive and is faster. So the Tig makes a prettier weld but is a lot
slower, the stick function isn't that important anymore and can be done with
the Mig, and they cost twice as much. At this point I'm leaning toward the
Mig again, which is what I first intended to get, but I could decide on the
Tig if I heard a convincing argument. So convince me that I should get the
Mig, or the Tig.
I'd get the TIG machine. If you are doing a lot of welding outside,
it can be used as a stick machine. I mean, you're getting two tools.
Also, while TIG is slower than MIG, do you really care? Are you
doing high volume production stuff? If not, will you really notice
the speed difference? Furthermore, you'll have a lot less weld
clean-up with TIG. With MIG you have to contend with spatter.
Buy the TIG! If I had the money, I'd buy one today.
Like Rick said, Go with the TIG, I use mine all the time for stick, heck I
got rid of my tombstone just because my SD180 and all the others could do
the same job with the same portability. 2 machines in one chassis... Hard to
find any argument there. Mig is great by all means but TIG really covers the
entire welding spectrum sans speed but it hones your skills to a razor with
practice so there is a inherent benefit there too. It's the best tool you
will ever own, I promise you that. The only, and I stress ONLY caveat is
don't get a cheap piece of import junk. Save the pocket change for a while
and got with one of the big three and you will not regret it at all. Ernie
L. turned me on to a Dynasty that I totally love. I have three heavy duty
units for race car fabrication and I find that unit getting all the use and
it's the lightest and most versatile of them all. ( that being a Aerowave
for big Aluminum, a SD180 for jobs all over and the Dynasty) Listen to the
guys who do this for a living and you won't get steered into the wrong path.
I have been really happy with the feedback I have been given here. Very
professional, and I'm no pro by any means, I'm just an engine builder and
machinist who is "picking up welding" as I go. and I got pretty far
listening to the guys here and saved $$ in the process.
Happy hunting Rick,
Fraser Competition Engines
You haven't told us what you are welding, but as an art/furniture welder, I
find Tig much more suitable for my needs. I find it a lot more fun and
engaging as well. I can weld copper, stainless, and mild steel with my
setup, and I really enjoy using it. For me, Mig is too finicky. I spend
twice as much time for each weld because I have to do a couple of practice
welds to make sure that I have the settings correct, then I do the weld,
then I move on to a different setup and have to do the tests again. It
requires me to run the weld at a correct rate and speed, and most of my
welds are short and quick, so the starting crater and ending crater end up
being a big part of the weld. After I grind, I have to go back and fill in
the craters again. So in my case, Tig is actually faster.
FWIW, I was able to buy a used Daytona Mig Power Pulse 100 Tig welder for
$450 on eBay. This is an older unit, without high frequency, but it is easy
to get consumables, lift start is not a problem, and I don't work with
aluminum, so it is fine for me. Of course, I wish I had a Synchrowave 180
or the like, but my point is that Tig doesn't have to cost twice as much...
Hawke, if it were me, and I could come up with the cash, I would
definitely go with the TIG. MIG can do a lot of things, and is great in
a production environment where speed counts, but nothing compares to
the versatility and precision of TIG. In a home/hobbiest environment
(if that is what you're dealing with) the time spent welding is minimal
compared to the time spent fitting up the joints, so speed of welding
becomes really a non-issue. (For example: I just finished a mobile
stand for a jointer; getting all the pieces cut and tapped and shaped
and so on took several hours; *all* the welding took maybe 30 minutes
max, if that long. That was with stick, since I haven't come up with
the cash for TIG, but I don't think it would have been much if any
longer with TIG; I had lots of short welds to make, and the control of
TIG might even have made it go more quickly.)
TIG will give you the ability to weld (and even braze) the widest range
of metals of any process. And if you really want wirefeed, don't
overlook the fact that you can add wirefeed to your TIG/stick machine.
Google this newsgroup for posts on the ReadyWelder spool gun; according
to Ernie, these work wonderfully well. But it definitely does not work
the other way around: if you buy MIG, you can do only MIG. And if you
want to do aluminum with MIG, you might still have to buy a separate
spool gun. (Of course, with TIG, you are already ready to do aluminum,
with or without a spoolgun.)
Don't underestimate the value of running stick. Stick gives you the
ability to do a quick repair even on dirty and/or rusty metal (don't
try that with MIG, and even FCAW can't do this as well). FWIW, I
personally like using stick much more than using MIG--maybe I'm just
warped :), or maybe it is the ability to switch different types of
electrodes as needed in a tenth of a second--no pulling out the wire
and feeding in a new one. As a hobbiest, I think I just like the
challenge of turning out a good stick weld--and of knowing that if it
looks good, it is more likely to be good (not always true with MIG). I
have found stick welding--even with an ancient AC-only monster--to be
surprisingly verstatile, and capable even of welding surprisingly thin
material with some care and practice.
I'm going to dissent from the other replies here. I mostly use welding
for automotive fixes, or to make simple improvised tools from flatbar,
angle iron, and bolts. Last weekend I welded a short piece of flatbar
onto a bolt with a snapped-off head, so I could unscrew it from a
trailer hitch. Next weekend I will be repairing frame rails on a golf
cart. My welds don't have to look pretty, and often there isn't room
for me to set up to tig (at least at my skill level). I like the
convenience of a "hot glue gun" kind of welder where I can just prep
the joint and pull the trigger on the mig gun.
If I were doing bike frames or art work or anything where I worked on a
bench and not my carport floor I would use tig.
I'm having similar trouble convincing myself (-:
If it wasn't for the CO$T I would probably have the Lincoln PowerMig
350MP, but that is over $3,000 even on web order. MIG, TIG, Stick,
just about all the bells and doo-dads EXCEPT AC - and btw I don't know
how "good" of a tig machine it is. It could be very expensive by the
time it is a useable tig rig.
Right now I think I'll probably go with something like the M-Matic 251
or Lincoln PowerMig 255 for about $1600/$1700 and MAYBE get a tig
machine later (or sooner).
Today is thursday, tomorrow I'll probably be thinking about XMT
Welding machines aren't the problem, Eternal procrastination is.
MIG is a great process, but there's a heap to go wrong every time you
pull the trigger- I've got some good machines but if I could only have
one it'd have to be the tig/stick. The stick is the most basic and
reliable process there is and, in experienced hands, gives up darn
little to the MIG. If you can TIG in addition to stick, then all the
better.. but the stick is where it's at.
Get a good machine, used old good stuff is what I recommend if price is
an issue. If something was the best once, it's generally always at least
"good", whereas if something is new and cheap the best it can ever be is
"good, today".. and sometimes not even that. Give it a little time, see
what's available, maybe you'll end up with a way good machine for a
this is always a tough question , MIG or TIG
there is too many variables to give a straigth answer.
MIg easy , fast, operated by one hand in any position.
tack weld parts holding the gun wiht one hand , and position or suport
the part to be welded by the other hand. (part must be grounded :-))
MIG is very versetile for lots of stuff around the house and garage ,
once you get used to the machine you got, it is a breeze to operate.
MIG will not do everything , and will not do it s pretty as TIG>
example stainless steel, aluminum.
if someone picks stailess as a choice for base metal ,there is a
reason, and usually it has to look pretty.
TIG is much more precise, controlable. but it will not do stuff that
mig may can easily. example, galvanized material.
MIG can do it , it will burn up the Zink, but it will do a sound job ,
with out grinding the metal first. (some health hazard needs to be
TIG will not do galvanized.
TIG can do a supperb job when different metal thicknes welded, because
you can easily manupilate the torch and the output , with out putting
a huge blob of metal .....example weld a small standard 1/16" thick
flat washer to a 3/16 "plate, for the purphose of to hook a spring to
with a tig you can be assured that both metal melted and joined
together without a nasty bead.
with a MIG you need lots of heat to melt the base metal and not the
small washer ,at the same time you will be feeding lots of MIG wire
into the joint end up with a large bead.
these are just a few crazy example, I am trying to present, but as I
said there are so many variables.
HTP supose to have a MIG /TIG/ STIck inverter combo.
keep in mind one of those features will lack on those machine
the best thing to do is go for a specific machine , MIG or TIG>
for an avarage home owner I thing MIG is the best choice since metal
to be welded most likely be mild steel.
try to do a standard 1/2" picket fence job with a TIG, it may take a
while to complete. :-)
Yes, I love that advice. Buy both. Maybe I will one of these days but for
the time being it's going to be one or the other. The consensus seems to be
that Tig is the way to go. I thought so too but the only negating factor for
the Tig is price, and isn't that usually the thing that keeps one from
getting anything. If I go with the Tig what is the best bang for the buck
and how much do I need to spend for a good unit? I have seen that Ernie
recommended the Thermal Arc 185 but what else is in that category that is
comparable? Also, are the inverter machines the way to go nowadays? The
small size is nice but doesn't matter to me that much so does it make more
sense to stick with one of the older transformer type machines?
I agree, this is a tough question when you don't know the application. I
have mig, tig, stick, O/A and a nice little resistance spot welder in my
shop. the one I use depends on the application. If I am welding suspension
arms or roll bars, I use the Tig. If I am standing on my head under a car
tacking a header section, I use Mig. If I am brazing a chassis tube on an
old British race car, I use O/A. If I am doing sheet metal work on a car, I
use the resistance welder, or the Mig, or O/A depending on what I am trying
to accomplish, but I've never yet used Tig for that sort of thing.
If I just had one welder, it would be Mig, not Tig. To me, it's more
versatile. But I wouldn't do highly critical welding with a Mig, so I would
have to accept limitations in what jobs I could take on.
Your post is right on the money -- there are so many variables, and what
would be best for one person may well be lousy for another, based on the
projects needed. Certainly an awful lot of folks find the MIG machines to be
great for general purpose home/hobbiest use.
I will, however, offer a slightly different viewpoint on a couple of things
you've mentioned. You've given some good examples of home/hobbiest projects
that would be better with MIG than TIG -- welding galvanized metal (need
clean metal for TIG) and welding a picket fence (need speed more than
precision), plus the ability to tack with one hand while holding parts with
the other (perhaps possible with TIG if you can fuse without adding filler,
but impossible if you have to add filler).
But I would humbly suggest that all of these examples can be countered by
the stick capability that comes with a TIG machine. Though I normally grind
off galvanizing before welding to avoid the fumes, if you want to weld it
as-is, stick can handle impurities even better than MIG. I suspect MIG would
still be the speed champ on a picket fence ... but stick could come a close
second. And, especially with an auto-dark helmet to help, I often tack parts
together with stick in one hand and using the other hand to hold them in
This, to me, is the real clincher: you can't just compare MIG with TIG;
you've also got to factor in stick -- TIG plus stick creates an incredible
versatility that can't be matched by a MIG machine.
Of course, I say all that, and don't myself have a TIG machine, much though
I may lust after one. I have an ancient old AC stick welder that I picked up
for $25, and so far it has done everything I needed to do ... at a price
that's hard to beat :) Maybe that's the real bottom line: Can you do what
you want to do for the $$ you want to spend? Whether a MIG, TIG, or stick,
if it meets your needs and is affordable ... you've got the right machine!
My $0.02 ...
Very interesting discussion with some varience of opinion. Here's mine,
with background first:
I am a hobby weldor. I've been welding for about 5 years and a week does
not go by without me melting metal on some project or other. Projects range
from some simple decorative items through 'farm type' construction and
repairs. I have never MIG welded so only know that process by what I've
read and seen. I have a TIG/stick machine--Miller 180SD. My initial
decision-making process was similiar to yours.
I am glad I chose the TIG/stick process. I really like the challenge and
the elegence of TIG. One has so much control--it is all up to the
operator. I like the versitility too for different materials (copper
anyone?) and there are some situations when TIG brazing is just the ticket!
For heavier stuff, I use stick. It is plenty fast for my purposes but I
suppose if I was building a steel sailboat, for example, it might be a
different story. I also think if I was doing a lot of old auto restoration,
I might want a MIG. Neither of those are on the horizon for me. I am,
however, considering getting a Redywelder
an add-on to my welder and I'd have very a very good MIG capability.
(Ernie and others assure me tha the Readywelder is an excellent way to add
MIG to a stick machine.) I just don't have the 'I need this Readywelder'
If I was in the market today, I would get the thermadyne machine--Thermal
Arc 185TSW for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is portability.
I do all of my welding in my backyard shop, but I do want to make up a
security door for some friends. I will measure for and weld up the door
itself but I really think to get the best fit, I'd like to be able to weld
up the frame and install the hinges on the site. My Miller 180SD and cart
assembly is just to massive to load and haul around. But with its lightness
and by plugging TA 185TSW into the friend's dryer circuit, well, Bob's Your
I am just a gnat's hair away from selling the 180SD (guy I know would buy
it) and getting the TA 185TSW.
On a related vein: When I first took an evening community college welding
course and purchased my welder, I was a little nervous that I'd weld up the
few projects I first had in mind and then the equipment would sit for long
periods. My real experience, however, was the more I welded and learned the
more I what could be done. "Hey, never thought of it before but I could
make that!" My wife and grown kids have very long lists of projects they
chivy me about welding up too. Of the points to be gleaned from this is:
experience will 'cause' one (and one's family and neighbours) to generate
even more welding projects than could possibly be imagined beforehand,
therefore get the machine with the broadest range of possibilities.
Last, I think the reason why the welding store guy said they mostly only
sell MIG machines is that they are common on the motorcycle shows--fad
element--and the general scuttlebutt is that MIG is easy whereas other
processes are hard. I'm not so sure that scuttlebut is all that true as I
do decent work and I do like the challenge of improving.
So convince me that I should get the
you welding small, light gauge aluminum parts? gotta go TIG
one point that has been touched on briefly is skill level;
much steeper for TIG, though after about 80% competency, the rode to the
top is clear
a complete neophyte could be 80% competent in a short period of time
with MIG, though the last 20% going that-a-way would take a long, long time
(big snippage to get to the point..)
Well put. Except maybe for the humble part.. And, as another poster
points out, if you really want to mig there's the option of the
Ready-welder which Ernie recommends highly. Spoolguns are the berries
for migging aluminum and you get away from dinking around with teflon
liners and all the other hassle of the dedicated mig when you want to go
from one material to another. Plus, if you're keeping things to the
basics, you can use the same gas bottle for the tig and spoolgun, as
long as you're not going to be migging steel and there's little reason
to at that point, but if you're going to try to do both aluminum and
steel with a mig you can't get around needing two different gasses.
Again, I have never MIG welded so I cannot compare. But that
notwithstanding, I did not find learning TIG all that hard. I do enjoy a
challenge and maybe that accounts for my affinity for TIG. (In my welding
class, I learned gas and stick. (We had a 5 min demonstration of TIG. I am
thus self taught in TIG.) Maybe I'd be bored with MIG if it was too easy.
My point is, however, that someone considering the question should not shy
away from TIG just because the scuttlebutt is that it is harder to learn.
It probably is but I bet it's not that much harder.
Now to call my bet. For the welding teachers: on a scale of 1 to 10, with
"10" being really, really hard to learn and "1" being super easy, How hard
is it--what number on the scale would you name--for the average student to
learn the core classroom basics each of MIG and TIG?
You haven't said what your interests are. Note I did NOT say what do
you want weld because you can't know 'til you get there. However if you
have no interest in anything but patching your car or steel sculpture, a
MIG will possibly do. Are you going to build a largish aluminum hulled
schooner? Again, MIG.
On the other hand if you, like me, are a hobbyist and want to fix/make
whatever comes up, then unquestionably TIG. I went that route over ten
years ago and haven't missed a MIG even a little bit. Versatility is
what I want.
I wrote this in '98 but it's just as valid today:
" Why Tig?
Tig is by far the most versatile welding process I have access to or
have used. I have a Thermal Dynamics inverter type TIG machine with
both AC and DC and HF start. It will also do stick welding. (It is
the smoooothest stick welder I have ever used.) My TIG torch has a
slider on the torch handle for current control and I highly recommend
this over a foot control. I have had this unit for several years. I
also have an Oxy/Acetylene outfit that I have had for over 20 years. I
still find occasional use for O/A but very little compared to the TIG.
I use the stick capabilities for outdoor work when it's windy and/or
very heavy work. I have used MIG and agree with the posts I saw on
news:rec.aviation.homebuilding, "It's easy to do a MIG weld, it's damn
difficult to do a good MIG weld".
I'm an HSM, amateur blacksmith, amateur weldor and general member of
the Trade-a-week club. i.e. Whatever needs doing at the moment. I use
75/25 Argon/Helium mix. This seems to be about the best compromise if
you're only going to have one mix for everything from copper to
stainless with aluminum in there somewhere. I have at least two dozen
different types of TIG rod, all but a few of which were aquired on the
surplus market. I use Zirconium doped tungstens for AC and 2% Thorium
tungstens for DC. I have welded material from 0.010" thick to 1/2"
thick. I've welded steel (numerous alloys from mild steel through tool
steels and varieties of stainless alloys), aluminum (again, many
different alloys), magnesium, aluminum-bronze, pewter, pot metal,
copper, brass and probably a few others that I've forgotten.
MIG is faster than TIG. If I was building a 50' Aluminum trimaran, I
would buy a MIG for the project but for versatility no MIG will come
even close to a good TIG. If you have never welded, TIG seems harder
to do than MIG (but see above comment) but if you have done O/A
welding, the technique is essentially the same. By the time I had had
my TIG for a week, my welds were strong, maybe not pretty but strong.
After 15 minutes playing with a MIG, my welds looked pretty but broke
when I dropped the piece on the floor.
Also, here's just a few things I've done with TIG that I don't think you
could do with MIG:
Can you weld a broken piece of pewter (without discoloring the other
side) with your MIG? How about building up a worn throttle shaft with
aluminum bronze? Or put a stellite point on a piece of re-bar to make a
*super* center punch for hot work (blacksmithing)? How about building
up a badly pitted strarter solenoid contact with copper or a heavy
current contact with silver? Can you re-build a damaged aluminum
outboard prop? How about welding your neighbour's broken cast iron
bench vise? These are all things I have done with my TIG in addition to
the routine stuff like welding an H-13 air hardening tool steel fore
punch to a mild steel handle, a concrete chipping chisel made from old
car leaf spring welded to a piece of steel pipe, steel from banding to
1/2" plate, aluminum from .026 wall irrigation pipe to 1/4" plate.
Probably lots more that I don't recall at the moment.
Oh here's one. I have a double ended dog lead clip. The dog managed to
snag this on a concrete block and broke off the little finger button for
opening the clip leaving a jagged, sharp stub in the slot. This is on
the slider sitting in a 1/8" wide groove in the body. There is no
non-destructive way to take this apart for repair. Why repair a $2.50
item? Because it would take me 20 minutes each way to drive to town
plus some time in the store. Besides I wanted to see if I could do it.
:-) Set TIG to low current. Grab a 1/32" 347 SS rod (bought surplus).
Build up a little button on the broken stub. Fixed in less than five
Some more I just remembered: Stainless buckle made from 1/8" 308
welding rod. Repair cracked stainless steel cooking pot. Copper
bracelet from #10 wire. Tack ends of three pieces, braid, flatten, cut
off tacks, bend into oval and weld individual strands. Few people can
find the welds. Car-top rack from old bedframe. Any weld process would
do but Argon is cheaper than Acetylene. Various aluminum and stainless
fittings for 18' catamaran. 1/16" Aluminum toilet tank (special
application). Repair broken ratchet spring in oldie-but-goodie come
along. Many "unrepairable" expensive auto (and other) parts that
required spot welds and or rivetiing to be ground off. Re-assembly done
with a few TIG tacks. ALL our folding aluminum garden chairs came from
the dump. Broken tubes and worn holes repaired and corners gusseted.
Much better than new!