Tig vs Mig Welding: What Is the Difference?

Mig and tig welding are two welding processes that have both similarities and differences. The differences are what determine the ways in which you can use each option. If you try to use mig welding when you should have used tig, the results will not be what you want. This is why it is important to not only understand what each process is, but also to understand the best ways to use each.

Mig Welding Explained

mig and tig welding

Mig welding is short for metal inert gas welding. It is done by using a spool of wire that is continuously fed as you work. This helps the process to go quickly, which is one of the benefits of this welding process. Mig welding does not require a lot of precision. Accuracy is also not as important in order to get a strong weld. All this means is that mig welding goes fast, making it the best choice for jobs when a lot of welding is required.

It is also very versatile. You can weld a wide range of metals with different thicknesses. It is good for heavy welding, but also works fine on thinner metals.

The electrode used in mig welding is completely consumed during the welding process. When you are done, it must be replaced. In addition, finishing is often required to make the weld look good. This also means there is usually quite a bit of cleanup involved.

Tig Welding Explained

tig welding

Tig stands for tungsten inert gas. Tig welding is a more precise process than mig welding. It requires a careful hand. It is often used for items where visual appeal is important because it produces a clean weld that is not noticeable. There is very little cleanup required after a tig weld, and you usually won’t have to sand or finish it as you would a mig weld.

Tig welding uses long welding rods, not a continuous feed. This means you have to feed them as you work. However, the electrode is not consumable. You can reuse it over and over.

This welding process is not as effective on heavier materials, being best suited to use with thinner metals. To weld heavier items, you have to have a unit with enough power, which can be tricky.

It is also more difficult to learn because it requires such precision and development of a strong technique. It cannot be rushed, making it a slow-going process.

mig and tig welding comparison

Mig Versus Tig Welding

As you can already see, there are many key differences between mig and tig welding. Generally, mig welding is a less-refined form of welding, though it creates a strong hold and can be used for thicker metals. Tig welding is more artistic. It requires concentration and a skilled hand to get it right. Based on these points alone, it is easy to see how different these processes are, even though both are essentially a way to connect metal parts. Here’s a quick comparison of the main differences between these two types of welding processes:

  • Mig welding is faster than tig welding.
  • Mig welds are bigger and more noticeable than tig welds.
  • Tig welding depends heavily on the machine used, which dictates the types of metal that can be welded, while mig welding is highly versatile regardless of the machine used.
  • Tig welding requires both hands to feed the wire while welding, whereas mig welding does not thanks to the continuous feed.
  • Tig welding is more expensive.
  • Mig welds are stronger and harder.
  • Mistakes are more easily handled with mig welding than tig welding.
  • Tig welding is more aesthetically appealing than mig welding.
  • Mig welding is easier to learn than tig welding.

These differences mean that tig and mig welding are not usually used for the same applications. How you use each type of weld depends on the project, the materials and the finished look you desire.

Uses for Mig and Tig Welding

Because of the clean finish and the precision, tig welding is often used for projects in the home or for decorative items. It is artistic in its finish, which makes it ideal for metal lawn or home decor items, kitchen sinks or other items in which the weld is visible and needs to be neat and clean.

Tig welding is also the better choice when technical welds are needed. It allows for more skill and detail in the welds. However, remember that this type of weld is not as strong, which requires more attention to detail and slower work to ensure a strong hold.

In general, tig welding is for lighter metals. It can be used on heavier metals, but that requires more power and may slow down the process even more. If you lack the power needed, then the job simply cannot be done with tig welding.

Mig welding is quick and great for large jobs. If the actual weld does not need to be pretty, then mig welding is perfect. However, sanding and finishing the weld after it is complete can give a mig weld a tig-weld look. This does make the process longer, though.

The mig welding process also yields a stronger hold, making it ideal for tough jobs. You could use mig welding to attach a plow to a truck, or piece together steel support beams. It will give you a more reliable weld that will hold.

Tig Welding Project Ideas

There are many different projects you can do with a tig welder. This type of welding gives you a chance to practice your skills and technique. It enables you to hone your craft. So, here are some project ideas that require an artistic hand.

Ornamental Gate

A metal gate is a nice yard piece that can add some beauty to a garden in its placement, or even be used as a support for climbing plants. You can create pretty much any design you want, but it all starts with a frame of some sort, which needs strong welds so it is sturdy. From there, you can let your imagination run wild as you add metal pieces to create designs, bars or scrollwork.

Shoe Rack

A shoe rack is a simple project. It can add a nice touch to an entryway in your home. You can make it as big or as small as you like. It is a great beginner project to let you work on your tig welding skills because it can be very simple. All you need is to weld together pipes to create the rack.

Plant Holder

This is another creative project in which you can keep it simple or make it ornate. Most plant holders are simply a round holder for the plant with legs attached. From this basic design, you can then add more metal pieces, create designs on the legs or do many different creative things to make your plant holder original and beautiful.

Mig Welding Project Ideas

Mig welding is great for those projects that require a bit more heavy-duty weld. They can often be something rugged, or something that will be used a lot. Here are some projects that will let you try your mig welding skills.

Fire Pit

A fire pit needs a strong weld that stands up to the heat of the fire that will be in it. That is why mig welding works well. In addition, you want to use a strong base metal for the pit so it doesn’t fall apart. You can do many decorative things with this project, as well, such as cutting images or designs out of the metal base. You also do not have to make it round. It can be any shape you want, as long as it creates a closed space in which to safely set a fire.

Storage Shelves

Shelves are handy anywhere in the home or the garage. You just need the shelves and the braces. It is a simple project that can be done with many types of metal. You can customize them to your needs and the available space.

Table

A metal table comes in handy in the kitchen or the garage. You can create one easily with welding. It is an easy project that just requires the tabletop and the legs. You may need support beams running between the legs to give it stability, but you can finish it in any creative way you want.

A Little About TIG Welding

Before we discuss TIG vs MIG welding, let’s learn about each of these types of welding. TIG means tungsten inert gas. Its name refers to the way the current is provided to the welding arc, which is through a tungsten electrode. The tungsten electrode is non-consumable. The electric arc is tight, and inert gas shields it from the atmosphere.

Benefits and Disadvantages of TIG Welding

TIG welding can be used on several metals. It is a very controlled and precise form of welding. The welds it produces are small and soft, which means they can be worked with a hammer and dolly. Some TIG welders allow you to control the heat with various methods by using a foot pedal or another control on the torch itself. These controls allow the precision of TIG welding mentioned earlier.TIG welding can be difficult to learn. The TIG welding process is complex and requires multitasking to its fullest degree. You must hold the torch properly, control the welding current, keep the correct distance between the electrode and what you are welding, and move the torch steadily. In addition, you must add the filler with your other hand when it is appropriate and dab the rod where required. The complexity of the equipment also means it is expensive to purchase.

MIG Welding Explained

In our discussion on TIG vs MIG welding, let’s talk about MIG. MIG welding is a form of metal inert gas welding. It is used on aluminum and other non-ferrous (or non-iron) metals. MIG welding consists of a process by which a metal wire connects to a direct current and serves an electrode to join two metal pieces. Inert gas (traditionally argon) passes through the welding gun at the same time as the wire electrode. The inert gas protects the weld from contaminants in the air.

Benefits and Disadvantages of MIG Welding

MIG welding is quick and produces long, continuous welds. It is faster than another form of arc welding known as stick welding. When MIG welding was created back in the 1940s, inert gas was quite pricey, which made this technique impractical for welding steel.As the MIG welding process has developed throughout the years, it can now use semi-inert gases. Carbon dioxide is one such inert gas that is commonly used. As a result, MIG welding can now be used in the process of welding steel. MIG welding produces a clean weld with little splatter. This is because of the shielding gas which protects the welding arc. MIG welding can be used on many metals and metal alloys.MIG welding differs from traditional stick welding. MIG welding requires complex equipment. There are several components that make up the MIG welder including a source of direct current, a source of inert gas, and the wire electrode. It is better to perform MIG welding in a controlled environment. Performing MIG welding in an open area could affect the gas used in the MIG welding process.

TIG vs MIG Welding

Let’s get down to the basics here as we discuss TIG vs MIG welding. TIG welding is a form of gas tungsten arc welding, also called GTAW for short. MIG welding is called gas metal arc welding, also called GMAW for short. We will discuss some TIG and MIG welding basics, including the parts of each welder, along with techniques for TIG vs MIG welding.

TIG

TIG welding provides a high-quality, precise weld. It provides a good looking, clean result. It also works on thin metals. TIG welding can be used on any metals that conduct electricity. This includes steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. It also includes brass, chromoly (a steel alloy), copper, magnesium, and titanium.TIG welding uses long welding rods you feed into the weld puddle. TIG welding uses an electric arc. TIG welding is considered slower but a more delicate technique. The TIG welding technique is considered versatile because of the large number of metals you can weld.

Parts of TIG Welder

As we discuss TIG vs MIG welding, let’s discuss some parts of the TIG welder to familiarize you with these components:

  • ​Work lead or ground cable with clamp – contains the electric torch on its end and attaches to the workpiece or metal surface
  • ​Gas line which carries the inert gas
  • ​Gas bottle with regulator containing the inert gas
  • ​Electric torch

The electric torch contains the following inner parts:

  • ​Tungsten rod – the electrode which can be sharpened to a point or ball
  • ​Copper collet – holds the tungsten rod and helps to adjust the tungsten rod length
  • ​Ceramic cup – comes in a variety of diameters; holds and directs the gas around the tungsten

TIG Techniques

Please note that the techniques discussed here are not considered a comprehensive how-to guide for TIG welding. They are meant to compare the different techniques used by TIG and MIG welders.

  • ​Hold the torch in your dominant hand. Work from your dominant hand side and out to your other side.
  • ​Position the torch 1/8 of an inch from the surface of the metal.
  • ​Initiate the arc.
  • ​Tip the torch 15 to 20 degrees away from the direction of travel.
  • ​Center the torch along the seam of the metals.
  • ​If filler material is required, bring it in at an angle that is as low as possible without hitting the tungsten.
  • ​Move along the seam and add filler if required.

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​MIG

​MIG welding is often considered relatively easy to learn. It produces clean welds without slag (waste). It can be used on metals of various thicknesses. MIG can be used on steel, stainless steel, and aluminum alloys.MIG uses a continuously feeding wire to produce the weld. The feeding wire burns, melts, and fuses both the metals. Like TIG welding, MIG welding uses an electric arc. MIG welding can be used on many types of metals, from thin to thick. MIG welding is considered a quick welding technique. The MIG welding technique is considered a better choice for most home-welding projects because of ease of use and the wide variety of applications.

Parts of TIG Welder

​As we discuss TIG vs MIG welding, let’s discuss some parts of the MIG welder to familiarize you with these components:

  • ​Work lead containing the electric torch with the wire inside
  • ​Nozzle directs the gas to your weld
  • ​Gas bottle with regulator containing the inert gas
  • ​Contact tip feeds the wire
  • ​Work clamp completes the circuit by attaching to metal
  • ​Roller feeds the wire

​MIG Techniques

​Please note that the techniques discussed here are not considered a comprehensive how-to guide for MIG welding. They are meant to compare the different techniques used by TIG and MIG welders.

  • ​Use a two-handed grip on the MIG welder gun.
  • ​When welding sheet metal, use a 45-degree angle to hold the gun about 3/8 on an inch away from the joint.
  • ​Tack a joint between 3/4 of an inch to one inch apart prior to finish welding.
  • ​After tacking, use a hammer and dolly to align the edges.
  • ​Minimize distortion by welding in short sections.

Conclusion

TIG and MIG welding are both methods for joining metals together. While TIG is a form of gas tungsten arc welding, MIG is a form of gas metal arc welding. As discussed here, both forms of welding have their place in metalworking today. TIG is generally considered a more precise form of welding that can be more difficult to learn. TIG welding can be used on many metals, including more unusual metals such as magnesium and tungsten. MIG welding produces a clean, quick weld and can be used on many metals of different thicknesses. It uses a feeding wire to produce the weld.

No matter which type of welding you do, either TIG or MIG welding, you need the correct personal protective equipment, also called PPE. PPE for welding includes, but is not limited to, welding helmets, goggles, flame-resistant gloves, flame resistant aprons or jackets, and protective footwear. Welding helmets can protect welders from arc rays and weld sparks. Welding helmets do not protect the eyes from flying debris such as grinding fragments and wire wheel bristles, so wearing goggles is also important for those who use welding equipment.

The type of gloves worn depends upon whether you do TIG or MIG welding. Because TIG welding is more delicate, lighter weight gloves are generally recommended than what is used with MIG welding. Some other common welding PPE includes a welding cap, earplugs, a respirator, long pants, and face shields. Consult your local regulations and welder owner’s manual to find out what PPE is appropriate for you and the welding application you are using.

We hope we have provided an adequate overview of the difference between TIG and MIG welding.

The Last Word

There are obvious differences between tig and mig welding. Often beginners start with mig welding because it is easier, faster and requires less skill. It can be a great way to build the skills needed to start tig welding. Mig welding is also cheaper, so it is a little easier on the wallet to learn using this method. However, tig welding can create beautifully stunning works. It is a great method to use for creating ornate decorative objects.

Any welding project can easily turn into some extra income, because the end result is strong and long-lasting. When you know how to weld, you can turn some simple metal pieces into something pretty or something very useful.

Because both types of welding processes are useful for a variety of projects, it is probably a good idea for every welder to learn both of them. This will help open you up to a world of welding in which you can tackle any project, regardless of the metal used or the finished results you want.

Welding is the process that heats metals and allows them to be joined together. There are a number of types of welding that can be used to join metals together. Here we will discuss two types of welding: TIG vs MIG welding.

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