MIG vs. TIG welding: What’s The Difference?

MIG (metal inert gas) and TIG (tungsten inert gas) are two common styles of welding. Despite many technical similarities, each is particularly suited for different tasks. In both types, the area being welded is protected by a generated shield or bubble of an inert gas, such as argon, to prevent impurities in the air from mixing into the molten metal. (Hence the names that include the phrase “inert gas.”)
MIG welding – Better for Beginners

Easy to learn

Most welders encounter MIG welding before TIG welding. MIG is easy to learn for a welding rookie and doesn’t require a great deal of skill or experience to create effective welds. In MIG welding, you’ll hold a gun-like tool in your hand and hold the tip of it nearly touching where you want the weld. When you pull the trigger, you activate the torch plus a spool which begins sending filler wire out the tip, too. The tool supplies both the heat and the material (at a rate you preset), making it easy to fill the seam with a weld. MIG welding can even be done one-handed.

Faster and cheaper

MIG welding generates less slag that you have to clean up later and once you get the hang of it, you can move through your project very quickly. MIG works on the most common types of metals (but not all metal). Initial equipment cost for MIG welding is likely going to be lower also, making it more attractive to the new welder.

TIG welding – Better for the Craftsman

Takes time to master

The mechanics of TIG welding are slightly different. You’ll be holding a pencil-like device in your dominant hand out of which will come the torch. But the torch is powered by a foot pedal (like a sewing machine) and the filler metal is supplied by your other hand. The filler metal is like a stiff metal wire that resembles a straightened hanger, and as you slowly move the torch along the seam, you dab the filler wire into the flame to melt it and create the weld. Where the MIG welder is fairly idiot-proof, the TIG requires some artistic talent.

Slower but stronger

TIG can be used on a wider variety of metals than MIG and works well on both thick and thin material. Strong enough to be used on spacecraft, airplanes, and cars, it is much more slow-going than the MIG. An additional downside to TIG welding is that you will often wish you had a third hand – one for the torch, one for the filler, and one to hold the project – so sometimes you will need a buddy to help you.

Pretty but pricey

With plenty of practice, skill, and patience, you can make welds pretty enough to be used in metal sculpture, giving you the chance to do finely crafted detail work. But the cost of TIG machinery will run into the thousands of dollars.

pulse on the TIG machine

Image credit: Joel Washing, Flickr

Conclusion

As is the case with most tools, you can save yourself time and money in the long run if you plan ahead. Think about what you plan to weld because that may impact the kind of welding you choose to pursue. MIG welding is a great place to start for novices, but if you’re ready for a new challenge, TIG could be the next logical step for you. And no matter what kind of welding you decide on, don’t forget to take the appropriate safety precautions!

About the Author Adam Harris

Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!