View Full Version : Which welder?

09-18-2003, 07:49 PM
What are the main differences between mig, tig, and arc, as related to cost, ease of use, and variety of materials that can welded.


09-18-2003, 09:02 PM
I won't go into a comparison of the types (I have two of each type), but the one I seem to use the most is the TIG. Can't remember the last time I used the others, the TIG is used maybe twice a week.

Your useage will depend on what you're doing, of course. I run a machine shop so we're usually welding small pieces of tooling for which the TIG is best.

G.A. Ewen
09-19-2003, 09:56 AM
If you are looking for a "one size fits all" I would say that an Arc Welder is the most versatile though not necessarily the easiest to use.

09-19-2003, 10:44 AM
That is a lot of ground to cover in a single answer. It might be easier if you were to state your requirements, and we might be able to suggest which method would best suit them.
Basically, MIG and Arc welders can be purchased from $200-$300 on up. TIG will need at least a DC welder and torch and bottle, so you are looking at $500+ for very basic unit. (Scratch start, no current control)
MIG is the simplest to learn to use, but somewhat limited in use. Good for structural, but does not like dirt and rust.
Arc is probably most difficult to master, easy to use, but needs lots of practice. It is also probably the most versatile.
TIG is very versatile too, and relatively easy to master. Most expensive to get started in.
I still recommend Oxy/Acetylene for the first welding equipment. For about the same investment, it can do anything the above units will do, and has the added advantages of burning, cutting, brazing and silver soldering.
Check the archives, lots of information available on this subject. Recent posts by prgmrdan on subject.

[This message has been edited by JCHannum (edited 09-19-2003).]

09-19-2003, 10:48 AM

[This message has been edited by pgmrdan (edited 03-08-2004).]

09-19-2003, 11:05 AM
A point to consider about TIG, it'll weld ANY materials that are weldable. I don't think that can be said about the other common processess.

09-19-2003, 12:25 PM
Adding to what JCHannum said about o/a sets, you can also heat treat (harden as well as anneal). VERY handy for making your own cutting tools.

Case hardening becomes practical for the home shop if you own a torch. And here's a bizarre application: using advice from this forum, I burned out a small, broken tap from a rifle receiver without damaging the receiver.

The o/a torch is VERY handy for working with interference fits, either removing such a fit or expanding one of the parts to assemble the fit.

It's possible to do a limited amount of forging, too - one can make spade drills in minutes, using a torch.

There's tons of information on the web about all of these tools and processes, fun reading too !

I tend to reach for the torch, rather than other welding equipment, about 75% of the time.

09-19-2003, 08:35 PM
In some cases this is kind of scary, but i have often burned nuts off and never touched the bolt threads, and with high degree of success, burned out bolts with out harming threads. I don't think I would have the nerve to try burning a tap out of a fire arm http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif. Should be easy enough but I would try every thing else first cause I'm cowardly.

09-19-2003, 10:53 PM
Torch sure is nice for removing rusted nuts from rusted bolts, or rusted bolts from exhaust manifolds.

09-19-2003, 11:09 PM
If low cost is important, I have found that a carbon arc torch with my arc welder makes it more useful by being able to heat things and braze but it is difficult to see the color changes in the metal.

09-20-2003, 12:13 AM
Thanks for the info guys.
Here is a little background on what I need a welder for.

My most current interest was for welding a bicycle frame. I’m tinkering with the idea of making a recumbent bike.

Then there is the odds and ends stuff around the shop, not to mention the railing falling down on the front steps.

It would be nice to be able to weld aluminum, but not absolutely necessary.

I don’t want to spend much money, and I don’t have much room.

I will be working in my garage, and I don’t want to burn the house down.

I don’t plan on doing a lot of welding, so I don’t want a long learning curve.

It would be nice to be able to weld thick mat’l, but I wouldn’t mind making more than one pass if that is practical.


09-20-2003, 12:17 AM
Go for the oxy/acetylene kit, see the lengthy and informative recent thread on this topic.

09-20-2003, 02:09 AM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by DR:
A point to consider about TIG, it'll weld ANY materials that are weldable.</font>

Providing that you have the right specs and goodies this is very true. To accomplish that would require that the TIG power supply be capable of DC, reverse DC, and AC current and constant voltage regulation.

Then you need both Argon and Helium gases, Thoriated Tungsten electrodes, standard Tungsten Electrodes, and different ceramic nozzles. Expensive, but nicer welds (pretend its a gas torch with much more heat). http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//wink.gif

09-21-2003, 09:05 AM
Each welder is a tool, tools must be purchased according to need or want and desired function.

My mig w/gas works great on thin metal, easy to use. Strong on thinner pieces. I don't trust it on thick-dangerous if they break welds.

My stick welder works great on heavy metal, strong and reliable once you learn how to puddle and set the heats. (watch the puddle and listen to arc) should sound like bacon.

Tig welder, well I bought it to do stainless and it is quite dusty right now. They work like brazing and is kinda hard to weld uphill for me.

I have gas torches too, but rarely use anything but the cutting torch.

I could not do without any of them, but I am a tool junkie. I think my mig is used the most. Most the things I do are small I guess, I have a spool of stainless wire too.

09-21-2003, 12:23 PM
Get a MIG first.

Had a TIG in the past and never it used it that much. I sold it to buy my first computer. Of course I paid $3000 for the computer, and at least the TIG would have held it's value. The computer was a good investment in the end. The TIG is very versatile when it comes to different metals. And best of all, one gas (Argon) should do it all. If you are into SS or tube stuff, then go for TIG. I would like to get another TIG in the future. Looking for a square wave o/p for Al. I made a SS exhaust for my truck 2 yrs ago. Could have used the TIG then. Did it with the MIG using the expensive Tri mix gas.It worked fine.

TIG is the hardest to master.This is where the MIG shines. A baby could MIG weld. And it is 10X faster! Best of all, MIG is the cat's ass for body work! It has saved a ton of cash in this area. I help my dad weld flower carts on the side. With my autodarkening welding helmet, I can bang off a ton welded circles etc in no time. He still likes his buzz box. I tried to show him how to use the MIG. He doesn't want to fuss with the MIG setup, but he pays for it when welding with his stick! I guess you can't teach an old dog new tricks.


09-21-2003, 09:03 PM
Torches are good for cutting and welding as well. They can also be used to heat and bend material. Buzz boxes ( small stick welders) can be used for most common welding jobs, except thin material. Migs are good for thinner material (120 or 240 volt models) and for heavy materials (240 volt models.) Tigs can be used for thin or thick, again depending on voltage. Tig takes more to master than mig. Mig is much easier for beginers. I hope this helps some, good luck.

09-21-2003, 09:58 PM
Well, you certainly got a lot of opinions. I'd like to add my $.02 worth. Look at your local school system, and see if they offer an evening welding class for adults. I went to one about 10 years ago, and it was well worth the investment. We welded with "all" types of welders, so you can get "hands on" experience.
I liked the MIG welder. Contrary to what some dealers sell, it's not a MIG if you don't use Argon or Helium. The "I" in the name stands for Inert. You have to have an inert gas (2 electrons in the outer atomic valence band) to get those clean looking welds.
We don't need a science lesson I guess, but you can't go wrong with an intro welding class to help in your decision.
I picked the 120 volt version of the Lincoln Variable Speed, Variable Power Mig Welder. I do a lot of automotive restoration stuff, and it's great for doing body panels, and anything else on a vehicle.
You put a smile on my face, with that railing. The 120 volt unit is portable to anywhere in the house, shop, garage, or barn.