MIG vs Stick: Comparing MIG Welders vs Stick Welders

mig welders vs stick welders

Both MIG and stick welding fall into the overarching category of “arc welding”. What arc welding means is that MIG welding and stick welding utilize electricity as their heat source. This heat source is then transformed to join together pieces of metal.

MIG welding (metal inert gas) is mostly utilized for smaller and more delicate welding projects. This includes standard projects around the house, minor repair jobs, and smaller shop-related work. Stick welding, on the other hand, is far more useful for larger projects, including structural welds, pipeline welding, and reactors. While MIG welding is suitable for beginners, stick welding requires high levels of skill and a steady, well-trained hand.

But the differences don’t stop there. This article will compare stick welders and MIG welders. We at Tool Guides Hub aim to highlight some of the major differences that exist between these two types of welding machines. Some of the differences highlighted in this comparison piece include: Levels of weld penetration, margins of error, operational costs, safety when welding, and quality of welds.

Comparison of MIG Welders vs Stick Welders: Error Margins

MIG welders offer great opportunities for its users to customize settings in many different ways. For instance, users will need to adjust the voltage, electrode, grounding, torch angle, technique used, and gas flow. What this means is that MIG welding relies heavily on the skill of the user compared to stick welding. For this reason, the margins of error involved in this facet of arc welding is much higher than the margins of error that would occur in stick welding.

It is also worth noting that, due to the fact that the adjustments and modifications are not necessary with stick welding, it might not be the most suitable for structural welding. Comparing MIG welders and stick welders regarding error margins shows that stick welders are far better than MIG welders in this category.


MIG welder VS stick

Penetration Levels in Welders

When mentioning levels of penetration, what is meant is the way that the welder penetrates the weld joint. As far as penetration level is concerned, stick welders beat out MIG welders for multiple reasons.

For starters, stick welders do not require much effort for weld penetration. As long as the electrode is lit, there is little effort needed. Additionally, proper positioning techniques during the welding processes add an advantage for stick welders. With this, penetration weld joins make penetration far more simple. Also, adjusting amperage to the correct settings guarantees stronger join penetration for stick welders compared to MIG welders. This is simply not the case with MIG welders.

Operating Costs of MIG Welders vs Stick Welders

Comparing operational costs of MIG welders and stick welders shows a strong difference between the two types. While MIG welders require some prerequisites such as shielding gases, stick welders are good to go with minimal preparations necessary. Additionally, by comparing MIG welders vs stick welders by number of moving parts involved, it is clear to see that MIG welders have many moving pieces, increasing associated operating costs.

Also, MIG welders require a good bit of preparation before use. Alternatively, stick welders do not require this, as they are limited in potential problems that might arise in the process. These potential problems are what lead to higher operational costs and necessary repairs.

Safety and Quality of MIG Welders vs Stick Welders

When comparing potential safety concerns of MIG welders and stick welders, the jury is still out on which edges out the other. This is because both welding machines require a very high amount of concentrated heat to work properly. Additionally, there are sparks that emanate and molten metal spattered out in the process. It is vital to have proper gear to be safe from the effects of the metal spatter. However, the inclusion of shielding cases in MIG welding requires additional caution when storing both during and after usage.

It is incredibly important to ensure that the environment of the welding area is void of potentially explosive and flammable materials. Regarding quality, both MIG and stick welders produce insanely high quality welds. MIG welders work better with thinner metals such as aluminum, while stick welders produce higher quality welds in thicker metals. This is due to the stick welders’ solid joint penetration mentioned above. It is also worth nothing that with the correct choice of electrode, proper technique, and correct settings, welders are good to go. They will experience strong quality, regardless of the type of welder being used.

To dive deeper into MIG welders, please visit our post 6 Best MIG Welders.

How Does A MIG Welder Work?

how mig welders work

MIG welding is a form of arc welding involving metal and inactive gases used to join two separate steel or aluminum pieces together using the transfer of heat. MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas. The process is sometimes referred to as GMAW in some circles, which stands for Gas Metal Arc Welding.

There are three things that need to be present for a weld to be considered MIG:

  1. An electrode to fill the joint between the two pieces of steel or aluminum to be connected.
  2. A source of power, typically a relatively stable and high-voltage power source to run a welding device.
  3. A shielding gas that works to protect the welds from getting into contact with airborne contaminants and dust.

Let’s take a deeper look into how MIG welders work, to better understand the mechanisms being manipulated and modified to join two pieces of metal into one uniform weld.

How MIG Welders Work

The processes of MIG welding is regarded as a semi-automatic process, as the outcome of a weld relies partially on the skillset of the operator to regulate the amount of welding being performed. This doesn’t mean that an unskilled welder is incapable of operating a MIG welder. After all, the process is relatively simple as far as ensuring the right settings: Set the voltage and use the right electrode. The skill level truly comes in with the quality of the weld. This is where the professionals are separated from the amateurs.

A MIG welder works by transferring the metal wire being used to the joint between the two pieces of metal (aluminum or steel). There are four ways to accomplish this process: globular, pulsed spray, short circuit, and spray:

  • In globular transfers, the welding material transfers across the arc weld in larger droplets. Generally, these droplets are larger than the diameter of the electrode being used in the MIG welding process.
  • In pulsed spray transfers, the power supply cycles between high spray transfer currents and lower background currents. This allows for super-cooling of weld pools in the background cycle.
  • In short circuit transfers, the electrode touches the metal and short circuits. This causes the metal to transfer as a result of the short. This typically occurs between 20 and 200 times per second.
  • In spray transfers, tiny molten droplets of super heated metal are sprayed across the arc. This works similar to the spray that comes out of a garden hose when the opening has been restricted.


how mig welder works

Let’s dive a little bit deeper into the three requirements necessary to form a MIG weld as outlined above:

MIG Welding: The Electrode Wire

Electrode wires used in MIG welding depend on the types of materials to join. While some welds come with the wire and flux fused together, others require feeding of the wires through a nozzle as you pull the trigger through the process. This is basically how a MIG welder spits molten metal out to weld two pieces of steel or aluminum together.

Setting up this electrode requires that the user begins an  arc by clamping it to the welding project, though. The metal is then held inside the welder itself, as MIG welding is classified as wire-feed type welding. Then, MIG welders allow users to adjust feed rates of wires. For this reason, users should first perform a test bead on a scrap piece of metal. This allows fine tuning of feed rates for the strongest results in the final weld. The most common electrode thicknesses for MIG welding work ranges between 0.023″ and 0.045″. However, some are thicker than this, especially if being utilized for heavy-duty or industrial applications.

MIG Welding: The Shielding Gas

There are two possible shielding gas sources in MIG welding:

  • The shielding gas can originate from chemical reactions in flux, or
  • The gas could come from a tank connected to the welder

The main source of the shielding gas in a MIG welder is the connected gas tank, which also contains mixtures of two inert gases: argon and carbon dioxide. This gases come from manufacturers. Yet, the main reason for using inert gases is so the gas doesn’t react with the metal, causing contaminants to compromise the structure and integrity of the weld.

When a user pulls the trigger on their welder, the gases are pumped through the welding cable, coming out the same nozzle where the welding wire is actively fed. Nevertheless, with this, the inert gas combination creates a type of shield, protecting the arc weld.

MIG Welding: The Power Source

MIG welders use DC (direct current) power sources to produce heat. However, how MIG welders work is dependent on the heat settings chosen. Yet, several voltage selections exist for users to select the option that will produce the best weld based on their needs. If a user selects a heat setting that is too high, they might find themselves with a burnt or unusable weld. This shouldn’t discourage these users, though. Even the most seasoned welding professionals make mistakes. Finally, these adjustments in heat rates for MIG welding power sources are made through modification of voltage rates to meet specific welding needs.

Looking to compare MIG welders? We feature six of the highest rated and best power-to-dollar ratio MIG welders on the market:

Hobart Handler 190 Review

hobart handler 190 review

Hobart welders have been top-of-the-line consistent for years. They develop and manufacture high-quality steel and aluminum welding products. The Hobart Handler 190 MIG welder is no exception to this quality aspect. There are many reasons Tool Guides Hub considers the Hobart Handler 190 one of the best MIG welders.

To start, the Hobart Handler has a wide range of output power, ranging from 25 amps to 190 amps. The welder also has a thirty percent duty cycle at 130 amps. Additionally, Hobart models are durable, with forged parts and good attention to detail. Our review of the Hobart Handler 190 uncovers more reasons to buy. We believe this information will be beneficial to readers.

Read on for our full Hobart Handler 190 MIG welder review. See if it fits your needs, see if it fits your price range, and see why it is on our list of the best MIG welders.

hobart 190 review

Our Hobart Handler 190 Review

The Hobart Handler 190 is a solid piece of welding equipment. It works well with metal thicknesses between 24 gauge and 5/16-inch. The machine weighs in at a nice low 68 pounds. It also measures in at a little over a foot high, about ten inches wide, and around 19.5 inches deep.

Past reviews online for the Hobart Handler 190 refer to it as very portable. The dimensions and weight above reflect this. If the weight of the machine compared to the size concerns you, note that there is an inbuilt gas cylinder. This means welders will have one less piece of external equipment to lug around from work site to work site.

The Hobart Handler 190 works very well with aluminum and steel (mild, flux core, and stainless). For mild steel and stainless steel welding, the wire thickness varies. The suggested wire thickness for these steel types is 0.6 to 0.9 millimeters. For flux core steel, the suggested wire thickness is 0.8 to 1.2 millimeters. For aluminum, the Hobart Handler 190 works best with wire thicknesses between 0.8 and 0.9 millimeters.

Hobart Handler 190: Product Ease of Use

The Hobart Handler 190 has simplistic controls. These controls allow anyone from novices to experts to manipulate welding settings. The controls are well marked, and the amperage and voltage knobs are well labeled. This labeling ensures confusion and accidents don’t occur at all skill levels.

This product has seven various output voltage settings. This makes the Hobart Handler 190 one of the most versatile MIG welders on the market. Operation of the Hobart Handler 190 from a generator requires 7000 watts of output power. For more powerful, professional results, plug the machine into a 230 volt wall jack.

Adjusting amperage on the Hobart Handler 190 is a breeze, and is straightforward. This contributes to its quick and painless setup process when working mobile. One review of the Hobart Handler 190 attests to this setup ease. They note that the connections are a snap, and they can plug in and start working in minutes.

hobart handler 190 review

Hobart Handler 190: Equipment Features

One of the most outstanding aspects of the Hobart Handler 190 is its inbuilt spool gun circuitry. This welder features a SpoolRunner 100, serving to regulate the wire floor.

According to one review of this Hobart model, this is a vital feature that should be standard in all welders. The direct connection between the machine and SpoolRunner 100 assists in reducing problems. Aluminum wire MIG welding is a careful and dangerous game. The SpoolRunner 100 in the Hobart Handler 190 ensures safety in all aspects.

The built-in contactor is yet another wonderful feature present in the Hobart 190. This contactor serves to “ground” the machine, enhancing safety and reducing injury risk.

Also, the Hobard Handler 190 features an automatic thermal overload protection element. The element shuts off the equipment when it gets too hot. Then, it turns back on immediately once the welder has cooled down.

The seven separate selections for voltage enhance the Handler 190’s versatility. It also enhances the flexibility of the welder. According to one review, different voltages are selectable depending on the power source. This does not compromise the quality of performance.


Hobart Handler 190: Pros and Cons

One of the many advantages of the Hobart Handler 190 MIG welder is the skill level needed. One does not need to be a MIG welding professional to get started with the Hobart Handler. This makes it suitable for novices and beginners alike.

Additionally, the Hobart Handler 190 offers great flexibility. It has seven different voltage selections for welders to choose from. The quality of this welder is unquestionable. Hobart Welders have been in operational condition for over 100 years.

The Hobart models are also priced well, considering their warranty, durability, and quality. The range of material thicknesses workable are quite generous. This explains even more about the Hobart Handler 190’s versatility.

The only disadvantage of the welder is that it requires a 220V power outlet. The price has also been a major issue among many users who compare it with alternative brands from China.

hobart handler 190


Hobart Handler 190: Wrapping Things Up

The Hobart Handler 190 is a great welder for beginners looking for smaller projects. It also has strong appeal to seasoned MIG welders as well. If you consider the flexibility offered, you’ll see what a dollar per dollar champion the 190 is. Plus, the welder offers a solid set of features, such as the regulated wire feed reviewed above.

The quality promise and dedicated service from Hobart is a given. The ease of use and strong feature set is an added bonus of the Hobart Handler 190. Starting MIG welding has never been easier. Advanced welders having a solid portable option is a snap. And the price point makes the Handler 190 too good to pass up. What are you waiting for?


Vulcan Welder Review

vulcan welder review

Vulcan is a relatively recent entry into the industry of welding equipment. This rings especially true when compared to names such as Lincoln or Miller. Vulcan has recently released a new MIG welder into the wild, the Vulcan Migmax 140. This welder is truly turning some heads in welding communities. Experts have admitted that the Migmax 140 is one of the most technologically advanced MIG welders on the market. To start, the Vulcan Migmax 140 is incredibly efficient compared to alternatives.

It is user friendly, not requiring a great deal of effort and expertise to get started. This review of the Vulcan Migmax 140 MIG welder is intended to uncover inside details regarding this welder. This is to keep our readers informed on matters of usability, accessibility, and most importantly efficiency. Find out information from firsthand users on the ins and outs of the Vulcan Migmax 140, and see why it tops our list of best MIG welders in the Vulcan welder review below.

vulcan welder review

Vulcan Welder Review – The Migmax 140

The Migmax 140 Vulcan Welder is a great welding machine. Its body is a combination of orange and blue coloring, with logos and wording on the frame written in white. It is a light power tool compared to competing MIG welders. This is impressive, considering the fact that it is made from industrial grade aluminum. In fact, this welder is the lightest in its class when compared to alternative MIG welders with similar output levels.

This makes it very convenient for users whose jobs involve frequent traveling. The lightweight feature of this product also contributes to its high portability. Users will find it easy to carry around the 48 lb welding machine. The dimensions of the Vulcan Migmax 140 welder are 21 x 16 x 11 inches. This is a small footprint, which makes it even more compact and portable.

vulcan welder

Vulcan Welder’s Anti-Spatter Technology

The arc welding technologies of the Vulcan Migmax welder make it one of the most simple to start MIG welders currently on the market. In addition, many users who left a Vulcan welder review noted that the welder has a spatter free start. This is a bonus with smaller, less expensive MIG welders. For this reason, users have no need to be concerned about molten metal flecks emitting as a result of ignition spatter. This is rampant in most traditional lower-price point MIG welding equipment.

Additionally, users are able to benefit from the Vulcan’s advanced technology through lessened post-weld cleanup costs. Anti-spatter spray is by no means inexpensive. The hassles involved with getting the proper mixture of argon and carbon dioxide know no bounds as well. Yet, all of these efforts still don’t manage to eliminate spatter as a whole. This is because they are only meant to provide spatter reduction. This allows the metal to have finishes that are close to perfect.

Advanced Features of Vulcan Welders

An additional incredible feature of the Vulcan Migmax 140, according to one lengthy Vulcan welder review, is that it contains an industrial-grade cast aluminum drive system inside its tiny frame. What the aluminum drive system does is make it incredibly simple to feed flux core and solid wires. These wires can be up to 15 feet without requiring the use of any tools. Manufacturers kept the necessary needs of modern handymen and welders at the forefront of their mind, and designed this system to be as intuitive and user friendly as possible.

By working their hands around Vulcan welding systems in effective manners, they managed to develop a tool free design. Isn’t that clever? Additionally, the equipment comes spool gun ready. This means that there is no need to purchase a hard-to-find and expensive adapter to prepare for some MIG welding work. However, it is worth noting that the Vulcan Migmax 140 does not come with a spool gun already, and it will need to be purchased separately. We recommend the Hobart 300796 SpoolRunner 100.

vulcan tig welder review

Power Rating of Vulcan Welders

MIG welding machines are only as good as their associated power rating. You can’t separate the power rating and dive into it separate from the machine. This is because a lot of the driving force between MIG welder purchase decisions derive from this. This Vulcan welder review serves todo more than sample power ratings. Let’s dive in.

The Vulcan Migmax has a welder’s input of 120 volts. This couples with superior inverter technology to provide the strongest quality output power. This, in turn, ensures that a MIG welders welds are effective, sturdy, and of high caliber. Many reviewers and consistent users of Vulcan welding products commend the fault-free inverter technology. They note that it is an innovation to run DC power, as DC is more portable and can be conserved more easily than simple AC current.

The output power of the Wulcan MigMax 140 ranges from 30 to 140dc. This is a solid power rating, especially when compared to competing welding machines. It’s even more impressive after seeing size comparisons and portability ratings.


Pros and Cons of the Vulcan Migmax 140 MIG Welder

The Vulcan VW Migmax 140 has been designed for professional welders, but built so amateurs can take advantage of the product. This makes it a solid option for all ranges and skill levels. The first big draw to the Migmax is the cutting edge spatter reduction technology. Many professional MIG welders confirm that scarred, uneven surfaces result mostly from spatter ignition more than anything else. The fact that this model of MIG welder comes with anti spatter features make it a solid go-to for on the go professional welders.

Secondly, while on the topic of portability, the Mixmax is one of the most lightweight and portable welding machines in its class. According to one Vulcan welder review, the ease of carrying it around makes it a great go-to welder. They state it’s great for amateurs, professionals, and anyone who finds themselves needing to travel to welding gigs. Also, this welder comes with a one year satisfaction guarantee, which serves to not only provide some user confidence and assurance, but also to let buyers know that Vulcan stands behind their products.

However, despite the cutting edge welding technology, anti-spatter advancements, and great portability, one Vulcan welder review states some criticisms around its price point. The reviewer noted that the Vulcan Migmax was frequently priced higher than bulkier alternatives at the same power level. Additionally, the fact that this welder does not come with a spool gun means that users will need to buy one separately if they are not already in possession of a spool gun of their own. This can be discouraging to some welders, especially those on a budget, or those looking to purchase a whole package deal.

Vulcan Welder Review – Wrapping Up

The high quality of Vulcan’s welding products speak volume of the company. Vulcan is a brand leader in effective and efficient welding machines. There are only a few welders out there that have the capacity to boast a combination of arc starting technology, tool-free design, and industrial grade cast aluminum drive systems. This explains its higher price entry point. But the lightweight design make it to where, if this was a boxing match, the Vulcan Migmax 140 would easuly be the “pound for pound champion”.

If you are a welding professional and don’t mind the slight premium price of this welder, this is for you. If you don’t mind the need to purchase a spool gun on your own, then Vulcan VW Migmax 140 MIG welder is the perfect marriage of quality and expectations.