Welding: TIG or MIG?


Ryan and I are learning some basic welding. Great fun. Plan to get a welder for occasional use. Expect our welding will be divided equally between aluminum and steel, not more than 1/8" thick.

Run ran some nice beads with a TIG. But the MIG seems a bit more flexible.

Looking for some thoughts.

Eastwood has come out with a TIG and MIG that seem very competively priced. Any one have any experience with their welders? I am sure they are not as robust as, say, a Lincoln. But for occasional use?

Fran Hall RCR

hop out to the garage and have a look at your RCR40 chassis, that should make up your mind for you...TIG...

All NASCAR chassis are MIG welded but they are superb in their craftsmanship...

MIG is simpler ,all things considered..one handed point and shoot...

Randy V

Lifetime Supporter
I use both but am far more proficient at MIG.

MIG is simpler s Fran points out. The hand-eye-foot coordination required for most TIG setups is substantially more difficult to learn.

I use MILLER and HOBART. Lincoln is good stuff also. Regardless of what you may have read in the reviews - I would not buy a Chinese welder..
Agreed. I have an 200amp AC/DC TIG (with pulse function), and am still trying to master it. Mig is the easy option.

Having said that, TIG is your only option for aluminum :)
I have to go along with what has been said so far. If you decide to get a TIG unit, go on Ebay and you can get some pretty decent prices on even new units. It takes a lot of practice to get the coordination down. Lap joints are the easiest to do. If you have ever gas welded, it is a lot like that except you have to add the foot action into the mix. That is where the heat comes in. You have to be real careful adding a lot of heat to the welding. It distorts the piece being welded and it can move things around and things won't line up like they did before you started welding. I had a little gap around my front shock tower mounting point and the stainless I added. It took several passes to get it closed. When I went to hook up the shock, it magically would not line up due to the movement from the heat.
If you have the time, you may want to go to the Vocational school and see if they have a short night course you can take. You will get a lot of experience and advice first hand, and its cheap.


Alan Watkins

Lifetime Supporter
Based on a small amount of experience with both, I agree with the foregoing. I was able to immediately go to work with a Mig welder building some speaker stands out 1" square tubing (with a lot of post-grinding). If all you want to do is get something built and move on, go MIG.

However, when it came time to invest I bought a TIG welder because I mainly wanted to weld SS and AL, and especially wanted to invest in my own education on all of its versatility. My first experience with TIG was absolute magic and deceptively easy: butt welding SS tubing with no filler. Some of the welds were nearly invisible. However, everything else has been much harder that I expected. But I am absolutely loving the learning curve.

On the equipment front I bought a Miller Diversion 165 for about $1,200 (from Airgas, believe it or not). This was a better-than-web price. My only regret about that is I wish I had pulse control for stuff like SS sheet where heat management is absolutely critical.

A really good web site is "weldingtipsandtricks.com".
Here in New Zealand are quite a few aluminum boats . Most of them welded. On the long runs eg. chine the proses used is mig. BUT you have to have a spool gun or else a push and pull set up . The short delicate welds is usually done by tig .

This info is slightly different than what is said in post # 4
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Howard Jones

With out a doubt tig. I use a mig machine from time to time at work and I view it as a hot glue gun that works in metal. Messy spatter and not really good for making things like small tanks, suspension pieces, various mounts, and most small fine work. Just the kind of stuff I have been making throughout my SLC build.

Difficulty? I just don't think that there's all that much difference. You will need to prep and fit all the parts the same way which is a lot of the work either way. Then you are going to practice a bit with both machines. In the end you will learn how to use what ever you but and once you have a tig machine you can do anything. I don't fell that way about a mig.

Lastly mig's do tend to fool you as far as penetration goes. It's pretty easy to make a nice pretty bead and have it be cold and not adequately penetrate both pieces.

I have a 225 Lincoln. It runs off of a 50 amp 240 breaker and is about the max you can run off of normal house breaker panel. I have welded 1/4" Alum plate onto 2X6 inch 1/8 tubing when I did some changes to my SLC. Most of the time I was at about 160-175 amps. It's pretty hard to come up with a bigger heat sink than a RCR chassis and the Lincoln 225 had NO problem handling that.

Don't buy a 110V machine. IMHO it's a waste of money and you will be back for a better 240 machine later anyway.

My complete setup came in at $2300ish, welder, tank, regulators , cart, helmet, gloves , the works. I have paid for it at least twice over by now and I wound change a thing. The one thing I may add is a water cooled torch. The air cooled torch I have does get hot if you have long runs of more than a couple of feet to weld above about 100 amps or so.

Alan Watkins

Lifetime Supporter
Difficulty? I just don't think that there's all that much difference.
Yes, I should clarify my comment about things with my TIG welder being harder than I expected. These things are difficult inherently, not because I'm using a TIG welder. In fact some of them (like welding 22 gauge stainless) I don't think you can do with a MIG at all. Other things, like welding something really thin to something really thick without blowing through the thin thing, are just plain hard with any torch (AFAIK).
I have a Miller 180 mig and I just got an older Miller syncrowave 300 in really good shape. It's liquid cooled and does some amazingly tiny welds as well as the weld size on the SLC frame. As I get more proficient with the tig I am finding that I like the way it welds and the look of the weld, which is much more appealing visually in my opinion than the mig weld. My partner has a newer Miller syncrowave 200, but I feel more comfortable with my machine. The damn thing is the size of a refrigerator, but works great. I think the tig gets better penetration as well.
Tig is a structural weld as is arc welding because it melts the 2 parent metals together.
Mig is a filler and joins the 2 pieces with wire.

Mig has its place but tig is the way.
I think it is worth learning the art ,I think you need to look at the big picture of how long you want to do this as a hobby,it it is a passion and you want to lift your game you need to lift your skill level.
I can say it is easy because I have had a tig for 14-15 years so I cant remember the learning process.

I highly recommend a throttle pedal, as you progress through the job it gets hotter and you need to pull out some amps as you go.
After a while you get a water cooled torch ,it is small and light ,it makes it easier.

If you go the tig I will guarantee you will become a better fabricator as tig does not like large gaps.

The cheapest way to learn is check out local colleges for night courses, that is what I did.
It saved so much time and will teach you the technique

When you make a suspension arm you sleep better knowing it is tig welded.

I see all the comments above and they are all valid.

Big picture

I would never buy of ebay unless they were local and had a store.
Bought a plazma cutter on ebay ,the peice of sh== worked once and they never replied to the emails.

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Cliff Beer

The MIG welding machines continue to get better and better. It is now possible to produce a MIG weld with good penetration and not too much spatter, even one that is visually appealling (with practice). A good 110 MIG welder can be very adequate for medium to light gauge. For 3/16 or thicker you really should have a 240v machine.

I have a new Miller 140 and it is super easy to use, produces great welds and couldn't be simpler. It has an auto-feed which adjusts to the gauge - all you do is point and shoot. About $650 online.

Miller Millermatic 140 All-In-One Wire MIG Welder w/ Auto-Set, 115 V - Baker's Gas & Welding Supplies

No doubt a skilled TIG guy can produce a finer looking weld with perhaps greater strength, but for 98% of the stuff that I'm doing the MIG machine works very well and is a no-brainer.
For me (working alone) a big advantage for MIG is that you can hold/adjust a part into position with one hand and tack it with the torch held in the other hand.

With TIG everything has to be jigged/clamped.

Best is to have both, If I could only have one, as I do, I go with MIG. I have a Hobart brand 175 which is excellent. I have a big gas bottle chained to the wall and use a long gas line (with quick connects) to the welder. Makes moving it around much easier.


Fred W B
If resources allow and you like the convenience of wire feed, you can use a spool gun and Argon gas shielding to weld aluminum.
If resources allow and you like the convenience of wire feed, you can use a spool gun and Argon gas shielding to weld aluminum.
I've got a spool gun for my Miller 180, my partner calls it the "mud gun". It doesn't have the tig penetration and the weld and splatter isn't appealing. It works, but not like the tig.
Howard alluded to what is part of my answer. I learned on Tig, right around the time I was teaching myself gas welding. Can't remember which was first, but they are fundamentally identical - heat and create weld puddle with one hand, dip in filler rod with the other. This is why I may be the only one here that will say the TIG is easier than MIG. I say this taking into account the ability to knowlingly create a quality weld (what Howard was talking about in his post.) An experienced person on a MIG is one thing. A newcomer to welding is something else entirely. If you don't have the experience and knowledge of what it is you are really trying to accomplish and how it happens, then the MIG can very easily lead you astray with what LOOKS like a decent weld, but is too cold with no penetration.

One thing to keep in mind is that MIG is inherently much faster than TIG. TIG, however, is far more versatile and controllable, and controllable on the fly.:thumbsup: