This post contains affiliate links.
There is so much equipment associated with welding that beginners can feel overwhelmed. If they aren’t enrolled in a welding school, purchasing all of the equipment can seem pretty daunting for a newbie.
MIG and TIG welding are similar in the fact that they both require gas cylinders and refills from time to time. MIG generally requires a 75%/25% mix of Argon and Co2, respectively. The TIG process usually runs straight Argon, or Helium for some high end aluminum applications.
Stick welding is a bit more simple. Since the flux coating of the electrode produces its own shielding properties, no external gas is needed. This means that when you buy a box of rods (electrodes), your filler metal and your gas are basically included. So what else is required?
With every welding process, a ground clamp is needed at all times. Since the electrode pushes electrical current into your steel, it must come back into the machine to make one big loop. The ground clamp pushes the electricity back into your welding machine through the lead (cable). This makes one big loop of electrical current as you are performing your welds.
The stinger acts as the facilitator to bring amperage to your electrode. It holds the rod and makes the weld possible. These stingers come with thick grips which provide comfort throughout a long days work.
So with a machine, stinger lead, ground lead, and rods – you’re basically ready to roll. This makes the stick welding process really appealing for beginners, as the upfront cost can be pretty manageable.
Not having to buy (or lease) a gas cylinder will cause less headaches as you are just starting out. With the abundance of stick electrode types (over a dozen!) new welders can practice their hand with each rod type of their choice. 6010 rods provide a much different bead than a 7018 rod.
Although stick welding is not thought of as “the best” way to fabricate, you can still build some cool home projects while using the stick process. Removing the mill scale can get annoying, but it is doable.
Stick also requires less dexterity than TIG (in our opinion). As talked about on some of our other articles, TIG welding requires both hands and a foot pedal to complete your welds. The dominant hand holds the torch (electrode), the other hand feeds the rod (filler metal), and the foot pedal controls your amperage as you are manipulating the puddle. The foot pedal is used by your dominant foot for obvious reasons.
Stick welding allows you to hold the stinger with both hands to achieve a steady travel speed. As you progress, you’ll be able to stick weld just using one hand – but using both hands will help the beginner stay steadier throughout the learning process.
Stick welding can also be used while running an engine driven machine. If mobile welding is more your thing, purchasing an engine drive is a great idea. Attaching a set of leads to this type of welder will allow you to weld anywhere you get hired. These machines run off of gas (or diesel) and allow for many hours of stick welding before you need to refill the tank.
When you think of all the skyscrapers across the country (NYC, Chicago, etc.) The structural steel was stick welded together many years ago. The 7018 rod is referred to as “the rod that built America”, and that is true in a lot of ways. It is the choice of many ironworkers and pipeliners around the world.
Although stick welding is probably the most convenient process, by no means is it easy. It requires many hours of “hood time”. This means that you must burn a lot of electrodes before you’ll be ready to pass a certification. Welding schools have their students burn rods for a whole semester before they are ready for an AWS bend test.
Stick welding is very simple in theory, but getting good at it takes lots of dedication.
MIG is considered by some as “the hot glue method” of welding. You pull the trigger, and you’re basically gluing steel together with more steel.
With this being said, a MIG machine is harder to set up for a beginner. Learning to install the wire properly in the drive rolls takes practice, and hooking up a gas cylinder can be confusing at first.
There is a MIG process which is very similar to the stick process. It is called “self shielded flux core”. The wire contains a flux which creates a gas to shield the puddle. This is very similar to a stick rod as it requires no extra gas. Besides the self shielded MIG option, all other MIG wires will need a gas to go along with it.
TIG welding requires plenty more than a stick welding setup requires. Cups, collets, tungstens, torches, water coolers, filler rods, etc! We really enjoy TIG welding, but it gets last place in terms of “beginner friendly” options.
So, with all of this said – we really believe that stick welding is the most convenient process for beginners. Less equipment = less headaches.