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MIG and Stick welding require different techniques

Grainews field editor Lisa Guenther and an expert from Miller Electric look at the basic differences between running a bead with a MIG and Stick welder

Man and woman in welding gear.

To be honest, growing up on a farm I was a lot more interested in the animal side of things than the iron. So this year’s Canada’s Farm Progress Show gave me a chance to educate myself a little about all that big, high-tech machinery. And, thanks to Justin Elliott, one of the experts at Miller Electric’s show display, I even got to try my hand at welding.

I’d never welded a thing in my life before this. If you watch the video of Justin and me welding (, this will be very apparent, as I keep referring to “midge” welding instead of MIG welding.

But Justin was a great teacher, and I did pick up a few basics.

MIG versus Stick

First, Justin explained a few of the differences between MIG and Stick welding, which is sometimes referred to as arc welding.

MIG welding has a gun that continuously feeds out a consumable wire electrode. When the wire touches the base metal, the circuit is complete and the wire burns off, Justin said. But with Stick welding, the electrode needs to be manually placed in the stinger.

Stick welding offers an advantage when trying to repair old rusty steel. “Stick welding’s a lot easier (for) a lot of farm equipment. A lot of dirty, rusty, painted materials. It’s a lot easier to work with as far as the cleanliness of the material,” said Justin.

Technique differs for MIG and Stick welding

“A typical rule for welding is ‘if there’s slag, you drag,’” said Justin (slag is the crust-like covering that forms over a weld bead and has to be chipped off with a hammer). Therefore, you drag the electrode backward while stick welding, and push the gun forward when MIG welding.

I had a bit of trouble keeping the stick tight to the bead while Stick welding, because the electrode burns down and becomes shorter. When I was finishing running a bead, I almost set the stinger on the table, which Justin pointed out would have created an arc. And I had to constantly remind myself not to grab the hot metal with my bare hands. Yikes.

I found MIG welding a little easier than Stick welding (or I think I did, anyway. I really can’t tell which bead was better in the end). Basically, I angled the gun at 45 degrees, and tried to go slow and steady. I welded “a straight stringer,” while Justin weaved, making his bead wider and allowing it to “wash out on both sides.”

Google tells me that washing out the weld creates a more even weld, as the molten metal doesn’t build up in the middle.

For my first weld, it was “not bad at all,” Justin said.

Since I’ve returned home from the show I’ve been trying to convince my husband that I can help him restore his 1961 Ford Falcon by welding whatever needs to be welded. He’s not convinced that my skills are up to snuff.

Maybe my dad will let me practice on his old machinery.

About the author

Field Editor

Lisa Guenther

Lisa Guenther is field editor for Grainews based at Livelong, Sask. You can follow her on Twitter @LtoG.



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