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How to Choose Which to Use: Your TIG or Stick (Arc) Welder

Kevin got a question from someone who has just started welding and wants to buy his own welder: he's wondering what machine to buy. He's interested in TIG welding, but he does a lot of work on farm equipment, fences, gates, etc., too. He asked, "Can I use a TIG welder outside? Can I use it on the farm to repair the plow or stuff like that and still be able to use it in the barn to work on my art pieces or fix something in the barn?"

Replies Kevin: "No."

But he says, the viewer is pretty close on which welder to buy for the sort of work he wants to do - and that's the key: figure out what machine to buy based on what jobs you want it for. Fortunately, most TIG welders these days come with a stick welder - which is also known as an arc welder or, properly, an SMAW (Shielded Metal Arc Welding) welder - built in.

That provides the capability to use the machine in both places. You can use it inside or outside, just by switching from one process to the other.

Let's say you are working in the barn on some fittings to go on the wall or a gate for an animal pen, something small. That's what the TIG welder is good at. You can use it inside because it has shielding gas so you don't have the slag to chip off afterward. It's nice and neat and smokeless - if you're using it right. TIG is also great for aluminum.

But when you get to the heavy metal - you want to fix the plow, make a new bumper for your truck - Kevin would use a stick welder, even if he was working inside. The TIG welder could do a very nice job, but you've really got to crank up the amperage, and there's a lot of feeding metal to do the job. With a stick welder, you just light it up, run a bead, knock off the slag, give it a lick with the grinder, and you're done. But it's sparky, smoky and messy, so it is usually best for outside use.

The wind does not bother an arc welder at all. Wind isn't good for TIG welding because it blows away the shielding gas, and then you get a bad weld.

So these TIG welders with the arc welders built in are a great combination. You have the high end TIG welder that's neat, clean and precise - as long as you have the right filler rod and the right kind of gas (normally you use argon, but sometimes you use a different gas, depending upon what you're working on).

With the arc welder, you have different diameters and different types of sticks for different types of metal. That gives you the low end: quick and dirty welding you can even use outdoors - they even arc weld under water!

Finally, Kevin asks viewers to subscribe to see more videos and to pop out to his Web site at to subscribe to his newsletter, see his work, and even see more how-to videos.

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