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Metal Art Sculptor Kevin Caron Compares Arc, MIG and TIG Welders

The Voice: Hey, Kev, what are you doing?

Kevin Caron: Today is a class on the different welders I use here in my studio. Tim over at (great site; go check it out) emailed and inquired as to why, when I'm using my welder, he never sees me change the rod?

Here you see a rod from an arc welder or a stick welder, as we used to call it. When you get it started with one of these, it's in your gun, or here in your hand, and you have to scratch it across your work, or tap it on your work, to get the arc to start. Then, as the rod sits there and burns away and gets shorter and shorter, you have to keep moving your rod in to keep that distance apart from your metals so you keep the arc going.

The arc welders are great for outdoors, out in the wind. They actually use a variation of these underwater, which is really bizarre. But there's a lot of smoke, a lot of splatter and cleanup to do.

Then the flux that's on the outside of this rod melts to protect the filler on the inside. It makes a coating over the weld that you have to go back and chip off, because otherwise it'll just fall off, and then you have a gap in your paint. So there's a lot of cleanup that happens with this welding tool.

Now, this is my MIG welder Tim saw me using, and this is the kind of gun that it has. With an arc welder, the rod would attach to the gun here. With a MIG welder, the wire actually comes through this cable, right out the top of the gun. There's a big spool inside the machine itself and it gets fed all the way out, out to here.

With an arc welder, you have to scratch and start to get it working; with a MIG welder, all you do is get close to your metal, pull the trigger and it starts all by itself. It feeds the wire in so you don't have to keep worrying about where you are on the metal, and you can concentrate on getting a nice, smooth arc or getting a nice, smooth weld going.

Whereas the arc rod, or the arc welder, has this flux that melts off and will have to chip off, the MIG welder uses an inert gas. This is carbon dioxide and argon. It comes out of the hole around your wire, and that pushes the oxygen away from the weld, allowing the metal to cool and seal itself and you don't have flux to chip off. It?s a lot cleaner weld than arc. You have a little bit of splatter to clean up, but nowhere near as much as with an arc welder.

The other type of welding machine that I have is a TIG welder. Here is the gun for the TIG welder. TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas. It?s actually called a torch. This little electrode inside the torch is made out of tungsten. This is what actually carries the electricity to make the arc to get molten; or to get the metal molten so you can come back with your filler rod.

Looks familiar, right? It's almost exactly the same thing as the arc welder, but there's no flux on this. The TIG welder uses the same kind of compressed gas as the MIG welder. This is straight argon instead of a mix, which allows you to do different types of metal like copper, nickel, bronze, brass, aluminum.

You can do all kinds of weird metals with the TIG welder that you can't do with the MIG welder. The acronyms just get crazy after awhile.

Now the TIG welder is controlled with a foot pedal, and, just like in a car, the harder you push, the hotter the flame gets. As you see, you can control it much easier just by moving your foot up or down. You can get a hotter flame or colder flame.

With the MIG welder, you just pull the trigger and things start happening.
Once you get your arc started, you just sit there and feed your filler rod in as you're moving along and just melt it and fill it to get a nice, smooth weld.

Now, on a lot of overlapping joints, if you're welding on the outside, you can do fuse welding where you don't even use filler rod. You just melt the metal itself and then simply melt the two pieces together. You don't even have to add anything. A lot of times, you don't even have to grind. So, it's a nice, pretty, clean weld. No spark, no splatter, no smoke - I love this!

Hope that answers your question, Tim!


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