View Full Version : Mig vs. Stick Operating Cost

06-12-2008, 11:27 PM
I was having an interesting conversation with a guy today about operating cost of Mig and Stick. Does anyone have any good answers or numbers really.

A 50lb box of 6010 5P+ is maybe $100-$110. Easy enough right.

Alright, welding the same amount(distance) with a Mig say .035 wire and C-25 what do you think the ratio is. Airgas fills a 200cf bottle for $40. I'm not sure what a roll of Lincoln L-50 wire runs though...

I thought I could answer the guy right off but after we thought about it, i don't know.

Anyone ever figure it up or is there some normal ratio that you go by.

06-12-2008, 11:44 PM
Do you consider the clean up in the cost.

I prefer stick welding, however, MIG when hands down when I can't afford a time spent chipping slag.

06-12-2008, 11:58 PM
First you'd have to pick a constant such as end product. Do you want to compare costs on a production line, three man shop kicking out horse trailers, pipe line, bridge job???

06-13-2008, 12:11 AM
Wire fed is made to save time on high production jobs. That's all I know about that.

It's just different. It welds different, machines are different, clean up is different. The question ought to be, which is the "right process", for the welding to turn out right.

06-13-2008, 01:25 AM
Im just wondering about the direct cost to operate the machines. Not counting operator time, labor in cleanup etc.

basically a box or rods vs. wire and shielding gas....

Jolly Roger
06-13-2008, 08:24 AM
I never figured up the difference between NR211-MP versus 5P+ on the same application but it is noticeable. The big difference is that the NR211-MP cuts the time involved by about 30%. This particular instance where I figured the cost savings was repairing roll-off containers.

06-13-2008, 12:49 PM
Maybe a better way to know would be just welding on new material. See how many yards of arc weld you can lay down with a box. Then that would equal to about $100. Don't worry about time or cleanup.

Then match that same distance with standard mig wire and C-25 and see how much consumable way used.

Only problem is,,, who wants to do that? I know i don't. But I was just wondering what it might turn out to be cost wise.

06-13-2008, 05:44 PM
GMAW wins over SMAW.

The cost of the wire/stick/filler is typically only about 15% of the cost of the weld. The majority of the cost of a weld is labor, prep and weld and post (cleanup and rework).

Arc-time for SMAW (aka stick) is about 20%. That covers electrode changes and de-slagging.

Arc-time for GMAW is around 50%. No slag to deal with, no electrode changes (except when changing out the empty spool/roll), mostly just repositioning of the worker/torch.

GMAW deposition efficiencies are usually in the range of 95-98%. That means that out of every 100 lbs of filler used, 95-98 lbs turned into actual weld bead. As opposed to spatter and slag and rod-ends/stumps.

FCAW deposition typical efficiencies are in the range of 84-89%.

SMAW deposition typical efficiencies are in the range of 68-70%.

So you'd have to buy/use about 143 lbs of 'stick' to get the same amount of weld bead as105 lbs of GMAW filler. And that doesn't consider labor time, just the 'raw' filler used.

(source of percentages comes from ESAB's website)

ESAB also lists a sample GMAW-vs-SMAW weld cost calculation. The cost of the use of GMAW weld was only 47% of the cost of the SMAW weld (same weld size, a 1/4 inch fillet weld, comparison was based on using 1/16 inch spray-arc GMAW versus 3/16 E-6024 SMAW and a labor rate of only $15/hr). Their calculated cost per foot of weld was $0.41 for GMAW and $.78 for SMAW.

SMAW has its uses, but on plain costs GMAW wins.

06-13-2008, 05:53 PM
When the company I worked for bought my first mig back in the early '80s the owner of the LWS where I purchased it told me a 30# spool of .030 solid wire would put down as much deposit as 100# of 1/8" 5P rod. I have no idea where his information came from but I figured probably Lincoln. Was this true? I never made any effort to compare the two so I can't say. If someone researches this I would like to know what they learn.

David R
06-13-2008, 06:54 PM
.045 wire is for me a dollar a pound. Co2 is $15 a bottle which is about 160 or so cfh ( probably more) There is non waste with bare wire.

Never beat those costs for raw materials.

Then there is the time savings......


06-13-2008, 07:02 PM
I don't have any actual numbers, but it seems like a no brainer to me. Wire feeders are metal blastin' sons o' bees..... You have to stop to change rods and waste the stub....I still prefer sticks. No big honkin' nozzle in front of your work.:laugh::laugh:

Craig in Denver
06-13-2008, 10:14 PM
Don't worry about time or cleanup.You CAN'T ignore time or cleanup.

06-14-2008, 02:11 PM
I know you CAN'T but lets just say labor was free for once. haha

Craig in Denver
06-14-2008, 02:38 PM
I will concede, it IS your thread. :drinkup:

06-17-2008, 02:38 AM
I will point out the obvious and say this is something of a loaded question. There are still obvious advantages and disadvantages to either process that will inherently make one more cost effective than the other. My experiences and reading show things like this:

1) FCAW is a nice process for burning down patch jobs. Over longer periods of time though welding out of position means stopping to clean your nozzle frequently enough that you waste your time savings.

2) E71TS wire costs me $6 per pound, sometimes a little more or a little less. Typically outdoor fencing kind of work deals with E6010 rod, sometimes 6011 for the old timers or if you only have an AC buzz box. 6010 should only run about $1.25 per pound. But the transfer efficiency is much lower.

3) In spite of these costs, you can push costs still lower by using "junkyard rod", or stuff that welding supply places accidentally allow to get wet. I know a guy who pays pennies per pound of this stuff in E6010 stock. I imagine it aggrivates the hell out of his welders, but they say 8 or 9 out of 10 rods will work perfectly if it is bought well in advance and allowed to sit in a very dry place for a while.

4) Training a guy to weld for you SMAW takes a long time. Statistics in my books say over 100 hours of training is required to obtain an acceptable degree of proficiency with a stick welder. FCAW/GTAW takes on average about 12 training hours. Do the math if you wish, but it's pretty obvious you can train a man on the floor in much less time than it would take to train a stick welder.

5) I'm going to have to pull this number from my butt, but APPROXIMATELY, a skilled MIG welder is believed to weld at a rate of up to 30 lineal inches per minute. A skilled stick welder can weld only about 16 inches per minute. I believe both Gas and TIG are slower still, but I'd have to reread the book that came out of. Try not to jump on these numbers too hard - I will dig out the book I think I remember them from and try to verify them.

6) Situations where lots of small tack welds are needed, like automotive sheet metal repair. I know a lot of old guys can stick weld metals thinner than 16 gauge. In fact, I'm 20 years old and have welded down to 22 gauge mild steel. It's a fun challenge and I recommend it to anybody who thinks they're hot Sh*t with a stick welder.

I like stick welding because it's archaic, there are few who can claim a proficiency at it (I'm not even sure I can), and of course stick welders still by far give you the best "performance value" in terms of how thick a skilled welder can push penetration in a single pass.

But for most jobs, I reach for a MIG/Flux welder because it's just more efficient.

Some also argue that SMAW machines are simpler. True though this is, a well cared for MIG welder should last a very long time without breaking down. Even my Harbor Freight welder has lasted me what I consider to be a long time, especially for a welder picked up for $10. :D

06-17-2008, 12:53 PM
I know you CAN'T but lets just say labor was free for once. haha

Read MoonRise's post again:cool2:

06-17-2008, 01:14 PM
Novice that I am I have nothing with which to make a comparison. But... The AWS certified instructor who presented the one-day MIG seminar I attended in January put it this way:

Both processes have their merits. But in the overlapping areas where either process could be used, the wire-feed beats the stick by a long shot. The stick weldor has about a 20% duty cycle because of the time it takes to change rods in the stinger and chip at the slag. The MGAW process has little to no slag and the weldor can just hang onto the trigger and keep laying down bead giving him an 80% plus duty cycle over the stick. And the tiny clips taken from the end of the wire periodically are miniscule compared to the pieces of stick that get discarded. As he put it, in a production shop MGAW is preferred for efficiency. But both processes have their place in industry.


PS: The instructor was Warren Swan, from the New England School of Metalwork (http://www.newenglandschoolofmetalwork.com/aboutus.php)
For anyone who wants formal training in the New England area, I strongly recommend this school.

06-17-2008, 03:47 PM
My first teacher's definition of a good welder:

"Able to weld two pieces of metal together using any process, either hand, and in any position"

Brings back good memories.

06-17-2008, 07:25 PM
In a 50lbs box of rods you may actualy use(deposit) roughly 30ish lbs of that. The rest of that is all waste and is thrown away when you toss the stubbs. With wire feed, lets say FCAW because I have a lot of experience with that, you might loose 12 to 15 feet of wire when you change the roll and bits off the end you break off...so lets be more than FAIR and say you loose 20 feet of wire. That means you are depositing about 85% or MORE of your wire.

Just a thought...

06-17-2008, 07:34 PM
All very good reasons to get my mig sent in for repairs so I can use it in production. If I buy a newer mig it's gonna be a RED CV305 with a semi auto wire feed :D.

06-17-2008, 10:22 PM
1/8 7018 Stub, wire, flux, together - 36 grams:


Stub, wire, flux, separately - 35.9 grams

Stub and flux - 16 grams:
Usable wire and flux, without stub = 32 grams

Flux only - 12 grams:

Usable electrode wire - 20 grams:
Usable electrode wire with flux - 32 grams

Stub = 04 grams
Flux = 12 grams
Wire = 20 grams
Total = 36 grams

Additional data needed to complete study - Does anyone know the depositable amount of iron-powder, contained in electrode coating? :waving:

06-17-2008, 11:39 PM
Just throwing this out there, but around here I pay on avg. $40 for a 44lbs spool or wire, and another $24 for a large bottle of sheilding gas. That's $64 bucks total. For a 50lbs box of 7018 it cost me around $88 bucks, and using denreps previous post we will be generous to say that out of a box of rods 60% will be usable weld deposits. That means that it's costing me $1.45/pound of deposited weld for wire vs. $2.93/pound of deposited weld for a rod. That is just the filler. Not taking into account the time, and clean up.

06-18-2008, 09:19 AM
If we consider more pricey shielding gas mix, than straight CO2, and the fact that much of the stick's flux becomes weld deposit it evens the score a bit.

Give stick some extra points for maintenance work, with it's easy to move around "feeder" and lightweight compact "gun". Watch super stick leap from sheet, to alloy, to heavy sections, to hard facing, in a single bound. Stick also gets a nod for gouging.

At first, on the long straight flat run, it looked like wire had it won, but the welding race is often a triathlon, and stick has closed the gap with it's quick change versatility.