Welding helmets are one of the most common accessories for someone engaged in welding. Indeed, the popular vision of the welder would not be complete without the helmet.

Our national mythology includes the image of Rosie the Riveter and her welding sisters wearing welding helmets and protective face plating.  But, what should you know about welding helmets before acquiring and using them?  What common questions should you ask concerning welding helmets?  

The first question to ask is what is the lens shade, and which one should be used for eye protection? A common misconception is that the lens shade number equates to the amount of protection given to the eyes.  These people think that the higher the number, the more protection provided.  Not so.  The number, much like sunglasses, indicates the darkness provided the shade and should be used to select the most comfortable shade.  Most welding experts suggest selecting a shade that lets you see the weld puddle most clearly and the one that helps you the most when welding.

The second common question is, that self-darkening helmets don’t start to darken until the welding arc is fired, giving a split second without apparent protection. Will this brief period lead to eye damage?  The answer is that high quality helmets with auto darkening shades provide protection from both ultra violet and infrared radiation, even when the helmet is not yet activated. 

The third question is, which type of helmet is better, battery powered or solar powered?  The answer to this, as you might expect, is personal preference.  Both type of helmets work fine.  Most battery-operated helmets have a feature that saves power by turning off the power after the helmet has been sitting idle for a while.  So, for this reason a welder using a battery-powered helmet should pay attention and make sure that his helmet remains on to avoid arc burn.  Also, some prefer the convenience of solar powered helmets because they are always on. 

The fourth common question is should a welder choose a fixed shade or a variable shade?  The answer is if a welder is always using the same arc welding process and using the same material each time, then a fixed shade if fine.  But most welders use several types of materials and their welding duties entail many different welding applications. In this case, a variable shake will adjust for different conditions and be preferable. 

Other features that should be sought in a welding helmet are:  lightness of weight; a sensor bar that will limit the field of response to avoid having your helmet triggered by the guy next to you; full adjustability to provide a better fit – especially important for welders who wear glasses; quality and price.

Keep these questions and the corresponding answers in mind when picking out a welding helmet and you’ll have a piece of equipment that will help you professionally for many years to come. A welding helmet is one of the most important pieces of safety equipment, along with safety glasses and boots.


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