Cool & Custom welding helmets

Welding is a cool and individual job where people are trying constantly to be better than their peers. We welders always go around, bragging and posting pictures about how good our bits are or what great job we did on that pipe or that piece of metal.

Cool welding gear, mainly hoods, are also an integral part of that game.  Don’t get me wrong, I think protection is important when choosing a welding helmet. If you got money for a good auto darkening helmet buy it!

The auto-darkening welding helmets of ten years ago cannot compare with the ones today in 2018. The technology advanced exponentially and prices have gone down. Many of these new hoods have introduced new technologies never seen before, such as advanced materials, top of the line lenses and state of the art respiratory systems. Even mood models that are around $100 are infinitely much better than those of before.

I made a list based on my experience and that of my senior welder colleagues and our engineers. Not only did I include some awesome graphics, I’ve remembered to list all the features and specs when comparing.

What should you look for when looking for a Welding Helmet

Shading

There are several different welding helmet options. Fixed or variable shade along with passive or auto-darkening lens come to mind. You might want to consider two, three or four sensors and take viewing size into account. Feel free to take your time and be meticulous in finding the correct helmet for your needs. This can augment your productivity, weld quality and comfort as well. Primarily, any helmet you select should meet the standards of ANSI Z87.1 – 2003 (also referred to as ANSI Z87+), which ensures that lenses and helmets have met the expectations of independent testing, showing that they can withstand high-velocity.

For detailed information about what shading level of shade you should use on what amperage and on what welding process you have a standard table made Lincoln {link here} but those rules are not set in stone. If your eyes hurt you, you can tone it up a notch or two. If your eyesight is not that good you should dial it down a bit.

On a simple standard face shield with no auto darkening gear, you will get a standard 11 DIN shade, which is something like midway and is suited for most of the people. However, you can buy different glass. It is inexpensive and you can find it anywhere.

Auto-darkening helmets mainly are in the range from 9 DIN to 13 DIN. When it’s not working it’s din 4 DIN. It then can be used for grinding some more expensive screens that go from 6 DIN to 14 DIN and can be used for finer things. (You don’t need it if you don’t plan to go pro in this sport)

viewport

The size of most facial protectors is 3.62’’ x 1.65’’. Most of the inexpensive ones are of the small size viewport. They save money and lower production costs that way.

Some have a viewport 3.94” x 3.86” which is a maximum. In this case, bigger is better. You won’t need to move your head much with longer bits. It’s easier when you are in a tough position and generally it’s better when you can see more.  But my main hood has …/… it gets all the jobs done. I like it the way it is. I got used to it and many welders use the same size viewport. It’s a matter of choice

What material is this mask made of?

Materials used in making a welding mask range from cardboard to leather to different plastic alloys like polycarbonates, ABS plastic, etc. Simple and inexpensive cardboard face shields I honestly do not recommend since these days you can find low costs quality face guards anyway.

Masks made of leather are for specific jobs where you need to squeeze yourself in tiny places. They do not offer the best protection. What you need is a face shield made of Polycarbonate or ABS plastic. This material is light, has high shock absorbance and is heat resistant

Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate is a unique, durable material with high impact-resistance. It’s heat-resistant and has flame-retardant properties that also act as a good electrical insulator.
Polycarbonate can undergo large plastic deformations without cracking or breaking and is shock absorbent as well. The downside of this material is it has low scratch-resistance, which you should consider if trying to paint it. Concerning your health, the material is considered safe to use and it’s backed by many international studies that disprove the early results about the material

(ABS) Plastic

ABS plastic is a ubiquitous thermoplastic polymer.  Its glass transition temperature is roughly 105 °C (221 °F). ABS is amorphous, therefore has no discernable melting point. ABS is tougher than unadulterated polystyrene. The styrene provides the plastic a glossy, resilient surface. The material is durable at the lowest temperatures. Also, it is a good shock absorbent. ABS is most useful between −20 and 80 °C (−4 and 176 °F)

Cons: ABS is stable to decomposition under normal use though at higher temperatures (400 °C) ABS can decay into its components, i.e. butadiene (carcinogenic), acrylonitrile (likely carcinogenic), and styrene. Sometimes you can see under made of the material name.

Nylon 66 or (PA66)

My Optel 690 face shield is made of this. Nylon 66 is a synthetic polymer called polyamide. It has high mechanical strength, stiffness, hardness, and toughness and good resistance to high energy radiation (gamma & x-ray).

It has good electrical insulating properties and higher heat deflection temperature plus high chemical resistance to acids. I highly recommend it.

Weight of the mask

It’s good to have the lightest face protection gear as possible if you don’t want neck pain every day when you come home after work. The weight of a welding helmet depends mainly on the material the front piece is made of and whether it has auto-darkening lenses or a standard tip.  Top face shields on the market weigh around 500 g with the display at around 150g. Those with a built in respirator unit go simply above 1kg. The less expensive ones are made of a more simple plastic range around 1,5 kg. I don’t recommend anything above 2 kg. I had the privilege of using a Kempy welding helmet that was about 2 kg. It was a real pain in the neck every day after work, even though it had good headgear technology.

Respirators

How many times have I seen my peers sticking their head inside the welding fumes? People, don’t breathe in welding fumes! It’s hazardous, especially if you weld stainless steel, aluminum or any kind of coated steel. When you are buying a welding shield, I know that built in respirators with their own power supply is expensive. However, at least make sure that there is a room for one inside the face guard, even the ordinary one. Even the simple dust shield can help you because sometimes you will be stuck in cramped places with very little room to maneuver where you can’t evade the fumes.

Finest among welding helmets

1. 3M Speedglas Welding Helmet 9100 with Extra-Large Size Auto-Darkening Filter 9100XX

3M Speedglas is considered the best on the market by sales and reviews of welders. It comes in multiple versions so you can choose the right helmet depends on the level of protection that you need on your job. The Hornell Company from Sweden (both in 2004 by 3M) was the first to manufacture auto-darkening lenses for welding helmets and ever since they have always been one step in front of the competition.

All those years of experience and technological advances have resulted in this helmet. I don’t know if any of my colleagues from work or from welding forums have ever had complaints about this awesome facial guard.

pros:
durable
variant with side windows give you great visibility to your surroundings
variant with extra large viewing area
variant with build in respirator
comes with extra viewing lenses
cons :
expensive

2. Lincoln Electric K3540-3 VIKING 3250D FGS Series Auto Darkening Welding

This cool looking helmet is of a new and innovative model that has a good feedback from the welding community. It has a visor-like auto-darkening lenses that you can tilt up for a grinding mode with extra vision on sides. With a new 4C Lens Technology that improves visibility and reduces eye strain and Anti-Fog Coating. This helmet is a good choice if you got a little money to spend.  Lincoln Electric is a pioneer in the business of welding. They are known for manufacturing some of the best welding machines. They are also tops with welding gear. Their welding helmets are competing with top brands.

 pros :
4C Lens Technology boost visibility while lowering eye strain.
Perfect 1/1/1/1 Optical Clarity cancels distortion and bleariness while keeping shade consistency and enhancing angle performance.
Shade 5 Side Windows boosts peripheral vision when helmet is closed.

Anti-Fog Coating gives a dependably clear view.
cons:  a little bit on a heavy side
expensive

3 ESAB Sentinel A50 Automatic Welding Helmet

The newest from ESAB. This is the coolest looking welding helmet I have ever seen. Welding hoods have looked the same for years. This is no longer the case. The ESAB Sentinel A50 welding helmet features a reflective amber cover lens and a radical shell structure that resembles elements from the popular video game known as Halo. The sweeping pattern across the helmet allows more natural light to get in when welders are in grind mode.

Except for the grind button which is placed on a reachable place outside, all other buttons are on full-color LCD touchscreen panel inside with 8 saved settings. It looks amazing.

Sentinel’s headgear was built from the ground up with a focus on ergonomics. The five-point-contact ERGONOMIC HALO HEADGEAR is adjustable, meaning the weight of the helmet can be moved about the head, which curtails much pressure and raises comfort for long-term wear.

Folks from ESAB did their best to make this great piece of welding gear

Best for money

4. Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350 Steampunk Welding Helmet with 4C Lens Technology – K3428-3

This nifty Steampunk modification is one of the top 10 helmets today. VIKING 3350 has the finest optical clarity available in a welding helmet today and the largest viewing area in its class (3.74 in x 3.34 in (95 mm x 85 mm)). It can also be used with magnifying “CHEATER” capable lens. Shading level is from 5 to 13. Very low shading level is used for welding with very low amperage and for Oxy-fuel cutting. It has four sensors and works on the combination of solar power and replaceable battery.  The advanced headgear is fabricated for improved comfort and a superior fit. The 4C Lens Technology improves visibility and diminishes eye strain with a wide-screen.  There is ample room for a respirator and an inexpensive piece of gear that can be both to strap a helmet on. The face visor can operate at -10°C – +55°C (14°F – 131°F)
pros:
4C Lens Technology
the extra large viewing area
comfortable
cons:  the grinding button is inside
expensive

5. ArcOne 5000V-1171 Python Welding Helmet with 5000V Shade Master Auto-Darkening Filter, Fighting Tige

Here is the visor with the monstrous smile and decent characteristics. This bad boy is fully solar powered so there is no need for batteries. It has a decent viewing area of 7.25 square inches and five different auto-darkening welding filters with the highest level of UV/IR protection up to 16. The helmet features a light state of 4, and a dark state of 9 – 13. It has two sensors beneath the solar panel. This helmet has a greater gap between the inner and outer lenses which helps prevent the transmission of heat.  This way, you will not fry your lenses if you weld too close to the arc. It’s a round shape so the smoke and vapors have difficulty getting inside. There is enough room for a respirator. It has an advanced headgear, weighs 2 pounds so it’s pretty comfortable.
The face shield should not be used on sub zero temperatures and can be used on up to 55°C 131°F
pros:
durable
no need for batteries
cool looks
light and comfortable
cons:
moderate price

6. Instapark ADF Series GX990T Solar Powered Auto Darkening Welding Helmet with four Optical Sensors,  3.94″ X 3.86″

This is probably one of the most cost effective masks you can buy online. The blue devilish looks are mature and stately in a welding environment. This is one of those facial guards that is below $100 and has features of those that are three times as expensive. The large viewing area is 3.94 x 3.86, much like with Lincoln welding helmets. It has four sensors, an advantage when it comes to TIG welding and low amperages. The shade adjustment from #5 -#13 again is good for low amperages. You can switch time from light to dark in 1/30,000 second.  It’s also a mix of solar-powered with three replaceable batteries. The nice thing is that all adjustments (grinding button, sensitivity adjustment and shading control) are on the outside so you don’t need to remove a helmet to access these features. It has room for a respirator and is moderately lightweight. One thing that people complain about concerning this headgear is that it’s not comfortable and it breaks easily. As it’s not that durable, if you buy it you’ll have to be careful with and think about replacement parts for it.

pros:
inexpensive
big display
4 sensors
controls on the outside
cons:
easily breakable headgear

7.Jackson Safety Insight Variable Auto Darkening Welding Helmet (46101), HLX, 370 Comfortable Headgear, Ultra-Light Shell, Stars & Scars, One Helmet

One more hood that that has almost all the features of the expensive ones for nearly half the price. It’s got great American stars and stripes graphics, a simple but cool decorative motif. This quality lens gives you variable shade (9-13) and a wide viewing area (3.93″ x 2.36″).  It has four independent auto dimming sensors and easy-to-use digital controls. I like the craftsmanship on the combination of solar power and batteries. They’re the standard coin-like batteries that are used in many auto-darkening helmets. It’s made of quality Nylon 66; a very durable, bendable and light material. There is a room for a small respirator inside.  The headgear is a simple configuration but it’s great and comfortable and stays in place. What I don’t like about it is all the buttons are inside. That makes it hard to replace the front cover for the lenses. You have to remove the whole darkening unit through the back to put in the front lens. Otherwise, it’s a great welding helmet

pros:
inexpensive
good display
4 sensors
made of a quality material
durable
cons:
All the adjustments and buttons are inside
complicated process for replacing the front cover lenses

Inexpensive

8. Solar Powered Welding Helmet Auto Darkening Hood with Adjustable Shade Range 4/9-13 for Mig Tig Arc Welder Mask Blue Eagle Design

This is the least expensive welding hood out there with decent characteristics. It has a striking American eagle paint job if you want to show people how big of a patriot you are, or you just like eagles. It goes from light to dark in 1/25000 sec, has UV and IF protection when not in dark mode to protect your eyes. It meets ANSIZ87.1-2010 and EN3794/9-13 standards with 3.62’’ x 1.65’’ clear visor viewing area and two sensors. It has standard shade adjustment for 9 to 13DIN. It is powered by solar cells and battery. It’s extremely lightweight (1 lb) and has room for a respirator. Because it’s not made of the best materials, it’s not recommended to drop or throw it when you’re angry. Replacement parts are also very inexpensive. You shouldn’t use it on temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius.
pros:
inexpensive
cool design, inexpensive replaceable parts
meet the standards
good for beginners
cons:
small viewing area
2 sensors
I don’t recommend it for some serious work with big amperages

Conclusion:

As the most vital piece of safety equipment, a welding helmet not only offers needed protection to the face and eyes but it gives wearers a chance to add a touch of personal style to their welding gear. Due to issues such as needing to constantly flip the helmet up and down and keeping the MIG gun, TIG torch or stick electrode in the proper position , most welders are trying auto-darkening helmets. Welding has in recent times gone mainstream with #weldernation and #weldingrigz plus Welder Nation on Facebook. There’s even a Facebook page for Welder Memes.

 

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