Grind mode on a welding helmet is meant to fix the shade at a low value to provide high grinding visibility. There are a couple of options when it comes to grinding mode on an auto darkening welding helmet. They have their pros and cons.
The grind mode feature can be a blessing or a curse. This depends largely on your work preferences, habits and how focused you are when welding.
Now let’s see what I am talking about.
Different types of grind mode on auto darkening welding helmets
Essentially, all grind mode designs will offer a fixed shade with high visibility so that you don’t have to remove your helmet when entering the grind mode. Well at least in theory.
There are three designs. Flip up, external grind mode and internal grind mode.
Only the first two make any sense to me. Internal grind mode is not really a good idea and we will soon see why.
The flip up grind mode design
There are helmets on the market that allow you to flip the auto darkening lens up and only keep the grinding lens which has full visibility. The clear visible shield get’s exposed once the auto darkening lens is lifted.
This is one of the best grind mode methods because you have clear visibility and because this will keep you aware of the fact that the grind mode is engaged. You can’t make a mistake and start an arc without the proper UV protection.
Keep in mind that even if you are using a clear grinding visor, (because you are, once the welding lens is off, you are basically left with a visor) you will still need to wear safety glasses underneath it.
The external grind control option
This is the second best grind mode feature in my opinion.
You don’t get maximum visibility as with a clear lens when you activate the grind mode but you get a fixed shade at DIN3 which offers a lot of visibility. Some hoods may offer DIN 4 or DIN 5 as well.
The external grind mode button is VERY useful because you don’t want to be taking off and getting the mask on every time you have to grind. As any welder knows, your grinder is likely to be used even more than the welder itself so it would be a serious pain to lift up the hood every time when you need it.
But here is the kicker. What if you forget that you are in grind mode and start laying a bead? You get arc flashed. That’s not good and it can ruin your day.
Most auto darkening welding helmets have UV and IR protection even when ADF is off. But the visible light can still hurt you. Luckily, all quality welding helmets will have a flashing light inside the hood that will let you know that you are in grinding mode.
Most of the time, the external grind control as described here is what you get. You will just have to practice situational awareness when you activate grind mode.
The internal grind mode
In these welding helmets, the button is placed inside of your welding helmet.
This can be frustrating most of the time and especially if you are not a hobbyist welder.
You will have to either put your hand underneath the helmet and try to click the button or lift up the hood and try to turn on the grind mode and if that doesn’t work then you will simply have to remove the helmet, turn on the mode and put it back on.
That’s a lot of work.
Some helmets are better designed in this manner but generally speaking, its always better to have an external grinding mode on your welding helmet.
How does the grind mode work?
Welding helmet with grind mode will prevent the auto darkening feature from being fired up once the grinding sparks start flying.
ADF helmet uses sensors to detect UV and IR radiation when you start welding but they can also detect sparks and this could mess up your grinding visibility.
At a push of a button or switching between the welding, cutting and grinding mode, you can activate the grind mode that fixes the shade value.
The cutting mode works in a similar fashion but you get to choose between DIN5 and DIN 8. This is meant for plasma cutting so don’t confuse it with the grinding mode.
Once you are done grinding, simply push the grind button again and the auto darken technology will protect you from a flash while doing your job. You can learn more about how do auto darkening welding helmets work in our separate article here.
Are there any downsides to the grind mode?
Besides all of the benefits, there are multiple downsides. We already discussed that you can forget to turn it off and leave yourself vulnerable to the dangerous flash. You should always test your welding helmet prior to making any welds.
But if you purchase the helmet with grind mode settings then you should be aware that these welding helmets can have the grinding switch get stuck and essentially render your welding helmet useless. The newer helmets tend to be more resilient but these things can still happen.
The external push button for a grind mode on your auto darkening welding helmet can also break off. Most welding helmets found in the affordable category are not rated for high impact so if your job requires high durability then you should consider investing in a quality welding helmet as most welders do.
The grinding mode technology is solar powered or by using a lithium battery. So if your welding helmet is out of power it will not be able to work. However, this is not just a grinding mode con because the entire auto darkening mode will be useless when you weld.
When you search for a welding helmet with a grind mode, look for a helmet that has the features you need, a quality grind mode button or a flip switch for a clear view area and keep in mind that it’s a welders’ job to stay present in the moment.
Don’t forget to switch between the modes. The internal grinding mode button is a time consuming option so unless you are a hobbyist that doesn’t work for prolonged periods of time, you should get new technology.