There are so many choices concerning the contemporary welding hood. Really, when it comes down to it, it is not so much the hood itself but the lens you will see through. There are multiple makers of welding lenses today. Some of those lenses are solid glass, some of those lenses are plastic, some are glass with coverings on the glass. Some lenses have a green tint, some have a gold tint, some have a maroon tint and so on. The variations of lenses also come with variable pricing as well.
Welding hoods are also composed of various materials causing the actual to have different weights as well. Let me deliver to you the helmets that I believe are the best for each different situation and why as we dig into this subject. The solid glass of old is still the best for working with TIG welding. Due to the nature of the welding arc being obscured from time to time by the movement of the cup, the lens has a tendency to flash on and off. This is not so much damaging as it is a nuisance to the vision of the welder. There are some hoods that proclaim the ability to stay darkened even under the environment that TIG welding of MIG welding produces.
Let me tell you from my professional experience as a long time TIG welder, that when you use some of the advanced techniques that an expert welder uses, an auto darkening lens is not the best choice. I always find myself going back to the solid filter glass of a fixed shade. I personally like the # 10 shade. You will have to experiment for your own preference when it comes to the shade of your choice and what works best for you.
I try to use the auto darkening lenses as much as possible, especially when using stick rod processes. I welded on jobs where one simple accidental arc strike outside of the weld zone got you run off if detected by the welding inspector. Using a quick change lens can save you from an embarrassing and costly situation like that. Let’s look at the solid lens first. Solid Lenses have been around since the time of torch and brazing were used. It was not the protective hood that was a staple of the mechanic/welder but the goggles and his lenses used to get a better picture of his puddle in the days of brazing and oxygen gas welding. The solid lens is cheap and efficient.
It is not fancy but still very effective. I still find myself going back to the solid lens for certain welding processes. It works well with any basic hood and can be a good place to start for the inexperienced welder. Better yet, the welder that does not have much money when getting started. The shades of fixed lenses usually range from 9 to 12. There are some 5 and 8 shades but I would not recommend using anything less than a 10 when welding high voltage electricity.
You may not feel the immediate affect of the damage that can be caused by using the lighter shades of lenses, but the damage is being done and will catch up with you much later in life. Please take that seriously. One of the very popular fixed shade lenses of all time has to be the gold plated lens. You find a difference in the visuals of the puddle when comparing the different lenses. The gold lens appears somewhat gold and orange in nature. The old green style appear as just that, greenish blue. There are solid lenses designed for exotic metals like aluminum that are somewhat different than the nominal carbon series.
You don’t have to have one of these but I tell you just to inform you. I have a lens still today that is a plastic lens that has a gold laminate covering but the puddle does not appear gold, it appears maroon colored. The only problem with it, it is not bright like the normal shade 10. It appears along the lines of a shade 11. Auto darkening lenses have almost replaced the solid lenses of old. I prefer the quick change lens for most welding applications. Whether the solar powered or battery charged will be your choice as well. The solar lens is usually less expensive and does not need a larger hood for its housing. The one drawback with this lens is its ability to move from one shade to another. Most of the solar powered lenses are fixed shades as well.
If you find a lens like the Radnor that poses as a dual shade filter, you will find the viewing is not consistent across the entire lens. What I mean by this is that there will appear to be some spots from the center out to the sides of the lens that are designed to lighten giving the shade variable darkness. If you like looking out of the side of your head to weld, in order to achieve the shade 10 area then this lens might be for you. I never like that. Years ago Huntsman made a solar powered quick change lens that was I believe the best ever. It is not the same as the Solera, which they make today. I have never found an adequate replacement and I have searched. The next stage of auto darkening lenses are the battery powered variable shades. These lenses also allow sensitivity and reaction time as well (usually). In today’s market place there is a very competitive field of auto darkening platform and the producers of these hoods.
Optera, Speedglas, Jackson, Huntsman, Miller, Lincoln, Hobart, Sellstrom, and there are the Foreign markets too. These helmets are all good and have similar pricing in this competitive market. If you can afford one of these hoods, one of most remarkable lenses ever produced is the 3M Speedlgas. It has one of if not the most consistent shades of all the quick change lenses. The glass at any shade is smooth and high quality all the way across the lens. I personally have favored it over the Jackson line of the NexGen models along with all other offers.