Today’s blog is about the best, most badass welding helmets you can buy when you’re starting out in welding. I have a lot of experience under my belt at this point, but I definitely remember how hard it was to figure out what I needed to get. Especially when welding helmets are so different in terms of money. Here’s my no-bullshit guide to what the best ones are and what you need to know about buying them.
First of all, let me make one thing totally clear: I never support people being cheap when it comes to safety equipment. Welding helmets are safety equipment, not a fashion statement, and it doesn’t matter how good a cheap helmet looks if it can’t actually keep you safe. Be prepared to spend some money, to buy it bluntly.
So here’s what you need to know. There are two types of welding helmets. One of them is called a fixed helmet, which has a window that’s a set level of darkness. They’re the cheapest, and they’re really reliable because the window is physically incapable of turning down the shading. But they’re harder to work with because you can’t see much once the helmet’s on, so you have to be ok with a bit of imprecision and be good at judging what you’re doing in the dark. The other kind of helmets are called auto-darkening, and what that means is basically there’s a similar window panel, but it actually changes its tint level depending on the brightness of your spark, and you don’t have to make any adjustments because the computer and sensor can do it in milliseconds. They’re what most people who do welding for a living or a lot of times in a year would use, since they’re just more convenient.
If you’re gonna be in this for the long haul, you just have to realize you’re gonna spend $200 or so on your helmet. You can’t trust any auto-darkening helmets under $200, and you should never, ever trust a Chinese brand. I think they’re dangerous and reckless for being able to sell things that have a known reputation for failing on people, which leaves permanent damage on your eyes. You should always get an American company like Lincoln or Miller.
if you’re just playing around or doing it on the side, you can probably start out with something really cheap. I have one big rule to tell you, though, which is never to buy a cheap auto-darkening helmet. If you’re gonna get a cheap helmet, just stick with something that has a set darkness panel in the window. The crappy Chinese auto features are just absolutely useless. They only kick in half the time from what I’ve seen, and even when they do there’s way more of a delay than is safe for your eyes. So I always tell people who are starting out and don’t know whether they’re going to stick with it or do a lot of welding long-term to get a fixed window one. And you can always switch out the windows for different kinds of welds. So get a Honeywell–they make a really good plain helmet that’s solid and you can change out the windows super easily. Plus you can paint the helmet however you want to make it more personalized. I learned on a Honeywell and I still have one around the shop for dirty jobs where I don’t want all the spray to get on my nice helm.
Miller is always the best you can do for an auto-darkening helmet, and it shows because you look at any list, and they usually have almost all of the best rated welding helmet models. Miller helmets are way better than Andra and other crap-o brands because they’re made in the USA and they don’t cut corners. The plastic is hard but definitely not too heavy, and the auto-darkening features don’t have dangerous delays or glitches like the cheap brands. I mean, if you’re gonna take a chance on your eye safety, why the hell would you knowingly buy something that doesn’t work all the time? Just suck it up and spend the money for a Miller. I use one from them that’s called a Digital Elite. It’s pretty low-key as far as looks, since it’s all black but it looks like a suit of armor, with the curves and edges.
I also know people who use Lincoln ones, which are another professional-grade company from the USA. I would always go Miller, but as long as you know you should never cheap out on an auto-darkening helmet, you should be fine with any good American company. Alright, good luck, see you next time.