Auto darkening welding helmets are more popular than ever. In fact, nowadays it’s actually quite rare for a professional welder to use a passive mask. The main reason for this is that auto darkening masks make it much easier to protect your vision.
Provided you use them correctly of course.
Today we’ll cover how to use your auto darkening helmet safely and effectively. After all, a welding mask is an investment. You want to make sure you’re getting the most out of it. With that in mind, let’s start with the basics.
Why Do You Need an Auto Darkening Welding Helmet?
As the name suggests, auto darkening welding masks respond to the light created by the arc when you are welding, to ensure that adequate vision protection is offered at all times. This differs from a passive mask, where the same protection is offered at all times, unless you change the lens.
This is helpful for a number of reasons.
For example, you might work in a range of different settings. If you’re a mobile welder, you don’t want to carry around two different welding masks for indoor and outdoor work. Similarly, some jobs require a stronger arc than others, creating more light.
Auto darkening masks ensure that you always have the appropriate protection for the job at hand. They also save you the effort of changing helmets or lenses between projects.
With that in mind, let’s look at what you need to know about using an auto darkening welding helmet.
Ensure your Welding Mask Fits Properly
With any welding helmet, your first priority is to achieve a good fit. There are two reasons for this. First, a poorly fitting helmet may block your vision, or fail to offer proper protection. Second, if your helmet is uncomfortable, you may be tempted not to wear it.
This is obviously not ideal. So how exactly do you ensure your auto darkening welding mask fits?
The first thing is to ensure your helmet fits tightly. If it is too loose, it may move and expose your neck to sparks. If tightening the welding mask causes discomfort, a welding hood can be used to cushion your head.
Generally, if you’re in doubt you should lean towards using a tighter fit, as this is much safer.
Adjust the Light Sensitivity of your Welding Mask
There are generally three adjustments you can make to alter the way your mask responds to changes in light levels. The first and most important is light sensitivity. This is the amount of light which is required for the lens to darken.
To set this, first ensure that your lens is clean and that the batteries in your mask are properly installed.
For a powerful welding arc, you should use a high sensitivity setting, to ensure that your mask does not begin to darken at low light levels.
If you work with a less bright arc, for example during TIG welding, you should use a lower sensitivity setting, to ensure sufficient protection. Similarly, if you work around other welders, a low sensitivity setting is needed to ensure their torches don’t affect your mask.
Set the Delay Time
The second main adjustment is delay time. This is the time it takes for your auto darkening welding helmet to adjust back to ambient light. This is important for a whole range of safety considerations.
Delay time should not be confused with response time. This is the time it takes for the lens to darken, and is obviously fixed at the shortest possible time.
Choosing the perfect delay time is a combination of your personal preferences and the needs of the project at hand.
Beyond your own preferences, you should generally use a longer delay time when welding at a higher temperature or with higher amperages. The reason for this is that even though your torch may be out, the work surface may take longer to cool down.
Heated metal emits rays which can potentially damage your eyes, but a longer delay time protects against this.
Adjust your Mask’s Shade
The final adjustment on your auto darkening marks is the shade. Essentially, this is how dark your mask will get when in use. All welding shades use a numbering system. Most modern masks range from number 9 to number 13, with a higher number indicating a darker shade.
Obviously, the darkest welding shades offer the highest level of vision protection. As such, all else being equal, a darker shade is usually best, especially for beginners.
However, in reality, things are not so simple. In fact, there are many cases when a welding shade can be too dark, for instance when working in an otherwise poorly lit area. This then creates other risks, because you can’t properly see what you’re doing.
This can easily lead to burns, or any number of other accidents and incidents.
Therefore, the correct shade level requires a balance. The best way to achieve this is to choose the darkest level of shade which still allows you to clearly see what you’re working on.
Using a Welding Helmet with Additional Features
Some high end welding helmets come with additional features. The most important among these is memory. Basically, this allows you to create presets for different sensitivity, delay and shade settings.
Technology has brought new features to automatic welding helmets. The latest is ClearLight Lens Technology. Miller Welding Helmets with this feature optimise contrast and clarity in various welding applications and lighting conditions.
These have a 1/1/1/2 optical clarity rating, offering you more light when not welding. This means you can keep your helmet down at all times, ensuring safety and more productivity.
It also saves time, as you don’t have to reconfigure your helmet each time you move to a different project. Just be careful that you don’t accidentally start working with the wrong preset, as this can create a number of risks.
It’s also important to choose the right helmet for your applications. Here’s a bonus welding tip – alway choose a four sensor helmet for TIG Welding.
How to Use an Auto Darkening Welding Helmet
A good auto darkening helmet is one of the best purchases any welder can make. Not only do they keep you safer than passive masks, they also improve your productivity and flexibility, by removing the need to change helmets or lenses.
However, this can only be achieved when the helmet is set up and used correctly.
As with any welding helmet, the first thing to do is ensure a tight and comfortable fit. This will allow you to remain safe, even during long and difficult projects. Then you can adjust the settings on the lens itself. These are sensitivity, delay time, and shade.
None of this is difficult. In fact, spending a few minutes making the right adjustments to your auto darkening helmet will allow you to enjoy years of happy and safe welding.