When I got a new helmet for review, 9left) my welding suddenly got better as well. The only thing that I can find that is different is that I can see much better around the arc now and that turns out to be important!
The only visible difference in the helmets (right) is the larger viewing port in the Lincoln on the right in the photo. But I suspect that there is more in the electronics that drive these helmets.
Click image to enlarge

Learning to Weld 6

I can see (more) clearly now!

Text and photos by Tom Hintz

Posted – 4-13-2011

Throughout my quest to learn how to weld I have been stressing the importance of practice and I remain convinced that is true. However I have been fighting what appeared to be an inability to see the area surrounding the arc which seemed to be making it extra hard to see what I am doing with the MIG gun or stick electrodes. I experienced a dramatic improvement in my welding comfort level when I got rid of the constant-shade, hand-held shield that came with my MIG welder and replaced that with a moderately priced Hobart Hood auto-shade helmet. Recently I had been getting requests for a review of the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet that several NewMetalworker.com viewers consider to be a better class of helmet so I got one and took it to the shop for review.

Big Window

The most obvious difference between the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet and the Hobart Hood is the considerably larger viewing port in the Lincoln helmet that expanded my vertical field of vision a bunch. That larger viewing port also made it easier to see through my bifocals without having to hold my head at odd angles as I sometimes found myself doing with the Hobart Hood. Changing to the Hobart Hood was a dramatic improvement over the single state shield it replaced but the area surrounding the immediate light of the arc was too dark to see properly. Before trying the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet I was concerned that it also would have similar deficiency. Not so.

I laid a bead of MIG with my Hobart Hood helmet (left) and another with my Lincoln viking (right) helmet. The bead I did with the Lincoln Viking looked a little better each time I tried this.
Click images to enlarge

The first time I used the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet I noticed that I could see far more around the arc. I started switching back and forth between the new Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet and my older (and somewhat cheaper) Hobart Hood helmet. I would set both helmets at the same shade strength and lay a bead with the same MIG or stick setup. In all cases I could see more detail away from the arc with the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet without the arc looking too bright. If you are waiting for me to explain how the electronics can make that difference, pull up a seat – I dunno. I repeated this comparison through the whole shade range with each helmet and the differences were consistent. I could see more outside of the arc glow with the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet.

Cleaning Up the Act

I had noticed a big change in visibility earlier when I took the lens system on my Hobart Hood apart and cleaned it thoroughly so I went back and did that again. I wanted to be sure that the Hobart Hood was not working at a disadvantage.

After cleaning up the Hobart Hood I could see a little more clearly but no further from the arc itself. I repeated the prior tests with the Hobart Hood now cleaned up again using both helmets set on the shade number and the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet consistently let me see far more detail outside of the immediate arc glow.

I am not sure if the difference that I am seeing between the two helmets is purely a result of their design and capabilities or if the condition of my eyes is responsible to some degree. I suspect that the condition of a person’s eyesight does influence how we see through a helmet. I continue to believe that the Hobart Hood is a good helmet and that is supported in the many emails that I have received from users who like that helmet. Also, within days of posting my review of the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet I received emails from several people who felt that they also noticed a big difference in vision outside of the immediate arc glow when they started using the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet. I think this is a case where everybody can be right. If it is the combination of the condition of my eyes and how that works with the capabilities of the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet, great. The important thing to me is that I can see much better and that is important to my welding. Just remember that the condition of your eyes can influence how you see through the technology in welding helmets. If you are having a vision-related problem while welding this could be an especially important point to consider.

Practice Seeing

I repeated the tests again with my Lincoln stick welder. Again I alternated between the Hobart (left) and Lincoln (right) helmets, adjusted with identical shade numbers. I always did a little better with the Lincoln helmet and I was better at staying on the seam with the Lincoln as well.
Click images to enlarge

While this newfound vision is certainly making it easier for me to put beads where I want them and to control the puddle better, I still need a bunch of practice. I am hoping that the increased vision that I am enjoying with the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet will enhance my learning process to some degree. However, I remain convinced that lots of practice is the only way to refine the techniques that make one a good welder.

I also will continue to split my time between my Lincoln Pro-Mig 180 Welder and my Lincoln AC-225 stick machine. I get a bit of email saying that I can’t learn to do both types of welding at the same time. I accept that it is probably harder but with my schedule I often have little choice but to do MIG and stick welding in the same time period to keep up with the demands of my sites.

For the time being I am going to continue practicing relatively flat beads. I want to get used to what I am able to see now and try applying that to making my beads more consistent. I also want to increase the accuracy in placing the beads where I want them. Hopefully I will be able to move on to vertical welding and other challenges in the near future.

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