Being that today is my birthday, I decided to buy myself a new birthday present.
I had been struggling with my welds because I kept losing my starting point between placing the MIG wire in the position where I wanted to start my weld and putting down my welding helmet resulting in missed tack welds and/or wavy, uneven weld beads. I tried the "close your eyes to tack" trick and flashed myself a couple times in the process.
I got my Harbor Freight ad the other day and saw that they had an Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet on sale for $49. I was a bit worried about cheap Chinese equipment destroying my only set of eyeballs so I did some googling and found what I figured I'd find. Several guys saying they love their HF helmets and several guys saying that they would never risk their eyes to "Chinese Junk" and swore by their $400 Jackson helmets. However, I found very few complaints about the HF helmets other than "if you drop them, they will die". I also read that even if you do get flashed, the lenses in these new helmets will stop most all of the damaging infra-red radiation with the worst damage being the flash-bulb affect. So, given this fact, and the fact that just because you buy something from Sears for twice as much, it doesn't guarantee it's not made in China anyway, I decided to give this helmet a try:
I used it for the first time today on today's task patching the left front outer frame rail and it worked GREAT! I set the helmet to "high sensitivity" and "long lightening delay" (meaning that it waits for a short delay after the arc stops to re-lighten the lens) in addition to the "shade" setting at 12. When no arc is present, the lens is like wearing lightly tinted sunglasses. When just the first 1/25000th of a second of spark from the welder is seen by the 2 sensors, the lens goes to your selected shade of darkness (up t0 14). Also, the battery in the helmet is charged via the solar cells by the welder's arc! (the strip above the dark lens). The purpose is to allow me to see the MIG wire right up to the moment the welder draws and arc resulting in cleaner, straighter welds. BTW, you can test the helmet by looking away from the arc while striking the weld and ensuring that the lens darkens appropriately. You don't have to look directly at the arc for the helmet to work.
So, for the record, I'm a happy consumer regarding these Harbor Freight auto-darkening helmets. Happy birthday to me indeed!