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An economy, auto-darkening helmet

If you spend much time welding in the farm shop, one of the best tools to invest in is an auto-darkening helmet. A seasoned welder can get pretty good at nodding his head to tip a standard helmet down then strike the bead exactly where he wants it, but an auto-darkening type makes life much easier. And it is very difficult for a novice to weld very thin metals without one.

Thermadyne recently introduced its new Tweco WeldSkill line of economically-priced, auto-darkening helmets with a modest retail price of U.S. $129. Price has been one of the biggest reasons weekend welders have shied away from auto-darkening models. In the past, the cost of a good one could run as high as several hundred dollars; some high-end models still do.

Thermadyne’s Tweco helmets react to an arc and darken the lens in 1/30,000 of a second. They also have an adjustable delay feature that can keep the lens dark for up to 0.8 of a second after the arc ends, allowing bright weld pools to cool before the lens turns clear again. This is pretty good feature for high-amperage welding applications.

The Tweco helmet has four arc-detection sensors to trigger lens darkening, which is especially helpful when welding in difficult positions. Helmets with fewer sensors can more easily fail to detect an arc if you’re in an awkward stance, partially covering one. That will give you a nasty arc flash, and it’s happened to me — more than once! The Tweco also uses solar power so there are no batteries to replace, or fail just when you need them.

Lens shade is adjustable from nine to 13, so you can set the helmet for different applications or to suit your individual level of sensitivity. Even when performing the same job, what is a comfortable lens shade for some isn’t for others. The helmet also has a grinder setting, so it can also be used for basic eye protection when cleaning off weld slag or using a grinder.

“It was built to withstand the rigours of daily fab shop use,” says Indy Datta, product line management at Thermadyne. “But with an MSRP of $129, DIY welders can also enjoy professional-grade functions that make welding easier.”

To find a retailer near you, go to the company’s website, †

About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



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