Reviews, Comparisons & Buyer’s Guide
When it comes to welding helmets, Lincoln has made a name for itself by creating products that deliver top quality optical clarity that’s seriously hard to beat. With large viewing windows and high specs, these are some of the best welding helmets on the market – which is precisely what you’d expect from such a well-known brand. You do have to fork out slightly more to own one of these beauties, but you’re getting a real bang for your buck. The best part of it all? These Lincoln helmets feature some badass paintwork designs that will steal the limelight in your workshop!
1. Lincoln Electric Viking Black
Pros: With one of the most massive viewing windows you’ll find on any welding helmet, welding with this helmet is a joy. It comes with four arc sensors and a dedicated grinding mode, both of which are features that many cheaper models are missing. This helmet doesn’t fall down when you lift it up, which will save you an awful lot of discomfort and hassle on a daily basis!
The auto-darkening side of this lens is interesting – it runs with shades from 6 to 13, but instead of this being a continuous variable, you have to toggle between either tones 6 to 9, or shades 9 to 13. This isn’t exactly difficult, but it’s an unusual way for Lincoln Electric to have handled a fairly standard feature. Nevertheless, this helmet is solar powered, but it also comes fitted with a battery (which is easy to replace), which will ensure that you don’t run out of juice anytime soon.
Cons: There’s no getting around the fact that this helmet is very heavy when worn for long periods of time, which can cause fatigue and neck strain. Also, the grinding setting is found on the same dial that you would use to choose your shade settings, which means that every time you want to switch between grind and weld modes, you have to reset your shade settings. This is one annoying feature that would have been so simple for the manufacturers to avoid, but luckily it doesn’t cause any significant problems.
In contrast, issues with temperature could cause some big problems, as this helmet doesn’t indeed hold up well to high temperatures. As a result, you might be limited in the number of ways in which you can use it. In addition to this, the sensors can be affected by sunlight, so chances are you won’t be able to use it properly outdoors.
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2. Viking 3350 Series “Mojo”
Lincoln Electric Viking 3350 Mojo
Pros: Lincoln Electric, who is famous for delivering exceedingly high standards of optical clarity, have created this helmet with yet another impressively large viewing window. This features an auto-darkening lens which has a fast 1/25,000 second switching time on a broad range of darkness shades – 6 to 13. The helmet has four arc sensors to help with the auto-darkening so your eyes will remain fully protected, whatever you’re working on. Also, it’s also fully adjustable, which makes it beautiful and comfortable to wear for long periods of time. If you lift it up, this helmet will stay in place instead of falling down, which will reduce neck strain even further!
Cons: Unfortunately, this helmet does not have digital controls. The analog controls are handy, but this helmet still doesn’t quite reach the same technological heights as many others on the market.
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3. Viking 3350 Series “Twisted Metal”
Lincoln K3248-2 Viking Twisted Metal
Pros: It’s rare to find a helmet that’s really comfortable to wear as well as delivering on specs, but here it is. With an incredibly large viewing window providing perfect optical clarity, seeing precisely what you’re working on has never been easier. This helmet features a delay control which you can adjust to your own preferences, which is a real advantage if you tend to be a little different to everybody else! All the filter shades – from 6 to 13 – have a 1/25,000 second switching time, allowing you to get to work instantly and without causing your eyes any harm whatsoever.
Cons: Some people find it a little front-heavy at first, which feels awkward and uncomfortable. However, this is something that you’ll soon get used to with regular use.
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4. Viking 3350 Series “Motorhead”
Lincoln Electric Viking 3350 Motorhead
Pros: You’ll be hard pushed to find a viewing window that’s bigger than this, which is one of this helmet’s most appealing features. The window gives perfect clarity through all the shades from 6 to 13 so you can see what you’re working on correctly, regardless of light levels. The switching time is speedy at 1/25,000 of a second, and you can adjust the delay back to a bright lens to suit your preferences (anywhere between 0.1 and 1.0 seconds).
Cons: When the helmet’s viewing window and other specifications are so impressive, it’s a real pity that its headgear sometimes feels disappointingly cheap and flimsy.
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5. Viking 3350 Series “Terracuda”
Pros: The clarity that you get from this helmet is outstanding. In fact, you could even go as far as saying it’s perfect! The viewing window is enormous – it’s the largest of all the Viking welding helmets. It’s incredible how much the overall welding experience improves when it becomes easier to see what you’re working on! The specifications are just as impressive – with four arc sensors, delay and sensitivity controls, a 1/25,000 second switching time and a broad range of variable shades 6 to 13, this helmet is ideal for a wide variety of applications. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s really comfortable to wear for long periods of time, too.
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We mentioned in another blog post that there’s a great ongoing debate about whether or not apprentices should purchase their own tools. However, no matter which side of the fence you stand on, there are a few tools of the trade that every sheet metal fabricator should own at any level of experience. Here’s a comprehensive list of the tools everyone in this business should own:
1. A 4 ½-inch or 6-inch angle grinder.
This handheld power tool is used for cutting, grinding, and polishing different types of metal, which fab workers often do, so make sure you purchase an angle grinder that’s durable.
2. A set of Cleco fasteners.
This nifty tool temporarily fastens multiple sheets of metal (typically aluminum) together before the pieces are permanently joined. Think of it as a stronger clothespin.
3. Various angle grinder discs.
This set can include grinding wheels, which can be superabrasives or conventional abrasives, depending on your projects; cutoff wheels; and flap discs, which are used for finishing; and wire wheels.
4. A throat-less shear.
This tool is made for achieving straight, curved, or irregular cuts on a metal project. It has three holes for simple mounting and features a tall handle that gives you the leverage necessary to cut stainless or mild steel and aluminum easily. Needless to say, this tool is an everyday staple in most fab workshops.
Every handyman should own a reliable pair of wire cutters for snipping frayed ends.An auto-darkening helmet. These helmets can range anywhere between $200 to $400, depending on the manufacturer, but every sheet metal fabricator should invest in a dependable auto-darkening helmet for the occasional project that requires a lot of welding.
Angle finders. Most quality angle finders are made of stainless steel or high-grade aluminum, and most sheet metal fabricators use these frequently, so splurging on a good set is often recommended.
Cutting glasses. In this business, safety comes first. Since sheet metal fabrication projects are typically large-scale, they can pose a higher risk for accidents. A solid pair of cutting glasses will help decrease your chance of getting hurt in case of a crash.
Drill bits. Most fab shops will have a drill or drill press handy, but sheet metal fabricators should have their own set of drill bits. Though the choices are virtually infinite, a standard length drill bit and a shorter, machine screw drill bit are good starting points.
A sturdy backpack. If you’re an employer or full-time employee, you most likely will keep your tools of the trade at the shop. However, if you’re an apprentice, hauling your tools back and forth can be strenuous, so invest in a sturdy backpack.
You can have the Swiss Army knife of metalworking tools, but make sure you have these few basics first. The traditional, high-quality tools from the list above will help fab workers complete a project of any size throughout their career, so it’s best to splurge on these few tools of the trade.
Now that you know the necessary tools, the next step is learning how to care for them properly. Download Kempf and Harris’ Care and Maintenance Guide for Sheet Metal Tools to get started:
A similar blog post we wrote Welding Terminology and Abbreviations