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Technical Trying to up my game - looking for some welding opinions

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by jarretts70, Jan 24, 2015.

  1. Like the title says, I want to improve my welding skills. I've got a pretty basic MIG setup I've been using for years. I'd rate my skills as OK, but not great. I've been surfing around here, looking at other guys work, and I've realized that I could do better.

    My first question: what value shade do you like in your welding helmet for MIG welding? One of the biggest problems I've got when welding is being able to see what I'm doing. Like, I can barely see anything - It's easy for me to lose sight of the weld seam and veer off to the side.

    I was discussing this with a friend who is a welder by trade, and he asked me why I didn't just go to a lighter shade in my helmet. Being a pro, he's got a couple helmets with different shades in them depending on what he's doing. In all honesty, in the 12 or so years I've been welding it never occurred to me. I pulled the shade out of my helmet this morning - it is a number 8. You can't see anything thru it unless you stare directly at a pretty bright light.
  2. GordonC
    Joined: Mar 6, 2006
    Posts: 2,321


    I have a similar problem. I wear my reading glasses inside my helmet just to be able to see up close. One thing I did that you might want to try is I took one of those cheap Harbor Freight little flashlights and a hose clamp and clamped it on to the end of my mig gun. I at least now have a little bit of light on the seam I am welding. As we get older it seems we need more and more light to see the same stuff as before.
  3. Rex_A_Lott
    Joined: Feb 5, 2007
    Posts: 1,019


    A 10 should be fine for most normal automotive type use. I consider 8 to be light. Have you changed/cleaned the cover lenses, as well as cleaned the shaded lens? They make "cheaters" also, if you have a hard time focusing.
  4. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 10,865

    Blue One
    from Alberta

    If you want to improve your welding, probably the single most effective thing you can do is to invest in a good quality big window auto dark welding helmet like a Miller digital elite or a similar offering from Lincoln.
    Set it to shade 9 and you will love the results.
    Stay away from the cheap junk at Harbor Freight.

    If you are set on staying with the old helmet ( after you had the auto dark you would wonder why you didn't get one years ago) you should toss the number 8 lens (especially if it is a plastic lens as plastic lenses are of poor optical quality at best) and get a good quality glass filter lens in shade 9. Shade 8 is really too light for arc welding processes.

    Another option with the old style helmet is to go to the welding supply shop and get a number 10 gold lens.
    Once you get used to the color it gives while welding you would be amazed at how well you can see.

    I would ultimately recommend my first advice on the auto dark helmet however.

    Last edited: Jan 24, 2015
    young'n'poor and 49ratfink like this.

  5. I read a post on garage journal about wiping the lens cover with pledge and it seemed to help.
  6. X2 on the adjustable auto darkening hood - I have a Jackson with the amber lens, seems to help, too. If you really want to stay with your present hood, I'd get the gold lens, and while you're at it pick up a pack of the lens covers, and keep a clean one in the hood all the time. One other thing I noticed in my shop is that the high bay lights give me a lot of "back" light in my hood - I rigged up a little shade on the back of the hood from a bandana to keep the shop lights out and it helped, too. I was surprised at how much that glare in the hood effected my vision.
  7. Gordon, I hear ya on the whole needing more light to read thing....

    I've never tried the auto darkening helmet, but it's been on my wish list for a while. Maybe it's time to bit the bullet. The shade from the back is a good idea, too.
  8. paleot
    Joined: Aug 29, 2011
    Posts: 220

    from louisiana

    I have a auto dark hood from Trac Supply, the focus point for my eye glasses did not match well with the hood. Solved by rotating lens in helmet 180° works perfect now!
  9. another advantage of the auto darkening helmets is that you can change the lens "darkness" with the push of a button in the helmet.
  10. morepwr
    Joined: Sep 22, 2012
    Posts: 54

    from socal

    I bought a auto dark helmet about a year ago and cant believe I waited so long to get one. It is adjustable for the amount of "shade" and sure helps when you are in position to weld and dont have to flip down the helmet.
  11. I have an auto dark helmet and find I still need a torch to see the job while welding . I like the idea of fixing a small light to the welding head, frees up the left hand :)
  12. I have to run a SpeedGlass helmet (I hate auto darkening) at work set to shade 10. I use this for M.I.G. and T.I.G.
    At home I use a gold shade 10, in a big window helmet.
  13. You may have a problem here - or maybe just filthy lenses.
    #8 is too light, you want 9 minimum and 9 will be darker and further decrease what you see.
    The gold lenses are the bomb !!! Clean cover plate lenses make a world of difference too.

    Back lighting, or lighting behind you coming in the back or your hood will drastically decrease what you'll be able to see. There's a thread or 3 around here where guys have rigged the small LED lights onto the end of their guns. Seems to help some guys.
  14. R35J1S
    Joined: Jul 20, 2012
    Posts: 141

    from Missouri

    I have been welding since I was 16 and I am now 46. I have always been a tight ass when it came to buying helmets. I mean honestly, how much can 1 piece of glass change things over another. Then one day I got a smokin deal on a miller digital elite, so I bought it. Best move I have ever made. It is high definition welding for sure. It is like watching tv on an old old tube type and then jumping to the best high def TV that money can buy. It is to good to be true, but it is true. I also had to drop a set of cheater lenses in the hood. Before this hood I was having troubles staying on the line. Not anymore, I can see it perfectly. Plus it never hurts to shine a shop light on your work.
    More advice on how to become a better welder, besides practice practice. Go to and watch a lot of his videos. You can see how a pro does things and compare that to how you do things and adjust.

    Good luck, now go buy the best hood that you can afford.
  15. Deuce Daddy Don
    Joined: Apr 27, 2008
    Posts: 5,053

    Deuce Daddy Don

    Always stay with #10 gold lens, like me at 82, eyes need more help as time goes by, so use your reading glasses under the hood. I found that having a large framed PX ground lens glasses with no bifocals works very well without trying to move head up or down for focus on subject.

    Welding since 1951, I'm from "Old school" & use the "Nod" method when starting a welding project.
    Keeping the plastic lens protectors on both sides of the #10 lens should be kept free of spatter, & scratches as needed, usually about every 12 hours, depending on severe use.
    Not being aquainted with the large view helmet type, I always refer to the old "Huntsman" std. hood
  16. If you are looking for an auto darkening helmets KMS on 111 ave. has them on sale right now. Both the Lincolns and Millers are on sale. I bought one of the Miller Digital pro helmets (their hobbiest line) and it has been awesome for the amount of welding I do.
  17. mt shasta steve
    Joined: Mar 26, 2010
    Posts: 270

    mt shasta steve

    I had the same problem. I taught welding, and now I was guessing at the joint line. I replaced the clear cover lens and that helped. I consider 9 shade to be minimum for arc welding. I wear MAG SAFE safety glasses under my hood. Unlike bifocals, the entire lens is 1.5 power. Great for safety glasses in the shop too! You can't weld it if you can't see it.
    volvobrynk likes this.
  18. volvobrynk
    Joined: Jan 30, 2011
    Posts: 3,587

    from Denmark

    I'm a certified welder, and I wear proscription glasses. And the proscription glasses are such an important aid when welding.

    I use 9 for body work, 10-11 for thick steel MAG welding (with mix gas), 11-12 for arc/stick welding. 8 for TIG.

    I've had the same issue as you, there are two things that are way important helmet and eye side.

    I've two helmers, and old school one with a safetyhelmet, and a 3M speedglass with a filter pack.
    We dosent get HF/miller/Lincoln etc.
    But a good fit, good feeling/balance and window size. So I can't tell you if any of them is any good. I know my 3M is damn good!

    And everything else I've tried is junk ImageUploadedByH.A.M.B.1422125624.691137.jpg

    This is the best all-round helmet I ever had, but doing large items and long periods of welding, the filter pack will save you life! Despite being expensive. Speedglass is always nice, but doesn't make you better welder. It just makes your life so much easier.

    I've a major issue with light, if I can't get enough light, I loose track of the small items/details, that makes it a good weld. If I get light in to my helmet I can't see the full picture, and that it especially hard to weld the last string, it finding the grove/line where steel lines up.

    But Remember, with bodywork, the actual welding is 10% of the work. It's setting up your welder, getting comfortable, wire size, gas and get the best fit in material.
  19. But Remember, with bodywork, the actual welding is 10% of the work. It's setting up your welder, getting comfortable, wire size, gas and get the best fit in material.

    Yep, in many respects its like painting.

    All the work is in the prep, once the paint is mixed and in the gun its over real quick.

    All the work is in the prep, once the machine is on and the hood goes down its over real quick.
    volvobrynk likes this.
  20. williebill
    Joined: Mar 1, 2004
    Posts: 2,668


    You're getting some great advice on this thread. If I'm welding something small, I'll try to take it out to my outside work bench, roll the welder to the door, and use as much natural light as I can. On a cloudy day, even when the sun starts to go down, I can see a helluva lot better welding outside, than under garage lights, even though I've got several portable lights I use inside. My huge extension cord ( specifically for a 220 welder) helps make it all happen. I had cataract surgery when I was in my 30s, so my fake plastic eyeballs need all the help they can get.
  21. I wear prescription glasses and when I got the first pair I had a hard time seeing anything. I went back and had the prescription changed to focus closer to the work and haven't had any trouble since. I've been welding for money since '71 and I could always tell when one of my guys needed glasses. They couldn't follow the joint. I use a ten for mig but I make sure I have lots of light.
  22. See, this is why I turn to the HAMB when I have a question. More good advice here than anywhere else.

    K13, thanks for the tip. I'm at KMS about once a week. Just bought one of their shrinker/stretchers (I'm trying to improve my fab skills as well).

    I've never heard of a gold lens before, but lenses are cheap so I might give this a try as well.

    A couple of guys have mentioned "cheater"" lenses. What are these? Magnifiers?
  23. More light on the work area seems to be the consensus instead of a lighter shade. I just bought a small flashlight, I'm going to experiment with hose clamping it to my welding tip.
  24. I've gotten enough good advice on that question I'm going to ask another. This is more about technique.

    When butt welding panels, I always leave a small gap between the panels. My high tech gauge is a business card. When possible, I over lay the two pieces and cut thru both at once either with a .035" wheel or a body saw to get a consistent gap. Then I weld the way everyone says to - small spot welds, skip around, etc. I've been doing it this way for years & I've gotten to the point where I can do a good solid weld with minimal body filler required.

    I was surfing threads here on the HAMB and I came across a really good one showing lots of fab & welding work. I can't remember the fellows name, but he was working on a 55 Chevy wagon. His method of butt welding was to fit the panels TIGHTLY, do the usual small spot welds, then planish each weld before grinding. I understand the concept of planishing welds, but I was under the impression that it wouldn't really work when MIG welding (because the weld is too hard to stretch by planishing). His welded areas looked great, better than I thought possible with a MIG welder. Has anyone else done it this way? Thoughts?

    FWIW, I've never been that fussy about the wire I use - in fact, many times I've just bought whatever they sell in.023"at the local hardware store. I'm pretty sure you guys are going to give me hell for that (I deserve it)....
  25. Wire .030 or .035 is the standard for structural welding. Frames roll cages ect... I only run .035.
  26. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 10,865

    Blue One
    from Alberta

    I'm teaching a pressure welding night course at Nait right now on top of the regular daytime apprenticeship classes, maybe when you are ready you might like a private lesson :)
    Follow what I and the other guys have told you and you won't go wrong.

    Then it's practice and more practice :)
  27. Bumping/planishing a mig tack it easier than a full weld.
    I like 0.030 wire for DOT Dot Dot welding better than 0.023. With the 0.030 the dots are hotter, lay flatter & that makes them easier to bump/planish. they also knit better when you're closing them up. It works for me and my methods.

    Tack hammer tack hammer tack method is great at keeping the distortion at bay. You are only dealing with one tack and or pull from it at a time so it's real easy to control panel movement. I cut out the offending material nice and file the edges- I fit and shape my panels as best as I can but about 3/4" over sized and pop rivet them in place trying for a back side fit up. Then cut the patch with an air saw following the top filed edge as a guide. All of those steps have a purpose and work well together.
  28. I've always used .023 wire for my body repairs. I probably learned that in a magazine. One thing it took me a while to learn was to get the heat turned up. As a beginner, I used the lowest amp settings 'cause I assumed low heat = less warping. It took me a while to realize I get better results with more amps. Better weld penetration for sure, but also I found with practice I got less warping with higher amps. I think it's because with the amps turned up I can make the tacks quicker - say, one second instead of 1.5 seconds. I'm not sure.

    I'm going to try a few practice pieces tomorrow to see how it goes trying to planish the welds. Might pick up a small roll of .030 and give that a try too.

    Larry, what I really need is for NAIT to offer a night class in different types of welding so I could learn the basics of gas welding, TIG welding, and so on...I'd sign up for that!
  29. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 10,865

    Blue One
    from Alberta

    That would be a good idea, it is tough to get the powers that be to buy in to an idea like that. The beginners courses we offer are typically on one process such as Mig or Tig not both and are aimed at people wanting to get into the trade as a career.
    A hobby oriented course offering basics in the different processes might be something that would fly.
  30. Yeah, I've wished for a long time NAIT would offer some evening classes aimed at the hobbyist. I'm a little surprised they don't. I'm sure they could make money with it. I went to NAIT a LONG time ago, and even back then I would have gladly paid for some lessons.

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