Whether you're planning on starting a career as a welder or want to take it up as a hobby, you know that you need a good welding helmet.  The primary function of a welding helmet is to protect your eyes from flying sparks and from damage due to blinding light and the strain of going from bright to dark and back again.  In addition to keeping your eyes healthy, the best helmets also protect the rest of your face and head from being burned.  Finding a helmet that offers maximum protection along with comfort and ease of use can be the difference between a rewarding career or hobby and a literal pain in the neck or, worse yet, permanent damage to your eyes or face.

focused-welding

Since eye protection is priority one, searching for a new welding helmet should start there.  There are different size eye shields or lenses available.  The eye shield’s size doesn’t impact the level of protection offered, but it is something you want to consider in relation to the type of welding you’ll be doing.  Eye protection comes from the level of darkness your shield offers.  Some eye shields have a fixed darkness level; others offer auto-darkening lenses.  The appropriate fixed-level of darkness can work for you if your work is limited to one type of welding.  Many helmets come with or accommodate multiple lenses that can be readily swapped out for different jobs.  How often your job type changes should determine whether or not a fixed level lens will work for you.  When it comes to self-darkening lenses, make sure you know what the built-in delay time is or, with some models, what optional settings are available.  This delay determines how long it will take your lens to go from one level of darkness (or standby mode) to another and back again.  If your work involves frequent starts and stops, you’ll want a model with a shorter delay time.

Another function of these lenses that affects the level of eye strain you might experience has to do with clarity and ambient-light handling.  Some lenses tend to produce more of a night-vision-green and less clear view, whereas other models offer better clarity in ambient light.  Better clarity makes it easier to inspect your work without having to remove your helmet.  

Many helmets offer adjustable darkness and delay controls to allow you to further customize protection and convenience.  If you opt for such a model, make sure you know where the controls are located.  Some models have these controls on the inside of the helmet, making it difficult, even impossible, to make adjustments on the fly.

After establishing your preferred levels and methods of eye protection, there’s the rest of your head and face to consider.  How much of your head and face need covering depends on the type of work you do.  For instance, if you do any overhead or close-quarters welding, you run a greater risk of sparks coming into contact with the back of your head.

Now that your eyes and the rest of your head and face are covered, it’s time to think about finding the most comfortable helmet possible.  Two pounds might not sound like much, but carrying even that amount of weight on your head for long periods of time can lead to neck strain, especially if the weight isn’t well distributed.  Look for the lightest helmet that meets your specifications or one that distributes a slightly higher weight so well that the helmet feels lighter than it actually is.  Adjustable straps (usually rubber or ratcheting) and adequate internal padding can help you achieve a near-custom fit.  

The last thing to consider is how often you might need to flip up your helmet for closer inspection of your work.  Some models flip up, but don’t lock in the upright position; some don’t flip up at all.  Others, though, can be locked in the upright position, which is more convenient and can save time.

Here is a list of several top models, along with pros and cons of each, to help you find your best welding helmet regardless of your budget considerations.

In today’s world, having a skill set that practically guarantees the ability to earn a good living is a definite plus.  There are some jobs that simply can’t be replaced by computers and that will always be in demand.  Welding is one such job.  Skilled welders can always find work in a variety of industries across the country and around the world, earning a good living and even getting paid to travel from job to job.

Welding is a skill that can be learned and refined without having to invest a great deal of time and money in formal training.  While there are programs designed to train new welders in a year or less, some welders are able to get their training on the job.  Some even turn a welding hobby into a career.  Having certification from one or more accredited institutions or programs can certainly bolster your profile, but isn’t always necessary to get your foot in the door.  As with other positions for skilled craftsmen, real-world experience is the most valuable part of any welder’s resumé.

When most of us think of welders, we think of surface (above ground) welding.  Welding also happens underwater.  Underwater welding is a tougher field to enter and requires tons of practical experience across many disciplines.  It also can be dangerous work, but pays well for those who have what it takes.  Underwater welders can get to spend a great deal of time travelling and exploring depths most of us will never see.

If you prefer to stay topside but still want that sense of adventure, you’re in luck.  Surface welding offers many opportunities for travel, and travelling welders tend to be well paid for their time on the road.  Below, we’ll look at a few of the opportunities that await a skilled welder with a case of wanderlust.

The oil and gas industry uses welders to build and repair pipelines, among other things.  Since pipelines travel long distances, so do the welders working on them.  Pipeline work can be a great way to stay on the move if being in one place for too long doesn’t suit you.

If life at sea has always been a dream, consider working on board either cargo or passenger ships.  Both allow you to live on the water and spend time in ports of call in various exotic locations.

If you’d rather build ships than repair them, the shipbuilding industry, civilian and military, always has a need for skilled welders.  Jobs can last weeks, months, or even years depending on the type and number of ships being built.  

In addition to helping build battleships, the military uses independently-contracted welders for other support work.  This work could include setting up temporary military facilities and repairing or retrofitting military vehicles.  Such jobs could be stateside or halfway around the world.

Manufacturers with large production plants often have scheduled shutdowns for routine maintenance and repairs.  These shutdowns can last anywhere from a few days to a few months.  Welders are needed to make sure that high-dollar essential equipment stays productive.  

If you are into auto racing, honing your craft to specialize in auto work can land you job building or repairing race cars.  Most racing teams even have welders as part of the pit crew.

Whether you’re looking to sleep in your own bed every night or become a wanderer, becoming a skilled welder is a way to ensure employability.  Finding a fixed welding job that involves travel or working as a travelling independent contractor can help you get paid, handsomely at times, to see the world.