One of the biggest misconceptions out there, is whether or not you need an auto darkening welding helmet (speedglas). I’m not going to lie to you, having an auto darkening welding helmet is a good thing to have if you can afford it and if you’re not going to abuse it. If you’re going to have it rolling around in the back of your pickup, you should seriously consider a standard welding hood.
When you first start out learning how to weld, it can be a real advantage to use a speedglass just for the simple fact that you can see what’s going on. This is probably more important for learning how to stick weld than it is for learning how to wire feed weld, since the wire feed welding requires you to only pull the trigger. Plus you can get everything set up before you put your hood down. The advantage to seeing what’s going on when your stick welding, is that you can put your hood down and know exactly where the rod is when you’re scratching to try and start your arc. If you don’t have this feature, you have no idea where you are starting your arc, unless you have experience. Another advantage to an auto darkening hood is, if you are doing a lot of production welding. If you’re starting and stopping an awful lot or are stitch welding for long periods of time, it’s handy to not have to lift up your hood every time you need to find your next spot to weld.
Auto darkening welding helmets can range anywhere from $100 all the way up to $400. It all depends on your budget and what you want out of it. Most of them will have a feature to set the shade of lens you want to use. Some will even go down to a shade 5 so You can use it for cutting with a torch.
A standard welding hood can be as little as $5 at a garage sale up to about $50. That’s generally the highest price out there, unless you get one with some really fancy graphics. Standard welding helmets are very affordable and if you happen to wreck it, it’s no big deal since it only costed very little.
I have personally used auto darkening hoods, but to this day, I choose not to just for the simple fact that I think they’re kind of expensive and I really don’t need one. Some people will lead you to believe that you need an auto darkening hood, but I disagree. I think it’s a luxury, not a necessity. Spend your money on your welding machine and your welding rods and make sure that those are up to snuff. That’s a better place to spend your money. The more you practice welding, the more you will realize your welding rod or welding gun are nothing more than an extension of your hand, and it’s pretty easy to figure out where that is at all times, even if you’re not looking. After all, practice does make perfect.