Ambient light when tig welding?

Hey, I’m not a great tig welder, and I’m reluctant to say I’m a good tig welder but I amemphasized text a tig welder. I’m always looking to improve and I spend a decent amount of time practising and running exercises with different materials/settings/tools etc. One thing that I’m aware of that is holding me back is just not being able to see properly. My eyesight isn’t the best but I have glasses to correct that, I have a decent helmet and I’ve been playing around with the different shade settings but always settle back to the lightest (safe for tig) setting, I think it’s shade 9 on a Speedglass 9100. But I wondered what other folks thoughts are on background or ambient light and if it makes any difference to them? I have pretty bright lighting where I weld so I thought I might try turning the lights way down. This didn’t really make much of a difference once the arc was struck but it did make it harder to get into position beforehand.

I’ve been brazing for over 20 years and I know some people like to turn background lights down when brazing to better see flame and tube colours but that’s never really worked for me.

Anyway, I’m just interested in what other people do and if anyone’s got any magic tips for better seeing the puddle.

Thanks

Steven

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That’s a really fantastic helmet, so I’m hesitant to recommend moving away from it, but you might want to try some other lens types/colors and see if they work better for your particular eyes. Your local weld shop might be able to help you out. 3M seems to offer at least three variations for that hood.

An additional magnifier panel inside the lens may also be helpful.

I like a lot of ambient light when welding, just so I can see well with the hood down (my hood is roughly a shade 4 when it’s off). Positioned so that it’s not causing glare/reflection inside my hood.

As you noted, once you strike the arc, you’re mostly going to wash out any ambient light as far as the hood is concerned, so it doesn’t matter too much during the actual welding.

One last thought - if you’re running a gas lens setup, you could try a pyrex cup - that lets much more of the arc light spill out.

Thanks, I’ve tried the ‘cheater’ lenses but they seem to make things worse. I’ve found just a cheap pair of reading glasses (with a slightly stronger prescription) allows me to see/focus pretty well, at least before striking an arc. I’ve been using the clear cups for a while now and that definitely helps.

It feels like my eyes just don’t work well dealing with the arc, or maybe can’t adjust quite fast enough.

When I first started practicing tig welding I had to put a hoodie on or wear a backwards cap or something behind my welding hood because the ceiling light entering from the back and glaring off my lens was highly distracting to me.

Over time I got used to it though. I’m not sure exactly what changed. Maybe my brain is just able to filter out the reflections in my lens that aren’t my arc. I know this info may not be super helpful, but I did experience something similar before so I wanted to share.

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If you can minimize light behind you or that comes into your hood from above that helps. Another thing is really shiny smooth material can be hard to see during welding, it you hit the joint with a wirebrush in a few different directions it will make it easier to see the base metal and the joint. Also move your head around, alot of times if the angle that you are looking at the weld changes the weld can sort of dissapear and then reappear when you get your head in a better spot. Also auto dark helmets are great for alot of people and i love mine for wire feed and whatnot but for tig welding bikes i think its alot of plastic to look through and i can see much better with a fixed shade lens. I know there are some people who remove the outer plastic cover on the speedglas so see more clearly. Good way to potentially damage an expensive lens though.

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I hadn’t considered light from behind. I’ll look into that, one more thing to worry about!
I’ll also try removing some of the protective screen on the front of the Speedglas to see if that makes any difference.

With a fixed-shade hood I like to have some additional light around to position myself. I’ve even used a flexy desk lamp. With an auto-hood that doesn’t make a difference to me.

Adding something like this to the back of the hood helps if you’re bothered by reflections and seems to be beneficial for all types of helmets.

.

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I added a hood/cape to my helmet like the picture above, using an old t-shirt and duct tape. You want the inside of the helmet to be as dark as possible. Take a hint from photographers, if you want to see detail when looking through glass you don’t want any light shining on the side of the glass you’re looking at.
Screenshot 2024-05-24 at 10.44.19 AM

Do you weld with straight current or pulse? When using pulse I try to make the ambient light as bright as possible, I find the background current doesn’t put out enough light to see well.

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I grabbed a helmet cover for my 3350 and it was a total gamechanger. I am pretty sensitive to glare and my shop lights are fairly bright so the cover helped a lot to improve visibility. When I was setting up lighting in my shop, I put a 4-tube array right over the welding table and it’s been lovely to have that directly over the welding area. imo any light you can get will help with improving visibility during the welding process.

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I’ve always welded underneath a skylight or such if I can, with perhaps 300 lumens ambient minimum, and have a couple of daylight shade LED panel lights for those dark evenings.
There are some very useful light meter apps to measure with.

I find my Speedglas 9100XX is a bit dark when off (about shade 4-5), so needs a lot more ambient light than some of the other high end helmets such as Optrel and Kemppi, which run almost clear. I only use it for aluminium work now, 100+A, 80Hz pulsing.

The biggest problem I had with using my Speedglas with steel was the sensitivity of the switching. Running down around 100A/15A with near 1Hz pulsing, even when set at max sensitivity it would often switch off if I managed to get a hand in such a postition that it shaded one of the sensors (but not my eyes) from the arc. You can make this better by upping the delay, but then need to wait ages at the end of a pass to reposition.
It’s a hardcore industrial helmet that is build to cope with 350A pipewelders using it, and doesn’t seem to be so happy with the slow pulsed, low amp work on steel and Ti.

I had a go with fixed shade helmets, which I hated after decades of using auto-darkening on aluminium. Never could flip them down reliably without getting out of position or hitting something. So tried at least 4 other more basic auto-darkening ones (Weldability, ESAB etc), none of which were much of an improvement on the Speedglas.

However…I now use a really cheap, but surprisingly good, one from Lidl, the Parkside PSHP 1A1. For £35 in 2022, I though it might be worth a punt. :wink:
It has decent true colour filtering, shade, sensitivity and delay knobs on the outside, filter setting runs from a Shade 5 to 13, and can be set permanently on for grinding work. Around Shade 3 when switched off, normal sunglasses level, so positioning isn’t a problem.

It doesn’t seem to be available from Lidl anymore, but this looks to be the same item re-badged on Amazon: Amazon.co.uk

Similar problems with my eyesight now, I’m 57. Similarly, could never get cheaters to work for me, so have some decent +3.5 readers for welding. Higher than I need for reading, but I find I weld closer than I read.
I use short range (+2.5 reading out to 5m max focus) varifiocals for most workshop time, and some Uvex Horizon glasses +3 with clip-on/flip-up green (for straight O/A) or blue (Gasfluxing) filters for brazing.

All the best,
Dan Chambers

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