Welding Hoods & Other Supplies

I'll be taking a 14 session welding course at a continuing education facilty and we're required to provide our own hood, gloves, etc. I've
wanted to learn welding for a long time.
I've been looking in various hardware catalogs and I see that there are "manual" welding hoods and hoods with automatically darkening glass. What are the pros and cons of automatic darkening glass? Some of the units seem to darken in 1/10,000 of a second and others in 1/20,000 of a second. Is this significant? Also, the glass size seems to be either 2x4.25 or 4.5x5.25. Is the larger glass size useful?
What's a good source for purchasing welding supplies such as hoods, gloves, caps, etc?
Thanks in advance, Geoff
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You won't ever regret buying an auto-darkening helmet. To truly appreciate it, you should try a regular one for awhile first. It's worst when fitting. Hold a piece in one (gloved) hand, get your rod and stinger ready in the other hand, then flick your neck and the hood is supposed to drop perfectly into place, whereafter by muscle memory you (now quite blind) strike the arc right where you're supposed to. Depending on position, I always found that to be very frustrating (not being a full-time weldor). Finally I bought a Speedglas auto-darkening helmet and I absolutely love it.
My suggestion on welding consumables is to do price comparisons on all the welding supply stores in your area. In Seattle, for example, Central Welding is much cheaper on most things than is Praxair. The difference can be 40%. Then patronize one local store, hopefully one that's open Saturdays. I have never bought welding consumables online for some reason, and the personal relationships with the guys at the welding stores have paid off a few times.
Grant
Geoff Schultz wrote:

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I have welded for thirty years, so will give some GENERAL observations:
If you are going to be welding much, get an autodark hood, and get the good one. You only get one set of eyes, so think what you want between them and something that will destroy them. A good autodark hood will cost you about $300. In my opinion, they are worth it if you weld a lot. I love my Nexgen with a Huntsman 951P hood. The Jackson hood that comes with it won't hold up the lens very good. Get a Jackson or Huntsman. I like the larger windows, and really like the gold lenses. Hoods are about $30, and the gold lenses are about $15. Get a top of the line autodark, and know that it will protect your eyes. A regular quality hood works alright, too. Cheapies of all varieties are okay, but I like the confidence of knowing mine will work as it should.
Hats and gloves are hats and gloves. The more expensive ones have more padding, and are built better GENERALLY, but I have used cheapo gloves that have lasted longer than the expensive ones. I like Comeaux hats that are made of the thin cotton because the thick ones give me a headache. When it is hot, put ice water on it, and it is a very adequate brain cooler.
Your best source for supplies is locally where you have no shipping. Go to the stores, and try them out. You will find ones you like, and then just compare cost. If you find a deal, get some extras. Watch where you put the new ones until you use them, or they will get mildewy or rank, and mice like to chew on them.
ONE LAST THING, AND MOST IMPORTANT. IMHO:
Wear ear plugs. Molten BBs of metal can go into your ears, and end your welding career, not to mention your ballet skills. I like the spring clip styles, as they are easy to put on and take off. This is an option with a lot of welders, and there is a difference of opinion as to whether they are necessary. I know man who had to have most of his inner ear taken out from a molten metal bb that went through his eardrum. It changed his life by affecting his sense of balance, and ended his career as a pipeline welder in various parts of the world. Once you have a red hot bb go into your ear canal and hear it sizzle as it burns wax and hair, it may change the way you look at things.
HTH
Steve
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Thanks for the feedback. I'm curious as to what the differences are between a "good" autodark hood and a low-cost one are? From what I've seen the higher priced ones seem to have 3 settings: Clear, Cutting and Welding whereas the lower cost units may only have clear and welding. Then again the differences in cost may be $50 for the low end and $300+ for a higher end. I'm just trying to figure out what a delta of $250 buys you.
-- Geoff
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On Mon, 20 Sep 2004 17:29:47 GMT, "Geoffrey W. Schultz"

Three main things, more reliable triggering, a clearer clear state, and no mottling of the lens. Most of the cheapies are shade 3.5 or greater in the clear state. The good lenses go down to around 2. Often makes a big difference if you're working in an ill-lit place.
Good triggering circuits and sensors are important, both for a lack of false triggering on shop lights or the sun, and reliable triggering when the arc is struck. The better units have multiple sensors, so if one is blocked by your position, another will pick up the arc strike and cause the lens to darken.
The better ones are also adjustable, allowing you to set the sensitivity threshold and the time between loss of arc and lightening of the lens. There will be lots of times when the arc is temporarily out of view, and a lens which lightens too quickly can dazzle you, but one that stays dark too long is annoying.
The cheaper lenses often tend to be mottled as well. In other words, they won't uniformly darken or lighten. They look splotchy. While this isn't a real detriment to their function, it can be annoying.
Any ANSI approved helmet/lens will be safe, but the better ones are more enjoyable to use.
The Jackson EQC Executive and Next Gen have a shade 5 setting that's useful when using a cutting torch or when doing heavy grinding. I rarely use that setting on my Jackson, however, since a tinted full face shield works as well for those tasks, and is cooler, lighter, and gives even greater peripheral vision.
In case no one has mentioned it yet, *always* wear safety glasses under the hood. Don't depend on just the hood to protect your eyes. Hood lenses have been known to shatter from the heat, and red hot BBs always seem to find their way under the hood.
Gary
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On Mon, 20 Sep 2004 13:33:23 GMT, Geoff Schultz

Where do you live? If in the US, Harbor Freight sells a quite nice low end auto darkening hood for $49. Its been on sale for the last week or so for $39. I buy nearly ALL my welding supplies from HF. Gloves etc etc. While not always up to full time professional welder durability, they are more than good enough for normal useage, and the replacement cost after a pair of gloves wears out in 3 yrs of heavy use is far cheaper than a pair of gloves that wears out in 4 yrs of heavy use.
Just my .03 worth
Gunner
"At the core of liberalism is the spoiled child - miserable, as all spoiled children are, unsatisfied, demanding, ill-disciplined, despotic and useless. Liberalism is a philosphy of sniveling brats." -- P.J. O'Rourke
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