HF welding mask review

Since Ive gotten into welding rather extensively recently, for Christmas, all the dogs and cats got together and dragged home pop
bottles, rags,newspapers, cardboard and whatnot and presented me with a gift certificate for Harbor Freight so I could buy a autodarkening mask.
Damned nice of them!
So I went over and started checking them out. The one that was on sale at the time was this one: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumberG996
While it darkened just fine, the density pot is located inside the mast and requires you to remove it to adjust the darkness and the webbing put my eyes way far back away from the glass. The worst problem was that when bending over in welding position, the short "forehead" allowed a whole bunch of light to come in from overhead and all I could see was the reflection of the store lights above me. Since I weld outside..watching the clouds go by overhead while trying to run a bead was not in my best interest. Last year I gave away a nearly new Jackson helmet (big lens) as I had to wear a towel over my head to prevent reflections that prevented me from seeing what I was welding
After finding faults of one sort or another with the other models I tried this one: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber212
A very high forehead, a tight fit (my nose just about touches the glass), marvelous view that even allows a bit of peripheral vision to some degree. Very light, closes off side and overhead light very well. The density control is located outside and inside are two adjustment switches.
Sensitivity, high/low. Both would darken on a bic lighter flint, but in high, if I moved fast, would darken if a reflection off something bright happened to hit just right. In one case..a passing car. Low works great, even on very dim strikes. Should be great for low amp tig. Delay fast/slow This switch changes the time it takes for the lens to return to clear after the arch stopped. On slow, after the arc stopped, the lens remained dark for nealy 1.5 seconds and on fast, only for aprox 3/4 second. I tend to move fast, so the slow postion seemed interminable, but fast is just about right, ymmv.
I got it home and on Christmas day I ran it through its paces both with MIG and stick, while welding up some projects I have going on.
Frankly..I dont know how Ive managed to go this long without an autodarkening helmet. Sweet sweet sweet. However..its going to be a while to break myself of the habit of automatically reaching up to swing up the mask after each weld. <G> It increased my speed in welding up assemblies by at least 25 or more percent as I can now simply go from weld to weld and not have to futz around hunting for the joint. Freaking marvelous with wire feeder!!!!! I played with the density control while running some practice beads with the MIG, and found a setting that allows me to see my puddle very very well and my welds now look a hell of a lot better as well as being good in penetration etc. The suspension allows me to wear my ..ahum..reading glasses..for fine work, which was a concern when I get the tig stuff up and running, and the suspension has a sweat band which is a nice added touch. Very comfortable to wear. Very light and well balanced. Its not front heavy like so many others Ive tried.
For an inexpensive autodarkening mask..this is freaking great! I asked the manager if the $59 sale price was graven in stone (only had a $50 gift certificat) and he simply told the cashier to price it as $49. I see its now on sale on the HF website for $49 as well.
The only issue I can see with this mask, is that the protective cover slip over the lens is plastic, which is ok..but HF does NOT carry replacements. Ive not tried any welding shops yet to see if this is a standard size, as its almost square, rather than your usual rectangle.
So far, I give this hood a Gunners "Thumbs Up!"
Your mileage may vary, and this opinion is worth exactly what you paid for it
The cats spung the extra $9 for the two year warranty, but I had to promise them additonal head scratching.
Gunner
"Gunner, you are the same ridiculous liberal f--k you ever where." Scipio < snipped-for-privacy@actd.net
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wrote:

I tried that one too, accidentally (the H.F. clerk handed me the wrong one, and I didn't check it before I left the store). I liked the solar powerd one much better than the battery one.
The battery-powerd one was very hard to see through for some reason.

I think a regular welding helmet is $20, so it's not too much more if you get it on sale.

I think I paid $59 for mine, and it's been one of the best investments I've made. I think it makes welding a lot easier to learn... it's one less thing to screw with that allows me to concentrate on learning welding skills, and the wider field of vision really helps me keep my beads going in the right direction.
The only problem I have is the wheel that adjusts the head-band is a little loose and goes out of adjustment kind of easily. It's not a big deal, though. I just tighten it up a notch or two when I put it on and it stays tight. It only loosens up when I take it off or put it on.
I'm not sure if this is a problem or not, but a lot of the welding flux seems to get deposited on the inside of the plastic shield. It's not a big deal to wipe it down every ten of fifteen hours, though.

I haven't found any replacements, but I haven't looked either. I did get a couple of plastic covers and I just cut them to size.

Me, too... I used mine in my welding class, up to eight full hours of welding, (Stick, MIG, TIG), and have had no trouble with it, or my eyes, at all.
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wrote:

Im kind of wondering of PDA covers would work. Though Id hate to try it and find it melted to the glass irremovably.
Gunner
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." - John Stewart Mill
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Thanks for the review, I might have to check this helmet out.
Eide

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