Drop-in Auto-darkening Welding Helmet Lens

OriGlam Solar Auto Darkening Filter Shade

Tools (Recommended):
OriGlam Solar Auto Darkening Welding Helmet Lens

Hi, I’m Sean Michael Ragan, and you’re watching Cool Tools.

If you have any experience welding, and probably even if you’re don’t, you likely recognize that the lens on this helmet is of the auto-darkening variety, which means it’s got a layer of liquid crystal inside that’s connected to these photovoltaic panels right alongside. When you strike a welding arc, the light from the arc itself generates enough charge in these panels to reorient the liquid crystals inside here and make the lens go dark.

If you’re sentimental, like I am, about hand-me-down tools, you may have one of these old-style flip helmets lying around. These take removable filter inserts that have a constant optical density and which are of a standard size, so you swap in a lighter or a darker lens depending on what kind of welding process you’re looking at.

The good news, if you do have one of these sitting around somewhere, is that you can now buy really cheap auto-darkening lens panels that fit this standard size, so you can just drop one in and have an instant upgrade. These panels come in a range of prices, and this is literally the cheapest one I could find at just nine bucks including shipping. As of this video, a new helmet with a built-in auto-darkening lens will cost you at least three times that.

No, the quality isn’t great, but it’s not a complicated device, and so long as you’re careful not to physically break it, it should last quite a while. And it does do what it’s designed to do pretty well.

Here’s what flux-cored arc welding looks like inside my old flip helmet through a constant-density glass filter, and here’s what it looks like through the auto-darkening drop-in lens. Your field of view is not as wide as you’d get from a modern helmet, but it’s wide enough to see what you’re doing, and these old-style helmets do let you flip just the lens out of the way, like this, which is a feature most new-style helmets do not have.

OK, thank you for watching. As always, you’ll find affiliate links down below the video. If you’ve seen anything here you like, please do check those out, as well as our blog and our podcast over at We’ll see you next time!

-- Sean Michael Ragan 04/15/20