If you only work with one welding process, be it TIG, MIG, or stick welding, you need only one shade number. Since variable shade lenses are more expensive than their fixed shade counterparts, you shouldn’t spend the extra money when it’s not necessary.
There are, however, two types of fixed shade welding lenses: passive and auto-darkening. Passive helmets have really been losing popularity in recent years, mainly because auto-darkening helmets are so much more convenient.
In this list, I have included five of each type of lenses. If you aren’t sure which type of lens best suits your needs, I have included a short explanation for each, and that might help you decide.
Passive Welding Lens
Passive welding helmets were the only choice for decades. Most old-school welders still use this type of helmet and don’t even care about trying auto-darkening. They are a great choice for beginners because of their low price and reliability. The reason they’re so reliable is that there’s not much that can go wrong with them.
The way they work is very simple. It’s a piece of glass (or plastic) with a dark coating for UV and IR protection, and that’s it. The only way to make the lens unusable is by scratching or breaking it. So theoretically, a passive welding helmet could last a lifetime if taken care of properly.
Forney Industries, as one of the longest family-owned operating companies, has created one of the best hardened-glass lenses that suits almost every helmet. Its size is 4.5” x 5.25” with shade 12 that provides superior protection when welding at high amperage.
The hardened glass is made out of high-quality material that meets the ANSI Z87.1 safety standards. The material is resistant to weld spatter and impact. An additional fact for the excellence of this product is that it’s widely used among photographers for taking long-exposure pictures of the sun.
As stated by the company, this Forney 57054 hardened glass lens provides 99.9% UV-AB protection from the sun. The color that’s projected while welding is green. Sometimes, the products may get damaged during shipping. Keep in mind that in such a case, the warranty claim must be made within 90 days of the date of purchase.
- Fits most helmets that use this size;
- High-quality glass;
- 99.9% UV-AB protection.
- May get damaged during transport.
Runner-Up: Best Welds Glass Gold Filter Plate Shade 10
This hardened glass gold filter plate from Best Welds can be the solution if you are concerned about the right protection for your eyes while you are on a tight budget. The gold filter plate has the ability to reflect the most infrared rays that are harmful to your eyes and allows you to spend many hours of carefree welding.
This welding lens is designed with special attention to the shape, creating precise edges to allow a safe and proper fit to window sizes 4.5” x 5.25”. It’s shade 10 and it is optically corrected in order to provide you with a better view of the puddle when welding at low-to-medium amperage. The lens has a blue tint and it seems quite bright for a shade 10.
- Precise edges for a good fit;
- Great eye protection;
- Very clear view for medium amp welding.
- Seems too bright for a shade 10.
Most Budget-Friendly: TW Supply, 2 pieces Shade 10 Glass Gold 2″ x 4.25″
For around $10, you will get two hardened glass, gold-coated welding lenses. The lens will fit any helmet that uses 2 x 4 or 2 x 4.25-inch lenses.
They provide a very clear picture with realistic colors. There’s no green tint, so the picture is very pleasing to the eyes and doesn’t cause fatigue. This particular welding lens is a fixed shade 10, but you can also get the same model in shades 9, 11, and 12.
The only drawback that comes with these lenses is the package. They’re shipped in just a plastic bag, so they might get damaged during transport.
- Hardened glass is tough;
- Fits all helmets that use this size;
- Great value for the money.
- Items might get damaged during transport.
Upgrade: HARRIS 2 Pieces 2 x 4.25 (Shade 10)
The fixed shade Harris Welding Hood Lens is suitable for every welder. This glass welding lens is 2″ x 4.25″ and fits all welding helmets that use this size. This is a very affordable deal because, for less than $10, you get two glass lenses.
Because of its thin design, the lens is easy to mount, leaving enough space for adding a cheater lens or a magnifying lens. The fixed shade 10 gives you decent protection from the eye-straining effects when working with low to middle amperage. If you’re looking for a different shade, here are the links for shade 5, shade 8, shade 11, shade 12, shade 13, and shade 14.
The low price could potentially mean that the lifespan won’t be too long. But, they are one of the most affordable lenses on the market so you can always have an extra pair on the bottom of your toolbox or workshop drawer.
- Very affordable;
- Leaves room for a cheater lens.
- Not too durable.
Best Protection: HOUSE Glass Gold 2×4.25 Fixed shade (Shades 9-12)
If you’re looking for an affordable gold glass lens, this is it. The lens costs less than $10 and it’s made from hardened glass which is quite strong and durable. Keep in mind that glass lenses are heavier than their plastic counterpart.
The 2 x 4.25 lens will fit all welding hoods that use this size, and it’s very thin so it leaves plenty of room in case you want to use a cheater lens. However, you must be very careful with it, because the thin gold coating can get scratched very easily, making the lens practically unusable.
There seems to be an issue with transport. More than a few welders have reported receiving a damaged lens. If you have a similar problem, feel free to contact the seller, and you might get a refund or a new lens.
- Fits all helmets that use this size;
- Very affordable.
- A bit heavy.
Auto-Darkening Welding Lens
Accuracy is the key factor of auto-darkening welding helmets. When you’re able to see exactly where you’re holding the rod or MIG gun before the arc start, it’s very unlikely you’ll miss the starting point, which isn’t the case when you’re practically blind wearing a passive lens.
The way auto-darkening lenses work is quite ingenious, and if you want to know more about the technicalities, this article will be useful. For now, I’ll explain the process briefly. The lens is made of 6 layers, one UV/IR interference filter, three polarization filters, and two liquid crystal cells.
The UV/IR filter blocks UV and IR radiation, up to 99.9% of it (gold-coated lenses have the highest blocking power). The three polarization filters work just like sunglasses, they darken the light that passes through them. When the sensors detect the arc, they activate the LC cells, so that less light can pass through.
Auto-darkening lenses need batteries to work, but most of them also feature a solar strip, which charges from the light of the arc. My advice would be to always choose a lens with a solar strip, not only because of the cost of buying new batteries every few weeks but also because used batteries are very bad for the environment if they’re not disposed of properly.
Overall Best: Miller Welding Lens, 2″ x 4″ 10, Auto-Darkening
The Miller Electric auto-darkening welding lens is one of the top choices among experienced welders, including myself. The price may be a bit higher than other auto-darkening welding lenses with a 2”x4” size, but trust me – the clarity and the quality of the vision while welding is wonderful.
The color of the puddle is green and because of this eye-soothing color, the eye-straining effect is minimized. This product comes with shade 10, which is not really appropriate for high-amperage welding. But don’t worry, there is a solution. You just need to add a magenta lens and the problem is gone. The lens features two arc sensors that have a reaction time of 1/30,600 sec. It is solar-powered and you won’t have to waste any time changing batteries.
Additionally, this product meets the ANSI/CSA standards and comes with a 2-year warranty. In a recent conversation with other colleagues, I noticed that some of the welders have experienced the glass easily shattering, but with the 2-year warranty, this shouldn’t be a problem.
- Very reliable;
- Very clear picture;
- Extra room for a cheater lens;
- A bit pricey.
Jackson Safety has built up almost a century of experience in making welding lenses, among other welding products. That’s why it’s one of the most trusted brands when it comes to welding safety products.
This auto-darkening welding lens is one of their best-selling products. Although the price is a bit high, this lens is guaranteed to last for a long time, keeping your eyes safe along the way. In light state, the lens is fixed at shade 3 so you can see your surroundings, as well as the base material, very clearly.
Once the arc starts, the single sensor will quickly react to switch to dark state at shade 11. When in dark state, you’ll be able to see the arc and the puddle very clearly with an amber tint that’s comfortable for your eyes.
This lens is compatible with Jackson’s 409P and 411P welding helmets, but it will also fit most helmets that use 2 x 4.25 size lenses.
Although Jackson Safety claims that this is an all-purpose welding lens, some welders have experienced arc flashing when TIG welding. Most likely, the reason behind this is the fact that the arc of a TIG torch isn’t as bright as it is during stick welding, so the sensor doesn’t pick it up.
- Very clear;
- Amber tint.
- Not great for TIG welding.
Most Affordable: ArcOne T240-10 Tradesman Auto-Darkening 2×4.25
ArcOne has been a favorite among welders for many years. The reason for that is they make high-quality welding lenses with superior clarity. And to convince you of the quality of their products, they have a 3-year warranty on all of their welding lenses.
This particular shade-10 welding lens has an amber tint that allows you to see both the arc and the puddle clearly, minimizing the possibility of mistakes. The two sensors work independently and react fast enough that you’ll never feel any eye strain. The light state is a shade 3, so when you’re not welding, it’s almost like looking through a clear window.
The only issue that seems to come up with this welding lens is the slow reaction of the sensors in the beginning. The first time you use the lens, you might get flashed, but after one day of using it, it gets up to speed.
- Very clear;
- Amber tint;
- 3-year warranty.
- Might flash you the first time you use it.
Most Reliable: Lincoln Electric 2X4 C-Series Auto-Darkening Shade 11
The C-Series Auto-Darkening Welding Lens Shade from Lincoln Electric is one of the most reasonable choices on the market if you want to have a quality product that will keep your eyes relaxed while working.
This welding lens is made with Lincoln’s 4C Lens Technology, a technology that will provide you with a clear vision of the holy trinity in the welding process, the base material, the arc, and the puddle.
As stated by Lincoln Electric, this well-known lens technology can eliminate imperfections, a serious factor that contributes to eye strain, enabling you to work longer without feeling any discomfort. The size of the cartridge, 2″ x 4.25″, makes it compatible with most helmets that use this site, and you can additionally fit a cheater lens on some helmets.
But of course, no product can ever satisfy all the needs that we’re looking for when buying this type of welding equipment. The lens is a bit pricey compared to other auto-darkening welding lenses available on the market.
- 2-year warranty;
- 4C, true color display.
- A bit pricey.
AmeriArc has fulfilled its vision to provide affordable and high-quality welding equipment by creating this 2 x 4, HD auto-darkening welding filter.
This lens provides you with ultra-clear HD quality, but the fixed shade 9 is really only useful for working at low-amperage TIG welding. The auto-darkening feature works with the help of one lithium metal battery, assisted with a solar strip that guarantees a long lifespan.
This welding lens fits any helmet that uses 2×4, but some welders find it difficult to install a cheater lens due to its thickness. Overall, the AmeriArc auto-darkening welding filter is suitable both for construction and home project use.
- HD quality;
- Very reliable.
- Too thick for some welding helmets.
And now, onto the most important part: choosing. There’s a number of factors worth considering before you decide where to put your hard-earned cash. Let’s take a look.
Passive or Auto-Darkening?
A lot of old-school welders still prefer passive helmets, I guess some habits just never change. I however prefer auto-darkening. It’s a much easier and more practical way to weld, especially when you’re a beginner. It’s entirely up to you to decide which one you prefer.
I’ve talked about this subject quite thoroughly in this article. In short, gold-coated lenses do a better job at blocking UV/IR radiation and block out the bluest, brightest rays that cause the most damage. They also allow you to see through the arc so you can better focus on the puddle.
Depending on the type of welding you’ll be doing, and how sensitive your eyes are to bright light, you should choose the shade number. A general rule of thumb is 9-11 for TIG, 10-12 for MIG, and 1-13 for stick welding. For those with super sensitive eyes, there’s a shade 14, which is usually used for carbon arc welding.
Again, a matter of preference and old-school vs new. I prefer a bigger lens so that I can see my surroundings when I have a helmet on. It’s much more convenient when you have to turn around and look for a tool or something. Others (usually old-school welders) prefer a smaller welding lens which lets them focus only on the weld. Of course, if you already have a helmet, you can just buy the lens that fits it.
A lens cover is a must if you want your welding lens to last. Sparks and spatter can destroy the lens in just a few days if you’re not careful. This is particularly important for gold lenses, because the gold coating is super thin, and once it’s scratched, the lens is practically unusable. Just spend a few bucks on lens covers, it’s a better solution than having to buy new lenses all the time.
It’s time for a quick summary of my top picks, so you can finally decide which fixed shade welding lens is the right one for you.
The Forney 57054 is my favorite passive lens because the hardened glass is very tough and offers great protection. The only issue that may occur with it is getting damaged during transport.
If you’re looking for a great bargain, then the TW Supply, 2 pieces would be the right choice. You’re practically getting two gold lenses for the price of one, so you could buy a few of these and always keep a spare on you.
If you’re looking for a more reliable gold welding lens, then you should try the HOUSE Glass Gold 2×4.25. You can choose between shades 9-12, and you could even get two different shades, so you can decide which one you like better and stick with it.
My favorite auto-darkening welding lens is the Miller Welding Lens. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for. The arc sensors are very reliable and have a great reaction speed. You also get a 2-year warranty for the lens.
The Jackson Safety Solera 16376 is another great, reliable option, but it’s a bit more expensive than the Miller, so that’s why it’s in second place.
The ArcOne T240-10 is about half the price of the Jackson Solera, so if you’re on a tight budget, don’t hesitate to give the T240 a try. The best part of it, however, is the 3-year warranty it comes with.
What is a fixed shade lens welding helmet?
Well, there are actually two types of fixed shade welding helmets: a passive helmet, and an auto-darkening helmet. On this list, I’ve included both types of lenses because it’s a matter of preference, so there are options for all welders.
A passive lens is one that has a certain tint, and it’s only used to look at the welding process. An auto-darkening lens is much more complicated than that. The lens consists of one UV/IR interference filter, three polarization filters, and two liquid crystal (LC) cells. Once the sensor is activated from the light of the arc, the LC cells turn, thus bending the light and letting less of it pass through. This is what causes the lens to “darken”, but only to a specific shade (thus, “fixed” shade).
If you want to learn more about how auto-darkening lenses work, this article has a detailed explanation of the whole process.
What are the different shades of welding lenses?
Passive welding lenses usually come in shades 9-13. You might also find a shade-14 welding lens, but those aren’t very common and are only used for carbon arc welding because it has the brightest arc.
An auto-darkening welding lens has a light state and a dark state. The light state is usually a shade 3-5, but there are a few high-end helmets, like the Optrel Crystal 2.0, that have a shade-2 light state.
Can I look at the sun with a welding lens?
You can, but it’s not really recommended. If you really want to do it, like for watching a solar eclipse, you should get the darkest shade possible, and that’s shade 14. This article dives deeper into this subject.
What shade is best for arc welding?
It really depends on a few factors. The higher the amperage, the brighter the arc will be, so the darker a shade you’ll need. It’s also a matter of personal preference, because some people have more sensitive eyes than others, and need a darker shade. In general, stick welding produces brighter arcs, so darker shades are required, usually between 10 and 13. TIG welding requires shades between 9 and 11.
What is an ADF lens?
ADF stands for Auto-Darkening Filter. Just read this article, and it will all be clear.