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Watching the Solar Eclipse with a Welding Helmet


“What’s your favorite planet? Mine’s the Sun, always has been. I like it because it’s like the king of planets. …planet or star, when that thing burns out we’re all gonna be dead. …have you ever seen an eclipse? If you stare at it head-on, it’ll burn your eyes out. I once took a pair of binoculars and stared at the Sun for over an hour.” Will Ferrell as Harry Caray on SNL. Let me please our legal counsel by recommending that you don’t stare at the Sun or an eclipse with the naked eye. However, you can watch the upcoming total solar eclipse with a welding helmet, if the helmet has the proper shading. Details below.

Spoiler Alert: Welders are awesome! The people kind, not the machines…Well, they’re cool too.

Supply and Demand

Photo Credit: EclipseGlasses.com

A month ago, most of the big box stores had those disposable solar eclipse glasses at the checkout counter for a few bucks. You know, the ones that look like the first 3D glasses at the theatres. Well, it seems these eclipse glasses have all but dried up in most places. Even if you can find them now, plan on paying a premium for these cheapies. A quick search on Amazon or eBay will yield results of $10 each or more, and you have to buy a multi-pack.

NASA Recommendations

Solar eclipses are kind of a big thing, and they don’t happen every day. Science and schools seem to make a pretty big deal of it and for good reason. The last time a total solar eclipse crossed the entire nation was the eclipse of June 8, 1918.  NASA wants to ensure that those interested in watching the eclipse, does so safely. In fact, they have a portion of their website dedicated to the Total Eclipse 2017.

Image Credit: NASA

ISO Requirements for Glasses

Monster Helmet Sensitivity and Delay

On the NASA web page above, they state: “If your eclipse glasses or viewers are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard, you may look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun through them for as long as you wish.”  This ISO standard should be in print on the glasses and easy to read. If your glasses have any wordage such as “only use them for 3 minutes at a time”, these are outdated and should be trashed. Ensure that your glasses are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard.

Can You Watch a Solar Eclipse with a Welding Helmet?

Don’t let the high prices of the junk glasses and the ISO standards scare you away from the eclipse. After all, we’re tool guys. We have lots of tools, and know people who have a lot more tools! Most of us even have a welding helmet, or three, laying around. A welding helmet can be a great way to watch the eclipse—but wait just a second. We do have to ensure that our welding helmet fits the requirements for viewing the Sun.

Shade 9 to 13

Just as the glasses have standards, the welding helmets must have a shade value of twelve (12), or more. Many older helmets may not go this high. If you’re digging that helmet out from under the workbench, make sure it will meet or exceed this shading requirement. In fact, a shading of thirteen (13) is recommended, to be even safer. While fourteen (14) is probably too dark. NASA warns “If it’s less than 12, don’t even think about using it to look at the Sun.”

Total Eclipse of the Heart Sun

After realizing that I can watch a solar eclipse with a welding helmet, I have to try it out. So, I went out this morning with my welding helmets to stare at the Sun. Wow, that sounds really stupid…that I would stare at the Sun. Regardless, after watching the Sun in all its glory, we now have confirmation that it works, without burning corneas.

Monster Mobile and Miller Welding Helmets

Starring at the Sun

It just so happens that both welding helmets that I use, meet or exceed the Shade 12 requirement. I have a Monster Mobile Tools auto-darkening helmet that I used in our review of the Mountain Portable MIG Welder review. This helmet actually goes up to a shading of 13, providing additional safety. I also tried the Miller auto-darkening helmet used in the All In One Welder Miller Multimatic 215 Video Review. Both helmets perform great with the Sun starring test.

We do have a recommendation or two if you decide to watch the solar eclipse with a welding helmet. Most welding helmets now have the auto-darkening feature. Be sure to turn up the sensitivity and turn down the delay. This will provide the fastest lens transition to Shade 12 or higher. Enjoy the show on August 21, 2017.

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Miller Shade and Sensitivity

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16 Comments on Watching the Solar Eclipse with a Welding Helmet

    • This is your eyes that you are risking. We each get one pair, so we need to take care of them. I understand that welders use lower settings to weld, as do I. However, I’m taking NASA’s word for it on the eclipse recommendations for shading. They have one or two more high-paid engineers and scientists than we do.

  1. Cordelia

    Helmets are too expensive to buy just for the eclipse, and shade 12 or higher replacements lenses are all sold out in town just like the eclipse glasses. However, I can still get lower-rated welding protection. Could I layer, do you think? Shade 8 replacement lens taped in a cardboard box helmet, with shade 5 goggles worn underneath? Thanks!

    • I believe there is a way to stack lenses, but we are not confident in how the shading system works. The safe bet would be to watch it on your big-screen TV, if you can’t find the correct eye protection.

  2. MasterEngineer

    Weldors look at harsh light every day. I am a weekend weldor, so I am glad I will be able to use my helmet. I have shade 12 and that protects me from 300 amps of uv light.

  3. I actually used a pair of cheap Harbor Freight goggles to view the eclipse. I knew they weren’t up to the standard NASA recommended spec, but I figured their number probably had a significant margin of safety tacked on, and in any case, I would only attempt glimpses of less than 10 seconds at first.

    Well, they weren’t dark enough to get all the detail, so I figured I could add one, then a second pair of sunglasses underneath. I think a good rule of thumb is: if you can’t resolve the entire outline of the eclipse and there’s still glint, you need another layer of shades.

    Anyways, I know this is an anecdotal account, but I never noticed spots in my vision a week plus later. Seems like it was a good solution those who are incapable of planning ahead!

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