Friday, November 20, 2015

Large View Area Welding Helmet Review: Lincoln Electronics Viking 3350

When shopping for important equipment, especially safety equipment, you should never be “cheap”. I can assure you that one trip to the hospital, a loss of a body part, injuring yourself permanently, or dying, is not worth the money saved by buying “cheap” equipment. Therefore, I never encourage being “cheap”, but I do encourage value oriented shopping.

Lincoln Electric’s Viking 3350 large screen welding helmet is value oriented. It is not a “cheap” helmet. This helmet is upwards of $200 (U.S.) and is worth every penny. Features like a highly adjustable auto-darkening shade (shade darkness and delay adjustability), large viewing area, 2 snap adjustment head straps, 1 ratchet adjustment strap with rubber skull pad, a comfortable (and washable) forehead pad, and very strong flip up mask support hinges, makes this helmet is a pleasure to use.

On Lincolns website, they claim the Viking 3350 has the largest viewing area of all the welding helmets on the market (for now). I can attest to the fact that the Viking did have* a larger viewing area than the Hobart and the Northern Tool helmets when I bought it.

I really like how easy the back ratcheting system is to adjust. With my old helmet I never tightened the ratchet system, because it was so poorly designed. Causing an uncomfortable and unsecure fit. Now though, I don’t even think twice about doing and un-doing the ratcheting system of the Viking helmet when needed.

Lincolns auto-darkening glass technology is also a pleasure to use. I find the auto-darkening glass adjustments to be very convenient in design. The steps between each selection have good variable steps. They are neither to big (as in drastic gaps between being darker or lighter than I prefer), nor are the adjustments to small (as in making adjustments, but not being able to see a noticeable difference between each setting).

The snap adjustment head straps are a nice touch. There are two adjustment straps. They have a numbering system, which makes finite adjustments much easier to make. Before I had this helmet, I didn’t know what I was missing. However, the additional support strap on top that this helmet provides, makes it much more comfortable than other helmets that I have used to date.

Just about all welding helmets have a cloth forehead strap. The Vikings forehead strap pad is nice because it’s soft, it comes off easily, can be washed, and is easily re-applied. This is nice because, when you are working around steel dust all day sweating, you’ll want to be able to easily clean this pad from time to time.

Most of the welding helmets that I’ve used in my life have failed in one of two areas. One of the areas that always seems be of poor design, is the ratcheting system. Second, is almost always the flip up hinge/friction mechanism, or whatever you want to call it. Seemingly, no matter how hard I tighten most systems, as I’m lining up pieces, the shield starts to slowly creep down. Then I’m racing to try and get my pieces in place. Only to fail, having to put the pieces down, and re-flip up my shield. Then it starts again… It’s so frustrating. Thankfully, the Lincoln Electrics designers seem to have gotten this issue figured out. The true test will be in the long run. To be able to say for sure, I’ll have to wait and see how well the system endures the test of hours and hours of hard work. For now though, I’m pretty satisfied with Lincoln Electrics efforts and design.

Another plus is that they are respected in the welding and fabrication industry as one of the leading companies. You can rely on their customer support and you are generally able replace most of the parts that might go wrong with this helmet, or most of their other equipment too.

As is the case with all products, there are a few cons that accompany the pros. So, I don’t want you to think I’m saying this is a “perfect” helmet. At the same time, I’m not saying it’s poorly designed either. Sometimes it’s impossible to provide one function without inherently creating some kind of inconvenience as an effect. It’s just balancing the two out.

While the larger, and extremely adjustable viewing glass is ideal for my uses, I do find that it adds quite a bit of weight to the helmet. This is in comparison to other smaller size shade welding helmets. Honestly, I don’t notice this too much while welding. However, if I have to arrange pieces, inspect something, or do other tasks that require me to flip the shield up, the weight of the glass is evident. The rubber ratchet adjustment strap pad on the back of the helmet does a great job of holding it in place even though the glass heavy.

Unfortunately, the ratchet strap fighting the weight of the shield being flipped up becomes somewhat uncomfortable after a while. This, in turn, usually forces me to take the helmet off and find a safe place to set it down in the interim. Once again, it’s not the worst thing ever, but it is a bit frustrating when you are already aggravated with you project. I’ve also found that having the helmet flipped up for long periods of time, causes me to have a slight headache where the ratchet strap puts pressure on the lower part of my skull.

Are there other pros? Are there other cons? Honestly, as of this moment, I don’t really know. If I find any though, I’ll be sure to let you know. In any case, the pros FAR outweigh any cons in my opinion. So, if you need an, (over-all) comfortable, highly adjustable auto-darkening welding helmet with a large viewing area, then this bad boy should be on you list of potential helmets. Even though I bought my Viking 3350 thru, I have seen plenty of good options on as well. So, why not stop by and see about getting you one today.

*(Depending on when you read this article, make sure to check each helmets current stats.)

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