What is Grind Mode on a Welding Helmet?

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As you shop for a welding helmet, you will face various options that can sometimes be confusing. 

One of those is grind mode.

Grind mode refers to the option that sets the shade at a lower value to provide better visibility during the grinding process. Activated by a switch or button, grind mode can improve safety and productivity for the welding operator.

One of the main reasons welders like to have this option is so they do not have to take their helmet off in between welds.

How Does Grind Mode Work?

Grind mode on a lens. Left view is a lighter shade to help see more easily.

Different helmets have different ways to activate the grind mode. Some models offer a simple button, while others may have a toggle switch or a knob you turn. 

Regardless if it’s a button, switch, or knob, activating the grind mode happens without the welding operator removing the helmet, making it a convenient and safe procedure.

Some helmets come with an external grind control option. The lens adjusts after the welder turns on the grind mode, and the grinding operation can proceed immediately. 

It’s a safe and productive way to switch into grind mode since the operator never removes the helmet to make the adjustment.

Other helmets are designed with an option to flip up the auto darkening lens while the rest of the shield remains down. The clear grinding shield that stays in place gives the operator an excellent view of the work area for grinding and setups. Welders should continue to wear their safety glasses underneath helmets with clear grind shields. 

And when purchasing a welding helmet to be used for grinding operations, make sure it has the American National Standards Institute (ANSI Z87.1+) marking. The “+” lets you know that the helmet is certified to protect you against high impact.

When Should You Use Grind Mode?

When the grind mode is activated, the helmet is typically at shade #3. Although some helmets might have more shades (#5 to #8) to include plasma arc cutting, most will have the lighter shade, meaning you use grind mode exclusively for grinding or setups but never for welding.

After completing the grinding operation, you turn off the grinding mode without removing the helmet. Although these helmets may work automatically, physically switching the grind mode off ensures that you will be optimally protected as you return to welding.

See the short video below on the difference it makes to your view.

Different Types of Grind Mode

Flip-up mode

Flip up grind mode on welding helmet
Flip up grind mode

Many popular welding helmets combine a welding lens with a flip-up grinding visor. For example, the Speedglas 9100 FX flip-up auto darkening welding helmet flips up to expose a clear, curved grinding visor, ideal not only for grinding and setups but also for inspecting your just-completed welds.

A flip-front helmet has an essential safety component because it enables the welding operator to keep continuous impact protection. By not having to flip up the entire welding helmet, welders minimize their risk of injuries caused by high-velocity flying metal coming from others working nearby.

External grind control

External grind mode button
External grind mode button

These models are sometimes called “fixed front” helmets. They have a more conventional style and do not have the flip-up feature. However, they have an external grind mode that offers easy switching from weld mode to grind mode (and back again) with the push of a button or the flip of a switch.

One of the most significant benefits of external grind control is having grind mode without the extra weight of a grinding visor. The Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350 is a prime example of a high-quality auto darkening helmet with an external grind control.

Internal mode

Internal grind mode on digital lens
Internal grind mode on digital lens

On welding helmets with internal mode, the button is inside the welding helmet. The internal mode can be frustrating for professional welders trying to optimize productivity by eliminating extra steps in the welding process.

Activating grind mode could require the welder to reach under the helmet to press the button or lift the hood and turn on the grind mode. And if that doesn’t work, the operator may have to remove the helmet, turn on the grind mode, and replace the helmet.

Although some internal mode helmets are designed to be more efficient, most welders find it preferable to have a flip-up or external grind control model.

Pros & Cons of the Grind Mode Feature

Pros

  • Ability to switch modes in 3 seconds with a flip or button
  • Provides extra safety by ensuring welders are always protected
  • No need to remove the helmet to change modes
  • Some helmets change shape to remind the operator that the grind mode is on
  • Grind mode incorporates the latest technological developments

Cons

  • Grind mode will not work without battery or solar power
  • Mode buttons are susceptible to jamming or breaking
  • Welding operators could be vulnerable to welders flash if you forgot to turn grind mode off

Related: Find the Best Welding Helmets with Grind Mode

Conclusion

Since flip-up and external grind modes each have their advantages, choosing between them will likely end up being a preference related to the environment in which you work and the type of welding you perform. Because it is a time-consuming option, the internal mode will probably not factor into your decision.

As you shop for a welding helmet with a grind mode, focus on helmets that offer the essential features you need. While the grind mode button or switch provides you with a clear viewing area to protect your eyes, face, and neck, it is still the welding operator’s responsibility to stay alert and switch between modes when necessary.

About Jeff Grill

Jeff Grill hails from Long Island, a 118 mile stretch of land that starts just off the coast of Manhattan and stretches deep into the Atlantic ocean. He has always been interested in welding from an early age and has the cuts and bruises to prove it as he set out to work with a variety of metals.

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