Americans Turned To Welding Lenses To See Eclipse

Protective masks and welder's gloves

Welding tools are finding more uses than connecting metal parts to each other this month, as more and more consumers purchase welding glasses to enjoy the total solar eclipse.

Welding shades, specifically “Shade 14,” have become the item to have for people that wanted to observe the solar eclipse without cooking their retinas in the process. Just before the eclipse, many stores increased the price of their protective eyewear. According to WSVN, some listings of “eclipse glasses” rose as high as $129.95.

However, according to Susan Barnette, the Director at Buehler Planetarium and Observatory, there were a lot cheaper options.

“These are so strong that they will block out the same amount as these solar filters,” said Barnette, talking about welder’s glasses.

There are more than 500,000 welders employed in the U.S. today, according to the American Welding Society. And that means that these glasses are very, very common. Especially when one considers that many homeowners with workshops might weld as a hobby.

One doesn’t even need to purchase actual protective gear, according to Barnette. They just need to purchase the glass panel.

“All I did with this is took the piece of glass, and I taped a little shield around it,” Barnette said, “so that I would make sure people would be safe. You don’t wanna risk seeing the surface of the sun.”

And Barnette was not the only one to take advantage of this fact, hundreds of consumers across the nation have as well. Welding shops all over were also taking advantage of the trend.

Like Dressel Welding Supply and Roberts Oxygen, in Hagerstown, Maryland.

“We’ve been getting calls left and right about it… We had a few calls (earlier), but this week it’s been kind of nuts,” Roberts store Manager Jerry Jacobson said.

The extra dark lenses, such as shade 14, can be used to see the eclipse safely, according to the NASA website:

“Experts suggests that one widely available filter for safe solar viewing is welders glass of sufficiently high number. The only ones that are safe for direct viewing of the Sun with your eyes are those of shade 12 or higher. These are much darker than the filters used for most kinds of welding. If you have an old welder’s helmet around the house and are thinking of using it to view the Sun, make sure you know the filter’s shade number. If it’s less than 12 (and it probably is), don’t even think about using it to look at the Sun. Many people find the Sun too bright even in a Shade 12 filter, and some find the Sun too dim in a shade 14 filter — but shade 13 filters are uncommon and can be hard to find.”

There has been such a demand for these lenses that stores across the nation have sold out and created back orders, with some even creating waiting lists as long as 22 people. Unfortunately, not everyone got their lenses in time for the eclipse, leaving some unlucky eclipse viewers with welding glass they can’t actually use.

Considering that most welding helmets come with a shade 10 lens, not a shade 14, there was never really much need for something so dark. In fact, most welding suppliers don’t keep a large amount in stock.