AO Safety used to make a glass welding lens called the Weld Cool filter plate. Most people call it a “Cool Blue” when they talk about it. This lens is greatly prized by anyone who has ever looked through one when they were welding. It has achieved almost mythical characteristics and if you are lucky enough to find one in useable condition, you can expect to pay upwards of four or five hundred dollars for it!
The Legendary Cool Blue Welding Lens
“Why is that ?” , you might ask. Well it’s because when you are welding the contact arc from your heat source makes a very bright yellowish flare and even with the darkness of the filter lens, that flare can obscure your view of the actual weld as it is taking place. With the Cool Blue Lens, that yellow flare is removed and you can clearly see what is taking place in real time as you are working.
“Well why did they stop making it if it was so good?”, you might continue. There are dozens of theories, opinions and after work bull stories about why they stopped making the lens. The truth of the matter is that AO made a business decision back in 1990 and dropped the lens from its product line. Here is a quote from an email written by a scientist that worked for AO “I was the Product Line Director of this product back around 1990 when I discontinued this filter plate…The reason for discontinuation was a combination of economics and a problem in the manufacturing and processing of the blue base glass. The blue glass used in the glass Weld-Cool filter plate was a specialized type of cobalt glass … not just plain cobalt glass. I could go into copious detail about both the economic and the blue base glass issues but it would serve no purpose.”
We make welding filter plates here at Phillips Safety Products. Now reading this response, and from what I’ve been told over the years, my take is that something came up that was going to require AO to reformulate the base glass. This is a very expensive proposition And they made a business decision that it was not worth the outlay. Remember this was in 1990. The auto darkening lens first introduced in 1981 had been improving and more and more welders were using these and less and less were using traditional ‘passive’ filter lenses.
Time moves on. When was the last time you used a typewriter? Notice how many fewer ‘standard’ light bulbs there are? You could make a list a mile long of things that have become obsolete, or replaced by more efficient, less costly or safer variations. Have you looked at dart sets they sell for family use lately? I hope you see where I am going there are substitutes for the Cool Blue. While some are not quite as good. I believe that we make one that in many aspects is actually much better.
As I said we make welding lenses. We make a Cobalt Blue lens for furnace observation, torching and brazing. This is NOT the same as the Cool Blue lens. These lenses simply DO NOT provide a safe amount of protection from the IR levels produced by main line welding. Like the AO scientist said, the cool blue was not regular cobalt glass.
All of our lenses are made of glass. Glass is optically far superior to plastic so when you look through the lens, everything is clearer. Our standard green shades performance blows away any plastic lens on the market. The same lens with a Gold Mirror applied has been compared to many as approaching the visual quality of the Cool Blue. And it only costs $ 20! Finally we have started to make, by special order, Alloweld lenses in darker shades suitable for main line welding operations.
The Alloweld is the lens that I believe outperforms the Cool Blue. The color may not be the same. But it doesn’t just change the color of the work, it completely eliminates the yellow/orange flare of the arc. I have sampled all three lenses. And with the Alloweld, you see the weld puddle as it is being formed, you see the electrode being worn down, and you see your work as you are working it. Welders who have tested them for us did not want to give them back to us and kept them all. And it’s safe. It gives you 100% IR and UV protection. So it you can use it in the long run and not worry about your vision.
What about the future? Time marches on. There may come a day when you will no longer be able to get glass welding lenses. So to that end we are working on special materials and formulations to make non-glass lens that will have similar optical characteristics to the glass lenses still available today. And you can help. If anyone out there has a damaged, unusable Cool Blue lens they would want to let us use for development of a replacement lens. Please get in touch with us. We do not want to take a workable one out of use. It would be a waste. We could use a broken one, pitted over, and scratched through. Just as long there is enough of it for us to analyze and duplicate it’s characteristics.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank You and God Bless.