You can email your questions to Professor Hammer at, or mail to Professor Hammer, c/o CLASSIC TRUCKS Magazine, 1733 Alton Pkwy., Irvine, CA 92606. You’ll receive a personal reply! We’ll print your name and city unless you request otherwise. Ron Covell has made many DVDs on metalworking processes, and he offers an ongoing series of workshops across the nation covering all aspects of metalworking. Check them out online at, or call for a current schedule of workshops and their free catalog of DVDs. Phone 800-747-4631, or 831-768-0705. You can send a request by mail to: Covell Creative Metalworking, 106 Airport Blvd. #105, Freedom, CA 95019.

Q. I’ve encountered an issue that you may be able to comment on. Ten years ago, I did a lot of MIG welding with my auto-darkening lens that only goes down to shade 10. In the old days, I could easily see and follow a scribed line or a joint at shade 10 in my shop at night or in the garage doorway in bright Texas sunshine. Now, I find that I can’t see the line or the joint edges at shade 10. I bought a shade 9 lens for my manual helmet and I am able to follow the joints and lines with that in strong light. Anyway, have you experienced any reduction in your ability to distinguish joints and lines as you have moved along in life? Have you heard any comments from others in this regard?

Kent Caveny
Portland, Oregon
Via the Internet

A. About 3 years ago, in one of my workshops, one of the participants suggested that I try using a magnifying lens in my welding helmet. I protested at first, saying I had been welding with it for over 40 years with no problem, and I didn’t really need a magnifier. He persisted, and I finally agreed to try his lens. Well, it makes everything much larger, and clearer, and easier to see, and I liked it immediately! The guy was so pleased that he gave it to me, and I have used it constantly ever since.

Now, when I use a helmet without a magnifier, I find it very difficult to see the joint unless the lighting conditions are unusually favorable. I’m 67 now, so you and I are at a similar point in life, and as I’m sure you know, most people start losing some of their visual acuity as they age, with the most marked changes usually occurring after you’re 50.

I tried gas welding at a recent workshop, and my gas welding lens has no magnifier. Although I completed my welds (on aluminum), I was truly challenged, and it won’t be long until I add a magnifier to my gas welding lens, too. Welding stores have magnifying lenses (commonly called cheaters) in several levels of magnification (diopters). I’m using a 2.0, and they are available up to 2.5, at least. It’s probably better to start with the lowest number that works well for you, so you have a path for upgrading over time.

I’ve only seen cheater lenses in the smaller size (2x4 inches), and my TIG welding lens is 4x5 inches, but I really only look through the bottom half of my welding lens anyway, because I wear bifocals and I need to look through the bottom quadrant of my eyeglass lenses to focus on objects that are close.

One more item that may be related—the auto-darken helmets are constantly improving. Many are now adjustable for broad ranges of shades (mine goes from shade 9 to shade 13), and the newer helmets are a lighter shade in the off position. My current auto-darken lens is a shade 5 when it’s off, but the one I had previously was considerably darker, and there may be some new lenses that are an even lighter shade in the off position!

Q. I have a ’37 Plymouth pickup, and the cab has lots of rust damage. I need patch panels for the bottom of the cowl, the rear corners of the cab, and for the door bottoms. I know that patch panels are widely available for Fords and Chevrolets, but nobody I’ve talked with knows of any panels available for MoPar trucks. If I have to make my own panels, what tools will I need?

Pat Melling
Via the Internet

A. Well, Pat, someone must have been listening to your thoughts—there is a company that makes the panels you need for older MoPar trucks and cars. Contact: The Plymouth Doctor, PO Box 467, Perry, MI 48872; their phone number is 517-625-7596. They have a website at

You could make the panels in question with an English wheel, bead roller, shrinker, and a welding outfit, but usually if the parts you need are available ready-made that’s a better way to go, so you can put your time and energy into other aspects of the build!