Sometimes the best method to test a new product is to have the one it is replacing. Fortunately, I had the original Trend Airshield air-circulating face shield, below left, and have purchased the updated version, the Airshield Pro, below right, about six months ago.
My respiratory protection needs
Before getting into a point-by-point review of original vs. new (Pro model), a bit about my respiratory protection needs. Like a fair-weather sports fan, I am a cold-weather turner. The majority of my turning is done from late October to mid April. During those months I do all of my turning in my garage (usually with the door closed to retain heat) and head outdoors for yardwork when the weather turns warmer. The problem with this scenario is that when sanding at my lathe, in one corner of my double garage, I’m creating a lot of dust. When I am turning and woodworking, dust protection is extremely critical to me.
Twenty five years ago I wore the basic dust mask also called a particulate respirator or nuisance mask. It wasn’t until I turned and sanded walnut and woods from the rosewood family that I learned firsthand how impractical these masks were in a dusty environment. I knew there had to be a reason for my coughing and sneezing after turning these woods, and it all went back to inadequate breathing protection. With the amount of turning and sanding I do standing over a lathe, an inexpensive mask wasn’t a “healthy” choice.
Next, I switched to a dual-cartridge respirator, also called a paint and pesticide respirator. This consists of a rubber facepiece with a cartridge on each side. I used one of these for a couple of years, but it had two drawbacks. First the cartridges had to be cleaned or replaced periodically. Replacing the cartridges can get costly if you use this type of mask a lot. Secondly, as the filters get a bit clogged, the mask becomes harder to breathe through and moisture builds up on the covered part of your face. I found myself wiping the sweat and condensation around my mouth and nose every time I took the mask off. Not a huge detriment, but a bit of a nuisance. Wearing the respirator with a full faceshield in front of it was also a bit cumbersome.
When I purchased my first Trend Airshield air-circulating face shield about six years ago, I did so with a bit of intrepidation. I knew I needed something better than the respirator I’d been using, but the $250+ price tag was a bit hard on my wallet. However, with a wife in the health care business, I knew the price of respiratory problems down the road could be huge. So, I purchased the Airshield and used it for a hundred-plus hours throughout the years when turning. Since the helmet-like apparatus didn’t work well with nosier shop equipment like the tablesaw or router, all of its use was centered around the lathe. The Airshield served me well, but there were a few items, mentioned below, that I had concerns with. I was pleasantly surprised to see the updated model and put it to use in my shop last year. See my comparative analysis below of the original vs. new.
Air Filtration Location
The first thing I noticed was that Trend had moved the air filtration from the front of the helmet on the original faceshield, below left, back and to the sides on the updated Pro version at right. This is important to me. When I’m turning and sanding my turnings at the lathe, my head is normally about 24” from the source of lots of chips and dust. With the filtration in the front on the original version, the cloth filters had to be cleaned (vacuumed) rather often. This is less of a concern now that they have switched from the single front filter to a pair of filters moved back and to the sides of the Pro version. The new helmet incorporates a pair of pushbuttons at the front of the faceshield that release the cover making it easier and quicker to open than the original version where you had to loosen a turnbutton on each side of the faceshield. To clean the twin air filters on the Pro model, simply vacuum them until they need replacing. The Airshield Pro filters particulates that are .3 microns or larger. The Airshield Pro has a 98% filter efficiency while the original model has a 95% efficiency rating.
Another upgrade I like on the new version is the elastic face seal compared to the foam wrap on the original model. Over the years, the foam wrap on the original model, on the left, developed two small tears. The newer model also has a small pull strap at the bottom (second image below) of the elastic seal allowing you to pull the seal slightly way from your face when removing the faceshield.
Battery and Connection
Another concern I had with the original helmet was the small area the battery fit into. After removing, recharging, and replacing the battery in the original version dozens and dozens of times, I bent the connector on the battery, and had to super-glue it to keep from completely breaking. With the new model, you simply open the hood on the helmet and slide the rechargeable battery out the back where shown below. The battery on the original model would hold a charge for 4 hours while the larger battery on the newer model will hold a charge for 8 hours. Considering I have only one battery for each model, this 100% increase in work time is a huge benefit.
Another new improved item that comes with the updated Pro model is an airflow indicator, shown below. To test for sufficient air flow through the faceshield, you turn the faceshield upside down, and locate the airflow indicator on the four slots at the front interior of the faceshield. Next, you turn on the fan and look for the position of the red ball in the tube. If the red ball is raised to less than half the height of the tube the battery charge is low or the filters are blocked.
I’ve found both faceshields comfortable to wear. The original Airshield weighs 1.6 lbs while the Airshield Pro weighs in at 2.2 lbs. However, the Airshield Pro has improved ergonomics with the weight shifted to the back of the head, producing less neck strain if you need to wear it for hours at a time.
With the original versions, wearing hearing protection with the face shield was cumbersome at best. For the new version you can purchase an accessory Trend calls “ear defenders” that clip on the sides of the fade shield as shown below. These are an additional $50. With this hearing protection, I can now comfortably use the hood for sanding at my workbench, routing, and other noisy operations, making the new Pro model much more versatile for uses throughout the workshop.
Replaceable Visor Overlay
One aspect I like on both faceshields is the replaceable visor overlay. In turning burls and figured stock, I often encounter voids. If the void is too big, I throw the stock away and start over. For small voides and fissures, I fill them with a bit of cyanoacrylate adhesive and black powdered dye. Even with an accelerator, every so often I start turning too soon and encounter a minute amount of the adhesive splatting onto the visor front. Luckily I can replace the visor overlay once a year without ruining the plastic visor.
The Trend Airshield Pro, without accessories, runs about $350-400, and can be found at Woodcraft, Craft Supplies, Amazon, and other mail-order and online sites. You can also learn more about these faceshields at: http://www.trendairshield.com/ And for a few user-generated videos, visit YouTube.com and do a search for “Trend Airshield”.
Tested by Marlen Kemmet
WOOD Magazine Managing Editor
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