Welding helmets are designed to protect the welder's face, eyes, head, and neck, but protecting the eyes is arguably its primary function. Although numerous welding helmets and hoods can accomplish this, three of them are at the top of the list: the auto-darkening, passive, and pancake welding hood. Of the three, the pancake hood is the least-known, so we'll focus on it in this article.
When you see a pancake welding hood for the first time, you" ll know how it got its name immediately. Yet, despite its silly name and unusual look, a pancake hood can ultimately protect a welder's eyes and face. But there are other reasons why many welders choose to use them in specific situations.
In case you're not familiar with this unique item of protective equipment, here's what you need to know:
What is a pancake welding hood?
The pancake welding hood is so-named because it is round and flat, like a pancake. Depending on which hand you use to weld, one side of the hood will have a shield protecting the opposite side of your face.
A pancake hood's primary function is to shield a welder's eyes from the sparks created during welding, but it also protects the eyes from the bright and blinding UV rays that welding emits. Inside the hood is a small box of balsa wood that surrounds the eyes and holds the welding lens. Because it is made of wood, you can have the balsa box fitted to your face's shape.
How do you properly fit a pancake welding hood?
Balsa wood is soft and lightweight, and the wood's softness allows anyone to shape it with sandpaper easily. After being sanded and shaped to fit the welder's face, the balsa box provides stability between the eyes and lens. Accurate fitting eliminates pressure points and prevents light from entering at any angle, while the lightweight balsa minimizes fatigue.
Pancake hoods are usually secured with a wide, adjustable headband, and that extra width spreads the pressure points over a larger area, making it significantly more comfortable.
Why do some welders use pancake hoods?
Because pancake welding helmets are made from thin metal and balsa wood, they are light and comfortable, ideal for long days and the strenuous outdoor work associated with pipeline welding. And since it's possible to get a perfect fit with the balsa box, there are fewer discomforts to endure, even when the welder is faced with awkward positions and harsh outdoor conditions.
Are pancake welding hoods OSHA approved?
Not all pancake hoods are OSHA-approved, so make sure the one you're considering is labeled: Z-87.1 ANSI Approved--OSHA Accepted. Here is an example of one such pancake hood.
How do pipeline welding helmets and pancake hoods differ?
The traditional "structural" welding helmet used by pipeline welders is up to twice as heavy as the pancake welding hood. The extra weight can result in fatigue or neck strain if you're on the pipeline for long hours. Since the hood is not enclosed, it allows for airflow, keeping the welder cooler.
The pancake hood with its balsa box prevents the sun glare that compromises vision when using a traditional pipeline helmet. The balsa box also eliminates fogging, providing clear vision during welding, while its customized fit offers more comfortable welding than other helmets.
Summing it up, the three primary differences between a pancake and a traditional welding helmet are as follows:
Comfort: The pancake hood will keep you much cooler than a regular welding helmet during welding. In addition, the Balsa box properly grips the lens, keeping it from wobbling and exerting pressure around the ears.
No glare or fogging: Unlike traditional welding helmets, pancake hoods block all the light from behind, preventing the glare that compromises the welder's vision. Fogging is also eliminated, adding to the clarity advantage of the pancake hood.
Lighter weight: Welding helmets are up to twice as heavy as a pancake hood, so pipeline welding for long hours tends to be easier and more bearable in the lightweight pancake hood.
How can I find the best pancake welding hood?
As with so many other industrial products, pancake welding hoods come in various styles and price ranges, making it essential to determine what you need before buying one. Here are three examples of pancake hoods, along with their pros and cons, if any:
1. Original Pancake Welding Hood
The Original Pancake Welding Hood meets all of the requirements of the best pancake hoods:
· Blocks backlight from entering
· ANSI approved, and OSHA accepted
Price: $105.94 (Amazon)
2. Sarge's Pancake Black Welding Hood
Sarge's Pancake Black Welding Hood gets high marks in every category, and it accommodates any standard lens:
· OSHA approved
· Perfects for long hours
Price: $104.99 (Amazon)
3. Wendy's Pancake Welding Hood
Like the other models, Wendy's Pancake Welding Hood Helmet provides the benefits of a high-quality welding hood and excellent value for your money, including:
· Lightweight comfort
· OSHA approved
· Excellent quality
Price: $106.25 (Amazon)