Pancake welding hoods are designed to protect a welder’s eyes from sparks and are made from phenolic, balsa, and pine wood.
If you are a beginner, you may have never heard of a pancake welding hood. They get their name by typically being round and utterly flat as a pancake in the front. Depending on whether you are right-handed or left, one side will have a shield to protect the opposite side of the face from welding sparks and UV rays.
I was first introduced to them in my late teens by a pipeline welder. And, when you try one, you will find they have a feature that makes them indispensable for welding outside. That feature is the balsa box that acts as goggles. This component sets the pancake hood apart from everything else on the market.
The balsa box is actually a small box made of wood that surrounds the eyes and acts as a holder for the lenses. Being made of wood allows the edges that contact the face to be sanded or otherwise shaped to fit. Proper fitting removes any pressure points and ensures the box seals out light entering from every angle.
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What does the balsa box in a pancake welding hood do?
This ability to seal out all light that might reflect off the inside of the shading lens helps provide the best, glare-free vision possible. Consequently, this is very helpful for those who weld outside or in close proximity to other welders.
They’re popular among pipeline welders because of the balsa box, which allows them to work with the sun right behind them. When using a regular welding helmet, bright light reflecting off the back of the filter glass can obstruct your eyesight.
When utilizing a pancake hood, flash penetrating from behind the hood from surrounding welders is no longer a concern.
To learn more about UV rays and how they affect the eyes, please see my post, “Will welding damage my eyes“.
In addition, the balsa box is usually painted black on the inside to minimize reflection from the welding arc on the inside walls of the box.
What are pancake welding hoods made of?
The balsa box is constructed of balsa wood where it contacts the face. Other parts of the box that may need to be a bit stronger are often made from pine. Around 95% of the commercially used balsa wood comes from Ecuador.
Balsa wood is very soft and lightweight. The softness of the balsa wood allows shaping for proper fitment to be done easily with just sandpaper. The lightweight balsa box helps keep fatigue down for the user who might weld several hours a day.
Pancake hoods typically come with a wide, adjustable headband that secures the balsa box to the head. As a result, the width of the band helps spread the pressure points out over a larger area, making it more comfortable.
The outer shield is sometimes made from a single piece of molded phenolic like those made by Original Pancake Hood. Other brands are typically made with two pieces of phenolic or similar material that are secured together with screws and brackets made of wood or metal.
Should You Buy Pancake welding hood?
While other hoods do some things better, Pancake hoods are the best welding hoods on the market for welding outside from awkward positions.
They can also be used indoors, and most will accommodate an electronic darkening lens if preferred. Some pancake hoods can be ordered with a flip-up lens. A flip-up lens allows for the clear viewing of your project and surroundings without the need to remove the hood.
The prices are very reasonable, and I think more people would have a pancake hood in their shop if ever given the opportunity to try one.