Why do you need them?
Pancake welding hood is not what you see in any workshop. My fellow welders seem to either love or hate them. But I use mine more than my speed lens one, so let me tell you why the pancake is one of the three hoods I keep in my truck.
- Protection from backlight and reflection. Blue light bounces off anything and gets inside the helmet, you can only guess where it comes from. After a day of welding sometimes my face looks like I have been at the beach all day. There is a problem for any welder.Also, when welding indoors, a fair amount of or reflection and glare get on the inside of the welding helmet lens. It happens both on cheap and high-quality auto darkening helmets. At times I could actually see the outline of my face reflected on the inside of the lens. It really gets in the way of seeing the work. Turning off the overhead lights helps a little, but it makes seeing the puddle only slightly better. Of course, you may use covering for the back, some guys use an old beach towel. But it usually isn’t fireproof and could end up on fire.In any case for me pancake welding hood words better than others with the light reduction I can see good enough to ignite the arc and I can’t do that with the same shade lens in a regular hood. Especially with lots of welders around to protect from their flash bouncing around in your hood.
Well leather stitched to a hood to drape down the back of your head would keep glare out, but you would also get no air circulation, sweat would drip into your eyes, and it would get in the way when you have to lay on your back.
You can also use monkey mask but it will drive you insane as it is needed to squeeze your head, etc.
- Protection from bright sun. If you weld outdoors in the bright sun or have another person welding behind you but still need perfect puddle clarity, just look at what pipeline welders wear.They solved the problem over 40 years ago: a “pancake welding hood”. There are compact auto dark “insert style” lenses for pancakes and/or small window hoods if you must have auto darkening in a compact hood. Really nice for outdoors applications.You can perfectly understand what it is when you see, for example, a pair of welders working the same butt on a pipeline
- Reliable. Traditionally the eyepiece is made of balsa wood and welder himself sand it for a perfect fit. Pancake welding hoods seal out all light, dirt, wind and sparks. They also won’t try and fall off like a normal bucket can in those positions unless you tighten the head gear more and (personally at least) get a headache as a result. Pancake hood stay put when you are having to constantly change positions since it is worn like a pair of goggles. You can lay your head down on the ground as you weld the bottom of the pipe without knocking the hood off.
- Incredibly light, Any pancake welding hood is lighter than any regular one so there is no neck strain after eight or so hours of welding.
- Pancake welding hood offer superior ventilation. There is a good air flow due to it only has one side of your head covered (along with your face obviously).
- After you wear it for a little while your eyes adjust and you can see better than you’d think. Also, the welders that wear these “know” exactly what they are doing and where they are going to strike, your eyeballs are always adjusted to the dark, you don’t flip up a pancake all the time.
Why they are not universal
Pancake welding hood is great when you work with a helper to grind and brush for you and all you have to do is burn rod. Or at least when you make long welds. If you need to switch yourself from hood to face shield constantly, you are losing proposition. It helps if the hood has an auto-darkening lens, but the welders that have them usually carry a normal lens as well.
You should spend some time custom fit the balsa block to your face, and do it without hurry and with love. If you do it properly, the hood will fit you like no other, and if its uncomfortable – it is your fault, work more. Not everyone likes the sanding, but in my opinion, if you are going to work with a hood for years, give it a little time at the beginning.
Where to buy a proper pancake welding hood
I don’t believe pancake welding hoods are made by any of the big boys, i.e. Jackson, Speedglas, Huntsman. Sarges and Wendy’s are the two biggest. Both are OSHA approved.
In my opinion, the Sarges are quite a bit sturdier. They come in 3 different “depths” of the lens cavity to allow for a regular lens, or lens with cheater, and the biggest for the battery powered auto lenses.
Many of my friends really like the white Wendy’s as they are light, they are made of pretty thin material and flex quite a bit. The Wendy’s don’t come with any closure for the lens opening and I don’t like that at all, you can whittle your own but shouldn’t have to in my opinion. The side piece of Wendy’s comes straight back (Sarges is on a bit of an angle) and they love it haven’t had the first piece of buckshot in the ear hole.
There are the yellow ones that are made of one piece bent to 90 degrees, I don’t like them at all, I bought one but traded it off for a 25-year-old (unused) Sarges.
How to get them to fit your face tighter
Be sure to use the sandpaper to shape the balsa to the shape of your face bone. And if you shape them right with the provided sand paper then you shouldn’t get any flash. Sometimes you got a lot of sanding to do, so Dremel tool could help it a lot quicker. The better you sand it the better it will fit your face. When you get it right pancake welding hood fit like a good pair of leather gloves. If you don’t sand balsa block, the hood will be very uncomfortable.
Finally smooth the balsa with fine sand paper and coat it with bee’s wax, it will protect the wood from sweat.
The white shields let a little background light in around the edges of the filter, but you can easily paint it and eliminate the glow around the filter plate.
That being said, pancake welding hood is not for every job, but it can’t be beat for outdoors welding in 110°F heat with the sun beating down and no shade to weld in. You don’t get any glare from behind you. They’re also way cooler when it’s hot out as compared to most of the “brain bakers” out there. When welding in southern areas, the pancake shield paid for itself the first hour you owned it.
You don’t get any sparks flying around your eyeballs which common with a bucket hood when welding pipe. And it’s super lightweight, very comfortable, allow zero sunlight in. Somebody thinks pancake look silly but I’m a function over form guy. If it works it works. When I am outside welding, then I use my pancake hood.