to Choose a
Learning about the kinds of leather used to make welding gloves can help you select the most comfortable, longest-lasting glove for your application
BY JAY SWEARINGEN AND JEREMY CARTER
Fig. 1 — A gas tungsten arc welding application such as shown here requires thinner leather gloves for better control.
Ignorance about what safety clothing you should be wearing is not an acceptable excuse any more. Organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) impose a variety of safety regulations and various insurance companies compel many shops to post minimum safety requirements. Nowadays, the Internet serves as a vast resource for information pertaining to protective clothing. Whether you’re searching for some hard-to-find gear, wanting to read the material safety data sheets (MSDS) concerning the chemical compounds used in the manufacturing process of the clothing, or seeking a description of the tanning process used for leather, you can usually find the information you need on the Internet.
When It Comes to Glove Selection, Mind Your Ps
Since there are several different types of gloves to choose from on the market today, it is critical you have a good strategy for selecting the right pair for the job. Use the 3 Ps — protection, performance, and price — to evaluate your selection. Doing so will usually save you time and money, as well as possibly prevent a trip to the emergency room.
The most important question you need to answer is, “What type of protection do I need?” The higher the heat from your process, the more insulating your glove needs to be. However, heat protection comes at a price — control. It can become very difficult to hold a small-diameter rod with a thick glove. Gloves for gas tungsten arc welding are made of thin, soft, and pliable leathers such as deerskin, pigskin, or goatskin, which provide better sensitivity and control. If you are welding at a high amperage range or doing a lot of material handling, however, you will need thicker protection such as gloves made from side-split cowhide, elk skin, or thick deerskin. These types of gloves are made to withstand higher temperatures and are more abrasion and cut resistant.
Secondly, performance is a key factor in choosing the right glove. A person trying to choose a pair from the large selection of gloves at the local welding supply store probably will ask, “What features will benefit me and make these gloves last as long as I want them to?” Features such as “Kevlar stitched” and “foam-lined” may sound good, but if you don’t know what those terms mean, you can’t be sure you are buying the right product. The easiest way to figure out which glove is going to perform the best for you is to ask for reviews and comments from your glove supplier.
Gloves are everywhere. You can go into nearly any large chain hardware/home store in this country and find welding gloves. Most of the time, what is on display are inexpensive, cheaply made gloves that go for around $4 or $5 a pair. This is not by accident; most stores stock these gloves because they don’t last and must be replaced often. These gloves tend to burn up faster than a well-made glove. While price is an element in glove selection, it should not be the first element. Find a pair that is comfortable and will last as long as you want it to, and then do some comparative shopping. Again, the Internet is a good resource for helping you to do this.
The Basics of Leather: What You Should
Know before You Buy
Fig. 2 — For this shielded metal arc welding job, the welder uses thick, pliable split-leather gloves.
Choosing among the various types of leathers can be confusing and often overwhelming to the point that many people don’t even try to understand what to choose. It takes time to learn the different characteristics and features of cowhide, goatskin, and all the other skins. There are several differences to look for in leather such as what it feels like (smooth, soft, rough) and what it is most resistant to by nature (abrasion, heat, weather, oil). For example, the natural fiber of elkskin makes it more resistant to heat than cowhide. Pigskin is more resistant to oil and water then any other types of leather. Learning something about these characteristics can help you pick the most comfortable, longest-lasting glove. Table 1 shows some key features of various types of leather, and Figs. 1 and 2 offer examples of the type gloves needed for two welding processes.
No matter which type of skin it’s made from, the primary difference in leather types is grain side vs. split side. The split layer is located entirely on the flesh side, while grain is the smooth outer layer from which the hair grows. Grain leather appears smooth and shiny and provides better sensitivity and control. Split leather is napped (often referred to as suede), and is much thicker. Knowing your leather types will save you pain in both your hands and your wallet down the road.
Educating yourself is the key to a long, healthy career. That is true in any walk of life. When it comes to protecting yourself from harmful welding spatter, burning heat, and UV rays, you can’t be overeducated. Choosing the right leather type for your gloves goes a long way toward a more comfortable day’s work. It pays to do your homework.
JAY SWEARINGEN (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Sales and Marketing Manager and JEREMY CARTER is Sales Associate, Weldas Co., Franklin, Tenn.