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Why Do Welders Use Pancake Hoods (And What Are They)?

When I first heard about pancake hoods, the first thing I thought about was one of my favorite breakfast foods. Those light and fluffy orbs of goodness topped with mounds of butter and maple syrup are the pancakes that majority of the population knows. But pancake hoods are actually a tool used for welding. 

So why do welders use pancake hoods? A pancake hood provides protection to a welder’s eyes and face. It’s a headpiece rigged up with a balsa box. The balsa box is a compact-shaped box crafted to protect the eyes and surround of the welder, and its unique function is to secure and support the lens of the headgear.

This nifty gadget got that name because the front part of the welding helmet is flat, has the right thickness, and is round just like your favorite breakfast dish. With this description, you can see why the pancake hood is the best name for this safety gadget.

What Exactly Are Pancake Hoods?

Pancakes hoods are also called helmets or masks. They’re designed to protect a welder’s eyes from the sparks of the welding machine. Also, they can protect your eyes from the bright (and almost blinding) UV rays emitted when the welding machine is in use. 

Pancake welding hoods are round so it can cover and protect the entire face. It’s flat, with just the right thickness, to reduce weight. You don’t want a protective covering that’s too heavy and weighing you down. When welding, you’ll have to bend. And if the top portion is too heavy, it will distract you and make your backache especially when you have to do it for long hours.

One side of the pancake hood has a shield. The shield location is based on whether you’re left-handed or right-handed. It’ll protect the side of your face, yet still, allow you to move your hands with ease. The shield is the pancake hood’s important safety feature as it shields the face from the harmful heat and sparks and offers a high level of protection.

The Different Models

Take note there are left, and right-hand models of these pancake hoods so get the right one perfect for your needs. A left-handed welder stuck with a right-hand pancake hood model will struggle in seeing his or her work. Plus, he or she will not have the right protection because they’re placing the covering is in the wrong area. Remember, always invest your money on the right set of tools and never scrimp on safety gear.

On top of offering protection, these pancake hoods are labeled as one of the most efficient and effective safety gear available for welding work that happens outside or outdoors. Many satisfied users of these pancake hoods say that the balsa box, which comes with this equipment, is credited for setting this tool ahead from the other protective welding equipment available in the market today.  

What is a Balsa Box?

It is vital to note that nearly all pancake hoods are handmade. In this modern world where everything is mostly made by machine, it is rare and unique, these pancake hoods are still painstakingly made by hand. The primary reason for this is so the users of the pancake hoods can specially customize the balsa box. The point of customization is to ensure that the balsa box can be shaped to fit and follow the contours of a welder’s face.

The balsa box, just like its name, is a small box that is a crucial component of pancake hoods. This unassuming box surrounds that eyes and acts as the hold of the protective lenses. This makes the balsa box sort of like the goggles for the eyes. It is made of wood because wood is not a conductor of heat. The surface of the wood that touches the face can be easily sanded to make it feel smooth as it grazes the tender skin of the face. 

This sanding technique also enables the wood to be molded to fit the face perfectly. A proper fit takes away the pressure points that can hurt your face, and it guarantees the balsa box is sealed so the harmful welding sparks and rays can be prevented from coming in at any angle.  

What is the Role of a Balsa Box?

The particular purpose of the balsa box is to support the lens found in a pancake hood. The function of this is the protect the eyes of the user from damage due to the high-intensity light. Remember, people have only one vision and one’s it is gone, it would be devastating and hard to recover.

The balsa box can provide constancy and steadiness between the lens and the eyes. With the balsa box, the contact is secure and stable, ensuring that it doesn’t move around during the entire welding process, guaranteeing that the precious body parts behind the box are safe from harm.

Again, note once more that the balsa box needs to be crafted accurately, with the welder’s proportions in mind, so it can fit the welder precisely. Proper fit means that the harmful rays cannot penetrate the pancake hood.

A good seal means the balsa box offers the welder the chance to avoid any light that could deter him from doing his work efficiently. This reduces any accidental reflection within the hood, so you, as the user, can avoid harmful glares from the arc or even from the bright sunlight.

The Benefit of a Balsa Box for Outdoor Welding

Pancake welding hoods are an indispensable tool for welding in the great outdoors because when you use it, don’t worry about the light of the sun interfering with your welding hood. This balsa box is popular with pipeline types of welder always working underneath the sun.

Working in natural light or even bright indoor lights means the bright lights can reflect off the back of the filter lens. This can obscure your vision and interfere with your work if you use a standard welding helmet. The last thing anyone needs while working is to deal with visibility problems, especially if the project is sensitive and requires maximum accuracy.

With a balsa box, light flashes entering the hood becomes a none issue, and working with another welder nearby can also be done with ease because this crafty device blocks their sparks out, too. You may even notice that the inside portion of the balsa box is usually painted the color black.

The reason for this is black absorbs light and doesn’t reflect it as much. When working, minimizing glare is the primary goal, while protecting the eyes of the people involved in the project.

What Are Pancake Welding Hoods Made of?

The balsa box is constructed from balsa wood, hence its name. The other parts of the box and the hood itself that need to be stronger may be made from pine wood. Noteworthy, ninety-five percent of balsa wood used for commercial come from the country Ecuador.

It is the perfect raw material for the balsa box because it is soft, pliant, and lightweight. These qualities mean that the wood can be easily contoured for the right fit and it won’t be too heavy for the welders who will use it for many hours in a day.

Pancake hoods usually come with a broad and adjustable band for the head, which secures the balsa box in place. The full width of the elastic band helps spread the weight, making it more comfortable. The exterior shield crafted from molded phenolic material, which is secured and held in place by metal or wooden screws and brackets

What Are The Perks Of Using Pancake Hoods?

Pancake welding hoods are manufactured with balsa wood one of lightest kinds of wood available in the market today. With a manual job like welding, the weight of the material matters a lot because something that weighs a ton will be uncomfortable and can cause neck pain and back pain. This feature of the balsa wood is the reason pancake hoods are primarily used for outdoor pipeline welding.

Aside from balsa wood, pinewood is also used because it is another light material with excellent quality. Using balsa or pine wood makes the pancake helmet and the balsa box easily adaptable to follow the contour of the head, fit the face accurately, and to give proper covering for the eyes to protect the vision of the pipeline welder.

The appropriate fit prevents any possible discomfort during the welding process. Working with a welding machine means bearing the heavyweight of the equipment, handling the heat emanating from the sparks, and also dealing with the harsh outdoor conditions.

Also, having the perfect fitting pancake hood means one less discomfort to worry about. Welding is a hard physical and manual job that makes the worker feel fatigued. These tools make the welding process a lot more bearable for the welder, who work long hours under the hot sun, and, even awkward positions depending on the area they are working on.   

Related Questions

Are pancake hoods OSHA-approved?

Pancake hoods should be OSHA-approved, but not all are. Make sure you purchase a pancake hood from a reputable source, such as Sarge’s Inc.

What is the difference between a pipeliner and a pancake hood?

Many welders use pipeliners indoors and pancake hoods outdoors. Pipeliners tend to be heavier but offer a bit more coverage, while pancake hoods are lighter and reduce glare. It all comes down to preference, though.


About Pierre Young

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Hey, I'm Pierre Young a qualified AWS Certified Welder. I got into welding in 2009 as a side hustle. Ever since then, I've been doing all kinds of welds - both for business and pleasure. While immersing myself in this wonderful hobby, I've learned from hands-on experience what welding gear works and what doesn't. Welding Headquarters is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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