Pancake Welding Hood (What Is It & How To Make One At Home)

A welding hood is a must accessory for any welding projects. Different projects require different helmet & lens requirements. If you work in pipeline welding projects, a pancake hood can be a true friend to you.

This hood got the name of your favorite breakfast dish because of its shape. Pancake is a round shaped wood board, carbon fiber & plastic made face shield, that protects welders eyes & face from welding puddles and sparks.

In this guide I will discuss pancake hood, its features and the processes you can follow to make one yourself. So lets start-

What Are Pancake Welding Hoods

pancake welding hoods
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You probably have noticed that pipeline welders always wear some round shaped helmet or mask as protective gear. This one is called pancake hood. It is just a common and popular variant of welding helmet that welders use regularly.

As the name implies, this mask has an exact round shape like a pancake. Behind the round-shaped front side, there is a balsa box that protects the welder’s eyes from surrounding welding fumes and particles.

Depending on the user’s dominant hand, a pancake hood can be left or right-handed. Right handed welders wear a left side hood while left handed welders wear a right sided hood.

This is because when a right-handed welder holds the welding gun and travels through metal joints, he/she is exposed to puddles mostly to his left side. That’s why he needs a left sided shield for protection. And the reverse goes for left handed welders.

Feature of Pancake Hoods

  • Most important feature of a pancake hood is its lightweight feature. It weighs only 10 oz which is far less than traditional welding helmets and sugar scoop hoods.
  • It provides better protection to eyes than other helmets. As it contains a specially designed balsa box that is shaped like the eyes area of your face, you get a high protection. 
  • A high-quality welding hood is strong as well as light weight at the same time. Pancake hood holds both features in one.
  • It has a special shield made of tin on either right or left side of the hood. The purpose of the shield is to protect the ear and face side of a welder from welding puddles and sparks.
  • It contains a true color or different color lens (gold or silver, blue, red). That prevents bright lights and flashes of weld from entering into the eyes damaging the sight.

What Are Pancake Welding Hoods Made Of?

If we break down a pancake hood, there are three key parts. The shield at the front, the balsa box behind the shield, and finally the strap that secures the hood onto the user’s head. Balsa box is made of a special type of wood. The name of the wood is Balsa wood. The front part or the rounded shape is made of pinewood, plastic, carbon fiber or even steel where added durability is required.

The shield at the left or right side, is made of a wide variety of materials. You may find metal, plastic, Kevlar, and phenolic materials are used in making the shield of the hood. If you want the lightest material and are willing to have the cheapest hood, carbon fiber is the best choice.

What Is A Balsa Box

The balsa box is the most vital part of a pancake hood. It is the wooden box located behind the pancake-shaped shield.

balsa box of pancake hood
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This box works as a goggle to see through. Balsa boxes are made out of a special wood called balsa wood. It provides the necessary durability and the softness needed to sit on the sensitive skin on your face.

And most importantly this box is designed in a way that it fits the face and leaves no space around the eyes area where any weld puddle or fumes can enter through.

The balsa box gives extra protection to the eyes of a welder which other helmets can’t provide. This box is the reason pancake helmets are famous for.

Role of Balsa Box

The balsa box plays a very simple yet crucial role in the overall functionality of a welding hood. First, the pancake hood is handheld, so slight handshaking can cause vision blockage. However, the custom shape of the balsa box eliminates that problem by providing a secure hold with your face.

Secondly, the custom shape again makes sure you have the perfect seal around your eyes and surrounding area. This seal ensures that no accident sparks or glare gets inside the box and raises issues for your vision.

Benefits Of Balsa Box for Outdoor Welding

A balsa box offers different benefits from various aspects. While the hood itself doesn’t have much role to play, the following benefits actually make the hoods arguably the best in the market.

balsa box
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  • Customization: As most of the pancake hoods are homemade, the balsa box allows the user to customize the shape according to his face. Due to this customization option, the pancake hood has a fit that no other welding hood can match.
  • Low thermal conductivity: I already mentioned that the balsa box is made of balsa wood with a touch of pine in some places. But there is a hidden benefit of using wood that many people are unaware of. That benefit is the low heat conduction of wood. When welding for a long time, the hood can get hot too. But as the wood doesn’t pass any of that heat, you can continue welding for hours.
  • Comfort: This is another key benefit of the balsa box. As you know already, the pancake hood is made out of solid steel, Kevlar, fiberglass, plastic or phenolic materials. Now, it might be lightweight compared to other types of hoods. But still, it’s going to sit on your face for hours during welding.

Over time, it can put your skin under a lot of stress. But, again, the wooded structure comes to the rescue with a smooth texture to reduce the stress. On top of that, a properly sanded box can take the pressure of the hood away from your face.

  • Great visibility: Alongside protection, good visibility is a precondition of perfect welding result. When working on a high-precision welding project, even a blink of an eye can make all the difference.

If you notice closely, all the hoods available in the market can protect your eye. But in terms of visibility, the balsa box gives the upper hand to the pancake hood.

As the box creates a seal around your eye, accidental reflection of sparks can’t reach inside to distract your vision. Furthermore, the inside of the balsa box is black too to ensure minimum light reflection.

What Are Pancake Hoods Used For

If I have to pick one particular project where pancake hoods are mostly used, it must be pipeline welding projects. Pipes are used to transport gas, electricity lines, water, and other daily utilities. There can be leakages or necessity of welding on pipelines. 

As you can assume, these long pipelines take hours of welding to complete the project. So pipeline welders need comfort and flexibility to continue the prolonged welding job.

Pipeliner hood or pancake welding hoods help in this case. It comes with an auto lens and eye protection balsa box that provides both comfort and protection at the same time.

Besides, a pancake hood allows you to put it off anytime you want. Which is not that easy  in other traditional hoods and helmets.  

Additionally there is a seal around the eyes side of the hood, which prevents light reflection and protects your eyes.

How To Make A Pancake Welding Hood At Home (Step by step guide)

Though hundreds of pancake welding hoods are available on the market, nothing can beat the fun of making one all by yourself. Let me show you how you can do that in this step-by-step guide.

  • Step 1: The first step of making a pancake hood is deciding what to use as a shield. Decide what you want to use, source that material, and give it the shape of a pancake shield. Don’t forget to cut out a rectangular hole for the lens.
  • Step 2: Next part is preparing a balsa box. You can either buy a box online or just make one yourself from raw balsa wood. After you build the balsa box, sand the edges of the box according to your face shape. Attach two nuts at each side to hook the straps afterward.
  • Step 3: After the balsa box is prepared, align it to the rectangular hole in the inside and staple it with the shield. Now that the balsa box and shield are attached, put an auto-darkening lens inside the balsa box.
  • Step 4: Finally, finish by attaching the strap with the balsa box. Just hook the straps with the nuts and adjust them to fit your head.

How do you fit a pancake hood?

Fitting a pancake welding hood properly is crucial for both safety and comfort during welding tasks. Here’s a guide to help you fit a pancake hood:

  1. Adjust Headgear: Most pancake welding hoods come with adjustable headgear. Start by adjusting the headgear to fit your head size comfortably. This often involves adjusting straps and the headband for a secure but not overly tight fit.
  2. Position on Head: Place the hood on your head so that it covers your face and eyes completely. The hood should sit comfortably without obstructing your vision.
  3. Position Over Eyes: Adjust the hood to ensure that the lens is properly positioned over your eyes. The lens should be at a comfortable distance, allowing you to see clearly through it without straining your eyes.
  4. Secure Straps: Once the hood is in the correct position, secure the headgear straps to maintain the fit. Ensure that the straps are tight enough to keep the hood in place during welding but not so tight that they cause discomfort.
  5. Check Seal: Ensure that the hood forms a good seal around your face. This is important for preventing sparks, heat, and UV radiation from reaching your skin. Pay attention to the area around your neck and make sure the hood sits securely.
  6. Test Movement: Move your head in different directions to ensure that the hood stays in place. If the hood shifts excessively or feels uncomfortable, readjust the headgear accordingly.
  7. Comfort Check: Confirm that the hood is comfortable to wear for extended periods. Discomfort can lead to distractions and affect your welding performance.
  8. Prescription Glasses (if applicable): If you wear prescription glasses, ensure that the hood accommodates them comfortably. Adjust the headgear to accommodate the glasses, and verify that the glasses don’t interfere with the seal of the hood.
  9. Perform a Test Weld: Before starting your actual welding task, perform a test weld to ensure that the hood stays in place and provides the necessary protection. This allows you to make any final adjustments before beginning your work.

Regularly check the fit of your pancake welding hood, especially if you notice any discomfort or changes in the seal during use. A well-fitted hood contributes significantly to your safety and overall welding experience.

Difference Between Pancake Hoods And Welding Helmets

You’ll notice that many welders use the pancake hoods outside while using traditional welding helmets for inside jobs. Though it comes down to subjectivity, these differences will help you decide whether you should use a pancake hood or a welding helmet.

  • Protection: It’s an obvious difference you can guess just by looking at these two options. While pancake hoods are just sheets with the balsa box behind, traditional helmets have sort of a bowl-like shape that provides added protection around your head.
  • Weight distribution: The protection I talked about above comes at the cost of heavyweight. While a regular pancake hood only weighs around 10 oz., a metal welding helmet can weigh around 16 oz. or more. When you are welding for a long time, a small weight difference can cause a lot of stress to your neck and face.
  • Visibility: Clear vision is a must for any welding job, especially when your projects require you to handle delicate welding. While both pancake hood and welding helmets can provide clear vision, the visibility differs when you are working in bright light.

Bright light can bounce off the inside and create disturbing glares in regular welding helmets. But in the case of pancake hoods, the reflection doesn’t mess with your vision as the balsa box separates your eyes.

  • Comfort: While the pancake hood and welding helmets are comfortable, they are meant for totally different jobs. As I mentioned before, the weight difference also creates a difference in comfort. Additionally, you get the smooth wooden textured finish of the balsa box with pancake hoods, which is missing in regular welding helmets.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the purpose of a pancake welding hood?

A pancake welding hood is designed to ensure safety and enhance visibility of welders during welding processes. The primary purpose of a pancake welding hood is to shield the welder’s face and eyes from the intense heat, sparks, and harmful UV rays generated during welding.

2. Can you wear glasses with a pancake welding hood?

Yes, it is possible to wear glasses with a pancake welding hood, but it may depend on the specific design of both the welding hood and the glasses. Basically you don’t need to wear glasses if you are wearing pancake hood. As it comes up with a pre installed lens on the balsa box.

At Last

Pancake hoods are arguably the best head protective gear you can get your hands on. You can also conveniently use it for other welding projects. And the best thing about the hood is you can make one at home if you don’t want to spend money on that.

For lengthy outdoor projects, pancake hoods are the best option to go.  

2 thoughts on “Pancake Welding Hood (What Is It & How To Make One At Home)”

  1. I welded indoors for many years. I never had to deal with lens or eyeglass fog. I have retired and become a neighborhood repair man. My helmet and old man glasses fog in all but ideal conditions. My guess is that a pancake would all but eliminate that problem.

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