A welding helmet with color lens is a must if you work in any welding projects. Different types of projects require different types of hoods and helmets. So, if you happen to work in pipeline welding projects, a pancake hood can be a true game-changer for you.

This hood got the name of your favorite breakfast dish because of its shape. But there is more to it than just the name and shape, which I am going to discuss here today.

So, If you are unfamiliar with what a pancake welding hood is, stay with me as I explain the ins and outs of this handy tool.

What Are Pancake Hoods

pancake welding hoods
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Have you ever seen a welder working before?

If you do, you have probably noticed that they always wear some helmet or mask as protective gear for the head. The pancake hood is just a common and popular variant of this head protection that welders use daily.

As the name implies, this mask has an exact round shape like a pancake. Behind the round-shaped front side, the balsa box protects the welder’s eyes and surrounding area. Depending on the user’s dominant hand, a pancake hood can be left or right-handed.

Why Do Welders Use Pancake Hoods

In terms of raw protection, a pancake hood delivers protection just like any other type of hood. This hood prevents the sparks from hitting their face. Additionally, a special lens is used on the hole for welders to look through. This lens protects the eye from harmful UV rays generated through welding.

A pancake hood brings some extra advantages to the table, and that’s why it’s so popular among welders. For starters, despite the wider protection area, pancake hoods are pretty lightweight compared to other counterparts.

Then the wooden balsa box also plays a role to make up for a comfortable and glare-free visual experience while welding.

Lastly, the pancake hood also features a shield for the hand you hold the hood with. With all these benefits combined, pancake hoods have always been top of the welder’s favorite list.

Lets find some pancake hoods at market.

Best Pancake Welding Hoods

  1. Original Pancake Welding Hood
  2. Sarge Pancake Hood
  3. Sarge’s Pancake Black Welding Hood (OSHA Approved)
  4. Wendy’s Pancake Welding Hood
  5. Wendy’s Flip Up Pancake Welding Hood

Now, what about

Balsa Box

balsa box
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What Is A Balsa Box

I already mentioned the balsa box a few times previously in this article. It’s the most vital part of a pancake hood. Still, if you are unsure what a balsa box is, the balsa box is the wooden box located behind the pancake-shaped shield.

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.

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, these benefits actually make pancake hoods arguably the best in the market.

balsa wood
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  • Customization: As most of the pancakes hood 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. 

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.

Find out some balsa wood sheets for you DIY projects as well as for custom pancake hood making.

Wood Squares balsa sheet
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MysticalBoy

Wood Squares Balsa Sheet

Karida balsa wood sheet
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Karida

Karida Balsa Sheet

Blulu balsa wood
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Blulu

Blulu Balsa Wood Sheet

What Is 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 wood is used for the box, hence the name balsa box. Some parts are made of pinewood, where added durability is needed.

However, the shield is made of a wide variety of materials. You’ll notice metal, plastic, Kevlar, and phenolic materials used as the shield on the market. If you want the lightest material of all and are willing to pay the price, carbon fiber is the best choice.

Straps Of Pancake Hoods

Elastic straps are typically sued for homemade pancake hoods. These straps are also used to replace the pre-build unit’s strap sold on the market. Two hooks bind the strap with the balsa box at both ends, providing a secure fit around the head.

VELCRO pancake hood strap
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VELCRO Strap
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UONIKA strap
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UONIKA Strap
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WENDY'S strap
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WENDY’S Black Strap
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Sarge's strap
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Sarge’s Strap
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Lens To Use In Pancake Hood

The auto-darkening lens is the best choice if you are thinking about building a pancake hood or replacing the existing one. Auto-darkening lens has a layer of the liquid crystal inside connected to the photovoltaic panel on top of the lens. When you start welding, the light from the spark generates enough charge to reorient the liquid crystals inside here and make the lens go dark.

What Are The Use Of Pancake Hoods Auto Darkening

When you use an auto-darkening lens, it gets dark immediately when you start welding and goes back to a semitransparent state after you stop. The lens going dark back and forth protects against harmful UV and IR protection all the time.

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. No matter where you go, pipes are used to transport gas, electricity lines, water, and other daily utilities. With that comes the necessity of pipeline welding.

As you can assume, these long pipelines take hours of welding. Remember the comfort and visibility I talked about earlier? Now those benefits of pancake hood come into play when you are welding for a long time. Besides, a pancake hood allows you to put it off anytime you want. But in other traditional hoods and helmets, you have to take it off manually every time.

To sum it up, where there is a bright light source or sun around, pancake hoods are your best bet to get the job done. As there is a seal around your eyes, these lights can’t reflect and reach 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.

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.

Last Words

As you can see by now, pancake hoods are arguably the best head protection gear you can get your hands on. Though I said it most for bright light conditions, you can also conveniently use it for other welding projects. If you don’t want to buy one, just make one at home and see how it works for you.

I can assure you it would be tough to get back to other hoods once you try a pancake welding hood.

Maidul Islam

Maidul Shakil has an extreme love for welding. Welding metals and joining them is his hobby and he has also got a vocational training on welding. He strives to learn and teach welding processes and different gears to beginners and newbies. Cutting metal, fusing them and polishing to a shiny surface seems interesting.