Protecting yourself is essential as the heat needed to weld metal is enough to cause third degree burns. To keep yourself protected you need the best welding gloves to suit you. Each method of welding requires different kinds of protection – in this article we will run through each type of material used, what glove material is best and our recommended choices of glove.
- Table of products comparison here
How much protection is needed
Each type of material has its advantages and disadvantages, which can suit one method of welding whilst impairing your ability to perform another. The type of skin plays an important role when selecting a pair of gloves, as they each poses qualities that are suited towards a specific process.
For example the best MIG welding gloves will have a thick pad placed on the back of the hand. This protection means the non-dominant hand is well insulated when stabilizing the torch. Not only does this mean your welds are more controlled, but your hands are properly protected.
Another factor is MIG gloves are generally oversized so you can remove them once they heat up. The fingers are more rigid, as the precision needed when MIG welding comes from wrist flexibility means they’ve been designed to use whilst MIG welding. Top grain cowhide, goatskin and deerskin are great choices of material when shopping for MIG gloves.
Stick produces high heat and the most splatter. This means you require a thick and durable material to insulate your hands. Hand protection designed for Stick features an aluminized backing, which can reflect the radiant heat emitted.
The temperature of the arc can range from 3,000C to 20,000C, making the materials insulation properties one of the main factors in choosing a pair of gloves. Internal insulation with cotton or wool will also prevent burns via thermal contact.
Although dexterity will be reduced when thicker material is used, it’s not as much of a concern compared to TIG, therefore thicker protective material won’t have a negative impact.
TIG is a more intricate process compared to MIG and Stick, therefore it requires a thinner material to provide the dexterity needed.
It’s common to find leather and Kevlar used, as leather will provide the comfort and mobility needed whilst Kevlar is extremely fire resistant. The thinner material results in a tighter fit to the hand compared to MIG gloves, this is to provide more finger mobility as TIG requires precise movements with the torch.
You can find multiple materials such as Deerskin and Goatskin, the advantage of using Deerskin over Goatskin is it will mould to your hand over time making the glove a more comfortable fit.
Below we will run through each type of skin as well as their suited welding methods.
Elk skin: A comfortable fabric with high heat, flame and friction resistance. Generally used with Stick as it doesn’t compromise the welder in dexterity, as well as providing excellent protection. As Stick uses higher heat compared to MIG and TIG, thermal protection of the material is of high importance.
Pig skin: Highly resistant to oil and weather damage, but doesn’t provide as much heat resistance provided by other glove types. Suitable for TIG applications as its lower heat compared to Stick and MIG.
Split Leather or Suede: Different to top grain leather as split leather is a much thicker material. Due to the thickness its ability to provide protection is better than top grain leather, however you sacrifice flexibility as it’s a thicker material.
Cowhide: Resistant to high heat and naked flame, suitable for high heat processes. Cowhide is also durable making it a good all round material, and is commonly worn by MIG welders.
Deerskin: One interesting characteristic of deerskin is its ability to take the form of your hand over time, resulting in more comfort despite regular use.
Goatskin: Commonly found being worn by TIG welders, due to their comfort, lightweight, water resistant, oil resistant and flexible properties. Flexibility with TIG is important as you need to pick up and feed filler rods into the TIG welder. It should be noted that the best quality gloves are made from top-grain leather – a high quality outer layer of the animals hide.
TIG Finger: A tip I’ve been given is adding a “TIG Finger” to the glove in order to provide the highest protection to the finger that’s exposed to the most heat. This means you can choose a glove that is more comfortable (such as top grain leather) and add a TIG finger for extra protection.
The style of thumb comes down to personal preference and the process you will be using. It’s important to find a type of glove that’s comfortable for you to wear, and will be longer lasting.
A piece of material positioned perpendicular to the wrist. This design is best when gripping and precision with the thumb is important, with a drawback being it’s less comfortable than other designs. This is the most common style and is used due to its economical pricing.
The thumb is angled away from the palm (making it look like a wing), and doesn’t feature a seam between the palm and the thumb section. This increases durability of the glove and makes it more comfortable to wear compared to the straight thumb, as it follows the natural angle away from the palm.
Giving the wearer high flexibility with their thumb, the section of material is sewn onto the rest of the glove at the base where the palm and thumb meet. This design is comfortable, and typically found with double stitching to ensure durability.
Same design as the Wing Thumb, but uses a different type of seam. A Choy Thumb is generally cheaper as the labour needed is simpler and easier – however due to the seam on the inside of the palm it’s susceptible to wear.
Another aspect to consider is the type of cuff on the glove. Certain types of cuff may be more suitable for how you want to use the gloves, as it may provide more protection or be more comfortable for you to wear.
Commonly found on woven and knit cotton gloves. A comfortable and tight fit that will keep debris from entering the glove.
Designed to be easily removed with only one hand (by shaking the glove off). Will also provide protection to the wrist, ideal when high splatter and sparks are a possibility.
A longer cuff typically 4” or more, providing wrist and forearm protection. Useful for overhead welding when sparks will be dropping over your body. The long cuff prevents sparks from making contact with skin by providing protection up the arm.
The materials edge of the cuff is turned inside the glove and hemmed to provide extra comfort and a protected edge. Stops the edges of the glove catching on work surfaces and snagging on materials.
Useful when you need to take gloves on and off frequently. A shirring closure secures the glove on the hand, positioned on the back of the hand towards the wrist.
- Grade of leather comparison chart
When wearing protective clothing for welding, it’s important to have a realistic budget. You get what you pay for, therefore the end product is going to be lower quality and provide worse protection. Hand protection shouldn’t break the bank, but consider protective properties over price. In my experience a properly suited pair of gloves for the job will last a lot longer than a cheaper pair – with the added reassurance of a reliable piece of safety equipment!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a thumb welt?
A welt is a narrow strip of leather typically half an inch in width, sewn into the seams to prevent abrasion. A thumb welt is used to protect the join between the thumb and palm from wearing away, and providing thermal protection when the palm area is exposed to high heat.