For non welders, the thoughts of sparks and spatter come to mind when they think of welding. How is the welder so calm while all of those sparks are falling?
Well, the truth is that most of the sparks from a welding arc are pretty mellow. Besides some heavy duty processes (Dual Shield MIG), the sparks will dissipate pretty fast. However, sometimes larger pieces of molten metal will shoot out of the welding puddle. This can cause harsh burns and also contributes to holes in welders clothing.
The main trouble that welders run into is holes in their clothes. Over time, small holes will form in their welding garments which allows sparks to enter. This does happen over a period of weeks or months, but it can get pretty annoying to have to replace your welding clothes (again and again…)
Some companies such as Carhartt have developed flame resistant garments that withstand the test of time much better than traditional clothing. These FR pieces of clothing really do work – it’s not a gimmick. The problem is that the FR clothing costs much more to produce, and therefore it is even more expensive to the consumer.
Types Of Work Pants
Many welders prefer a sturdy pair of jeans such as Wranglers or Levis. These pants hold up for a decent amount of time in terms of how they handle sparks. They are more affordable than the FR garments, and you can have a rotation of pairs so you don’t burn through them so quickly. The Wrangler “Riggs Workwear” line offers heavier duty pants that remain stylish. This is a good alternative if you want to try a work pant from a different brand.
Wrangler pants have been trusted for a long time by working professionals. They can withstand abuse and hundreds of wash cycles. The Riggs Workwear from Wrangler can withstand most welding projects with ease. If you want to jump into higher amperages, you may want to look at flame resistant pants – but for shop work, the Wranglers hold up very well.
We found that they last as long as the competing brands, and they are priced more affordably than the flame resistant models. It is easy to keep these in your pants rotation, knowing that they will provide long lasting durability.
Other welders prefer to have one really nice pair of flame resistant jeans that they use just about everyday. They are rated as either flame resistant or flame retardant. Different materials have different ratings, but the heavier duty fabrics can withstand more abuse and sparks. This means that structural welders and heavy equipment welders might want to research FR pants with the highest flame rating.
In our experience, it tends to even out over the course of time. What we mean by this is that buying two pairs of name brand jeans or one pair of FR’s tends to be around the same price.
Welding jackets take the most spark abuse since the welding arc is closer to the welders torso. For this reason, many welders will make frugal pants purchases – but they will splurge on the jacket. Some companies have found that if they manufacture high end jackets with amazing construction, welders will take notice.
Leg burns from welding are less common than upper body burns, but protective pants should still be considered an important part of your welding wardrobe.
So, what do we prefer for our jobs at Welders Manual? I tend to wear regular Carhartt work pants when performing all welding processes. The Rigby pants have a nice fit and they are relatively affordable. The double knee really helps with this pants longevity, but they are also lightweight and easy to move around in. Their “Rugged Flex” construction allows for more movement with less chance of tears.
The slimmer fit of the Rigbys is a nice change, since most work pants tend to be quite baggy. Due to the flex construction, there is no need to break these pants in. They are quite supple from the beginning and are even more comfortable after a few washes.
The Rigbys have a more mid range price point, but they still last longer than a regular jean would. With this being said, I don’t jump into the high voltage game that much. Although I do some dual shield flux welding here and there, it isn’t my main focus.
For other welders I know that are structural guys, they almost require an FR pant. Running voltages up to 30, the sparks are really flying when they get to work. This requires more protection from sparks and slag – which can make some heavy duty welders take a look at some FR pant offerings.
The general rule of thumb is that shop welders can get away with lighter garments, while field welders usually require heavier duty garments. Field welders are exposed to the elements, and they are running heavier duty welding processes.
Shop welders run a lot of hardwire MIG, which tends to be easier on your clothing. Hardwire often runs between 16-24 volts, which is much less than a flux core setup.
If you’re looking into the FR pant selections, Carhartt is a good brand to consider. Their washed duck work dungaree has been a classic for years, and they are now producing it with the FR material. It is nice to have the protection of an FR pant, and many welders we know swear by them. The prices are significantly higher, but the FR garments tend to last a lot longer than regular jeans.
If you find that your normal work pants are wearing out too quickly, it might be worth giving an FR pair a shot. A lot of welders are surprised how many days of use they can get out of an FR pant.
It really comes down to personal preference and what types of processes you’ll be doing – Since TIG welding doesn’t produce sparks, TIG welders don’t need to have really heavy duty pants. Most TIG welders can get away with regular jeans – as long as their skin is covered (to block the UV rays), they should be ok.
As you weld more and more, you’ll develop preferences in your welding garments. A bad burn here or there can cause welders to reconsider their clothing choices. When i’ve gotten burned in the past, it is usually because my pants or jacket had a few holes. This makes it important to take care of your garments and check for holes on a regular basis.
Pants are often overlooked since boots, gloves and jackets are more popular items. However, protecting your legs from burns is very important as well. If you’re really into stick or MIG welding, you’ll want to have full head-to-toe protection on a daily basis!
Thanks for reading.
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