A bit on gloves; Having about 35 years of factory experience with either safety as a second task or as a primary task, lets discuss gloves. I have worn gloves in factories since 1970. I wore them in the military. I wore them skydiving and as a pilot and jumpmaster. I have worn them as a welder. I have worn them as a chemical response worker and as an asbestos abatement worker. Last but not least I have worn them as both a blacksmith and in industrial forge shops. I have specified them and bought them for big factories where the budget for gloves was $100,000+ per year. That said, I do have a little experience with gloves. I have worn the terrible, rotten, no-good-worthless gloves that some purchasing manager saved "a ton of money on". I have worn good proper fitting gloves.

Most of the myths about gloves being dangerous came from bad glove choice and ill fitting gloves. I will say it is not a myth that one should not wear gloves when running lathes, mills and drill presses. Anything that has that much torque and exposed rotating parts is a glove no go.

Lets talk a bit about choices. I see folks wearing latex exam gloves for oily greasy work. Poor choice as they are attacked quickly by many oils and fail and then fail to protect. Nitrile exam gloves would be the choice there. And you can find this info out by googling glove material chart for chemical compatibility

Lets talk about knit gloves. Many gloves are a type called String Knit. These are knit from yarn somewhat like a knit sweater and have that open weave appearance. While these are a cheaper glove they have no chemical resistance since the chemicals can go straight thru the open weave, they can offer a bit of cut resistance. They, even in a high temp material weave would be a poor choice for forge welding as the flux will go right thru and if above 800F (and it will be well above 800F for welding steel) the Kevlar decomposes and you have a bad burn. Great cut resistance, but no chemical protection. A leather palm on a string knit Kevlar glove is a great cut and abrasion glove. I once worked in a stamping plant where the edges were extremely sharp. The operators wore 3 pair of cotton poly string knit gloves for cut resistance. They tossed then at every break and in so doing used 12 pairs of $0.17/pr gloves a day. The poly melted to them when the got a weld spark, and they were tossing them as they were so cut up after 2 hours the hands were still getting cut. Replaced with a cotton Kevlar "Oven Mitt" that cost just under $3.00 a pair. No more cuts, the cotton content was enough to stop weld sparks before the Kevlar decomposed, and most could get 3 to 5 days wear. Now one hand surgery avoided would have paid for the difference but they lasted so long that they were quickly adopted.Owners were happy as their workers comp cost was lowered and their people were not being hurt. They also liked that several drums of gloves a day were not going to the landfill. The people liked them as they could now work their shift and not be cut or burned and ohh by the way their arms and hands were less tired since they were not trying to grip smooth sheet metal thru 3 layers of fluffy gloves. The cotton content also reduced that hand in a plastic bag feeling of straight Kevlar.

Lets talk about welding gloves. Stick welding calls for Gauntlet type gloves and Chrome tanned leather for its resistance to heat and sparks. Now many wear TIG glove of goatskin or pig skin and they are nicely soft and supple. They also are the wrong material and don't have the insulation to protect from stick welding. They quickly get burn holes.For stick welding, you just spent a ton of money for the equipment and rods, and probably have a nice helmet. Don't buy the cheapest gloves at HF. Buy a name brand, glove that fits and you hands will thank you after a long spell at the welder. TIG gloves are great for that. Light MIG and you tig gloves are only OK. Heavy MIG at bigger wire sizes/amps and you will be wanting those good stick welding gloves.

By now you are wondering what I am going to say about forging gloves. I advocate a glove on the tong or holding hand for cut and abrasion and scale pop protection. I do not advocate a glove on the hammer hand. Increases you grip requirement, and that is usually the last thing you want on your hammer hand. So what kind of glove for that holding hand. I prefer a leather palm glove. You can get a decent Leather palm glove for about $1.25 a pair by the dozen. They have a cotton back that will nicely shed scale and flux. The leather palm protects from cuts and a bit against vibration. and gives a heat protection if CHROME Tanned. This is the one place where I recommend cheap gloves and say get them about one size big so when you goof up and grab something very hot you drop the hot steel and sling the glove off as it is shrinking and getting stiff and you will have at most a mild 1st degree burn. Why the cheap ones? so every time they get stiff from a hot metal contact, or a burn on the canvass back or the stitching fails they can be trashed before you get an injury thru the hole.

And what kind of glove does a skydiver wear? I was a demo jumper for the military and we jumped smoke grenades mounted to our feet. Sometimes the grenade would melt the can seam and spray pyrotechnical smoke(Very HOT!!!) of your foot or leg. If over open country you cut away the mount and the grenade fell away. Over the crowd, no cut away. So you removed the mount from your foot and held it by the straps as you flew the wing parachute over a safe to drop area. I wore rabbit leather gloves with rabbit fur lining to protect against cold at altitude and heat if... They also had to be supple enough to allow pulling the rip cord and cutting away the main parachute in a malfunction. Lot of conflicting requirements. And when I had that run away grenade over a large crowd, I destroyed those gloves. 2 to mild thirdish burns to my hands and fingers, but I could not have held that grenade until clear to drop otherwise. Ruined them and kept my hands. Good trade.

Written by Jeff Reinhardt