What's the difference between a welder's apron and a blacksmith apron?
Updated: May 11, 2022
Why buy a blacksmith apron when you can get a welder's apron for a fraction of the price? There is a difference, and it's more than price. Leather source, weight, surface and density are at play.
As both aprons are constructed of leather, lets look at the differences in the types of leather. Welder's aprons are sourced from suede splits which come from the bottom layers of an animal's hide. The lower layers of the animals skin are more fiberous and less dense than the top layers. It is the high fiber content that gives suede that distinctive shaggy nap.
Blacksmith aprons are built from the top layers of the animal hide. The outer layers are tougher and more tightly woven. This helps waterproof the skin and protect the underlying tissues of the animal from injury. Penetration protection is a valuable benefit in a blacksmith apron.
Leather's weight is measured in ounces. Each ounce equals 1/64 of an inch. Welder's aprons are typically made from 2-3 ounce leather. A welder needs to keep sparks from igniting their clothing. They also need a barrier to protect them from the heat and prevent flash burn. The light weight of suede works well for welders.
A blacksmith's apron is crafted using a 5 to 7 ounce weight leather which translates into a thickness a bit greater than a nickel. As a blacksmith works, the hammer's force causes the malleable metal to move. Chisels and punches channel the hammer's force while the anvil absorbs the force. With all of this force going on, stress fractures can occur causing chunks of metal to go flying at incredible speeds. Smiths wear personal protection gear incuding aprons for this eventuality. The added thickness of a blacksmith's apron provides resistance to the projectile causing it to slow.
Now, lets look at the surface differences between full-grain versus suede. Full grains are smooth on the outside. Suedes have nap. As a blacksmith hammers, flakes of hot slag break loose and fly. When slag lands on the shaggy nap of suede leather, the nap can actually hold the flake which will then begin to burn. Whereas on a blacksmith's apron, the smooth, full-grain leather will allow the slag to succumb to the pull of gravity and slide off.
Last but not least is density. Welders and blacksmiths commonly use grinders in their work atmosphere. Grinders are notorious for causing injuries in the shop as they grab loose clothing and wind it up like a toy top. Welder's aprons have less bulk making them easier for the grinder to grab and go. On top of that, the texture of the suede provides traction so a welders apron will much more easily get grabbed up by a grinder's wheel. A blacksmith's apron, due to it's thicker leather, has more mass. That density combined with the smooth surface makes it difficult for a grinder to get a bite.
If the goal is to keep your clothes clean, any apron will work. But, if you want to protect yourself from injury, a blacksmith apron is the better choice because the leather will be sourced from the tight-fibered top-grain, it will be crafted of a thicker leather weight, one that has a smooth surface, and leather's density will provide superior protection. A good, quality blacksmith's apron may cost ten times as much as a welder's apron but it is money well spent if it saves you from a trip to the emergency room!
If this article has convinced you that a well-built blacksmith's apron is worth the investment, visit Forge-Aprons.com We build aprons that fit you and your needs. ~April Witzke
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