Buying welding gloves can feel like a nightmare and a petting zoo mixed together, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Do you need deerskin or goatskin? Who even knows what deer and goats’ skin feels like?
Especially for beginners, knowing which type of leather you should use can be difficult if you don't understand their pros and cons. Fortunately, that’s exactly what we’re covering in this article. Even welders who’ve been using the same gloves for 20 years are often surprised to find better leather for what they’re doing.
It’s not just the type of animal that matters, but also what part of the animal’s body the leather comes from. Top grain leather is taken from the top of the animal. This leather tends to be the highest quality and often last the longest.
Side split leather and shoulder split leather both come from the side of the animal. However, shoulder split specifically comes from the shoulder of the animal (hence the name “shoulder split”). As the animal moves, the skin on their shoulders stretches more than other parts of their body. This means shoulder split leather often doesn’t last as long, making it a more affordable but less durable option.
Cowhide is one of the more popular choices for gloves based on its versatility. It’s tough as nails, making it one of the more durable leathers. However, this toughness comes at the cost of some flexibility. Because of this, Stick and MIG welders tend to use cowhide more often than TIG.
If you’re looking for a durable pair of versatile gloves, we like the Lincoln premium leather MIG/Stick gloves. The Tillman 52 top grain cowhide MIG welding gloves also have gel inserts which reduce hand fatigue and the risk of vibration injuries. It’s a nice little added comfort, especially if you’re spending long periods of time with your gloves on.
Ah the ol’ pigskin, just like sticking your hands inside 2 footballs, right? Actually, early footballs were made from inflated animal bladders then surrounded by leather (pigskin was used, though rarely). So no, pigskin gloves do not feel like sticking your hands inside animal bladders. On the contrary, pigskin gloves are quite comfortable and fairly tough. They tend to hold up well in moist or oily conditions, staying soft and comfortable. This makes them ideal for workers who keep their gloves on most of the day. Often pigskin gloves have softer cuts of leather on the inside and tougher ones on the outside. This translates to a pair of soft, yet durable gloves with plenty of grip.
A few of our favorite Pigskin gloves are the Miller Heavy-Duty MIG/Stick gloves, which are built for even the roughest jobs and the Tillman 45 Black Onyx Top Grain Pigskin MIG gloves.
Elkskin is comfortable and perfect for hot environments. When exposed to high temperatures, Elkskin doesn’t harden as quickly as other types of leather. For this reason, these gloves tend to be highly favored among Stick welders.
The biggest selling point for goatskin gloves are their excellent weight to tensile strength and abrasion resistance ratio. Abrasion resistance is how much the leather can stand up to wear and tear caused by rubbing it against another material. Tensile strength is how much force is needed to pull the glove apart. It’s perfect for TIG welders who need durable gloves that don’t weigh much and aren’t too bulky. Kidskin is a type of goatskin taken from young goats. It provides more feel and dexterity than normal goatskin.
Deerskin is the Cadillac of work gloves. Think luxury comfort. They’re super soft and allow for quite a bit of movement. They also allow your fingers quite a bit of feeling, making them ideal for more intricate jobs. However, because of the nature of deerskin, gloves from this type of leather often aren’t designed for welding. For instance, Tillman’s 1480 Truefit deerskin gloves offer incredible comfort and dexterity for any other task around the workshop other than welding.
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