After the hands our arms are the move vulnerable to the wrath of "welding bb's" and the Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves in this review are an economical and effective way to avoid them.
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Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves

A comfortable way to avoid pain and looking stupid

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 8-7-2011

Early in my quest to learn welding I discovered just how far some of those bright “sparks” can fly followed immediately by the recognition that they were not sparks at all. They were in fact small pieces of molten metal that were heartlessly looking for soft skin to land on, stick to and burn. I had nice leather gloves that protected my hand and wrist areas along with a nifty-looking leather apron that protected several other parts of me that I consider mandatory. The problem was that my hands are attached to the end of my still unprotected arms. Though I toughed it out for a while it was getting increasingly obvious that those hot globs of metal now knew exactly where my still-exposed arms were and had that area squarely in their sights. That leather apron and its efficiency at protecting the important parts of me from these molten missiles got me thinking. And, sure enough there is a leather answer.

The Basics

The Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves in this review are 23”-long and made from quality side split cowhide. It was immediately apparent to me that this leather is way better at taking the punishment dealt by the molten bombs I was creating. This type of leather sleeve is made in several designs but the 23” design (Tillman #5200) seemed right for me.

The Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves are sewn using Kevlar® thread which also stands up the molten metal projectiles very well. If Kevlar® sounds familiar that is because it is also used to make many bullet-resistant vests, combat & racing helmets and a bunch of other protective products. Needless to say that stuff is tough.

I like the idea of a leather sleeve because they are cooler in the summer, easy to slip on (left) and a simple snap closure (right) keeps them in place. It doesn't get much easier than that.
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Stress points are riveted in addition to the Kevlar® stitching. This is no small point with a piece of safety equipment that is designed for in-shop use. We have no shortage of snags and edges that can put short but destructive loads that might tear even reinforced stitched seams. The leather itself is very strong so adding rivets just makes sense.

A leather strap on each sleeve goes around the neck to keep the Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves in place. The strap has an adjustable buckle and a heavy-duty snap closure to make getting in and out of these sleeves easier for those of us lacking the flexibility of our 20-something years.

The cuffs are cut to lay flat and relatively close fitting to reduce interference between the sleeves and the heavy leather gloves welders wear. The cuffs also use a heavy-duty snap closure and have two closing points so you can adjust the fit as needed. Even though I lost sight of the skinny end of the human continuum years ago I had no trouble adjusting the Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves to be comfortable for me.

In the Shop

Adjusting and then getting used to wearing the Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves turned out to be a bunch easier than I expected. I thought this type of welding sleeve might feel restrictive or limit some arm movements but after several hours of welding with them on I hardly notice them anymore. Where between the design, manufacturing and the pliability of the leather itself the Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves are very comfortable. Though it is hard to imagine if this leather “breaks in” like shoes and such the comfort level has to get better yet.

The cuffs also fit very well because of the design and the properties of the leather. That allows the cuffs to lay flat which avoids conflict with any of the welding glove styles that I have in the shop. Here again I initially wondered if the cuffs would fit comfortably into the flare of the welding gloves. That turned out to be a non-issue as well.

Kevlar thread is used for sewing (left) along with rivets and heavy-duty snap closures to make these sleeves tough enough for the shop. Double snap closures (right) at the wrists and neck straps make getting a comfortable fit literally a snap.
Click images to enlarge

All of this comes down to comfort. After just a few minutes of welding while wearing the Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves I essentially forgot that I had them on. I am far from a pro welder and that requires me to stay focused on my movements in an effort to produce good beads. Disrupting that concentration is not difficult but the Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves did nothing to distract me other than leave me wondering when the next burn on my arms would come. I think it took longer for me to realize that that burn was not coming than it did to get comfortable wearing the Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves.

I can imagine some of you gazing at your arm and thinking that 23” sleeves sounds kind of short. I had similar concerns but Tillman has thought this out and the length seems to be spot on for me and I suspect most of you. Remember that we have a considerable overlap between the Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves and common welding glove designs which gives us a considerable fudge factor when it comes to arm length.

Conclusions

With a street price hovering around $20 to $24.00 (8-6-2011) adding a pair of Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves to your shop – and your arms – should be a no brainer. It’s hard to imagine but I know there will be some who consider these burns to ones arms less of a concern than is spending $20 or so for protection.

Video Tour

The Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves are nicely designed, well made and comfortable to use. The fact that I can stop that burning feeling on my forearms without interfering with my welding focus is well worth the price to me. Maybe I am just getting old but wearing the Tillman Leather Welding Sleeves just makes sense. And now I want lunch.

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