Product Review: Fibre Metal Pipeliner

troy pipeliner

I obtained 2 Fibre-Metal ‘Pipeliners’ around February. Initially I had planned on reviewing one with Sellstrom’s Lift Front Adapter and one unmodified at the same time, but the modified version is awaiting a paint job. So, for now we have the stock version, and a Jackson Huntsman to compare it to.

Time to get down to the nitty gritty. This is the first pipeliner I have used having previously used a Jackson Huntsman and several other versions of the Huntsman line. Immediately the weight difference between the two is very noticeable, the pipeliner is significantly lighter. They both have different versions of the plastic nuts that are tightened to adjust the tension on the head gear that keep the hood up, both are less than ideal.

For head gear, the Jackson uses a ratchet type which adjusts snugly and stays fitted. The Fibre Metal Pipeliner comes with your standard head gear (strap over the middle of the head and around the forehead), but uses a thick rubber belt that is pulled from both ends to adjust tension on the back of the head. I don’t know how else to say it so I’ll be blunt, IT SUCKS! It might stay put for a minute or two, but as soon as you flip your hood down it’s back loose. There is a remedy though that has been around for years and keeps the hood secure while adding comfort, and that is using a piece of surgical tubing in place of the rubber belt. It is laced though the retainers just as the belt it’s replacing and secured on both ends using electrical tape. This keeps the head gear snug while keeping your head comfortable.

The light weight of pipeliner allows the user to wear it for multiple hours without suffering neck fatigue. After using the Huntsman, I would sometimes forget I had it on my head, especially once I installed the surgical tubing. The size of the shell provides excellent protection from sparks from nearly every angle except behind you. This comes at a price though as the length of the hood limits your ability to look down at your work because it hits you in the chest. This is easily remedied though by removing a 3/4″ or so strip of material from the bottom, thus further reducing the weight.

The lens retaining system is pretty standard, you insert your lenses, a plastic spacer, then install the plastic retainer. It works great and allows for use of thicker clear (glass) lenses or ‘cheater’ lenses without modification.

As for durability, there is a reason this hood has been around for so long and is widely used in the field (and in the shop), it’s damn near bulletproof. Although I’ve only been using mine for a brief period of time, it has been dropped, had stuff dropped on it and with the exception of some nicks and burns on the white paint, it is essentially still brand new. I have worked with welders that have had theirs for numerous years, on numerous jobs, in numerous conditions, and aside from the appearance they still work just as well as they did on day one.

So, is it worth the $50 price tag? Absolutely, the Fibre-Metal Pipeliner hood is a sound investment whether you are a hobbyist or rig welder.

I will be reviewing the modified flip front version in the coming weeks so, stay tuned.

What To Wear To A Trade Interview

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Today as I sat at my desk plugging away at my computer, Patrick (WorkHands CEO) comes up and asks me, “is that what you wore to your interview today?” referring to my wool coat, button up, tie, nice jeans and dress shoes. To which I replied, “yes.” He was surprised that I would wear what would be considered somewhat formal attire to a refinery operator interview. I asked him what he thought I would wear, he replied still rather puzzled, “I don’t know, just didn’t think you’d wear that.” I bring this up because there are two different trains of thought on what to wear to a trade interview and today, I’m going to discuss both.

**For this discussion we use examples as if I was interviewing for a pipefitter position, since that’s what I’m most familiar with**

The first thought process is the more popular of the two and that is to wear a nice pair of pressed up work clothes. For a pipefitter (or welder) this would consist of a pair of FR (flame resistant) pants, FR shirt (with pearl snaps, you gotta’ have pearl snaps) starched up & Texas pressed, a welding cap in your back pocket, and a pair of work boots with grit and grime cleaned off so, that they look presentable (and you don’t track mud/dirt all over the office).  The idea here is that you look nice, look the part, and if they decide to throw a surprise field exam (or weld test) at you, you’re properly dressed for the occasion.

The second occurs less frequently and that is to wear “traditional” professional attire. This would consist of: a suit, dress pants & button up, pressed up jeans & button up, nice sweater, mirror polished shoes, you get the point. Most people avoid this route because it’s not what would be worn in the field and you’re not interviewing for a position with Goldman Sachs. I can’t speak for others, but the reason I do this is because I am not only a fitter, I am a salesman and my product is me. I want to present my product in the best way possible. I also want to show them I can remain a professional in any setting, be it in an office or in the field. I do however keep my work clothes and tools in my vehicle so, that in the unlikely event they give me a field exam, I am prepared (this also shows that you plan ahead) and don’t have to reschedule, not giving them the opportunity to hire someone else.

In the world of blue collar interviews there is no right or wrong way to dress, as long as you’re prepared for what may lie ahead, but it as the saying goes, “you want to put your best foot forward.”

Know Your Trade, Know Your Wages

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Anyone who works in the trades knows that the one of the most important, and valuable, skills to have is to be knowledgeable about your field. Not only should you be experienced, but you should also be able to use that experience to perform your job to the best of your ability. Being knowledgeable about your trade doesn’t just include knowing how to perform certain functions, you should also have an understanding of wage trends in your specific field. Government websites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics aggregate data on wages from all over the country and even divide the information into separate fields, locations, and occupations. You can use sites like this to compare your wages to other trades or even to other locations. We looked at the wage trends of some of our most popular user’s trades. We want to be giving the best product possible to users, and the only way to do that is to familiarize ourselves with all facets of the trades. For example, did you know that Plumbers and Pipefitters (steamfitters) have one of the highest mean annual wages of any blue-collar occupation? On average, they make around $54,000 around the nation, but pipefitters out in Alaska can make $72,000 a year!

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Electricians come after them with an average annual wage of $53,000, earning the most in California, New York, and Illinois respectively. Sheet Metal Mechanics, Wind Turbine Technicians, Elevator Technicians, and HVAC Technicians on average earn around $52,000 a year and as the need for skilled tradesmen continues to grow in our country, these wages will only increase. The Baby Boomer generation that for years has dominated the world of the trades is beginning to retire, and new workers are needed to take their place. Vocational education is taught in our schools with much less frequency and because of it there are less workers with the skills needed to fill up those jobs. It’s never been a better time for a career in the trades, especially with WorkHands by your side.

 

Photos courtesy of: Jun Wang, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

3 Core Roles in The Welding Industry

pipeliners brother inlaw

Within the general public and even, at times, in the welding industry, there’s a lack of understanding about what a welder does. A common misperception is that anyone who works with metals is a welder, but this is inaccurate.

The welding industry encompasses a broad spectrum of positions and skills, but typically includes a helper or apprentice, a welder, and the fitter or fabricator. Depending on the product of each particular industry or business, each of these positions will be encouraged to develop a specific set of skills and standards of quality to be effective for their role.

Here’s what each role encompasses:

Helper – A welder’s helper prepares material and brings fitted parts to be welded. With supervision, a helper may do grinding and weld preparation; they’ll typically be supervised by a fabricator or welder. This is usually the least technically skilled position, but helpers are learning to weld by being in a welding environment and directly observing fabricators and journeyman welders.

Welder – The job of the welder is to verify drawings and/or instructions from a supervisor on which standards or process are applicable, determine settings on equipment, identify the metal or metals being joined and essentially manipulates a molten puddle of metal to join metal, typically on a molecular level. This is the position that will generally have the most variation both in technical skill level and in salary. For instance, fast-paced manufacturing of a single product of no specific standard or minimum in-house quality control, welding the same items throughout the day with no changes required will be considered low-skill welding. Pressurized vessels, aircraft manufacturing, gas/petroleum industry, or certain types of structural welding will require a welder to be keenly aware of specific standards and parameters of quality, maintain documentation, have very accurate eye-hand coordination, at times weld in awkward positions, and to be aware of surrounding safety issues. These are considered highly skilled workers with pay to match their abilities.

Fitter / fabricator - A fitter/fabricator typically has good welding skills combined with the ability to interpret drawings and blueprints, familiarity with tolerance standards for particular fabricated items and is very proficient with welding symbols. A fitter/fabricator often has machining skills, too. They’ll generally be responsible for correct lay-out, checking that parts are formed or cut to correct dimensions. They often work in conjunction with a helper and welder to assemble a particular item and hold it together by tack welding and bracing, then pass the item onto the welder for welding.

My experience in the past few years has been that more companies are preferring that the fitter/fabricator will also take on the job of final welding. Though each of us in the welding industry may not be a “welder” or have the same level of skill, we should all be aware that we each play an important role in the process of fabricating an item, providing a workforce for our industry and providing income for our families.

 

Photo courtesy of: JFKielyConstructionCo