January 2013 Wood News Online Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News

 




by Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin


This month:

The New Trend In Safety

Making The Rounds

Building Live-Edge Coffee Tables, Pt. 1





The New Trend In Safety – The Trend AirShield Pro

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

After just an hour of using a flap sanding wheel in an angle grinder to clean up the edges of a large slab of Ash, my mask had leaked enough dust around its edges to cause some pretty serious discomfort...enough so that I said, "Enough!" and ordered the Trend AirShield Pro and the accessory Ear Defenders.

Figure 1 - My old safety threesome: face shield,
hearing protection, & dust mask
My standard safety trio has been a 3M P100 reusable respirator mask, a 3M face shield, and Peltor over-the-ear sound dampeners. The Trend AirShield Pro (Air/Pro) impressed me as part hardhat, part face shield, part hearing protection and part clean air respirator in one package. But with a beard and no way to fully seal a mask around my face, it was the promise of clean breathable air that spurred me to make the purchase.

Figure 2 - My new safety system: The Trend AirShield
Pro with Ear Defenders – four-in-one protection
There simply was not a lot of in-depth information available about the Air/Pro. The official reviews were pretty superficial and the online reviewers were generally not too specific. I had many questions, and normally would not have taken a four hundred dollar leap of faith, but my headache, sore throat, and cough said, "Just do it!"

Figure 3 - We woodworkers are usually more
interested in what is inside a box than what
is on the outside
The unit comes in a "consumer" box decorated with beautiful photos, dazzling graphics, and brilliant typography that marketing mavens will contend helps a product stand out on a store shelf. The graphics are designed to grab your interest and yell, "Buy me!" But as Chris Berman, Mike Ditka, Keyshawn Johnson and team say when they review a bone-headed stunt or busted play from the previous week's NFL action..."C'mon Man!" The Air/Pro is a serious product, sold at serious woodworking stores, and no one is likely to plop down four hundred bucks as an impulse purchase based solely on the packaging.

C'mon Man! Four hundred dollars is not an impulse purchase for down-to-earth woodworkers. Save the money on artists, designers, and fancy printers and give us a plain corrugated box with a glue-on label. We will be fine.

The pretty box holds the main unit (the helmet, for lack of better terminology), the battery, a "wall-wart" type charger, a carry bag, an airflow indicator, and a pair of clips that are used to mount the optional hearing protectors. Don't get too excited by the "carry bag" when you read the product description. It is a plastic shopping bag with a drawstring. C'mon Man!

Figure 4 - Open the helmet by pushing these two
tabs and use your third hand to lift the lid
Figure 5 - Under the "hood." Install the battery
and the filters... very easy.

Don't plan on using the Air/Pro the day you receive it. The Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery must be "conditioned." Install the battery in the helmet and plug in the charger before you do anything else because it must be charged for twenty-four hours before you use the Air/Pro the first time. NiMH batteries? The tool world has switched to Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries. C'mon Man!

Well, you've got twenty-four hours to kill, so go ahead and install the filters if they were not preinstalled at the factory. They slide and click into place, and the instruction manual shows the process clearly. There is also a printed protective cover over the clear face shield that you can peel off. Now you only have twenty-three hours and fifty-five minutes to wait.

If you purchased the optional hearing protectors, the Ear Defender clips need to be fitted to the Ear Defender support arms. A lot of online reviewers apparently had difficulty attaching these clips. I had no problem once I read the directions and looked closely at the picture. I did get the impression that the hearing protectors were adapted from some other product.

Just twenty-three hours and forty-five minutes to go...

Inside the helmet is a suspension-type headband with a nifty adjustment knob. With time to kill, now is a good time to adjust the fit. The first step is to adjust the top crown strap of the suspension system. The instructions are pretty good. Adjust the crown strap so that the headband is sitting just above your eyebrow line. With that done, don the helmet again. The fit will likely be loose. Reach behind your head, pull out on the headband adjustment knob (seen at the far left in Figure 6), turn it clockwise until the headband is snug, then push the knob in to lock it in position. Very nice.

Figure 6 - The face seal. Note the perforations
that will be under your chin. The attached tab
(by my thumb) will come into play later. You
can also see the padded crown strap that may
need to be adjusted.
Attached to the helmet is a perforated cloth-like face seal that is the key to the Air/Pro system. The face seal fabric has an elastic perimeter, and is positioned so that it is under the chin tight to the neck and runs up the side of your face in front of your ears. The drawing in the manual is excellent, and for those of us with beards, we can immediately see how this feature makes the Air/Pro system better than any conventional dust mask.

In operation the fan in the helmet will draw dusty air through the twin filters and push clean air down through openings in the helmet just above your eyes, creating a positive pressure inside. The pressurized air exits through the perforations in the face seal.

After fitting and familiarizing myself with the unit, I had twenty-three more hours to wait before the batteries would be ready. Fortunately, I had tickets to a long-anticipated opera, and plenty of time to get dressed.

Opera may not be everyone's cup of tea, but everyone should go at least once. If I had only heard opera on tape or CD, I likely would be less enthusiastic. But at a live performance the power, emotion, and prodigious display of talent is an incomparable, moving experience. Often I am the first out of my seat yelling "Bravi, Bravi!" (Note: "Bravo" is in praise of male performers, "Brava" for females, and "Bravi" is appropriate for both, either, or the whole cast – a diva might be offended if you yell "Bravo!" after her aria). For us down-to-earth folks, "Bravi" is the opposite of "C'mon Man." It means, "well done!"

With an after-concert glow and a good mood to match, the next morning I was anxious to get started with my now fully charged Trend AirShield Pro. Well, at least I think it was fully charged. You see the charger has only a single red pilot light that glows when plugged in. That's it. There are no lights to indicate "charging" or "fully charged" like the $79 drill I bought for a buddy. That drill included two Li-Ion batteries, a smart charger, and a carrying case in the price. C'mon Man!

Figure 7 - Donning the helmet is easy.
Place it on your head and use the pull-tab to
stretch the face seal over your chin... or beard.
I donned the Air/Pro, tightened the headband, stretched the fabric face seal around my beard, lowered the ear protectors into place, then reached back and pushed the power switch...and I jumped up and yelled "Bravi! Bravi!"

The unit runs quietly, the motor is not a distraction. The fresh clean air flowing down and across my face was pleasant. The unit did not feel heavy, awkward, or imbalanced. In fact, it felt natural, comfortable, and safe and snug inside. The face shield is clear and does not distort vision like some do, and the replaceable protective film sheets do not diminish the clarity. You can easily wear your prescription glasses under the helmet. My glasses are for distance and I was getting up-close and personal with the angle grinder and my big Ash slabs, but I checked it out, just so you would know.

The dust started to fly, and after an hour of grinding and sanding every inch of my shop and of me was covered in dust, but my face, nose, and most importantly, my lungs, were clean as a whistle. Bravi!

Figure 8 - Would you think anything could keep your
lungs clean with this much dust? Well, the Air/Pro did!
Figure 9 - If the facemask gets covered in dust,
just wipe it with a dry microfiber cloth.

While working, dust will land on and stick to the clear faceplate, but not nearly as fast as it did with my old 3M face shield. Perhaps Trend uses an antistatic plastic. Keep a microfiber cloth handy when doing really dust-intensive work. A quick wipe will remove surface dust, restore full clarity to the screen, and not scratch the plastic.

When I finally took a break I walked outside. I figured with a cloud of dust in the air removing the helmet inside the shop would be dumb. A startled neighbor lady screamed and a dog started barking. The Air/Pro looks a little like science fiction space attire, but it really, really works.

The down-to-earth bottom line is this...buy one of these things. It is not without a few shortcomings, but it works. In fact, it works quite well, and you and your lung health are worth the money. Bravi!

Additional Information & (I can't resist) Some Suggestions

Figure 10 - Cleaning the Air/Pro was easy.
Vacuum off the dust & wipe down with a very
slightly moistened paper towel.
Admittedly my test was extreme. Normal shop work will rarely generate as much dust as I did. But whether it is a little or a lot, clean the Air/Pro at the end of each day. I used a shop vacuum with a brush attachment to remove most of the surface dust and then wiped the helmet, inside and out, with a dry microfiber cloth. I then moistened a paper towel and wiped off the inside of the hearing protectors and the elasticized fabric face seal. It took just five minutes and the unit looked as good as new.

Storing the Air/Pro with the hearing protectors installed is clumsy. There is simply no good way to balance the helmet with these attached, so remove and store them separately. I purchased a Styrofoam mannequin head at a local hobby and craft supply store for ten bucks and plan to glue it to a piece of plywood and set the whole thing inside a cabinet for safe, clean storage. That way I can leave the Ear Defenders in place. In my dreams I picture Trend doing a joint venture deal with Festool, and the new Air/Pro would ship and store on a mannequin head mounted inside a Systainer.

Order extra clear plastic visor overlay films. Seeing clearly is as important to your safety as anything else. Some people may want to order a spare battery and the "Remote Battery Cradle" that allows charging of a battery outside the helmet. I have yet to run down the battery, even in a long day of woodworking, but given my experience with NiMH batteries, I know that eventually the battery will begin to hold its charge for less and less time. Maybe a spare battery is a good idea.

Figure 11 - Proper fit of the face seal. Note in this
photo I have my glasses on... very comfortable.
When you first put the Air/Pro on your head and fit the face seal around your chin and neck, the helmet will immediately start to get warm inside and the face plate will fog up. This is testimony to the effectiveness of the seal. As soon as you turn on the blower the fog will clear and you will be in cool fresh comfort. If this momentary warmth and humidity bothers you, turn the blower on before donning the helmet. The first couple of times I put the helmet on and took it off, the process felt a little clumsy. After a couple of days, I was whipping it on and off like second nature.

A pair of spare filters will set you back about $55, and I cannot tell you how long the filters will last. So far after each use I have vacuumed the surface dust from the outside of the filters, and there has been no reduction in airflow. That is easily checked, by the way, with the included indicator. Turn the helmet upside down, stick the airflow indicator into the four slots and push the switch. If the little red ball goes halfway up the tube or higher, you are still good to go.

The Trend AirShield Pro falls into a class of protection equipment referred to as PAPR, or Powered Air Purifying Respirator. There is competition. The least expensive comparable unit I have found is the 3M Versaflo that costs almost $1,400. It does include a Li-Ion battery, though.

Okay, I may have been a bit hard on some aspects of the Air/Pro, but it is worth the price. Nothing else comes even remotely close to the comfort and safety it provides in one easy-to-wear, simple-to-use package. I know many wood turners swear by this unit, but all woodworkers should have one. It is hard hat, face shield, hearing protection, and air purifier all built into one lightweight and comfortable unit and it is the only thing in this price range that can adequately protect the lungs of bearded woodworkers. If you don't buy one, I'm going to say "C'mon Man!" If you do buy one, you will soon be shouting "Bravi! Bravi!"

 

(Page 1 of 3)
2  3  Next Page 






Return to Wood News front page


Bookmark and
Share
See Previous Newsletters Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Copyright © 2013 Highland Woodworking, Inc.

Highland Woodworking | 1045 N. Highland Avenue, NE | Atlanta | GA | 30306 | 404.872.4466

www.highlandwoodworking.com

www.woodnewsonline.com