Turning Smocks & Low Cost Alternatives
Over the years I have owned a number of different turning smocks. Here are MY thoughts.
Sooner or later every turner decides they need a turning smock. Because, sooner or later nature calls and you just don’t have time to shed all the wood chips, etc. She who must be obeyed, has a no wood chips in the house policy!
In A Nutshell
I like the AAW Turning Smock best. I absolutely HATE the blue color. The
dark grey one is not a whole lot better. But, I have found the lightweight,
short sleeve and roomy design works best. It is easy to get on and off. It
easily sheds wood chips.
I also hate the price! $65 on 2/2019. However, all the available Turning Smocks are in the $60 range. See below for some cheaper alternatives.
There are some cheaper look-a-lines. In better colors! See below.
Features I look for the following in a turning smock. Basically everything the AAW turning smock has.
- Easy on/off
This implies I like jackets, rather aprons. I don’t want to fiddle around with tying and untying apron strings in the back when I need to go!
- Something that will keep me cool in the summer.
Some people are naturally always cold, while others are always hot. I am the kind of person who never gets cold. So, I am looking for a turning smock that keeps me cool in the summer. If I am cold, I will add a layer under the smock.
- Short sleeves.
I don’t like the elastic and/or knit cuffs on long sleeve turning smocks. Long selves violate my easy on/off criteria.
- Loose fitting selves. Like the sleeves on AAW smock.
You need a loose fit to stay cool or if you want to wear something under a turning smock.
- Simple tight (but not to tight) fitting collar.
You should be able to just zip the smock up and that’s it. No extra neck flap that you need to dork around with. The collar needs to keep the shavings from going down your back. You should be wearing a face shield that deflects away any shavings in the front.
I don’t like a knit collar that fits really tight in the front. It traps to much body heat. Makes me to hot.
- Water resistant and breathable. NOT waterproof!
A soft lightweight brushed nylon fabric (like the AAW Turning Smock) that is water resistant (sheds water) is best. I don’t like waterproof fabric that does not breath. Waterproof gets to heavy and hot. You don’t really need waterproof! You just need something that sheds water and dries fast.
When I turned my first green log and all that water came flying out, I got a waterproof turning smock. It was good that winter. When summer came that smock had to go! It was just way to hot. After a couple of false starts, I eventually replaced it with an AAW smock and lived happily ever after.
- Loose fit.
I don’t want something that clings to me like a knit shirt. I want something with room to add a shirt or what ever under it for warmth. Something that keeps me cool in the summer.
- A flap over any pocket on the front. Or no pockets.
Any pocket on the front that does not have a flap over it will quickly fill up with wood shavings and become a huge pain in the back side.
I personally never use the pockets in my turning smocks. Thus, I would like to see manufacturers lower the cost of smocks by leaving out all the pockets on the front and back.
Note: You can close up a pocket in a shirt, etc with some masking tape. The tape keeps the wood shavings out.
- Pockets on the back are a don’t care for me! Your mileage may vary.
I never use the pockets that are the back of turning smocks. Thus I don’t care if they exists. Pockets on the back do not need flaps.
- Left or Right Zip. I don’t care. But, some people may.
In the US most men’s jackets are right zip. This means you grasp the zipper pull in your right hand. In other countries things may be left zip. i.e. you grasp the zipper pull in you left hand.
Most US turning smocks are right zip. Those made by or for European markets are left zip.
Three Types of Turning Smocks
Below is my not so humble opinion. There are basically
3 different types of smocks available. The field has narrowed in recent
years. Several manufactures have dropped out.
Note: Lee Valley no longer sells a long sleeve smock with a collar flap. Packard now only sells an apron. No smock.
- The AAW Turning Smock and look-a-likes
Lightweight. With underarm vents. Good for people who are not looking for warmth. Want something that is cool in the summer.
I like the AAW Turning Smock best. I absolutely HATE the blue color. The dark grey one is not a whole lot better. But, I have found the lightweight, short sleeve and roomy design works best. It is easy to get on and off. It easily sheds wood chips.
I also hate the price! $65 on 7/2022. However, all the available Turning Smocks are in the $60 range. See below for some cheaper alternatives.
The Powermatic Turning Smock is an exact copy of the AAW Turning Smock in a nice mustard yellow color! Well, almost. It is left rather than right zip. It is $60 on 7/2022. I own one. The only retailer is Beaver Industrial Supply (BIS). https://www.google.com/search?q=powermatic+turning+smock
- The Old Tan Craft Supplies USA Turning Smock
Mid weight. No under arm vents. Good for people who are looking for warmth and can live with being hot in the summer.
Craft Supplies USA makes two turning smocks. A new Black “Lightweight” one and a old Tan one. The old tan one is “mid weight tan twill material”, “100% polyester”. I would describe it as mid weight canvas. A lot heavier than the AAW smock. No underarm vents like the AAW smock.
$56 on 2/2019. I own one of these. I never wear it. It is way to hot for me. Please keep in mind that I am the type of person who never gets cold.
- The New Black Craft Supplies USA Lightweight Turning Smock
$45 on 2/2019. I have only worn this smock once. I don’t like the way it hangs. It is to tight and cling fitting for me.
Low Cost Alternatives
- Red Kap 1P60 Convertible Collar Shirt Jacket
Price varies by size. Around $32 for 2XL. I own and like this lightweight jacket. Its really more like a shirt in weight. Tough, 65% polyester, 35% cotton fabric that sheds wood chips and dirt.
If you put some masking tape over the pockets it works well as a turning smock. I really like it for painting things in my studio.
It was a weird zipper. It zips down from the top. It is easy to use, after you get the hang of it.
It only comes in navy blue or black. But, the price is right!
Red Kap is a very old and well known manufacture in the automotive and uniform business. They make things in a ton of sizes. From small to ultra large.
Google “Red Kap 1p60” then look for the best price. I use “Automative Workware” when they have it.
- Red Kap KP44 Men’s Zip Front Smock or KP43 Women’s Zip Front Smock
Price varies by size. Around $20 for 2XL. I DO NOT own one of these. It just looks good to me. However you will have to sew up or masking tape over the lower pockets. The price is right!
It only comes in navy blue or white.
Google “Red Kap kp44” then look for the best price. I use “Automative Workware” when they have it.
- Green Cotton Welding Jacket
Cotton welding jackets have been around for a long time. They tend to be cheap. Around $30 for XXL.
No pockets on the front. Very tough yet flexible fabric. They are mid weight like the old Tan Craft Supplies USA turning smock. Often a light green in color.
The old one I have and like was made by Weldmark. Go down to your local welding supply store and find one you like. Or via Amazon, etc.
I found a green jacket on Amazon made by West Chester and a tan one made by Revco.
I have a Red Kap VT22 Quilted Vest that I wear in my studio under my turning smock when it is cold. While I am waiting for the heater to do it’s thing.
I like it. Not to thick, not to thin. $30 for L on 2/2019. The price is right. Thus, if it gets screwed up, I don’t care.
I have a Large Red Kap VT22. It is a bit tight on me. But, fits nicely under my XL AAW Turning Smock.
Google “Red Kap vt224” then look for the best price. I use “Automative Workware” when they have it.
30 years ago, I picked up a jacket at local used work wear place for $10. Over the years, I learned to love this jacket for outside work.
It works good for chain sawing. It is not to heavy, not to light. Reasonably warm, but not to warm. Etc, etc. The exterior is a tough fabric. You can wash the jacket in any washing machine.
The slim looking jacket fits over my round figure. It does make me, sort of look like a UPS man. But, who really cares if the jacket works. After years of hard use I recently decided to get a new one due to an ugly paint stain on my old one. 30 years later, and they still make the same jacket!
It is a Red Kap JT50 Perma-Lined Panel Jacket. $48 for XL on 2/2019. It comes in a number of dark colors in both regular and long versions.
I like this jacket a lot better than my Carhartt jacket.
Google “Red Kap jt50” then look for the best price. I use “Automative Workware” when they have it.
Pants & Shirts
Well, I have gone this far. I mind wells tell you about my favorite work
pants and shirts for my studio.
I like the Red Kap brand work pants and shirts. They are low cost, tough, permanent press, and yet soft!
They are NOT like the old Sears or JC Penny work pants and shirts that I hate. Because, they are so stiff they stand up on there own. The Red Kap stuff also comes in better colors. You don’t have to look like a gas station mechanic.
Red Kap is better than Carhartt in my not so humble opinion.
I have several pairs and like Red Kap PT10 Men’s Red-E-Prest Work Pant”. $20 on 2/2019.
I really like these paints. Really tough, but still soft. I have a very old pair of these that I have run into the ground. Lots of paint stains and heard wear. No holes. These pants are like Dockers that don’t wear out and get holes. They look great. A lot better than an ugly genes that are to heavy, get holes to easy and cost a fortune.
The BEST thing about these pants is that you can get them in any waist size with any inseam length!!!
I recommend you get these from “Automative Workware” www.automotiveworkwear.com for any waist and inseam options. They hem the pants if necessary. No extra charge.
I have several Red Kap shirts that I like.
- Red Kap SB12BS Men’s Long Sleeve Industrial Stripe Work Shirt.
Like a dress shirt with a tough soft fabric. The fabric is a little heavier than a fine dress shirt. Around $19 on 9/2019. Price varies with size and color.
It comes in lots of colors. Some are real nice dress shirt colors. Others are ugly. The style number varies from SB12, to SP10 and SP14 based on the color. Go on the Red Kap or Automotive Workwear web site and look thru the colors.
- Red Kap SP10EX Men’s Long Sleeve Microcheck Uniform Shirt
This is really a dress shirt. Not a work shirt. Lighter weight than the above. The microcheck fabric really makes this shirt look like an expensive shirt. Around $22 on 9/2019.
- Red Kap SP74GB Men’s Long Sleeve Mini-plaid Uniform Shirt
I also really like this shirt. Really a dress shirt… Different colors. Around $26 on 9/2019.
All of the above shirts work ok under a short sleeve turning smock. i.e. the fabric in the shirts is smooth enough so it does not easily catch a lot of wood chips on the long sleeves, like cotton plaid shirts do.
Note: I DO NOT like the fabric in Red Kap SP14BY Men’s Long Sleeve Industrial Work Shirt (solid color, not striped) that I have. It catches wood chips easily. I don’t known if this applies to all colors or just the burgundy one that I own.