Acetyline/air vs. prop/oxy

Hi Everybody, I was wondering

  1. What can be accomplished with propane/oxy that cannot be done
    with acetyline/air tank and vice versa?

  2. Is it possible to ball up just the tip of a fine silver or high
    karat gold wire with acetyline/air? If so, how?

  3. Can very small and intricate work be accomplished with

  4. Is it possible to obtain a very fine flame with acetyline/air?

Thank you all!
Diane Sadel

Hi Diane: I use acetylene/air exclusively. I’ve done everything you
mentioned except to work with gold. The only gold work I have done
was done using Oxy/acetylene in a mentors studio. I work primarily
in silver, brass, and copper and can do and have done very fine work
using the acteylene/air torch. In 12 years of using it, I have only
had it produce soot once, though I’ve heard others have more of a
problem with this. If you plan on doing a lot of gold work or working
with platinum, you will probably want to have oxy/acetylene or
oxy/propane. Otherwise, you’d probably be fine with acetylene/air.

Perhaps others have different views.


The advantage of using propane/oxygen over acetelyne/ air is simple:
you can control both the volume and pressure of either gas when you
have two tanks and two regulators. This is also true when you are
using acetlyne/oxy, hydrogen/oxy, natural gas/oxy, or methane/oxy.
Propane is probably the easiest to obtain in the US, produces a hot
flame, and is inexpensive. It is also heavier than air, so it will
tend to pool at the lowest place on the floor just waiting for a
spark, so it must be used with care. There have been many previous
posts on the safety and handling of propane, so I won’t go into that

To answer your questions: YES, it is possible to ball up the ends of
fine silver or fine gold wire, and it is possible to do delicate
work with an acetelyne/air torch. Incredible work has been done with
nothing more than a blowpipe for centuries. It is just a LOT easier
when you can use a propane/oxygen torch.

Most of the oxy/propane torches made for jewelry use will produce a
very small flame. The “Little Torch,” is a popular model that will
produce a very tiny flame. A flame this small is not always suitable
for most jewelry applications. Because silver is such an excellent
conductor of heat, it is often difficult to work with such a small
flame. A flame this tiny requires a lot of oxygen to produce a hot
flame, and a lot of oxygen will produce a lot of fire scale. I would
suggest that you start out with a “Hoke” or the Meco “Midget” torch.
both will give you a small flame as well as a large flame. Neither
torch will produce a flame as large as the acetelyne/air torch, so I
still keep mine around for working on larger silver pieces.

If you are working in gold, the acetlyne/air torch is a real pain.
Once you switch to oxy/propane, life at the bench will get a lot

Good luck, Doug

Diane, I have no problem fusing the end of a 20 gage sterling wire
and would not expect to have a problem with 22 or 24 gage. How fine
is the wire that you want to fuse? I lay the piece of wire on a fire
brick and use my smallest tip to point horizontally at the tip. It
happens fast. I don’t use gold so I can’t give you much information
on that but with silver, remember that the whole area needs to heat
up and for that you need the softer, bushy flame that the
air/acetyline system provides.

Marilyn Smith

I would suggest that you start out with a "Hoke" or the Meco
"Midget" torch. both will give you a small flame as well as a large
flame. Neither torch will produce a flame as large as the
acetelyne/air torch 

I just thought I’d jump in here… While at the Marne Ryan workshop
at the Revere Academy, I had my first opportunity to work with a
Midget torch, with natural gas and oxygen. I found it much easier
to fuse silver with that setup than with my air/acetylene Smith
torch–and when Marne wanted a bigger flame, she just took the torch
tip clean off, using the pipe as the torch tip. This produced quite
a good-sized flame, perfect for fusing, among other things. Ah,
creative problem-solving… Noel