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