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Advice on torches and fuels


I’m looking for advice on torches and fuels…we’ve purchased a Little
Torch, oxy/acetylene, but I’ve heard good things about propane and we
have a huge propane tank outside of our garage/studio (just moved in 5
weeks ago…not quite set up yet!). We’re working in silver only and
are doing rings, earrings, pendants. All I’ve learned so far is that
propane is somewhat cooler than acytelene, about 1000 degrees and that
it has been found by some to be a cleaner fuel…though my teacher at
the local arts center says he thinks it’s dirtier. The convenience of
the big tank outside the window is very tempting…



Jenifer: I have a little torch and find that propane works better for
silver than does acetylene. If you use propane from your big tank,
make sure you use the right regulator. I sometimes use acetylene for
gold where I need a hot, intense flame.


Dear Jenifer I used oxy/propane in my shop and in my class used
straight acytelene with no oxy ( public school tools !) I found that
the oxy/propane mix provides a faster heat then the acytelene ( of
course with the oxy kicker that may not be true) but it did seem to
me to be “dirtier” then the propane more soot and whatnot also more
problems with fire scale…now just to really confuse you I have just
switched to natural gas and I love it ! have had to readjust my torch
tips since natgas is a softer flame but moving up one size in tips
did the trick ( also had to adjust to lower preasure since this is a
city gas line ) so here is my final opinion if you have access to
natgas go with that if not the propane should really make you happy.
Please be sure to check the safety differances between acytelene and
propane before you switch and good luck HTH Ron


Jenifer, your instructor is quite mistaken. I use both propane and
acetylene. All that black soot you get from your acetylene, you’ll
not get with propane. Propane is a much cooler gas but it is just fine
for silver and gold, sine you only work in silver propane would work
just fine. Good luck.

Chris, Kansas City


Hi Jenifer, Withoug giving any advice about your question, I will
report that I use my Little Torch with either oxy-acetylene or
propane, depending on how high a temperature I need. The torch hosing
fits onto either the propane or the acetylene regulator. I’ve done
this for years without a problem. There may, however, be a problem
with having the right regulator on that big
propane tank of yours. Good luck. MP


Hello jenifer, It is good to use propane with oxygen. The flame is
slightly cooler than with acetylene. Acetylene is C2H2 and Propane is
C4H6. This means that when you burn this with oxygen, the acetylene is
burning into less water than propane. For welding Steel it is
important to have as less water as possible. Because if you have water
evaporating in your melted steel there is a possibility that this
water decompose into H+ and HO . This H+ goes into the steel and
causes Hydrogen brittleness. The welding is not strong. For silver
this does not occur and does not matter. So it is good to use the
propane. Your flame temperature will be 250 deg Celsius lower than
wit acetylene. But when you are working with silver you always must
use a carburating flame (with a overdose of gas) with a long blue tip
over the light blue inside. Otherwise you will get Copper oxide
stains. This flame is also cooler than the neutral flame, approx. 2000
deg Celsius. But this is really enough to work with. So use your gas
tank and good luck.



I have oxygen and propane at home, you can use your acetylene
equipment with it. I find it clean, and convenient because I can
refill at the corner gas station. It is hot enough for silver, gold
work, and casting. I think it runs hotter than the natural gas I use
at work. Personally I dont like the Little torch for silver, not
bushy enough, I much preferre a Hoke. And there is my 2 cents.


okay people, wasn’t going to say anything about this until either
head cold or i had died - right now it’s a standoff. the soot forms
while lighting & adjusting the flame - i use both oxy-acetyl &
propane & have never had soot/black smoke/low storm cloud formation
at any other time. my solution was just a tin box container left over
from a shipment from india (they make boxes out of scrap metal to fit
the size of stuff to be shipped, sew on a muslin cover & then add
stamps & address) about 18" high by a foot either way, stood on end.
i point whichever torch toward the inside of box, light & adjust. any
similar sized box with a few layers of aluminum foil glued inside
should also work & DON’T ask how many layers - make an executive
decision. ive


Where is your workshop located? If it is in a basement or below
ground, you might check with your propane supplier re local laws
regarding use of propane in such a place. Propane is heavy enough that
it will sink to the floor area and be a possible fire hazard in case
of a leak. So in at least some localities, it is forbidden.



Jenifer: I use Propane/Oxy for most everything. I use a "little torch"
with a range of tips from #4 to #7. I use Acetylene/Oxy for soldering
underwater on large silver items with heat sensitive stones. Natural
gas is the cleanest burning. Then comes propane. Acetylene should not
be used on platinum. Propane or natural gas will by far be the cost
savers. If you are doing alot of big silver work you will probably
want acetylene/oxy.

For more info on soldering underwater see my link to

For links to many jewelry related sites

Michael R. Mathews Sr.


Hi Jenifer,

You can use propane with the Little Torch. However, you won’t be able
to use the smaller tips. Propane is cleaner (no black floaters when
the torch is 1st lighted or if the gas is set a little rich) & a
little cooler than acetylene. Even though it’s a little cooler than
acet, it’ll work for soldering or melting both silver & gold.

You may have to talk to a welding supplier to get the necessary
fittings to connect your acetylene regulator to line from the propane
tank. You didn’t say which regulators you have, the ones for the
disposable tanks or the ones with 2 guages that fit the refillable
tanks. My guess is, you’ll have a hard time finding the necessary
fittings if you have the regulators for the disposable tanks.



Jenifer, I used to use acetylene/02 but when we moved from our MD
home to FL, I had to readjust a lot from a large basement “studio” to
a smaller garage based environment. One of the things that went was
my acetylene torch. I also use a “Little Torch” and have been for
years to do all my work, including casting. I find that the
propane/02 is in fact a bit cooler though I do not have specific
temperature I also find that it does all my soldering
jobs just as well as acetylene on both silver and gold. For casting,
I have to work at it a little more but use a “rosebud” tip
specifically made for melting metal. Your local arts teacher is
definately wrong! Propane is 100% cleaner than acetylene. Be sure to
obtain a regulator specifically made for propane. Don at The Charles
Belle Studio where simple elegance IS fine jewelry.


I switched to bottled propane working with copper, brass and silver
because the lower temperature makes it more forgiving and easier to
use. My torches were made for acetylene but I learned to bore out the
tips when using propane as, otherwise, they tend to pop out. I just
use a set of micro drill bits to bore each tip out to one size larger.
When you light the torch with propane you do not get those floating
bits of soot like you do with acetylene which makes me think it is
cleaner - at least in my hands. These days, you can get bottled
propane at any convenience store (albeit it at an inflated price).
Wish it was as easy to pick up a bottle of oxygen when it runs out on
a Saturday afternoon.

The propane flame is also easier on the eyes. I often hard solder
with only a pair of reading glasses and the propane flame does not
irritate my eyes unless I stay at it for hours on end. However, I am
still looking for a comfortable and effective solution to eye
protection for simple silver soldering with oxygen/propane. The
glasses sold for acetylene cutting torch use are too dark and my eyes
will become irritated if I do a lot of unprotected soldering with
propane. Any help here?



Go for it! I use propane/oxygen and find it MUCH cleaner than
acetylene. It is also cooler than acetylene, and I don’t burn things
so much :wink: I have been using the same 20-pound cannister of propane
for over a year now, so if you have a HUGE tank, you’ll never even

The Little torch will take the propane with no special tips. The
only thing is that you will not be able to use the #1 or #2 tip with
propane. If you have common “street gas” (natural gas) you can also
use that with the Little Torch. The torch will work down to 4-ounces
of gas pressure, which is the common setting for natural gas in a
residential environment.


Jenifer: Please take great care to assure that all your connections
are free of leaks by using the appropriate joint compounds (I use
teflon tape) and by checking them with a solution of soap and water,
looking for bubbles at all the connections. Consult your propane gas
provider. You need a regulator at the tank, which will probably
mean that you’ll need another in the shop near where you work.
Propane is heavier than air, so it tends to pool in low areas where
it can explode with tremendous force if it is ignited by a spark, a
light switch, a scuff of the shoe on a concrete floor. It is an
excellent fuel for jewelry work, but make sure you have regulators
designed for propane/natural gas, and also that your torch tips are
designed for propane/natural gas. Acetelyne tips are different. I
speak from experience. My father burned down part of his home when a
propane leak ignited, fortunately escaping with only minor injuries.
Stories abound of accidents involving propane, but don’t fear it,
just have plenty of respect for it.

David L. Huffman


This is especially true, if there are ignitions sources in the room,
such as a hot water heater.



Stephen-- You asked about eye protection for soldering-- The didimium
glasses sold for glass lampworking are barely colored, but offer the
protection you’re looking for, at about $35 or so. You can get them
from any lampworking supplier. Even Lark Books offers them as a
companion to a glasswork book. When ordering, though, make sure you
are getting the pale ones–I once mistakenly got a pair of those
really dark ones.



David has some good advice. Pipe tape can and should be used on pipe
fittings. But don’t use it on compression fittings. The regulator to
tank connection and the hose to regulator connection are both
compression fittings. Pipe tape is not needed and will not help. On
these two joints it will only provide a sense of false security.

Timothy A. Hansen
TAH Handcrafted Jewelry
P.M.B. 131, 305 N. Second Ave.
Upland, California 91786-6028

E-Mail: @Timothy_A_Hansen


A few years ago I took a close look at fuel gases for casting. The
resulting published article is called “Torch Song” and it ran in AJM
two or three years ago. My opinion is that propane will be much better
for you than acetylene. Propane runs plenty hot with an oxygen mix.
Your instructor should include the time spent lighting acetylene
before the oxy is blended in. How can he ignore the soot? Propane
burns fairly clean before you mix oxygen, but BOTH gases run clean
when the oxygen ratio is right…Most of the carbon (soot) gets
consumed reacting with the oxygen. Daniel Ballard


The eyeglasses most people like for torch work are tinted Aura 92
glasses available from suppliers to glass blowers such as Wale. The
glass is formulated to greatly reduce the sodium flare emission line,
and is tinted as well. Dark enough for platinum welding, easy to wear
under an optivisor, and, of course, Peter Rowe was one of the first
people to mention them. Check the Orchid archives or Deja in for more info.

Rick Hamilton
Rick Hamilton

Gold and Platinumsmithing
Jewelry Photography