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Advice on torches


#1

I really like the section of this site with the studio pictures.
Very useful as I try to get my own studio set up.

I am ready to buy a torch and am trying to figure out if I should do
Oxygen/propane like I used at school or acetylene. Most of my work
is in Sterling silver and my work sometimes tends toward bigger
pieces so I am not sure if the little torch will be enough. (see
gallery under Jen Macartney) At first my tanks will have to be inside
although I would like to eventually set up with them outside. I have
seen natural gas detectors and was wondering if this is a good idea.
Those of you who have studios at home. Have you told your home
insurance company’s and how does it impact insurance premiums. I
wouldn’t want to have a fire and have the company decline to pay
because they found out about the tanks. Also safety is paramount (of
course!) because I have a full house. Any advice on what torch and
safety issues? I did read the safety articles on this site so have
some ideas from that…

Sorry for the multitude of questions!!

Jen Macartney


#2

Hi Jen:

I have an acetylene/air set up and it stays in my garage. When I
work, I move my car out of the garage, but otherwise, it is tied to
my soldering bench and that’s where it is. I actually tried to get
a welding company to bury or set up a large tank outside and pipe it
in, but they refused saying they only did this for businesses but
not for individuals and certainly not for a home. So,…I have no
option but to leave it in my garage. However, when I work in the
garage, I have two windows on opposite walls, I have the garage door
half open (I do need some privacy) and there is a back door, so it
is very breezy and aired-out in there.

I did speak to my insurance company about it, and their response was
that it was okay. I asked them what if I burn my house down with my
torch - their response, what if you burned your house down with a
grease fire? Same thing in their book. They said as long as I
wasn’t running a “business” out of my house, and as long as I
classified this as a hobby, it was fine. If it were a business,
then I’d have to get business insurance and that’s a whole different
ball of wax.

I can’t advise you what to do, but would definitely check with your
insurance company. I checked with a couple of welders (they have
welding businesses) and they keep their acetylene in their “shed” (a
large garage-type establishment where they have all their heavy
equipment, tons of garbage around and two very large acetylene
tanks. They are very casual about it all. They didn’t seem to be
the least bit concerned. Just be sure it doesn’t leak, and move my
car outside when I work, otherwise they felt it was okay. And they
work with this stuff all day long every day.

Good luck.
Kay


#3

Jen,

The little torch is great for gold and okay for small silver peices.
For the larger silver pieces you say you tend toward, the
acetylene/air “Presto-o-lite” type torch works very well. In ages
past I was an insurance claims adjuster. reaching back into my
memory of those times, I do not recall anything in either the
standard fire or any of the Homeowner’s policies which would void
coverage if you have acetylene or propane bottles in your home. I
have both and have had for over thirty years.

Jerry in Kodiak


#4

Hello,

I have just set up a propane/ oxygen in my small backyard shop. The
25 lb propane tank (TYPICAL BARBECUE SIZE) is outside the building
because it is over the maximum size permitted indoors. I’m sure
that if there were a fire and the propane tank was discovered indoors
the insurance company would use that fact to decline to cover the
damages. Insurance companies have two sides - The “good cop” broker
who sells you the wonderful policy and the “bad cop” adjustor who
points out why the policy won’t cover what you thought it would -
after the damage has been done. They are just adversarial by nature.
In the end, if you are persistent, and if you are right,and if you
can produce all the documentation they ask for etcetera, they will
pay - but you have to be patient and have faith and realize that
their tactics are designed to just wear you down until you give up.
If they can’t do that then they pay out.

So, yeah, check with your insurance co before you do your
installation. If the job is done right your rates won’t go up, (or
maybe only a tiny bit) Get a licensed gas-fitter to do the
installation and keep a copy of the permit for the job for your
records. My propane tank (full) cost about $45 (Canadian) and the
installation - including a regulator at the tank to limit the
pressure coming into the building, the extra shut-off valve at the
workbench and a few misc. bits and pieces, plus the permit cost
about $300. I already had an old acetylene regulator for the torch
which works as well with propane as acetylene. (Even that became an
issue for a while as one of the local suppliers said propane would
damage the diaphragm in the acetylene regulator - while another
supplier said it was not a problem. I finally had to get an OK from
the Gas Inspector himself before I was sure it was OK.) It is not
rocket science and you can do it yourself if you’ve got some good
understanding of ordinary plumbing processes etc, but, like
everything, there are tricks of the trade and why take all the time
to learn a whole trade for something you’re only going to do once?
Get it done right and forget your worries.

But back to the torch. I like having the tank outside because I can
shut off the gas at the tank so there is no chance of a leak inside
the building even if any of my other equipment is leaking or if I
forget to turn off a valve completely. I have another shut-off valve
on the gas line just where it comes into the building next to my
workbench - so I can turn off gas instantly if there is an accident
in the shop when I am working. This is one of those ball valves that
needs only a one-quarter turn to open or shut the line, not lots of
rotations of the handle.

Between propane and acetylene I would choose propane even though
acetylene will give a bit more heat because it is difficult to avoid
those nasty bits of floating black soot you get from just-lit
acetylene flames until you get the oxy mix right. It only has to
happen a few times to get those impossible black smudges everywhere.
Where I live you can’t just buy an acetylene tank, you have to lease
it and pay rent forever and ever. Also the number of places to have
it refilled are few and far between while propane refills are
available in many gas stations and other places, even on Sundays. .

I am using a Hoke torch now - something new in my life. I had been
using those little Bernzomatic propane plumbers’ torches for years
and years for jewelry-size work - mostly bcz I was too intimidated or
lazy to get the “real thing” and my oxy-acetylene welding outfit was
just overkill… Stoopid me. While I did do some fairly OK work with
the plumbers torch, using the so-called “pencil” tips you can get at
the hardware store, it was really a crude, blunt instrument by
comparison with the fine control I get from the Hoke. Also there just
wasn’t enough heat and I sometimes found myself using two torches at
once which is, to say the least, crazy and dangerous. I mean, do you
hold the soldering pick in your teeth or what? If you are doing big
work I think the Hoke can be fitted with some fairly hefty tips.

You can get gas detectors, I guess, but how do you know the gas will
move to where your detector is located? Ordinary convection currents
from heaters, sunlight, or other disturbances to air in your shop
might move the gas to some ignition source (motors, light switches,
thermostats, water heaters etc) before it gets picked up by the
detector. I think best to have the tank and a shut-off outside. Also

  • The propane tanks now have a built-in shut-off valve which
    operates if gas is flowing out too quickly, like if the gas line to
    the shop is accidentally broken.

Good Luck,
Marty


#5

Dear Jen,

I have a studio in my house and contacted my insurance company about
what I could and could not do. The told me that I could use acetylene
but not oxygen and certainly not propane IN the house. They also
told me I could only do this as a hobby, have no employees nor teach
anyone. The interesting fact tho is that they would not put it into
writing.

I understand that propane is dangerous because it is heavier than air
& does not dissipate. Acetylene does. The oxygen is very explosive. I
have used plain acetylene for a while & find it fine.

We are in the middle of the Marjorie Simon workshop in Philadelphia
& it is wonderful. She is a super teacher & we are learning a huge
amount. If any of you have the opportunity to take a workshop with
her…DO IT!.

Cold & cloudy in Philly.
Esta Jo Schifter


#6
 The 25 lb propane tank (TYPICAL BARBECUE SIZE) is outside the
building because it is over the maximum size permitted indoors. 

I’ve been thinking about getting a larger oxy-propane setup. (I’m
currently using a Little Torch, and I want to move on to cuff
bracelets and other bigstuff - woo hoo!)

Is this tank size limitation variable by region, or zoning
restrictions, or your insurance policy, or what? How can I find
out what sizes of tanks are okay for my basement studio? What else
do I need to know before I take the big-torch plunge?

Thanks for all your help,
Jessee Smith
www.silverspotstudio.com


#7

Hello Jesse

You asked about the propane tank limitation on use indoors. It
really doesn’t matter what codes are in force. You never want to
store a propane tank inside.

The simple fact is that propane seeks the lowest area and pools
there - it does not rise and dissipate. If you have a propane
container inside and have a leak, you are asking for an explosion.
We have many rural homes that use propane for heating and tractor
fuel. The supplier places the storage tank away from buildings with
crawl spaces or basements. At least with a small cylindar, there is
little gas to accumulate and less chance of an explosion.

There are several propane safety websites. Google a few.

Judy in Kansas, where the frigid temps are warming today. It’s
above freezing and the ice will melt - hooray.


#8
I understand that propane is dangerous because it is heavier than
air & does not dissipate. Acetylene does. The oxygen is very
explosive. I have used plain acetylene for a while & find it fine.

Jen,

Just for the sake of accuracy, oxygen is not explosive at all,
however grease and oil, when exposed to pure oxygen, will ignite.

Jerry in Kodiak


#9

Hi Silverspot and others,

I’m the guy with the 25 Lb propane tank you quoted.

What you need to do is check the rules in your own locality. There
may be a Gas Inspector or a Public Safety Officer or a Fire Marshall
or Building Inspector or ?? Every place has its own style of
bureaucracy. The tank size limit I quoted was for my area, Victoria,
BC, Canada. There may be rules at state or county levels which are
over-ridden by local municipal governments.

I’m not trying to make this sound more complicated than it is. You
just have to find out who the relevant authority is in your area.
You can look up in the yellow pages whoever does gas furnace
installations and similar work. They will have a licenced gas fitter
who will know about local regulations. I would not take technical
advice from my insurance company as a first choice, but once having
obtained the tech advice I would ask my insurance company if it
satisfies their requirements - (get that in writing, by the way),
and ask them what documentation you need to show them that your
installation is as represented to them.(Permits, inspection
certificate etc)

Ask about the oxy tank as well. Some of the posters on Ganoksin have
remarked that there are restrictions on Oxy tanks indoors in their
areas.

Marty in Victoria


#10
What you need to do is check the rules in your own locality. There
may be a Gas Inspector or a Public Safety Officer or a Fire Marshall
or Building Inspector or ?? Every place has its own style of
bureaucracy. The tank size limit I quoted was for my area, Victoria,
BC, Canada. There may be rules at state or county levels which are
over-ridden by local municipal governments.

Florida has a similar limit (20lb, I think). Different local
governments are varyingly strict about it. For, example, here in my
county, they often cite apartment dwellers for having large tanks on
grills on their upper floor balcony. The reason stated in the
building code is to prevent the tank from being transported through
the structure (and they don’t cite tanks on decks with exterior
stairs).

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR afn03234@afn.org