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[Beginners' Corner] Little Torch


I’ve been a Orchid Digest lurker for over a year now. Meanwhile,
I’ve accumulated all of the jewelry making supplies that are needed
and discussed regularly on this digest.

Here’s my issue. In using my “Little Torch” I’m a bit nervous, even
though I’ve been soldering stained glass for almost 20 years, this is
different type of soldering and there are no classes in my area for
me to learn from. I’ve got the oxygen tank and propane…and I’m
ready but a bit afraid. The books I’ve obtained written by Tim
McCreight are absolutely the best and must be considered the jewelers
bible most likely. Only problem, I can’t get him into my studio to
demonstrate for me.

Is there a video that I could get that would demonstrate how to use
the flame in soldering and other work?


Ilene, I don’t like the Little Torch myself since I work in silver
but I can tell you that there is a video that can be ordered from Rio
and probably other sources as well. Not as good as having him in your
studio but it is well filmed with good close up shots of what he is

Marilyn Smith

Hi Ilene,

One possible source for some help with mastering the 'Little Torch’
is a local welding, machine, repair shop, or garage. Most of these
have a large gas welder (usually acet & oxy) of some type. Many of the
techniques used in welding are the same no matter what the size of
equip. If you take a picture/description of the LT with you & talk to
someone who’s familiar with welding, they may be able to help you.

Good luck!


Ilene: There are several supplier magazines around, a number of which
carry VHS tapes that would be of benefit to you. Here re just two
that I use regularly. First is; Rio Grande, contact: Molly Bell @
phone # 1-800-396-9896 ext. 3040 for hand tools, books and videos.
Or Elizabeth Brehmer @ same phone # ext. 3117. She handles soldering
questions and supplies. They also have a web address: Another is Indian Jewelers supply Co. Phone #
1-800-545-6540. Both of these suppliers will do just about anything to
help you. Both carry tapes and can be quite pricy, but you get what
you pay for. I know Rio Grande carries videos on soldiering, for
various levels of experience, and their return policy is excellent X
10. I fairly sure Indian jewelers has an equal return policy. The next
Mag. is in my humble opinion a must for all beginning, intermediate
and expert jewelers and even some customers. Lapidary journal! This
a great source for ideas, how to"s, suppliers, etc. etc. These are just
three out of hundreds of good publications out there. However these
are the three I would start with, the Lapidary Journal IS what I
started with many years ago.

                 Richard Blahnik


My 1998 Rio Grande catalog lists a Compete Metalsmith video, several
Alan Revere videos and one specifically entitled Basic Soldering
Techniques (#560-038, $79.95). So, you can have Tim in your studio
or the video entirely dedicated to soldering.

No matter what you do there will be a personal learning curve. You
could just start playing with the torch and some silver or even some
copper and some silver solder. The silver solder will stand out real
nice on the copper and you will be able to see how you are doing. As
a novice myself, I can tell you the biggest issues are getting the
joint butting together (solder does not fill spaces), getting the
piece clean and fluxed (or the solder will ball up and roll off) and
keeping the lighting subdued so you can judge changes in color and
get things hot enough without melting them. If you have trouble
getting things to melt (the solder, I mean!) you may need to switch
to a larger tip. I have a Little Torch and acetylene myself and find
the torch itself pretty easy to use. Just follow the recommended
pressures in the guide book for a start, and don’t leave the torch on
if it doesn’t light or goes out. However, there is very little gas
coming out of such a small torch, so things are not likely to explode
unless you leave it unattended and open without being lit for some
time. If it goes out for 15 seconds, don’t get rattled, just turn it
off, wave the fumes away and start over.



Your comment re the Little Torch and working in silver caught my
interest. Could you provide a bit more as to why you don’t
like the Little Torch for use in silverwork?

So you know I’m not baiting you…I have used a Little Torch with
both aceytlene AND propane for years…I have also used it for silver
and gold and some, albeit limited, platinum. I have also cast nearly
two ounces of silver with it and have never had a problem. My silver
work can be fairly large at times including sweat soldering. In
short, I use it for just about everything. But I’m always interested
in other’s opinions and really would like to know yours. Thanks in

Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple elegance IS fine

Ilene, like every torch, the Lil Torch has its advantages and
disadvantages. Since you’re both new to soldering with a torch and the
Lil Torch, allow me to make a suggestion. Practice soldering for the
sake of soldering on brass or copper, because it’s cheap. You won’t
have a lot of time or money invested in the materials. Get some 1" x
2" strips of brass or copper in 20 gauge. Practice your different
joints such as butt, ‘T’, and sweating one to another. Brass and
copper have higher melting temps than silver, so you have less chance
of melt down. When you’re using silver solder on these metals, there’s
also a nice contrast. These two things are an advantage and you’ll be
able to troubleshoot easier.

Once you have that down pretty well, take some 1" x 1" strips of
these metals for practice, and start soldering on things like jump
rings, bails, tubing, catches and joints, tacs, hinges, wire
conglomerations, pre-made castings, shot, and so on. Your first ones
likely won’t be pretty, but you’ll learn how to saw and file, what you
can get away with and what you can’t. But again, all you’ll be out is
a few pennies per sample and your time learning.

I still make samplers when I’m trying something new when I’m not
certain how something will work, whether it’s a new type of catch, or
I’m just trying to see how something will form to my concept.

For being able to see someone soldering, try a local metalsmith or
rockhound group to see if there any members who make their own jewelry
and wouldn’t mind you sitting in. Another possibility is a local
jeweler whom you will take out to lunch for their trouble.

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy this addictive endeavor.

K.P. in WY

Don, besides jewelry size pieces, I on occasion make hollowware for
which I need a big bushy flame. With the Presto-lite I can vary the
flame size from the different tips which gives me a wide variety of
flame sizes. I do not do my own casting and do not want a small hot

Marilyn Smith

I concur with Don’s opinion of the Little Torch. I have been using
the Oxy-acetelene setup to at lease 15 years on silver, gold and
platinum, including fairly heavy silver pieces. I have never had a
problem with it in regard to heavier silver pieces. The #4 or #5 tip
always does the job. After all these years I just had to replace the
oxygen bottle as it failed the required test here in NY state. Of
course you have to periodically replace the hoses.

Joel Schwalb

Might I jump in on the little torches defence. I do between 20 and
40 jobs a day, a job can be making a rivit, to setting several
stones, retipping on silver to plat, 1 to 100 tips, sizing rings,
each job contains between 1 and 5 or more things to do, anything from
10 kt to plat. tix solder to fusing metal, and silver repair. with
plat I use the #6 tip and for real large silver I use the extended
multi flame tip. for all other repairs I use the #5, a soft flame for
cheap hollow necklaces, when I cast metal, or cast stock, I do use a
regular welders torch. I have used the little torch with both
propane and aceytlene. I do perfer the later even tho it is a dirty
flame. but a little hotter. to sum it up, I have not found any
normal jewelry work that the little torch does not handle and handle
very well…passing the soap box to the next person hahahahaha


Marilyn, Thanks for the reply. I can understand now why you like a
bushy flame for the hollow-ware. I do not do that work but I do find
the Little Torch just great for all my other endeavors. Its all in
what one is used to I guess. I know people who insist on using throw
away propane tanks with a tank top torch! Thanks again. Cheers. Don

I’ve been reading these various torch threads, and except for my
college professor, none mention the “Hoke Torch”. He’s used the
"Little Torch" and disposed of it, in favor of his Hokes and Water
Torch as needed. He points out the 90 degree angle of the tip makes
the flame more visible. The Hoke also has the upfront gas controls. Any
Hoke users out there care to weigh in?

Thanks for any input in my future buying choices. Ed

At my bench I use a Little Torch, the same one I have been using
since the early 1980s. The only thing I don’t do with it is pouring
ingots or casting. For some jobs the standard #6 tip may be a bit too
small, in which case you can just buy an extra tip and amend it by
drilling out the orifice to a larger size, thereby allowing a larger
flame (or you might alter one of the #1-3 tips which are mostly too
small for propane/oxygen use) . Actually I never even change the tip
on this torch from my enlarged #6 tip, and there isn’t anything I do
at my bench which it won’t accommodate. I do have to say that I am not
doing repairs or retipping or delicate chain soldering, which most
trade or repair bench-workers might be doing, but the smaller tips
work fine for those applications already anyway. I tend to solder in
the style I learned in Thailand, utilizing radiant heat and a large
reducing or neutral flame, and I seldom if ever use an oxidizing
flame. A very large pinpoint flame is still entirely possible with
the larger tip, if and when it is needed.

Michael David Sturlin, jewelry artist @Michael_Sturlin Michael Sturlin
Studio, Scottsdale Arizona USA

Do you have to use special regulators with the Little Torch? Some say
yes, others say the Victor SR 250 and SR 260 will work just fine. How
do you find out, I’ve tried Victor’s site and don’t
understand what I’m seeing? Any Advice?

Tank top torches on propane tanks do work for sterling, but not the
very large pieces. Acetylene works much better because it is hotter.
I’ve also heard of some trying to use MAPP gas, but don’t know what
kind of results they achieved.

I have used the Hoke torch for years. Rio sells smaller fine torch
tips that work great with it. It has made the torch even more
flexible in use. I have had them in class settings for years with no
damage or breaks.

Steve Ramsdell

The Hoke torch is the best all round bench torch money can buy. One
handed flame control and natural gas / oxygen or propane / oxygen work
great. You can modify your own torch tips from pin hole to melting
size. I would use no other.


Todd Hawkinson


I’ve used Hokes for twenty years-- oxy/propane-- and I really like
them. I suppose, though, if I was used to soldering w/ a flaming
Q-tip I’d extol its virtues as well.

The Hoke feels right to me and gives me a wonderful range of flame
sizes. I used to cast 70 dwts of sterling w/ the #4 tip when I was
starting out and then change to a tiny tip and repair a chain.

It really depends on what you’re used to. I firmly belkieve that
there are no RIGHT answers.

Hope this helps. Andy Cooperman

I currently use the Hoke torch at work and also a little torch. I
have them both hooked up to the same regulators, using propane and
oxygen. I use the Hoke for times when I need a large volume of heat
quickly, although I used to build custom “balerina” mountings with a
Hoke, some containing a over a hundred solder joints in one ring! I
now use the little torch for such work. At home, I have a double
bench setup; one is equiped with a Meco “midget” torch and the side I
work on is equiped with the little torch. When I need to do heavier
work, I roll my chair over and fire up the Meco. You can get various
sizes of tips for a Hoke, so it’s capable of delicate work or heavy
stuff. It’s a good torch for the money, but I like the little torch
because it’s light weight and it’s easy to direct the flame around on
intricate constructions. But finally, I think you’ll find many
jewelers who’ll agree that it’s largely a matter of what you’re used

David L. Huffman

 my college professor, none mention the "Hoke Torch". He's used the
"Little Torch" and disposed of it, in favor of his Hokes and Water
Torch as needed.  He points out the  90 degree angle of the tip
makes the flame more visible. The Hoke also has the upfront gas
controls. Any Hoke users out there care to weigh in?  

I suppose it all depends on what one is trying to solder. I’ve not
had luck soldering large silver pieces with a “Little Torch” I was
not in charge of choosing what tip was attached, so I had to use what
was there, I know, I didn’t like it.

I’ve read that water torches are too hot for silver . . . so, since I
work with mostly silver, I cannot use that. I have tried propane,
and yes, I can use a plumber’s torch to do silver, but I cannot use
the pin point flame type torches made by various manufacturers
WITHOUT oxygen being involved. I will not use oxygen in my studio.
Not sure why, but I find that I’m uncomfortable with it. Who knows,
I may change my mind in the next 12 months!!!

I use a Prest-O-Lite and I teach my students to use it too . . . we
use acetylene gas with an air mix. We’ve encountered very few
difficulties using it with sterling, fine silver and 14 K gold. We
have NOT experienced any carbon floater contamination, yet.