Don't want to light myself on fire

Hello, members of Orchid,

First of all, I would very much like to thank you all for posting so
much and help on these forums- I’m looking forward to the
day when I’ve learned enough to contribute my own wisdom and help
some of you in return!

However, since I’m still a total beginner to metalsmithing and in
the process of obtaining my own equipment, I’d really appreciate your
thoughts in a few matters regarding torches and soldering stations.
I’ve been through the archives for the last couple years and done as
much research as I could on several different gases and brands, but
am still baffled as to what would be the best setup for a newbie like

  1. Why is there such a price differential between the Hoke, Meco
    Midget and Smith Little Torch? From what I can tell, all three
    perform well, but there’s hundreds of dollars of difference between
    them! Is price really indicative of quality here? While at present I
    am a newbie and a hobbyist, if I’m investing money in tools and
    equipment, I’d like to purchase stuff that will be reliable for years
    and be able to meet my needs as I gain experience and aspire to
    bigger and more complex projects. I am also relatively poor and would
    prefer not to pay the insane markup I see on many websites. Where
    would be the best place to purchase whichever torch is most suited to
    me? And while I know this is asking many of you to repeat yourselves,
    which torch would be best?

  2. I am a newcomer to metalsmithing, just started in January, but in
    a couple of months when I go back to school I would like to set up a
    mini-studio in my apartment (please don’t scold me, Mr. Brain- I did
    read your article, but the school has no metal studio that I’m aware
    of, and I don’t have a car to go anywhere that does). How can I
    create a setup that won’t have fire marshals screaming at my door,
    but will be sufficient for me to solder, fuse, and enamel small
    projects? Where can I find the materials to do this? I will be in
    northwestern Indiana, attending the University of Notre Dame, so
    hopefully there are suppliers with fair prices in the area.

  3. I’m still completely lost as to which gas combination would be
    both relatively safe and versatile. Also, how on earth do you manage
    the setup of those things in the first place!? Regulators and tubing
    and tank storage and plumbing and soapy water…eeek! head

Thank you very much for your patience (and hopefully, your input)!


first, search the past posts in the ganoksin archive you will get
many discussions of the same. I just posted asimilar discussion to
salish(?) so try there first.

butane torches are the absolute cheapest ( 24.95 at any home
improvement store or ace hardware - i like the bernzomatic with a
black removable base for quick solders, quick melts of small amounts
of silver or gold…,it ca\ssn be found through things like-but i am
in no way endorsing-, which gives you points for online
purchases,ususally with some free shipping or other offer attached,
that quickly add up to tangible goods and/or services including
welding supplies,chemicals,office supplies, jewelery supplies etc.)
.If you go to the bernzomatic website you will see the model i am
speaking of, its rather like a blazer torch, but better, and cheaper
as it gets to 2400 degrees farenheit.

As for endurance- hoke or mecco torches outlast gentec/smith little
torch. smith little torch set up is quite expensive, but hatrbor
freight has a gentec for half the cost( not the 169.00 kit though
just the equivalent of the smith little torch for disposable gas,
which is the most expensive way to go.) Then there is safety: if
safety is your utmost criteria considerinvesting in the sppiritflame
or hydroflux welder-both can be financed a variety of ways.and there
is never any additional gas to refil or purchase, and they more than
conform to any codes anywhere ( as long as you have electricity, they
are the most economical of all options).

so do a bit of research first and then get out a calculator and
decide the best way to go if you plan on sticking with this as a
‘lifestyle’…and income producing activity.


As another “newbie” (I am relearning things after a brain injury). I
went into the local welding supply where they refill peoples bbq
tanks and sell acetylene and oxy and said please show me a set up and
the safe way to hook up everything then I double checked what they
taught with the vast archives on orchid.

When in doubt print it out and I read things 3-4 times til I am sure
I understand it completely.I also have Master McCreight’s books
lining my work area open to pertinant areas for quick reference lol

Technical learning is the toughest challenge in my recovery but
luckily I am very stubborn heheheh

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry

In South Bend see: this is a very old competent distributor that
has been purchased by a major supplier-- Praxair formerly Linde. They
should be able to help you. I didn’t work for Praxair but they are
probably the best for you… It has been longer than you are old since
I was in South Bend Airgas also has a location in South Bend at 912 S
Lafayette Blvd South Bend IN 46601…

Airgas is a put together of a lot of formerly independent
distributors and a lot of other purchased companies. They will sell
different lines from Praxair. I am not familiar with their ability in
South Bend and a lot of other places but visit them. You should be
able to get free safety literature from both. You will be
able to find classes here:

Also you may find a jewelry class at Indiana University South Bend

If you are receiving instruction it is probably best for you to
follow your teaching as regards to equipment and procedures. until
you get experience.

Be careful with fire!!!

Why is there such a price differential between the Hoke, Meco
Midget and Smith Little Torch? From what I can tell, all three
perform well, but there's hundreds of dollars of difference between
them! Is price really indicative of quality here? 

There is not hundreds of dollars difference if you are buying the
same items with each torch. They are relatively similar in price.
The addtional items like hoses and regulators may or may not be
bundled with the torch make sure you are comparing similar items.
There is a cheap Chinese knock off of the Smith torch that does sell
for quite a bit less. Do you really want to be using a poorly
engineered and sloppily manufactured torch and regulators with all
the potential dangers of a gas leak from faulty, poorly designed

How can I create a setup that won't have fire marshals screaming at
my door, but will be sufficient for me to solder, fuse, and enamel
small projects? Where can I find the materials to do this? 

Call them and ask. Identify what equipment you want to use and how
you will situate it in the apartment. If they don’t think you can do
this safely and you go ahead and do it and in the worst case cause a
fire you will be liable for the damage that your torches kilns etc.
causes. I know this is not what you want to hear but if you set up a
studio in an apartment building you must think about what you could
do to your neighbors if your setup caused a fire. If you are in a
single unit dwelling then you are assuming all the risk but in a
multi-unit dwelling your actions could hurt a lot of people.

I'm still completely lost as to which gas combination would be both
relatively safe and versatile. Also, how on earth do you manage the
setup of those things in the first place!? Regulators and tubing and
tank storage and plumbing and soapy water....eeek! *head explodes* 

Until you can answer these questions with certainty from your
research you should not make a decision to purchase anything. Read
some books, read ANSI Z49.1;2005 Safety in Welding, Cutting, and
Allied Processes, you can download it here

Sections 10.7 and 10.8 cover the correct procedures for attaching
regulators to cylinders and setting up torches.

If you don’t feel like you have a good working knowledge of safe
torch operation you probably don’t. You can talk to your local
welding supply and see if there is a nearby school that offers oxy/
fuel welding courses and talk to the instructor. They will call what
you call soldering brazing but will have good safety for

These are not consumer items but rather industrial tools, they are
not designed to be operated by untrained users, get some training
and be safe.


James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


I am also at the hobbiest level. I have a Little Torch that uses
disposable canisters of propane and oxygen. I don’t work at my bench
near as often as I’d like, so the disposable canisters work for me.
The set-up would work well in a small space and seems to be pretty
safe. I was terrified when I first got the thing, as it was very
different from the one I used in my jewelry classes. I probably had
it six months before I was brave enough to turn the thing on! I did
have my husband make me a retainer for the tanks that hangs on the
back of my bench. This keeps the tanks from being tipped over. I have
a couple of fire bricks on my bench to add a bit of fire proofing. As
far as brand goes, I didn’t investigate comparable torches, but I
think as long as you go with a name brand you should be OK. The other
possibility would be to buy a less expensive torch with disposable
tanks that will work in your small space for now, and save your money
for a better quality, larger torch when you are ready to expand. As a
person on the novice end of the spectrum, I like the simplicity of my
set-up. There isn’t any complicatied regulator set up and it isn’t
much more involved than running a camping stove. I do have some
difficulty with larger pieces when it gets very cold, as my bench is
in an unheated shop. Even with my largest tip, if it is very cold,
the pieces just can’t retain enough heat for the solder to flow. It
is mostly a function of my shop space, not the torch. The volume of
work you plan on will probably be a driving factor for which set-up
you use, as if you plan on working a lot, the disposable tanks might
get pricy.

Good luck!

On a popular auction site for about $400, smith little torch, five
tips, refillable tanks, regulators:

(20 cu. ft.) oxygen tank NEW (empty)
(10 cu. ft.) Acetyelne tank NEW (empty)
11-1101C torch with 8’ (2.4m) covered hoses

2,3 4, 5, and #6 tips

H1940-540 oxygen regulator
H1944-200 acetylene regulator
H692B and H691B check valve
13492 caddy carrier plastic
complete operation and instruction manual.
Free shipping to 48 states!

I switched from a hand held plumbers torch to a smith torch 25-30
years ago. I have a prestolite plumbers set up, and a really large
oxy-acetylene for when I was melting 10 ounces of silver at a time
casting, but the main torch for my repair and fabrication of gold and
sterling has been the little Smith torch. I have 3 or 4 of them. $400
for the set up is not a fortune, it is how you make your fortune.

Richard Hart

I agree with the previous comment that butane torches will get the
job done in many cases. In an apartment setting, it may be the only
route available at this point. For sterling you will probably need
to use lots of charcoal blocks and a firescale preventive too.

There are some interesting butane/propane hybrids as well that are
designed for awkward workspaces. I own one of these: http://
All top-quality Canadian medications in one place at most reasonable price! u d w f f x d f, which will solder just about any small
item in silver, gold or brass. The Microtorch line is powered with
butane/propane and oxygen, and has no external hoses or large tanks.
I would suggest calling the rep at Miniflame if any of their products
look interesting, as their website is really confusing. (I have no
affiliation with the company.)

John Walbaum

Thank you so much for your detailed response, especially the specific
recommendations- I’m amazed at how willing people have been to answer
my newbie question, especially considering how many times it’s been
asked already.

I have read through the archives and previous questions- it seemed
kind of thoughtless to post an exact repeat of things that have
already been asked. I’m collecting all the responses people have
given, both to me and other newbies, and carefully considering
everything that’s been said before I go out and try to set something
up for myself.

I really am a true beginner at this craft, so I don’t know if I’ll
ever adopt it as a lifestyle, but it’s definitely a hobby I hope to
continue for as long as I’m able- who knows? Maybe someday I’ll
actually get good enough to sell something. =P



The first time I learned to swim was in my clothes in a stock pond,
I didn’t have to go out and buy a swimming pool.

I did not start out with the Meco, Hoke, Smith Little Torch or any
of the rest of it. Did a lot of online research and found things the
I had on hand would work.

is a good place to start, it will run around $20. Very inexpensive,
will handle all silver work and all solders. The best thing is that
it uses the little propane bottles like camping equipment. No
regulators to mess with, and it will do everything you want. The
skill is in learning to control your heat and where you place it than
the type of torch you are using, not that I don’t have other torches
and tips now, but nearly everything I do is with propane/air. There
are several tips that can be had, and stay with the same bottles
which are for the most part pretty acceptable in apartment living as
they are small.

This one has a finer flame and it is easier to maneuver due to the
hose, and runs around $55 and will work with all the silver I have
done to date except big things.

If you get into larger things and drawing wire where you need to
anneal a lot, this one is great for that and working very large
pieces including copper plate at 20 or more square inches.

I have found this one to be very good, puts out a large flame, a lot
of heat but is very controllable for annealing wire without over
heating and the last time I checked it ran about $30. It will work
with both MAPP and Propane, I use it mostly with propane.

Additionally they make little beehive kilns which use the same
bottle and can be used for PMC and enameling, enameling I have not

is a very serviceable unit and stays with the same gas and bottle
type, and would greatly add to your flexibility in processing

The above items are not only good for years, they will be good for a
life time with little or no maintenance.

Look at alternatives, hammers can be gotten at harbor freight as
well as well as a lot of other items, and they are very reasonable.
Seek sources that use the same items as jewelers, but from model
makers, dental supplies, hobby stores, auto supply, Wal Mart or Home
Depot they are all good sources at reasonable prices. Nails from
building supplies make good punches and a propane torch will anneal
and harden them to an acceptable level. A wooden dowel will work very
well to make jump rings, and with a variable speed drill, your into
mass production.

The only things I wouldn’t scrimp on are files, jewelers saw and
blades, a good flat plate, and a vice, nearly everything else is
amenable to technique. Save your money for things which will add
speed, ease of production and flexibility like a flex shaft, or
safety, like a window fan. A good pickle pot is a quart slow cooker
with low and high settings ran $10 at Wal Mart on sale.

Hope this gave you something to consider, let time and learning lead
you where you need to go, you will find that the most useful tools
are sitting between your ears and at the ends of your arms, and
occasionally, the book store. :slight_smile:


Hi Monica,

I’m coming into this thread a little late, but just had to say that
I can’t agree more with Terry Ogden’s post. I also think that if you
have limited funds you should spend your money on some decent files
and other hand tools etc, you can get away with using a cheap
handheld torch for the time being.

I made some fairly involved carouselling cufflinks

with a hand-held plumbers torch just like the one he suggests:

I’m sure those cufflinks would have been easier with the little
torch I now use, but because we were on the move a lot that year I
couldn’t set-up a work shop anywhere. I think you can make most small
scale gold and silver work with one of those cheap plumbers torches,
as Terry said, the skill is learning where to put the heat.

Eva Martin

I do admit that the Benzomatic got me through from 2005 til now just
got my new torch but I need to melt large quantities of silver other
than that reason the propane is still here for soldering

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry

About the Hoke torch:

I got one because it was like 50 dollars less than the next one up.
When I turned the propane valve (propane-ox) down, the propane flow
increased to an alarming degree before finally shrinking. When I
turned the torch valves off, a little gas was still flowing (not
enough to qualify as a “pilot.” To turn it off completely I had to
use pliers. Turning it up or down was VERY coarse, it turned WAY up
with a millimeter of turning.

This is the torch that has been mentioned in warnings “new Chinese
knock-off” etc that I believe you should AVOID. It is just a waste
of time to have to return it and replace. Not to mention all the
time it takes to adjust it to work with it.

There used to be a Hoke that was wonderful; unfortunately this one
for sale now is not it.

My story: I replaced it with a Meco Midget. They ask, “What are you
going to use it for?” when you’re deciding what to buy. Well, if
you’re a beginner, you don’t know!! Meco is fully able to adjust for
different uses, as your style develops, more than any other single
torch in the price range. I hope my personal observation helps you.


I have been reading the latest discussion on torches and would like
to make a few observations. I had a very hard time in finding a
suitable torch a spent considerable time and effort on it.

One, is I advise not to get the harbor freight Genco torch, as this
has one tip, by the time you get the others (eventually you will need
some if not all of them) this is not such a good deal. Instead for
air acetylene, at low cost this place (as far as I know) has the best
price on the air/acetylene Prestolight (great torch), complete kit,

For Smith air/acetylene this may be the best price (it is not hard
to find the same equipment on this and the above being sold for over
a $100 difference). Feel free to correct me on either if there is a
better price. Full kit, model # Model Ne35A, $ 226, free shipping.

Always get all the tips that are made for a torch, whatever that may
be, eventually you will need it, this will save money, if for no
other reason than sipping, or retail price locally.

If you are fabricating jewelry from silver the advice is not to get
a butane mini-torch. You would be better off with a plumber’s torch.
(This will work on smaller pieces, as I cut anything from turquoise
to agate, my opinion on what to call large may be different than
some.) I did notice that Berzomatic now has a kit with three tips,
this is a step up as a few years ago they offered no such thing.

However, for a cheep starter torch, a while beck this was a
no-brainer, there was a guy on Ebay selling the Shark Torch, starting
bid was $49. I did ask out of curiosity where he got them, and he
answered, this was JPS America, a Korean company is listed for this
torch, they will refer you to this. Unfortunately they want a $10,000
minimum buy, which I guess he did, probably something like 30,000+
torches. I have always wondered just whom it is that actually makes
that thing. I wonder, as I know some out there have one of these, if
or not it carries any markings that may give a clue?

This is a better torch, not that bad, I wrote to someone that
actually uses them to teach a class, and asked what it could do, and
more importantly what it could not. The reply was. Honesty, no
problem (I will skip what they said about Berzomatic). They did say
it struggled a bit on larger pieces and they usually used two
torches, and remarked that if you already had a plumber’s torch
(a.k.a. Bernzomatic, or such) it could be used as the second heat
source. They also had doubts it would be capable of large belt
buckles. They also remarked, and this is a good tip regardless of
what you use, that on larger pieces (such as bracelets) to use fire
bricks to surround the piece to help reflect heat (hold it in instead
of escaping) and this will make things go easier. This would be fine
on any ring or pendant, as well as most bolos and bracelets by
itself. What they liked about it was the high heat (somewhat limited
in output) and its capability for fine work. Although the guy on Ebay
is no longer selling them, Otto Feri carries this under the name of
EZ torch. I would have no clue as to who has a better price on this.

The problem with the Berzomatic type solution is that this will
indeed get you started on a shoestring, but by the time you get
several to cover the range, you could have gotten for not much more
something that beats it hands down on everything. Then again you wont
have to pay it at once, but.

I noticed on the list several remarks that where they live there was
no problem with acetylene, by code or insurance. This is not always
the case. In this fire district (where I live) it is illegal in
residences (even to store). If stored in an “out building” I forget
just what the distance from the residence is required. It was a way.
Now there are what is air/acetylene equipment that use different tips
allowing them to burn propane (as in a throwaway camping type
canister). The problem is, as this is acetylene equipment (in all
ways) although they will do it, they take a serious performance hit.
I had written to Don Clark (IGS) about this (this was before I had
heard of the Shark torch, by which time I have what I now own). The
advice was I should rethink that. “What you need is high heat and
fine control.” This solution, although it is a “this will work”
leaves something to be desired. As a remark, the use on lager propane
tanks (bigger than the disposable “Coleman” type) is illegal anywhere
in a residence that has adopted the national fire code.

While I am not advocating this, I found the solution to my problem
in what is called the Precision LP Gas Torch. This was designed for
jewelers; it is hot enough to alloy gold or silver. I noticed on the
discussion on a good four-year class, some who wrote from Australia,
where unlike the states, there are a number of schools that actually
train students to be fully capable gold and silversmiths. (Unlike
here where it, as far as I know of the public institutions, are
likely to be more of an art type class. No real preparation for the
actual world of working at a trade.) It is of note that a number of
schools in both Germany and Australia have opted for this torch to
teach (actually train). I am happy with mine and as far as I know,
there have never been regrets with anyone that owns one. I like it
better overall to air/acetylene, which are used in class/shop in
Ogden, Layton, and Roy. (All of these are an older model Smith). It
is capable of bench work; the largest tip (for a melting flame) will
put out a flame approximately of 1 and 1/2 feet. I can do some things
with this I would not even try with the other. A Smith will on the
other end of things melt more. But since I do not plan on making
small statues or such this fits my every need. This in my opinion is
a good torch. As far as I know this is a little different than any
other so can not be compared directly to some other. Anyway I like
it, others may, weighing all, opt for another that may be better
suited for whatever they need.

(What this will not do, is platinum and palladium, nor weld, I was
surprise to learn that the Meco Midget is used to some extent even in
auto body repair, nor braze large objects. but on gold and silver the
higher heat is not needed. It can operate off mapp, for a higher
heat, but still not for platinum etc., but I have never had a reason
to use it. The cooler flame is actually an advantage on silver. As
will be explained. This is my main use.)

As to oxygen/fuel torches many jewelers and others operate one with
propane, and many use a throwaway canister for that propane, for
safety reasons etc. When I was hunting for a torch I received a reply
that they were using a Smith, with the one pound can, and that they
had got hold of a used oxygen generator for $100 (practically stole
it). Problem solved. This place has reconditioned ones I think may be
of use (have not looked into it, as long as there is enough pressure
it should do).

Others have solved this by having tanks outside and a line ran into
the work area etc. If I were a homeowner, I would seriously think to
look into a torch that operates off of natural gas. Have the
connection (valves etc) work done by a licensed and bonded

As to using a torch that is oxygen/propane with disposable tanks,
the propane will last a long time. You may not want to do this, I was
advised by people adverse to it. The problem is with the oxygen
canister; this will last at maximum setting with a Little Torch 22
minutes top. This may make some sense if using gold, and selling what
you make. On silver because it conducts heat differently, you will be
using mostly the larger tips and/or the melting tip, depending on
project. It will not last anywhere near that long. At over $10 a
shot, this will add up quick.

This is only my opinion based on observations. Others may disagree.
If using a torch for only silver there is a reason why the
air/acetylene type is the preferred torch for construction. Peter
Rowe gave the following, referring to why air/acetylene is the usual
choice for silversmithing. “The broad soft flame makes evenly heating
the whole piece much easier, and avoids much of the uneven expansion
and warping that can occur with larger sheet metal pieces when you
try to use a very small hot flame instead of heating everything
gently.” Silver and gold conduct heat differently, silver can not be
tacked, and the whole thing must be brought to close to melting for
the solder to flow. There is a more detailed discussion on this, and
why this type equipment is the usual tool of choice for that work,
although I do not have the link. (Then again you are not likely to
see an air/acetylene torch on a bench jeweler’s bench.) Others are
happy with using some other torch; these will work for that. One
wrote (when I was looking) that they were using a water torch, they
mentioned the one they had would put out a flame approximately a
quarter inch wide with the biggest tip. This (for silver) would be
the better choice over some other model, although I do not recall
what brand it was. As one person wrote, that when it comes to
torches, it is to some almost like discussing religion. Between
different makes of the better torches of the same type something
probably can be said on each as an advantage over the rival.