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Getting the best out of water torch

I’m currently having problems getting the best out of my water
torch. I’m using MEK in the bubbler and get a blue flame with an
orange colour tail. Tips between 18 and 26.

I think I might be over heating the solder as it sometime turns
black before it melts? And I can’t find the fine line between melting
the solder and melting the silver? Have switched to solder paste but
has not made vast improvements.

I can’t find anything on the internet regarding the use of one in
soldering silver etc, just how to set them up.

so just asking if anyone has on tip verses work piece
size, distances that should be maintained between tip and work etc.
Or just any comment on what I might be doing wrong.



When your solder is turning black, it’s probably because your flame
is oxidizing the workpiece. You probably have something wrong with
either your flux/coolant or your electrolyte. Whenever I’ve had an
orange or yellow flame (even just streaks of yellow), it’s been a
sign the torch is low on methanol flux or the electrolyte is
exhausted. When it’s running right, the flame is a solid,
light-saber green. The unit I use needs to read close to full on the
flux gauge to work properly, and the electrolyte gauge needs to read
at least half way full. With MEK instead of methanol your mileage may

As far as the rest goes, you will probably find the largest two
sizes of tips work best on sterling, and the smaller tips are better
for gold and delicate silver work. You do need to keep the torch
moving, especially on silver. It also helps to cover small protruding
parts with heat sinks to prevent accidental melting. That flame is

John Walbaum

First Methyl Ethyl Ketone is not necessary in a water torch- Methyl
Alcohol is safer.Secondly,.The flame shouldn’t be orange it sounds
like you are low on electrolyte/flux. So, following your
manufacturer’s info, do some basic maintenance- if it’s been more
than 6 months since you added flux to the chamber-it’s definitely
overdue. Also if its a hydroflux welder, check for the brass
handpiece filters decomposition- replace as needed- same for the
filter in the hose line…and if the solder is burning up there can
be a number of reasons from directing the flame onto it to not
preparing the join correctly to learning to use a flux tha clarifies
at about 1400 degrees to indicate that you are approaching the temp
for the solder flow ( and silver to melt!)…

Water torch tips are for precision applications more so than
annealing, etc- as a wide generalization- particularly in the sizes
you mentioned- so while trying to warm your work piece you are
overheating the tips (are they turning red-orange too?).

Water torches require a learning curve that differs from other torch
use…you may want to try perfecting your basic soldering skills at
this point in your education with a butane torch -(a bernzomatic will
get to 2450-2900 depending on the brand and has
them on sale for 16.95 USD right now I would grab one while they are
available) I have one that I use for quick annealing of wire coils,
even melting and direct casting small amounts ( an oz) of.999 silver
etc. other relatively small jobs,& heat colouring small ish pieces of
metal to name a few uses.It’s in the same condition as when I bought
it 4 or more years ago! ) and sheet or wire solder…paste will
definitely burn up if you hit it directly with a flame- it takes too
long for the metal to come to temp - especially in the winter and/or
considering ambient temp. in the studio…the colder it is in the room
the longer to pre-heat the metal and then if the paste was sitting
there through the process,it had probably lost it’s moisture and
binder/flux by that point…most pastes are for production work, and
most have a limited shelf life.Yours may need a bit of thinning if
they don’t flow readily from your syringe.

Adding a bit of mineral spirit (by minims only, not more than say
twenty per tube,well mixed in with a bambo skewer or the like), at a
time…and the correct temper for the piece. As a rule I don’t like
to promote anyone participating on Orchid’s brands/products Beth
Katz’ “My Unique Solutions” is perhaps worth a mention here.She makes
many grades of decent quality paste solders in a wide range of
temperatures- or you could easily make your own by combining some
zinc oxide paste (lifeguards used to use " that white stuff" on
their noses for all day exposure to sun).The paste.already has enough
inert ingredients, diluents,etc to make it…same stuff! ) and
powdered .999 or sterling silver, or karat golds of different colours
in the proportions relative to the flow desired (easy, med, hard,
med.hard,repair, etc…) and metal content appropriate to x grade…The
stuff one finds at radio shack, electrical hobby, or hardware stores
called 'silver bearing solder is an easy flow formula and 65% or less
tin silver alloy that will more likely burn up even with a
pre-coating of anti-firescale / flux like Cupronil - an
internationally recognized, consistent and widely available product
/ brand by 4S Labs available from Cookson’s (I think), and most US
jewelry supply vendors or the straight forward & traditional
homemade boric acid dissolved in Methyl alcohol until the consistency
of light cream.- without the stabilization of Cupronil !.. Next
check the fiber/cotton-like filter material; moisture therein will
make for a flame with plenty of burned gasses ( blue flames indicate
unburned gas).Replace it with new dry material ( not cotton though-
it is not as effective as the short fibred batting like stuff that
should be available where you purchased the water torch, or directly
from the manufacturer. If that is still dry, it’s the flux and
electrolyte ratio or depletion ( any vendors MSDS will tell you what
the electrolyte and flux is made of: most often sodium hydroxide or
potassium hydroxide or lye.If you have that on hand combine 1 grqm
per litre of methyl alcohol to give you the stated ratio on dry
electrolyte labelled with Rio Grande’s name). Maintenence is
critical to owning a water torch…Learning to solders critical to
fabrication skills…both take time to learn, and it is a lifelong
contiual process…while with the art of metalsmithing there is no
right and wrong, regarding the basic techniques : proficiency comes
with repetition and understanding the materials explicitly…rer

I use a water torch, with MEK, for nearly all my soldering, with
tips from 26 to 16. I suspect that you are aiming the flame primarily
on the solder, rather than the joint itself. The flame is quite
intense and is easily able to burn the flux on a solder paillon (the
black is burnt flux). I start off by using the cooler part of the
flame to wave around the solder, sometimes very briefly on it,
concentrating on getting the joint up to temperature. Watch the flux
bubble, froth up, and eventually go clear, then the joint is very
nearly there and its time to start using the hotter part of the
flame. By this time, the paillon, which was possibly displaced by the
froth, has been drawn back to the joint and is on the point of
melting. The whole process takes but a few seconds for a small item,
and up to 30 seconds or so for some the size of a heavy bangle

Gary Wooding

Dear Mr. East:

Thank you for your Orchid posting. We (Spirig) manufacture the
Spirflame[tm] hydrogen/oxygen gas generating system. The orange
color coming from the blue flame indicates it may be time for doing
some routine maintenance on you water torch. How this is done depends
upon the specific unit you have. It is not a case of overheating. The
flame is not getting hotter, but dirtier, it is more likely the flame
is no longer a proper mix of clean hydrogen/oxygen (the orange you
see) there may be electrolyte residue altering this balance.

For now I would focus on cleaning the booster tank (bubbler) with hot
water and using a fresh mix of Booster Fluid (MEK in your case). Make
sure the gas line going from bubbler to torch are clean and dry, has
no moisture and the torch handpiece and tips are cleaned as well. I
am currently at the MJSA Expo in NY demonstrating but will be back in
my office on March 11th. Please feel free to contact me directly by
E-mail or telephone (203 378-5216) for more specific trouble
shooting. We would be happy to provide support even though you do
not have our specific unit.

Best Regards,

Gary W. Miller
Sr. Technical Advisor

Maintenence is critical to owning a water torch.. 

On that topic… mine needs new electrolyte. The fill opening is
directly in the center on top, and the machine weighs about 60 pounds
so I can’t move it easily.

What’s the best/safest way to get the old electrolyte OUT?

Kathy Johnson
Feathered Gems Jewelry