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Hydroflux water torch


#1

Hello everyone!

I am looking to buy a hydroflux water torch but I would like to do
more research on other people who have used it. Based on all the
reviews/threads I have seen on Orchid, everyone pretty much seems to
love it. Most of the reviews I have read seem to be geared toward
repairs a lot more than fabrication. i have not seen any videos
using this particular welder. I know that it cannot be used for
casting but my concern is will it be able to heat…let’s say, a box
ring? I contacted Rio Grande and they said that if my jewelry was as
big as…say a 2" navajo cuff bracelet (which I will most likely
never make), then the torch would not generate enough heat to melt
solder. When I called Otto Frei, I was told that if I heat a piece
bigger than a 50cent piece, i would have problems fabricating jewelry
since the metal does not get hot enough. is this true or is the
person just not using it the right way? for the jewelry pieces that i
make are not very large—mostly enameled pendants, rings and
earrings. Can you tell me some of things you have made using this
particular torch?What potential problems are there? I would really
appreciate it if you could shed some light on this issue. Thank you
and I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Dara


#2

I’ve used a water torch for fabrication and repairs for over 10
years. It’s made by AquaFlame, but it’s just like the HydroFlux.

There is no way to regulate the flame size other than by changing
the torch tip - the bigger the tip, the bigger the flame. The
different models of the AquaFlame refer to the amount of gas they can
generate, and this determines the maximum torch tip that can be used.
I have the 800 model that can drive a #16 tip, or can be used by two
people with #20 tips.

The #16 tip is easily capable of soldering a bangle bracelet made
from 22cms of 6x1.4mm D section gold wire, weighing 16gms (actually,
I used the #19 tip for that). It was just laid on a solder board,
with no need for heat retaining bricks.

I’ve also used it for melting small quantities of gold, but the MEK
that I use in the booster tank doesn’t generate a high enough
temperature to melt platinum.

I still have a Sievert propane torch, and a bottled oxy/propane
setup, but neither gets used anywhere as much as the water torch. I
certainly wouldn’t be without my water torch. Just my preference.

Regards, Gary Wooding


#3

Dara- I have used a water torch for over 20 years. I used one of the
first that were available to the repair jewelry biz.

It is a wonderful thing to have and to master. However, like
microwave ovens what it does well it does very very well. What it
doesn’t do well it really sucks at.

I have found it invaluable for soldering tiny things like chains,
soldering a fig 8 safety, rebuilding tennis bracelets etc. It’s a
dream for tipping diamonds. I can, with a pretty good rate of
success, solder the jump ring closed on a small spring ring with out
ruining the spring. I can solder a bunch of crowns right next to each
other without worrying about anything else getting hot enough to move
or melt. It does very well on gold, palladium, and platinum. Silver
and copper, hmmm, not so much. Those metals suck up too much heat.
You end up just boiling your solder before the rest of the piece
gets hot enough to get the solder to flow.

Now the Water Torch manufacturers and sales folks will tell you a
different story.

The laser lovers out there will also chime in about how much a laser
is better for such things. I don’t deny their claims, but I just
don’t feel like spending 20 grand on a tool that I don’t need so
often.

As a cheapskate, I bought my water torch used from a silver smith
that couldn’t get it to work with silver very well. I recommend that
you look around for a used one. No moving parts to wear out.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#4

You never say what metal your are working with. I have used my
Hydroflux for many years, and am very happy with it. But, I keep a
map/ O2 Medco around, for large silver things. Don’t need don’t
often but, when the Hydroflux does not get the job done it is there.
If you mostly work in silver, there are perhaps better answers
available. There is a Swiss water torch which has two
chambers,creating for more gas, (and at twice the price.)

Mark Chapman


#5

I really appreciate all your input. I am just very cautious since
this is not exactly a cheap piece of equipment and I want to cover
all my bases before deciding to buy.I work mostly with silver and
copper. The reason why I want one is because I am paranoid about
having tanks around the house—not to mention I live in an
apartment. What really sold me on this torch was the fact that it is
the only one approved by the NYFD that can be stored in an apartment.
I currently use a butane torch for soldering my pieces. Is it
possible to heat the metal with the butane first THEN go in with the
water torch?

Dara


#6
What really sold me on this torch was the fact that it is the only
one approved by the NYFD that can be stored in an apartment. I
currently use a butane torch for soldering my pieces. Is it
possible to heat the metal with the butane first THEN go in with
the water torch? 

Yes, it is entirely feasible to pre-heat with a butane torch - as
long as you don’t mind having a canister of butane in your apartment
;-). In fact it is normal practice in model engineering when silver
soldering copper boilers.

Regards, Gary Wooding


#7

Dara,

If you’re working mostly in silver and copper, I don’t know that a
water torch is going to give you enough heat for what you are doing.
My experience with one for over 2 years suggests it is great for
smaller fabrication jobs with gold, but mine had serious problems
with larger pieces. If you DO decide to go with a water torch, I’d
buy the biggest one you can find. Yes, they are approved by fire
depts. because they don’t compress gas, but I found my flame would
get weaker when I used it for an extended period of time.

Talk to the experts or manufacturers of water torches. Perhaps they
have gotten stronger and hotter since I used mine in the mid-80’s.
Is there any way you could try one before you buy?

Jay Whaley


#8

Hi,

I, too, have a water torch. I have the Swiss-made Spirflame, so I
can’t quite speak to the specific brand that you’re inquiring about;
however, I’m sure overall specs and operations are mostly the same.
That said, there is indeed a reason you were told by the pros at both
Rio and Otto Frei that you wouldn’t be able to heat any given piece
(especially silver or copper) thoroughly enough for soldering–or
even good annealing, for that matter.

The tips on most of the water torches I’ve seen, including mine, are
TINY. Like, hypodermic needle-size tiny. The diameters are regarded
in terms of gauge (like wire gauge). I don’t have my box in front of
me, but I think that my smallest tip is either a 26 or a 28 gauge,
which tells you how small they can get.

Water torches and their tips are precision instruments, and they’re
good for small, often pinpoint, soldering and repair jobs. They’re
excellent with metals like gold, platinum, etc. where you may not
want or need to heat the entire piece (platinum prong repair was
mentioned). Even with my biggest tip size (18gge), I would never
dream of trying to work on a bigger piece of any kind with it–and
I’d be hard-pressed to say I’d attempt even a smaller box ring,
because the flame distribution is simply not “bushy” and
all-encompassing enough. --There’s nothing you can do to make it work
for that, because it’s just not what they were designed for. I have
another torch that I use for standard, run-of-the-mill soldering,
annealing, etc.

So for everyday silver and copper soldering and annealing, I say
skip it–if you were going to do repairs or precision work with gold,
platinum, etc. bench-work regularly, then sure, it might be
worth the investment. [If you want to see what kind of jewelry can be
made with a water torch (in this case, a Spirflame), google “Giovanni
Corvaja.” I think there may even be a video or two somewhere out
there showing him using it. You should also be able to find a few
good perspective/scale shots of his work somewhere in your image
search.]

Peace, love and hair grease.
Tamra Gentry


#9

Oh, yeah, one more thing…

Is it possible to heat the metal with the butane first THEN go in
with the water torch?

In my opinion, this would be entirely too much of a PITA. What I
forgot to mention in my previous post is that the flames of these
pin-point-diameter tips are as intensely-hot as they are extremely
focused. Personally, in using the approach you mention, I see too
much of a risk for messing up a piece by either generating a heck of
a lot of spotty, location-specific firescale along seams (on the
silver), or rendering your solder balled-up and useless by way of the
vicious cycle of trying to keep your overall piece heated properly
while trying to flow the solder at the same time—basically, heating
the ish out of it.

Peace, love and hair grease.
Tamra Gentry


#10

Thank you so much for all your responses! I decided to bite the
bullet and just bought it from Rio since their tech support really
seems to know what goes on if there are any problems. I figure if I
don’t like it, I can exchange it for a rolling mill and guillotine
shears! I am very excited to play with it!

Dara


#11

Send it back ( within 30 days! ) !!! I have a Hydroflux Welder I was
going to put into a yard sale next weekend… I have two, and rarely
use the one that is set up. I have even let students use mine in the
studio and it has never had any problems; It is safe ( as far as
insurance goes as some buildings and states restrict oxy/fuel set ups
indoors), easy to maintain, but has limitations as it’s really for
fine, and hit-and-run soldering and repair work on all but platinum.

I have checked out the dual chamber models but for their usability
and looked at the cost comparison given the features of each machine.
the lower cost of the Okai model works given those limitations do not
increase because more gas is generated… One cannot melt gold or even
6 gms of silver with ease as the tips ( even the metal ones) are not
at all right for melting anything. The plastic needles tips that come
with the Okai’s will melt down, the metal tips just burn up if trying
to melt scrap, etc. Neither company has a great customer service
record- Okai is deplorable ( yes, I own 2), and the European
company’s with 2 gas producing chambers has had distributor issues
over the years making their service record sporadic at best, still
much the same as Okai- you can buy some replacement parts from their
vendor’s stock. Sending either unit in to either manufacturer for a
"tune up" is practically impossible- with Okai you may or may not get
a response unless you can get the vendor to call them for you,
persistently. for instance, Rio sold one of the units to me, they had
to try 8 calls to Okai before a call was returned to inquire about
sending a unit in for assessment… eventually ( read: 2 months
later), they agreed to coordinate this with the owner of their
product (me) through a major jewellery supply vendor like Rio… This
should never be the case with any tool manufacturer…Particularly
when a 52.00 Bern-zo-matic oxy/fuel set-up from any home or hardware
store exceeds the capabilities of the $1,500 or the $3,000 dollar
unit. Both function the same. What neither tells you is that you
don’t need to use their “flux” in the machine, particularly if you
are a novice and rely on the flux you are used to as a temperature
indicator… you just get no interestingly coloured flame without
the flux. Each must be kept dry ( with the fiber that goes in the
chamber(s), the filters on the Okai must be kept in good condition
and you should follow the directions on replacing the liquids about
each 50 hours or 3 months of use so the hoses stay clean and free of
contaminants ( algae, etc. ) Other than that, I truly have a unit
that has not been in use ( and is essentially new ) in over a
year,and is going to go at a very reasonable price. If money is no
object to you the warranty that comes with a brand new Okai Hydroflux
Welder is one year…your credit card may have provisions for
extending that and warranty is the only thing the unit I am selling
does not have- or so I believe is not transferable to a second
owner… that’s the most frank description I can give you. If
interested contact me off list and save your self quite a few hundred
dollars!..rer


#12

I had two, gave one away. The one I still have works but it’s not
worth the hassle and it takes up otherwise useful space on my
workbench.


#13

Hello again everyone! If anyone is interested, I made a review of
the torch on youtube. You can click on this link:

I only decided to make one because all my jeweler friends have heard
about the torch but have never really seen one in action. So far, I
like it. There is definitely a learning curve, but then again, what
doesn’t? I just wanted to thank you guys again for your input. I
wouldn’t have bought it without you! Many thanks!!

D