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Low tech torches


#1

Greetings to Orchid!

After many years of hiatus from both Orchid and the jeweler’s bench,
I return with what I hope will be an interesting dilemma.

As of March of this year, I live on a sailboat. Up to now, working
exclusively in polymer clay had postponed the challenge of setting
up a full jeweler’s bench, but I’m hearing the siren call of silver.
I’d like to have the freedom to create my own findings and settings
in gold and silver, and this means finding a safe way to solder. (I
don’t think my current space and safety considerations will permit a
casting station.)

We currently have propane tanks aboard for cooking and heating, and
a butane minitorch for my fiance’s electrical work. (Relevant details
on this from the manufacturer: Up to 90 minutes use on each filling.

Flame adjustment for any size job. # 1300C / 2500F blue flame.)

While I do have 12v (and with the inverter, 120v) available,
electrical solutions are not my first choice – when we’re not hooked
up at a marina, which is the prefered state, electricity beyond
general lighting and electronic accessories means firing up the
boat’s diesel engine or the gas-powered generator.

Suggestions from the brilliant minds here? Will that butane
minitorch do the job? Some adaptation for the propane?

What I’m used to working with on land is an oxy-propane or
oxy-natural gas torch, but I’m reluctant to store oxygen on the boat.
I’m willing to use antique technologies if need be.

Kat Tanaka
kamisono@freeshell.org
http://kamisono.freeshell.org


#2

Hello Kat,

There are two kinds of people in the world: those that will tell you
you can’t do a dang thing without an oxy-whatever torch and that you
are a fool to try, and those that will tell you that you can do a lot
more than you’d imagine with nothing more than a $15 disposable
canister plumber’s torch plus a little refillable butane microtorch
for the small jobs. As you may have guessed I’m one of the later
folk.

That said, my first suggestion would be to check the Orchid archives.
We seem to discuss this very topic at least once a year so over the
years a fair amount of info on the subject has accumulated. If, for
example, you search on “plumber torch” in the archives you’ll get
hits on several very useful threads. Have a look, see what you see and
I for one would be happy to answer any further questions you might
have on the subject.

PS. If you visit my site or blog you’ll see the kind of work I have
done with these two decidedly low tech torches. Needless to say there
are limitations but the possibilities easily justify the effort if
bigger, better torches are not immediately available to you.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com


#3

Hi Kat;

I can’t find the post on my computer, but a long time back I was
asking Orchid members about where to purchase one of the gasoline
torches that are still widely in use in Asia. I got a couple sources
from the forum members, but they must still be on my old computer.
Try a search of the Orchid Archives on Ganoksin.com.

I think one of these torches might just be the ticket.

David L. Huffman


#4

I’d suggest you check out this torch that Otto Frei sells. I was
introduced to it in a Harold O’Connor workshop. It is very simple in
design and the flame is much more controllable compared to other
similar torches. I’ve been using one for the past six months or so
and have hardly lit my Smith torch since.:

Ez Torch Kit With 3 Tips & Hose For Refillabel Propane Tanks-Tank
Sold Separately Part No.: 114.251 Price: $89.00


#5

Kat,

I don’t know why so many people are so afraid of bottled oxygen. It
is so incredibly helpful for boosting the flame temperature for
soldering torches, is quite easy to obtain, a very clean and long
lasting fuel, and I have never heard of anyone being injured by an
exploding oxygen cylinder. Oh, I’m sure it has happened, but I think
it is extremely rare. If I were you, I would go to your local welding
supply store, and discuss the matter with them. They can give you all
the options, sizes of tanks, hoses, a regulator, etc., and they are
safety professionals. It seems to me if you already have the propane
tanks on board, and haven’t lost too much sleep worrying about your
propane tanks exploding, I would go ahead and buy the oxygen tank, as
large as you can find room for on your boat. Be sure it is chained
up, as legally required, I believe. You might also find out whether
the marina your docked at even permits oxygen bottles on board.
Propane and oxygen or natural gas and oxygen would be perfect for a
soldering torch.

I like the “hoke” style torch with a specialty tip kit, as you can
change the tips fast, with just your fingers, can produce flame
sizes from too small to see to a large hot flame. Sometimes I’ll
leave the tips off if I need to really crank up the heat on a large
project. Those “hoke” torches are about $20, and the tip kit another
$15. Very cheap, works great.

You mentioned electricity not being your first choice. They make
some great “water torches” fueled by electricity and water, but
unless you get the biggest model you can, in my experience, they just
don’t have the power you need for silver work, which required LOTS of
heat. You’ll find most fire departments have no problem with water
torches, because they do not “store” gases, they manufacture them as
you work. I had to work in the lobby of a building in downtown San
Diego years ago, and that water torch was the only torch the fire
department would let me use. It was a pleasure to work with, with
that little emerald colored flame, but it had limitations on the size
of projects you could tackle. Many jewelers in the world work with a
foot bellows-type of torch that is fueled by gasoline. You have to do
a bit of pumping with your foot, but you will get the job done! I
have seen unbelievably delicate work, as well as gold ingots melted
with such torches, but maybe you’d be uncomfortable having the
gasoline around as your fuel? At least you don’t have the oxygen tank
to worry about…

Jay Whaley


#6

Hi Kat, I have a feeling I may be “in the same boat” one day as my
mariner husband is making noises about sailing away!

Anyway, I’m no authority but I was taught silverwork using only
propane, and have continued to use only propane. My flame is
relatively large compared to the mini torch oxy-prop I have used at a
jeweller friends studio, but still serves me well for making some of
my findings, rings, pendants, etc. The burner is a “Primus Pinpoint
Burner BJ8720” in a handpiece…

Hope that is of some use!

:slight_smile: Kimmyg
@Kim_Griffith


#7

Kat,

Suggestions from the brilliant minds here? Will that butane
minitorch do the job? Some adaptation for the propane? 

The butane mini torches will do small modest jobs in silver, but are
only barely hot enough in my experience. Some are better than others.
The Ronson Multiflame (I think that was the name) that I had years
ago was considerably larger in flame size than, say, the smaller
"Blazer" style ones one sees today, and I’ve seen even smaller
"pencil" styles ones that are likely good for lighting a fire in the
fireplace or your cigar, but won’t solder much more than small wire
work joints. so it depends on just what butane torch you’ve got. The
fuel itself burns a bit cooler than does propane, but more important
is how much of it the torch is burning at any one time. Many of the
current crop of small hand held butane torches are just a bit to
small to be really useful.

But propane and air does work just fine, though not with the
pinpoint control you may be used to with propane and oxygen. Any
local hardware store will happily sell you a propane plumbers torch
that uses disposable small tanks. These are relatively safe to use
and store, and are hot enough for decent jewelry scale soldering,
though again without quite the pinpoint control you may be used to.
46or silver, though, with it’s high heat conductivity meaning you
usually want to heat a wider area anyway, they can do just fine, once
you get used to them. A refinement of this type of torch adds a hose
between the torch handle and the tank, and this may be the better type
for you. Whether you can run this off your existing propane tanks, I
don’t know. But I’m pretty certain that there must be some torch type
out there that is designed just for propane and air, and which DOES
hook up to just a propane tank such as you’ve already got, though I
don’t have a brand name right at the tip of my brain to offer you as
I write this.

My personal choice for your situation would be to go with air
acetylene, however, You can get either the somewhat larger B size
tanks, which will last for a very long time, or the smaller R (I
think that’s it) sized tanks, and hook this up to a Smiths Handi
heat, a prestolyte, or some similar air acetyelene torch, and you’ll
have few limits on what you can do. With larger tips, these can melt
significant amounts ot silver, and with smaller ones, do fine wire
soldering. While acetylene means storing another tank, like Propane,
it’s a low pressure tank without the high pressure dangers of an
oxygen tank, and in case of a leak, it dissipates very rapidly,
unlike the much more dangerous (in my opinion, at least) Propane.

And another choice worth considering is a Little torch. While
normally these get used with larger tanks, you can get this with
adapters/regulators that fit the small disposable size propane tanks,
as well as similar sized disposable oxygen tanks. These small tanks
are then pretty safe, simply because the small amount of total gas
they contain. More costly because buying gas in those small
disposable cannisters is hardly economic, but it does give you a
very small, relatively safe package with which you can do occasional
soldering, and if you’ve a preference for a very small precise torch,
the little torch of course is an obvious preference. At one time I
was doing art fairs and the like, and desired some means of sizing
rings on the spot for customers. That setup worked just fine for me
then without needing a lot of space in the car to transport.

Hope that helps.
Peter


#8
There are two kinds of people in the world: those that will tell
you you can't do a dang thing without an oxy-whatever torch and
that you are a fool to try, and those that will tell you that you
can do a lot more than you'd imagine with nothing more than a $15
disposable canister plumber's torch plus a little refillable butane
microtorch for the small jobs. As you may have guessed I'm one of
the later folk. 

laugh

Starting out as a college-trained (and then a GIA-trained) jeweler,
I nearly fainted when one of my first jobs was with a boss who loved
to use an oxy-acetylene torch and a gigantic table-mounted
belt-sander.

That said, my first suggestion would be to check the Orchid
archives. We seem to discuss this very topic at least once a year
so over the years a fair amount of info on the subject has
accumulated. 

I’d done some looking, but not knowing where to start was
hampering my search.

If, for example, you search on "plumber torch" in the archives
you'll get hits on several very useful threads. Have a look, see
what you see and I for one would be happy to answer any further
questions you might have on the subject. 

Thank you for both the keywords and the offer.

PS. If you visit my site or blog you'll see the kind of work I have
done with these two decidedly low tech torches. Needless to say
there are limitations but the possibilities easily justify the
effort if bigger, better torches are not immediately available to
you. 

I just went to look, and yes, I’m utterly sold on the idea of
swearing off the oxy. Yay!

Kat Tanaka
kamisono@freeshell.org
kamisono.freeshell.org


#9
Suggestions from the brilliant minds here? Will that butane
minitorch do the job? Some adaptation for the propane? 

You can use a Prestolite torch, and have a local gas supplier change
the hoses for propane compliant.

I'm willing to use antique technologies if need be. 

Use a blow pipe, either commercially sold or make your own, for when
you need a little more heat than propane alone. Look for one that
has a bulb inbetween the two ends of the pipe, because this allows
you to maintain a more constant flow of air. The bulb is a little
reservoir for air, so you can take a breath without losing your
oxygen level for induction to the propane flame.


#10

Kat,

IMHO your best bet is to go with what you know, and keep using the
oxy-propane torch. The dangerous part of the mix is the propane, NOT
the oxygen. If your propane tank is stored in a USCG Approved manner
(above deck, ventilated, etc.), and your oxygen cylinder is secured
to a bulkhead you are actually as safe, or safer, than if you have
dive tanks just laying about, loose, below deck or in a locker. The
real culprit that you need to be concerned with is the propane.
Propane gas sinks, and pools, at the lowest point gravity can pull it
down to, ie: your bilge. There it will remain until an errant spark
turns your vessel into a fireworks display. Oxygen, on the other
hand, is not explosive, nor even flammable, in-and-of itself. It will
cause a flame that is consuming fuel to burn more fiercely, but
oxygen cannot burn of its own volition. Oxygen will even dissipate if
you discharge it into the cabin, whereas propane will hang around
till you either evacuate it over the side with fans, or it blows up.

The only danger that an oxygen cylinder poses is the pent up energy
of high-pressure compressed gas, which is the exact same danger that
a pressurized dive tank containing compressed air represents, that of
shearing off the valve and becoming a missile. If either the dive
tank or the oxygen cylinder is sufficiently secured, and/or the valve
protected, neither is anywhere near as dangerous to your vessel as a
propane tank.

FWIW, butane gas will also pool in your bilge should your butane
cartridge or torch leak. Like propane, I suspect USCG would have a
problem with storing butane below decks too.

Just my opinion and worth exactly what you paid for it.

Steve (Whose first REAL job was selling high-pressure compressed gas
valves to the welding industry, and who has a 31 foot Columbia sloop
in his back yard.) Stempinski

Steve’s Place
Jewelry Repair
While-U-Watch


#11

An alcohol lamp? and a blowpipe were used in the past and probably
still are in some parts of the world to solder.

marilyn


#12

Hi,

Since you’ll be using your torch mostly on board ship/boat, I’d stay
away from propane, since it’s heavier than air & pools in the lowest
locations. Not a good thought, having a small leak that collects
some place in the bilge & goes BOOM when you don’t want it to.

Dave


#13

Greetings Kat Tanaka,

When I first started in this trade there were no oxy propane
torches, we used mouth blown torches. All you need us a regulater on
your propane bottle to reduce the gas pressure to a soft flowing
flame then you can hook up any size mouth blowpipe you care to try.
They are freely available here in the UK, but I do not know about
elsewhere.

Regards James Miller FIPG
https://www.ganoksin.com/orchid/jmdesign.htm


#14

I have used a mouth blown torch for the last 25 years, it runs off
natural gas, butane or propane, is incredibly controllable, once you
learn to breathe and blow at the same time. I think musicians call it
cyclical breathing.

They are still for sale in the UK and I just happen to have one up
on Ebay uk at the moment !. Just a coincidence.

You need something bigger for anything more than an earring or ring
but it will do a link in 18/18 chain once you get good at it.

Tim.


#15

I just received a catalog from Vermont Country Store (sorry, can’t
find it right now), anyhow they carry the old fashioned gasoline
pressure blowtorches. You should be able to find them using Google.

Jerry in Kodiak


#16

I’m always interested in the posts on the Otto Frei EZ Torch – it
sounds almost too good to be true! I think it’s top-out temp is
around 2,500 versus the 5,000+ of the Little Torch (I think). I have
a teacher who says no way would the EZ torch work, but I’m intrigued
by the person who hardly touches their Smith anymore now that they
have the Otto. The archive doesn’t have much about this specific
torch, so if anyone could pipe in with more input, that would be
great.

Much thanks,
Tonya Miller


#17

Dear Jay,

The danger in oxygen is not that it is likely to explode, but that
in the presence of many common items–like anything oily–it causes
rapid oxidation, i.e. fire. I was taught in my welding class that if
you turn on your oxygen or the tank is leaking and have oil or fuel
on your clothing, you can easily set yourself on fire, even though
there is no spark or open flame to ignite anything. Used carefully,
oxygen is safe, carelessly, deadly. I’m sure a fire on a boat is not
a good thing.

Linda

Linda Holmes-Rubin
ForCapital Associates of Atlanta
Phone: 770-479-7837
Fax 770-720-7555


#18
I'd suggest you check out this torch that Otto Frei sells. I Ez
Torch Kit With 3 Tips & Hose For Refillabel Propane Tanks-Tank Sold
Separately Part No.: 114.251 Price: $89.00 

To his comments I’d add, I use this same torch, sold as a “Whale” by
another distributor, name forgotten. I find this torch and a larger
Bernzamatic Propane torch adequate to cast up to 2.5ozT sterling and
the small tip can be adjusted to a fine pin point. The EZ Torch also
has a small ring just behind the tip to adjust the air intake so a
wide variety of flame size is possible.

The other point I’d make concerning Propane without compressed air
or O2, I, experimentally have tried to produce firescale with my
propane set ups and have so far failed to produce any firescale.
Enough said!

As to the safety of a 14.4 oz or 16ox propane tank, seems a little
alarmist to describe such catastrophic force from so little gas. Now
I am not a sailor, but is not the bilge of a boat supposed to be
power ventilated anyway, as it’s the designed way for the diesel and
gasoline fumes to be extracted from the boat/ship? Diesel too is a
fume that is heavy, so is not the ship designed for such fumes to
cleared?

I’m often been accused of being hyper safe, but try to stay short of
paranoia. I’m know we all have our own pet methods/techniques, but
let us try not to get those prejudices, propagated as absolutes. I’m
very glad we don’t have to use charcoal as metal smiths did just 300
to 400 years ago, I can hear the out cry at the dangers of felling
the trees to make the charcoal.

Tongue in Cheek,
Ed


#19
Since you'll be using your torch mostly on board ship/boat, I'd
stay away from propane, since it's heavier than air & pools in the
lowest locations. Not a good thought, having a small leak that
collects some place in the bilge & goes BOOM when you don't want it
to. 

Just wondering…since acetylene (specific gravity 0.9O) is lighter
than air, would it be a better choice?

Del


#20
Just wondering...since acetylene (specific gravity 0.9O) is lighter
than air, would it be a better choice? 

That is why I would probably use a good old prestolite acetylene/air
torch. Acetylene won’t pool.

Only one gas bottle to worry about. Good selection of tips.

A “B” bottle will last a long time and is not overly large. Using
acetylene/air gives a cleaner burn than acetylene/oxygen because you
don’t get the carbon smoke when you light the torch. I use a
propane/oxygen and a prestolite. If I had to choose only one it would
be the prestolite hands down.

Mark