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Natural gas for home studio


#1

Hi. I recently purchased a Meco Midget torch and am in the process of
setting up a home studio. I would like to use natural gas as my fuel
source. I have been told that all I need to do is call my gas company
(NW Natural in Portland, OR) and they should be able to set me up
with a contractor to come out and plumb in a line for me–that it is
really easy.

Well, I have been through two different companies (given to me by NW
Natural) who both have no idea what I am talking about–say they
have never heard of using natural gas for a jewelers torch. I asked
at a welding supply shop in town and they said to just have the
contractor plumb it in like it was for a regular appliance (like a
stove, etc.) and that they could provide the fitting to hook it up to
my torch hose, (although they hadn’t really done this before either).
I called back one of the contractors and relayed this info, and he
said that their company decided they wouldn’t even put in a line for
me knowing that I was going to use it for a torch because of
liability and that it was not an approved appliance, etc.

What am I missing here? Alot of people I have asked about this “have
a friend who uses natural gas and the hookup was really easy”, but I
haven’t actually been able to talk to these “friends” about it. Can
anyone help me out with what I am supposed to tell a contractor and
after the line is put in, how I am to adapt it to my torch hose?

Any help is much appreciated!
Thanks, Lisa


#2

Just call your gas company tell them that you need another line run
to the room you plan to set up in (or a “t” if there is another gas
appliance in the room). They come out and install it. If you don’t
feel comfortable gont to the home store and buying the brass
fittings and installing them yourself, then setting up the torch THEN
TURNING ON THE GAS. then have a plumber scheduled to install the
fittings.beyond that you need tell them nothing…and contractors are
not interested in a small job that smacks of liability so eliminate
that frustration off the top…

You should actually become familiar with your torch and its set up
and once the fittings are installed it is simple to connect the
hose,attach a clamp or compression fitting and run the hosing to the
bench…I would sk you to become a professional and own your tool…by
learning how it is connected and how it is disconnected to make you
all the more aware of the safety precautions and liability issues
involved in jeopardizing your entire neighborhood should you forget
to , or not get in the habit of turning the torch off every time you
get up and leave your bench,and bleeding it at the end of a day
(though somewhat unnecessary with natural or city gas).

If you need instruction on how to connect it to your natural gas
supply’s line go to the dealer that sold it to you or better yet,a
welding supply store and have them draw you a diagram, and perhaps
buy the parts from them making it worth the welding supply’s time
since they won’t be getting more than an oxygen tank’s worth of
business from you in the future,

Bottom line is no one in your town wants to be liable for your using
the torch…so don’t give them ammunition for reasons not to install
the individual components…the gas company need to run another line
for you with 15 pounds max of pressure on the line…a plumber can
attach thread and attach the fittings to the copper line for
you…you then attach your hose to the fittings and the torch end,
turn on the gas, check for leaks and then test the torch ensuring it
is functioning properly…If no one is willing stop getting
frustrated and resolve to the fact that you may have to install it
yourself…so do a small bit of research in the Do It Yourself section
of the library under plumbing, and gs appliances and check for
manufacturers instructions on connecting the torch to your gas supply
or call meecco and ask what parts exactly do you need to install
their torch to the natural gas supply.


#3

Lisa,

I use propane, but natural gas should work. You need a line run to
you work area, then a shut off valve put on the line. From there you
need a pipe nipple put on, then a reducer from the pipe size to the
fitting size for your torch. That fitting should be an iron to brass
connector. The natural gas line should go in to your regulator, not
directly into the torch hose. This will allow you to adjust the flow
and see how much you are using.

Hope this helps,
Jerry


#4

As a mechanical contractor who has done all kinds of gas piping, I
think they are inexperienced and don’t really know what they are
doing to make such a statement. You can contact a mechanical
contractor, a company that installs gas fireplaces, furnaces,
boilers etc. Just tell them you want to install a small gas
appliance, forget the fact that it is a torch. have them put the
fitting on the end of the pipe. Then you just connect the hose for
your torch to that fitting. Also have them use a Ball Valve as your
shut off, it is easier to use and will last longer with many uses
than the old style gas cock. It should be located where it is easy
for you to access as you should shut it when you are done using your
torch. Did you ever take chemistry in school? Remember the lab
benches with the connection for the rubber hose and the bunsen
burner? You are doing a safer hookup then that! Make sure the
installer leak checks all of his joints and use a soap bubble test
on any connections you make.

When you call ask if they could do a gas line connection to a lab
burner like in a school. If they’re comfortable with the liability
of doing that, there is no reason that they shouldn’t hook you up.
(This is commericial type work vs. residential).

Have you checked that the gas pressure will be enough for your
torch? Residential pressure is less than 1/2 psi (about 14 inches
water column) at the most.

I will be glad to help answer any other questions you might have if
you contact me off list.

Dan Wellman


#5

Hi Lisa

There is a safety issue with using NG right out of the line that
would make me not want to plumb your setup if I were a contractor.
There is not a single flashback arrestor that will work at the low
pressure a NG line runs at. This opens up the possibility of an
explosion and fire in your line. There are a couple of manufacturers
who make NG compressors that sit between your torch and the line
that allow for the use of the flashback arrestor and are approved
appliances which lets the contractor off the hook. The problem is
they are not cheap. The plus side beyond the safety issue is you can
easily cast with them due to the higher volume of gas at pressure
they provide.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#6
What am I missing here? Alot of people I have asked about this
"have a friend who uses natural gas and the hookup was really easy 

Lisa, you talk too much. I’m half kidding and half not. It is not
different than any other gas line - I did my own both for our
torches and our gas dryer at home. You (or your contractor) just
take off of the existing line, probably with 1/2" black gas pipe and
put a valve on the end - every line or appliance must have a valve
of it’s own. The “talk too much” part is that, if you just say, “I
need a gas line installed”, they’ll just come and do it. I would
talk to the welders first to figure out the best fitting for your
hose, because then you can choose a valve (there are many) that fits
right to it from the beginning. I know the building code as far as
how to do the plumbing properly, but not the rest of it. It could be
that you can’t have a line to your bedroom or similar at all because
of codes, which is for your own good.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#7

Lisa-I have used natural gas and air with a dental torch. The gas
was hooked up to a natural gas heater in my shop(just have a plumber
solder on another on/off valve off the gas pipe and then the torch
hose was also hooked up to a compressor for air. This was in a store
front in Seattle where it had to, and did pass inspection by the fire
dept. The compressor regulator was 30psi. It worked great for
soldering and annealing. I got acetylene for melting metals for
casting. I recently had a plumber run a pipe to a workbench in my
garage so I can have the same set up in a new house. The plumber who
did my gas line also makes and teaches jewelry/lapidary so he knows
what he is doing. Just call around and ask lots of
certified/licensed plumbers.It might cost $100. because there is not
much cost in parts, just labor. If you have a friend or relative to
provide the labor-even better. It is really nice to use.

Good luck.


#8
There is not a single flashback arrestor that will work at the low
pressure a NG line runs at. 

It is true there is not a flash back arrestor on any NG appliance in
the home. My thought is that at the low pressures involved and with
an atmospheric burner, it is not required. As I think of the NG
appliances, they all have an orifice between the flame and the
piping. The problem with a mixed gas torch is that the higher
pressure of the oxygen could be forced back up the gas line, then
there could be a flash back. Atmospheric burners don’t have that
issue.

This applies even to large burners of several Million BTU’s running
at 5 psi.

I also think that getting enough volume of NG at such a low pressure
could be difficult to get enough and to have a consistant mix with
the oxygen. The typical delivery pressure is max of 14 In W.C.
(about 1/2psi) and is usually around 8"wc. The final pressure is
regulated down to 3.5"wc @ the furnace / water heater / etc. gas
valve. (3.5"wc is the pressure needed to raise a column of water 3.5
inches up a tube /straw etc.)

The pressure booster mentioned would put the gas pressure in the
same range as the oxygen and would make the control of the mix much
better (oxidising, reducing, etc.). I would reccomend that as it
addresses the liability issues (UL listed? etc.) and would have some
safety features built in(?) vs you being the safety device.

Thanks to James Binnion for making me think about the issue of using
pressurized oxygen vs an atmospheric burner.


#9
There is a safety issue with using NG right out of the line that
would make me not want to plumb your setup if I were a contractor.
There is not a single flashback arrestor that will work at the low
pressure a NG line runs at. 

This does give one pause… but if you need a flashback arrestor
with a torch, why don’t you need one with a stove or a dryer?

Noel


#10

Hi Lisa,

congratulations on your Mecco midget, it’s the best torch I’ve ever
used. Mine has lasted 18 years with not problem at all.

I’ve worked with natural gas in my studio for years and had a
plumber run the lines and put on the necessary attachments. I have
also worked in a trade shop that used a long line to run gas to each
of about 10 benches. Make sure to have a cutoff valve easily
accessible just in case of trouble.

Natural gas is one of the best gasses I’ve worked with. In the trade
shop they taught me to turn off the oxygen when not soldering and
leave the natural gas flame burning. With a little practice you can
do it with one hand. Of course you want to be as safe as you can so
check all your connections as you would with any gas.

J.M.Richardson


#11

Hi Lisa,

I have some past experience that may help a little.

First, natural gas is the best choice for an in home torch because
it is lighter than air and won’t pool like propane. So it’s safer to
use at home, really a must for a basement.

Second, the pressure that your gas company typically delivers
natural gas is.5 psi to 2 psi. The problem with that low pressure is
that it can’t push through a flashback arrestor, you need about 2
psi to get through that and once it gets through at 2 psi you will
have little or no pressure to work with. The idea of the backflash
or flashback arrestor is that it prevents gas (or flame) from
flowing backwards, toward your gas supply (a gas meter in this
case), in the unlikely event that happened your meter could explode.
So to prevent that terrible thing from happening you need to
increase the pressure so you can use the safety valve. The best way
to do that is to buy a gas pressure booster (I have no relationship
with the following company).

http://www.safe-t-gas.com/jewelry.html

With this and a regulator you can control the pressure of the
natural gas (use it for casting or at your bench) and have the piece
of mind that the flashback arrestor provides.

I think the problem you are having with people running your gas
lines is just that they don’t understand what you are doing. The
idea of a torch freaks them out. Any plumber can run the line for
you, usually using black pipe or copper (plumbers and heating and
cooling companies do it every day). You just need to provide them
with the 9/16" reverse thread fitting or whatever you need for your
torch hose or pressure booster (it may be an unusual size for their
line of work) and they will put it on the end of the line for you.
You also need to be sure that you have them install a shut off valve
on the new gas line that you can get to quickly and easily, I would
suggest you shut that off whenever you are not in your shop. I think
when you are asking them to do the work you just need to understate
what you are doing, “I need a gas line run for a tiny little
jewelers torch, it’s flame is the size of a candle…it’s a hobby of
mine”, and leave it at that. It’s really none of their business
anyway.

Who does need to know what you are doing is your insurance company.
And with them you really need to proceed carefully to avoid policy
cancellation. You need to fully explain to your agent what your are
thinking of doing and discuss how best to present it to the
underwriter. If you think the plumbers freaked out, just wait until
your underwriter hears you want a torch and tank of compressed
oxygen in the basement.

But in reality the jewelers torch is as safe as a stove and probably
safer than a candle or a grill. So your agent may need a picture of
the torch to show its size (small), will need to explain how safety
conscious you are and will need to say that you are not running a
huge business out of the house for your insurance company to green
light your project. Lots of people do it and still have insurance
coverage.

Hope that helps,
Mark


#12
This does give one pause... but if you need a flashback arrestor
with a torch, why don't you need one with a stove or a dryer? 

The stove or dryer does not have a pressurized gas cylinder full of
oxygen attached to it. In Dan Wellman’s post today he covered the
basics but to put a finer point on it atmosphereic burners in gas
appliances use the venturi effect to mix the gas and air to form a
combustible mix for burning. To do this the NG velocity must be
boosted to allow it to draw the air into the burner tube for proper
mixing. This is done by using an orifice which is a small diameter
hole in a fitting. This small diameter hole boosts the NG velocity
greatly. This high velocity at the orifice pretty much eliminates
the possibility of a flashback due to the velocity of the gas being
higher than the flame velocity of the gas when burned in air.
Torches put a different spin on things you have compressed oxygen or
air which can overcome the velocity of an orifice due to their
greater pressure. This can force the air or oxygen back down the NG
supply line and an explosion can occur. This is not theoretical I
have seen the remains of the gas meter/regulators after such an
explosion. It is not common but it can and does happen.

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#13

Hello all,

I’ve been keeping up with this discussion with great interest. I
want to say that I respect everyone’s opinion on this issue but I
have to side with Jim Binnion. There is documentation of flashbacks
through NG lines and the results are devastating. Think of a NG
booster as a one time insurance policy. We all pay insurance and
it’s never ending, a NG booster is a ONE time insurance policy, not
to mention all the other sweet benefits of having a booster.

Sincerely,

Thackeray Taylor
Rio Grande Technical Support
800-545-6566
505-839-3000 ex 13903
technicalsupport@tbg.riogrande.com


#14

How do dental labs function with gas torches-haven’t heard of a lot
(or any of them) blowing up! I used one for ten years then took it
with me when I moved - no safety problems-it’s just like a gas stove.
Do they blow up lately?


#15

I have used NG for more than 30 years and taught with it for 18
years. There are water based flash arresters and there are kick back
devices that are attached before the gas hosing. Rio used to carry
them. I haven’t seen the latest catalog. Either device will stop the
problem. The water based unit has to be refilled with water every
once in awhile. Don’t use gas with out something that stops
flashbacks. The problem usually happens when they turn the valve on
the torch the wrong way when turning it off.

Steve Ramsdell
Teaching chemistry and physics.


#16
I have used NG for more than 30 years and taught with it for 18
years. There are water based flash arresters and there are kick
back devices that are attached before the gas hosing. Rio used to
carry them. 

While a bubbler will work I doubt that it is a UL or FM approved
device because it requires the human to keep an eye on it to
continue to function safely. This means your insurance co. will not
pay for the damages. As for the other types of flashback arrestors
none of the commercially produced ones will function at or below 1
PSI. Typical NG gas pressure is 0.5 PSI. Some of the arrestors will
allow gas to flow through but none will stop a flashback! You will
never be aware that they are not protecting you till it happens. As I
said in my previous post on this it is not a common event but it is a
very bad day in the studio when it does.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#17

The best way to protect your studio from a fuel gas flashback, and
this applies to any gas, not just natural gas, is to use a UL
Approved Combination Check Valve and Flashback Arrestor. All major
distributors have a product of this type in their catalogs and they
cost less than $100 for a pair. One flashback arrestor goes on the
torch hose and the other goes on the oxygen hose.

If your torch has threads at the handle base then you want “torch
mount” flashback arrestors which will screw right onto the torch
handle. Many torches have “B” size threads but if your torch, for
example a Midget, has “A” threads (similar appearance but smaller
size) you can get “A” to “B” adapters at your welding/fuel gas supply
store. Torches used for casting would use torch mount flashback
arrestors.

If your torch has barbed fittings, where you slide the hose on then
use a clamp ring, then you want “regulator mount” flashback
arrestors. These flashback arrestors are connected at the regulator
for the oxygen tank, and either on the black pipe for natural gas or
the regulator for propane. Hoke and Smith “Little” torches would use
regulator mount flashback arrestors.

The difference between these two types of flashback arrestors is
which direction gas is supposed to flow, and which direction of gas
flow is stopped by the arrestor. If you use the wrong one it will
block gas from reaching your torch!

Jewelers do not blow themselves up everyday and many people have an
attitude that “It won’t happen to me”, but that fact is there are
accidents. You can read more about the dangers of flashbacks at
jewelry manufacturers in New York City here:
http://www.safe-t-gas.com/MJSA%20Editorial%20May%202007.pdf

To digress a little…

Scott Geller, of Safety Performance Solutions, has studied behavior
attitudes toward safety and puts people into two groups. One group
looks at safety in terms of problem avoidance - they act to avoid a
problem. If you think you are unlikely to be touched by the problem
or the price of solving the problem is more than the cost of the
problem, you are willing to live with a situation that others would
say is unsafe. If you think you will not experience a flashback or
the cost to install a flashback arrestor is more than the
consequences then you are unlikely to install one.

Another group of people looks at safety as a means to success and
associates it with positive outcomes. Working safely is just part of
an overall equation that includes good tools, good design and good
materials to produce a quality product. A safe workplace contributes
to working conditions that produce superior jewelry.

You can find a longer article about this topic in the July issue of
MJSA Journal on page 36.

National Fire Code regulations require a flashback arrestor on any
torch using fuel gas (whether acetylene, propane, natural gas, or
anything else) and oxygen, but whether you put a flashback arrestor
on your torch will depend a lot on your attitude toward safety.

Ed Howard
G-TEC Natural Gas Systems


#18

Get a G-Tec, get flashback arrestors, get pressure, get peace of
mind. You’ll have the only soldering system you’ll ever need - and an
awesome one at that. I thought I really couldn’t afford it either
initially but it’s the best purchase I’ve ever made. You won’t regret
it!

Happy soldering!
Cyndy


#19

eh,

what combo of check valve/flashback arrestor would you use with a
prestolite system?

thanks!


#20

Hi Cyndy, I check out the G-Teh web site. I’ve got a qestion for
you, can you still use an oxygen tank with it? I have a Meco Midget
torch that requires it. I couldn’t tell from their site.

Also, does anyone one know, can you use a granulation blow torch
with it?

Thanks
Ellen Starr
Starr Design - MN